Nestled in the hills of Vermont is a magnificent piece of land called Shelburne Farms. The farm is depicted here in the cover photo and it could easily be mistaken for a palatial estate. In fact, it's a working farm where kids and adults alike can spend an entire day getting lost in the mountain views, running with animals, eating delicious food, or simply walking the grounds. Perhaps this farm story will get lost in the sea of posts about the Navalny protests, but I hope some of you enjoy this story from one of my favorite States. I've been to Vermont four times this year and each time I love it more. It's like another planet here, where the pace of life is much slower than DC. Where every "city" is like a postcard from small town America. This farm embodies everything special about Vermont - beautiful nature, people who appreciate simplicity, and the incredible sense of community that binds the residents of one of America's smallest States.
1. The farm sits on the scenic shores of Lake Champlain and spans 3,800 acres. The farm's history began in 1886 when two prominent residents decided to build a model agricultural estate. By the early 1900's, the farm was in full swing and developing innovative agricultural practices. The original owners were Dr. William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb. Lila was a member of one of America's richest families - the Vanderbilits - who in their heyday were considered American royalty.
2. Lake Champlain is visible from most locations on the farm. On the day I visited, the sky was an amazing blue with fluffy cotton ball clouds.
3. Visitors must pay an entrance fee of $11, which includes a tractor ride from the visitor center to the main farm area. Almost all workers on the farm are young teenagers with a passion for farming and agriculture. My tractor driver was a young woman named Sally, completely comfortable and adorable driving the John Deere.
4. During the tractor ride, the driver explains the history of the farm in detail. The entire route to the farmhouse is filled with winding, snake like roads. I love them, especially on a tractor. :)
The farm thrived in the early 1900's, but the success was short-lived. After the original owners died, future generations were unsure what to do with the property. For many years the farm sat dormant, but it was reborn in 1972 when family descendants founded a non-profit organization called "Shelburne Farms." The mission of the organization is to "cultivate a conservation ethic for a sustainable future." I previously wrote in this post that Vermont is one of the most eco and agri-friendly States in America, and this farm is a living example. The post was written before most of you subscribed to my blog, so please read if you're interested in Vermont.
5. I cannot convey how picturesque this estate is. Even the main gates to the farmhouse have an air of grandness.
6. An old tractor sits at the back of the farmhouse - a playground piece for young kids to climb on and crawl around.
7. One of the core missions of the farm is education, at both an advanced and elementary level. I can't think of a better place for a kid to spend a Saturday. The workers on the farm are incredibly energetic and friendly. Happy to answer questions and play games with kids. Here they're sitting up a game where kids spool sheep fur.
8. Speaking of sheep, remember my love for hats? I could never wear one made of sheep fur. I think they must be one of the cutest animals on the planet!
9. Even I was entertained by this game - "Name That Poop!" I couldn't decipher one pile from the other. I think this is a good thing!
10. How well do you know your meat? I would receive a failing grade on this quiz.
11. The best part of the day for me came with the interactive games, the most animated of which was a cow milking. This young guy was great with the audience. His first question was "how do we know the cow is a girl?" One kid in the crowd said "because she has big eyelashes." Kids - clever and interesting minds. How many gallons of milk come from an average milking? 8 gallons! Another piece of farm trivia.
12. Closer look at "Rose" the cow - beautiful creature!
13. Kids from the crowd took turns milking Rose. Have you ever milked a cow? I tried for the first time here, after all the children left. :) Strange to pull on cow nipples, and it's necessary to practice to get the perfect rhythm for optimal milk flow.
14. Others simply look on in amazement.
16. Here's Sally, the tractor driver, admiring the scene. I noticed an extra glisten in her eyes and smile. Perhaps she's engaged in a farm romance with this guy? The young workers switch positions, doing all duties on the farm - from driving, to working with kids, answering questions, and feeding/taking care of the animals.
17. America, in general, is a very kid friendly nation. Almost all tourist attractions will have special activities for kids. There will be separate menus for children at most restaurants, usually with a dual purpose. They display both food selections and also have games, coloring areas and attached crayons to keep kids occupied while waiting for food. Maybe it's the same in Russia? I don't have children and rarely travel with kids, so I don't notice these things in other countries. Here on the farm kids are free to roam around as they wish, freely petting the animals.
18. Most kids seemed to enjoy the chickens most. I've never seen such craziness! All kinds of chickens running around the farm and kids chasing them. This little guy was very upset that his sister had a chicken and he didn't. When he finally caught one I thought he was going to strangle it from excitement. :))
19. Gentle touch of a woman, even at a very young age. This chicken much calmer.
20. Bad children can be caged in the "people pen." :) This boy looks sweet and innocent, put here by mistake I believe.
21. Shelburne Farms also has another distinction - home of the world's ugliest horse! Poor creature - stuck in the 80's with his crimped hair. Perhaps his owner was a singer in an 80's metal band?
22. The farm produces many products, including famous cheese which is very tasty. You can watch the cheese making and eat all the free samples you want. My camera battery died by the time I got to this point, but I captured a shot from the bakery section of the farm where fresh breads and pastries are made and sold. I ate some type of sticky bun with caramel and nuts. Delicious! Sweets - I rarely resist them.
23. The prior residence on the estate is now a very expensive bed and breakfast. But what beauty there! Guests sit and relax, enjoying the mountain and lake views. All meals at the bed and breakfast are made from ingredients on the farm, and this is common for Vermont. A lot of local restaurants serve meat and vegetables from local farms, and many times the specific farm name is identified on the menu. Very rare that a local Vermont business would go out of State for products.
24. The grounds also have a beautiful flower garden. I already wrote about my passion for flowers. Men - buy them for your love more often. Almost all women love flowers but men in the States rarely give them. I think it must be different in Russia because I've never seen so many 24 hour flower shops in any other country.
I will tell you more about the agricultural practices of the farm in a separate post. This story was dedicated to the simple joys of childhood. The joy and innocence of youth, of appreciating the simple things in life, the awe and natural beauty that so often surrounds us. It's unfortunate so many adults go through life with blinders, completely ignoring these simple treasures. The wonder and gleam in their eyes completely dead and blackened by the burdens of life.
I hope everyone has a pleasant and relaxing weekend.