Still Learning To See

A living landscape


Gorgeous scenes of rural Vermont in its full Fall glory are still common. This farm and the one below (the red barn) have long been just a half-mile apart from each other over the valley. It is fascinating to think of the two families who lived here and watched and listened to each other and, no doubt, visited on many occasions.

It is easy to look at the scenery of Vermont, especially in the Fall, like it is just another pretty picture in a tourist magazine. Why? Because it really looks like that, and, of course, because much of it is actually stunningly gorgeous—”like something you might see in a magazine!” But behind that idealized image is a real, living landscape—one that is dynamic and vulnerable and compelling.


The red barn a seen from the barnyard of the farm above, on the opposite side of the valley. It is interesting to imagine what each  farmer thought about the other as they worked their fields.

During the mid-1800s over 90% of the state was cleared of forests, mainly for farming, especially to pasture sheep. Then the wool market collapsed and many farmers moved to the easier, richer farms in the midwest. Today Vermont is 75% covered in forests and every remaining farm field must be periodically mowed if it is to remain free of trees. Of course many old farms have also grown into the suburbs—proverbial 10 acre lots and houses and lawns mowed on weekends by commuters.


This farm is to the south of the one pictured first—it can also be seen in the distance in this photograph. The red barn dates from 1908 and has been well-kept.


Here is the farm seen in the first photograph above, clearly the “poor cousin” of the red barn farm (just out of sight on the left of this photo) but still an active dairy farm.


But it is still easy to look at older farm buildings, whether now in use or abandoned, and see into the past and the people who farmed there, the sounds they made, the seasons their families and neighbors honored. Scenes like I posted a couple weeks ago of the young farm boy driving the cows home for milking are not uncommon.

And, I’m thankful to report, that now a whole new crop of young farmers (just three of many examples here and here and here) have grown onto the land, farming more smartly than in the past and diversely, figuring out how they can be supported by the land and support the land in the crazy economic times in which we live.

When I walk the back roads of Central Vermont, I don’t just see a dying landscape. I see one that is changing and very much alive where the beauty
of the place remains, no matter the season or the weather.


This entry was published on October 19, 2014 at 9:17 am. It’s filed under Ecosystem, Fall colors, John Snell, People, Photograph, Trees, Vermont and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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