For years I’ve read MOTHER EARTH NEWS and glanced with interest at the schedule of FAIRS – from Topeka to Texas – and sadly decided that none of the FAIRS were in a reasonable driving distance for this New Englander with kids and a full-time job. Imagine my surprise to see an announcement that MOTHER EARTH NEWS was coming to Vermont! I quickly arranged for a babysitter, secured our tickets, and downloaded the schedule to make a plan of action.
My husband and I had 3 hours to spend at the FAIR, so we decided on a “divide and conquer” approach with a meeting place at the food (because you always need food). We noted the vendors we’d like to check out and set out to glean as much knowledge as we could in our limited visit.
As part-time homesteaders, we are focused on raising vegetables and fruit and have not yet ventured into livestock so we honed in on gardening and propagation workshops and were not disappointed with the results. We realized when we arrived that we had forgotten to bring notebooks, so I filled my event program with margin notes and my husband was impressed with himself for discovering the notetaking app on his phone (why didn’t I think of that?).
Here is a small taste of the takeaways we gleaned in just a few short hours at the FAIR:
1. Some elderberry plants will fully regrow one season after another even if you cut them down to the ground in the winter, and certain varieties are easier when it comes to bird control because the berries flop down instead of growing up like an umbrella. Thank you to Terry Durham of River Hills Harvest for the great workshop on Growing Elderberry for Heath and Harvest – and for our two Ranch Elderberry plants that went immediately into our collection!
2. Rabbits do not like the smell of Spicy Globe Basil. You can plant it as a border around your garden to encourage them to go elsewhere for tasty nibbles. Thanks to Shawna Coronado for her illuminating talk on Secret Organic Gardening Hacks that will Blow Your Mind! Having already lost a whole bunch of little bean plants, were happy to see this basil variety available at the gardening center we went to later that day!
3. You don’t have to swing an ax around kids, or risk hitting your shin instead of the small log you’re trying to split into kindling. Don’t tell my husband, but he’s getting a Smart Splitter for Father’s Day!
4. The Vermont Evaporator Company is taking orders for its fall supply of The Sapling – a nicely made family-friendly backyard evaporator that can also double as – wait for it – a grill, and now a smoker! We haven’t started boiling at our house yet, but when they showed my husband the grill and started talking about the set up for smoking I could feel him starting to think, “You know, maybe it is about time we start tapping that sugarbush.
I could go on and on about the lessons learned – from fertilizer options to home health to winter hardy vegetables, buthere’s the real takeaway: there are so many people out there working to live sustainably and to help others to do so. So much so that they’re offering their knowledge, services, and products at fair (or free) prices to others in the homesteading and farming community just so that we can all benefit from each other’s discoveries. I have never been more convinced that “it takes a village” to live sustainably and that we all benefit from being a part of this extended MOTHER EARTH NEWS community.
See you at the FAIR!
Carrie Williams Howe is the Executive Director of an educational nonprofit by day, and parent and aspiring homesteader by night and on weekends. She lives in Williston, Vermont, with her husband, two young children, and a rambunctious border collie. Carrie has a PhD in educational leadership and is passionate about being an authentic, participatory leader in various settings. She is a contributing editor at Parent Co Magazine. Connect with Carrie on The Happy Hive Facebook page. Read all of Carrie’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.