I recently read Mud Season by Ellen Stimson. Not one, but two coworkers brought this book to my attention, given my love of all things Vermont. But it wasn’t enough for me to put the book on hold from the library; this was one book I had to buy.
Even if you don’t have a soft spot for Vermont, even if you know nothing about it, it’s a good read—it’s comical and just fun. The subtitle of the book says it all: How one woman’s dream of moving to Vermont, raising children, chickens, sheep, & running the old country store pretty much led to one calamity after another. And that’s exactly what happens.
In short, Ms. Stimson and her family decide to uproot their lives in St. Louis and move to rural Vermont where she has grand ideas of running a small farm and an old country store. What she finds, however, is that life doesn’t go quite as planned. From the time they make the decision to move, they run into one issue after another. But that doesn’t stop Ellen from wanting more, from trying to get more. The bigger the idea, the worse the outcome.
But what makes the book such a great read is her view of it all. No matter what she runs into, no matter what comes her way, Ellen doesn’t let the bumps slow her down. She’s a go-getter and is not afraid of what might happen in the end. And through everything, she views her own life with humor and grace; at least, that’s how it’s portrayed in the book.
Of course, what struck the ultimate chord with me is how she views Vermont as someone who is not native to the state. I am not from Vermont. My family is not from Vermont. But we visit there every year because of its beauty and charm. The people who do live there are resilient and have their own culture. To me, it’s a magical place, and I found myself knowing exactly how Ms. Stimson feels in her description of Vermont.
My favorite season is fall—yes, I love the warm weather, but what draws me into fall are the bright colors, the reds and oranges and yellows, and yes, even the deep purples that can be found in a Vermont fall. Ellen says, “For a fall fan, Vermont has real appeal. It practically invented the whole autumn vibe on the tourism calendar.” I can’t tell you how true this is. You can check out some photos here.
Ellen also states that the air is different in Vermont; I, too, have experienced this. The air in New England—or at least Vermont—is cleaner and more crisp than the air you find in metro New York. There is no smog. It smells of pine. The rain sounds different—the pine trees (the sheer number of trees compared to New York)—is what makes the rain sound lighter and finer, as opposed to the plunk of the rain drops on pavement and concrete.
Ellen also remarks on the lack of big box stores. They are few and far between in Vermont, and most of those are located in Burlington, Vermont’s “city.” My husband and I were lucky enough to visit Burlington one year for our anniversary. It was amazing. We ate at a different restaurant each night, and each one boasted locally grown and produced food. I don’t think I have eaten at better restaurants or experienced better food since, and that experience is the one that I now use to compare all of my restaurant experiences to. (It’s because of this trip I’d now rather eat at small family-run restaurants and avoid all of the boring chain restaurants that serve nothing but grease in a pan.)
As Ellen states, Vermont is known for—and prides itself on—offering family country stores rather than chain stores, local food options as opposed to having it trucked in from elsewhere. Vermont was the last state to allow Wal-mart to open. Vermont has only TWO Starbucks, and both are in Burlington. But that doesn’t mean you won’t find great coffee throughout the state. There are plenty of coffee shops and plenty of great coffee to be had there. (And you know my love for great coffee!) As Ellen says, there are no roadside billboards in Vermont and the cows outnumber the people.
Of course, this is not for everyone. I’m not sure that I could deal with Vermont winters, but given my love for the state during the spring, summer, and fall it does make me dream of owning a home there some day…
If you’re looking for something fun a light to read, I highly recommend this book.
*Note: I am in no way affiliated with Ms. Stimson or her book. All opinions are my own.