Clutter? What Clutter?

A while ago, when the woodstove was going 24/7, which meant I couldn’t do any spring house cleaning, and we were dealing with mud season, I decided to do something with the mess in the cellar. We had accumulated stuff from Gael’s grandparents’ house, Gael’s mother’s house, my parents’ house, and our own personal pile (sound familiar?). It was getting pretty bad. You really have to be in the right mood to tackle something like this. So I acted quickly when that mood hit me.

I discovered a lot of stuff I never knew was down there and found some interesting three bud vases for old Volkswagens, for starters. I started asking people if they had ever heard of Borgward and, much to my surprise, only a few people had.

Then, behind boxes I found Gael’s collection of comic books that had been through a few floods in the cellar. Unfortunately, most of them were beyond saving. I did salvage one…..a 1953 Donald Duck comic book.

Donald Duck was one of my personal favorites. How many times has someone told me something was worth a lot of money? I went on eBay and found the same comic book for a mere $4.95. Not going to get rich selling that.

I pulled out from the bottom of some shelves a trunk that must have belonged to Gael’s grandmother, and it was filled with women’s clothing from years ago. I’ll save that for another time. Another thing I found was my toy gun and holster that I cherished when I was quite young. I was a big fan of Roy Rogers back then and would go to the matinee on Saturday afternoons with friends and my bag of popcorn.

I ended up throwing away a lot of things that were full of mouse droppings or sunflower seed shells from many years ago, gathered up all the canning jars that seemed to be everywhere and got them all together, old bird feeders and suet feeders — some I tossed and some I saved — broken things that would never be fixed, magazines that were taking up too much shelf space. I did save some boxes with AACA magazines and Bulb Horn magazines from years ago. They were too heavy to move, so they are still on the shelf.

I discovered an old record player, an old typewriter, an old adding machine, one of those old set tubs that women used to use with wringer washers, a big floor scale with weights. I also organized all the Christmas decorations that seemed to be spread all over. They are now in one place on another shelf.

Speaking of shelves, many years ago a few people got some old shelving that came from the local Grand Union store when they were remodeling, and one wall in the cellar is lined with those shelves. They are great because they are deep and can hold large boxes.

I was able to reorganize my gardening supplies, the painting supplies, the pet supplies, and can now walk down there without feeling overwhelmed. There is still much to do, but it was a good start.

Thank goodness for pickup trucks and recycle centers where I unloaded many truckloads of junk. Warm weather finally came and my cellar cleaning is now put on hold, but at least I made a dent in the cellar clutter.

Your Vote, Your Choice

Well, another Town Meeting Day has come and gone without a physical meeting to go to. It just doesn’t feel right. Let’s hope next year we’ll be back to normal, whatever that is. 

I remember the first Town Meeting I went to. We hadn’t lived in Underhill very long, and it was all new to me not being a real Vermonter yet. The meetings were held at the Town Hall, and we walked up the road to the Elementary School for the pot luck lunch. I walked with some old guy who was telling me he always started his tomato plants on Town Meeting Day. Being new to the veggie garden thing, I went home and planted some tomato seeds. By May they were so long and leggy, I tossed them out and bought some nice tomato plants that were all set to put in the garden when the time came. 

The Town Hall had a wood stove which was going for the meeting, and it was so hot people moved their chairs away from it. The Underhill Ski Bowl was open, and people would leave their kids off to ski. When the kids had had enough, they would walk — yes, actually walk — down to the Town Hall. If I remember correctly, Clark Wright talked about sitting up in the balcony as a kid and watching the whole process. There was the year that folks in the Town Hall noticed a house nearby was having a chimney fire, so the volunteer firemen left abruptly to take care of that. 

We had a resident artist in town for many years. He and his family lived in the old Green Mountain Academy in Underhill Center. He was known for making the best dandelion wine, and I still have the recipe he gave me. For years, he would sketch drawings for the covers of many town reports. One, in particular, had a sketch of town meeting, which included a lot of old timers, the interior of the Town Hall, and the moderator. A great drawing. I must make a copy of it and identify some of 

the people I recognize before I forget who is who. 

Gael was moderator for a few years. It was back when the town started growing and the Town Hall was getting too small to hold our meetings there. The only other place that would accommodate all of us was the local middle school, which is located in Jericho. That didn’t set well with Gael. There was something wrong with having Underhill’s Town Meeting in another town. So he politely(?) declined when asked to be moderator the following year. 

The luncheons that followed the meetings were always something to look forward to. I was always 

involved in the luncheon preparation and cleanup, so in recent years I was always in the kitchen instead of the meeting. I would hear what went on at the meeting or what didn’t go on while eating lunch with friends and neighbors. I was a ballot clerk for many years too. I always took a vacation day off from work to do that. For years I knew almost everyone, but not anymore. Times change. I could always count on the same women to come in with their knitting and the same people that would have writing on the pages of the Town Report concerning things they wanted to ask about. Sometimes there wouldn’t be much discussion about anything and the meeting would be over quickly; other times it would continue after lunch. 

Tomorrow I will go and vote at the Town Hall, see a few folks there, and go home. The weather sounds good and the roads should be fine. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens next year. 

Doggie Doors

I’ve had a house full of family members visiting this fall, and with all these people came 4 dogs. Now, I must say all the dogs, along with my old dog, got along really well. One thing that helped was the fact that I have a doggie door next to the back door. Unfortunately, 2 visiting dogs never figured out how to use it. I have forgotten what it is like to have to open the door whenever a dog wanted to go out or in. What a nuisance. We originally installed the door for a dog we had many years ago. We were both working and the dog, Phoebe, was afraid of thunderstorms. The doggie door allowed her to go in the house when the weather got bad.

A few years ago, I came down in the morning to find a sweet little beagle sleeping on the couch. I had never seen this dog before. After making a few phone calls, I put her in the car and drove around the neighborhood, but no one knew who she belonged to. I finally found a family that just moved into a house down the road; the dog was theirs. She came back to visit several times after that. Sweet dog.

We had a cat that used the doggie door too. Steve Dana gave us a cat many years ago named Rosie. Rose liked chipmunks, live ones. We had it down to a good system. Rosie would bring a chipmunk in the house, drop it, I would quickly barricade doors, open the back door, get a broom, put Rosie in another room, and chase the chipmunk out the back door.

There are also the times in warm weather when the windows are open at night that our dog (or dogs) would hear something outside and run out the doggie door only to bark and bark and bark, waking everyone up. This is when I would get the dogs inside and put the sliding panel in that closes the door, not letting anyone out.

A neighbor has a huge St. Bernard, and this dog has a doggie door that a bear cub could walk through. It has never happened, but I have heard stories about raccoons using doggie doors, and if a racoon can, a skunk can too! Not a pretty thought.

Our dog, Dixie, likes to walk down the hill to the neighbors’ house to go swimming in their pond. They love Dixie. Everyone loves Dixie. She has a wonderful smile and is very fond of dog biscuits. After her swim, she uses their doggie door to go inside to visit and maybe look for a treat before walking back up the hill.

Sadly, Dixie is getting too old to do that anymore. She would rather just nap in the house now.

The other day some of the visiting family finally left and took with them their 2 dogs. We are now left with just 2 visiting dogs plus our own. Unfortunately, one of the dogs is one that doesn’t know how to use the doggie door. Good grief!

Flowers – Pruning & Blooming

I have recently come to the realization that I’m not a very good gardener. When we first moved to Underhill, being very young and having started accumulating kids, we moved into a wonderful old house that once belonged to Gael’s grandparents. Gael’s Grandma Bessie was an amazing gardener and she started her flower beds in the late 1920’s. When we moved in, in 1961, there were well established beds. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember what flower was what, so I would have to invite Grandma Bessie’s friends over to, once again, tell me the names of the flowers. 

Fast forward a few years and we bought the old farm up the road and eventually built a house there. When we got around to sell our old house, I had to bring some of Grandma Bessie’s flowers with us. It was pretty much a clean slate at the new place, so we dug some beds to put the flowers (temporarily?) in. I moved as many plants as I could. Because there were a number of stones left over from the house, I started a big rock garden. By this time, we started having goats, pigs, ponies, a dog and cat or two. 

My time was limited, but I was young and had grand ideas. I moved phlox, hollyhocks, iris, lilies and probably some flowers that I couldn’t remember the names of. Some did really well and others didn’t. To this day I can’t get a hollyhock to last more than one season. The goats we had were “flying-goats” and could jump over or crawl under any fence we built and 

they loved to eat (prune?) my flowers. It was an ongoing battle for years. They were really fond of the first daffodils that bloomed in the spring. 

But the flower beds did really well considering the fact that I had lots going on and couldn’t tend to them properly. I would read articles about perennial flower beds and the need to separate or divide things. I just didn’t have the time! But the plants bloomed anyway. 

I don’t know why but friends were always bringing me plants and because my flower beds were getting a bit cramped for space, I would stick these gifts wherever I could. I also had a rock problem, I couldn’t dig a hole without uncovering rocks. Everywhere!!! 

There was one summer when oldest daughter worked at a landscape nursery. In the fall, they were going to toss the perennials out, so she brought home all she could fit in her car, not once but many times. Gael tilled up yet another bed to put them all in (temporarily). 

Well, time flies and here we are in 2021. The flower beds are a mess, crowded and diseased. It starts with little green worms on my azaleas. Then. spider mites appear and soon after the powdery mildew. So, I spray everything with whatever I have on hand and hope for the best. Then there are the weather extremes, hot/cold, dry/wet and so on. I’m overwhelmed. It is much easier to mow the lawn, just sit and steer, than to tackle the perennial flower problems. 

Flowers still bloom, sort of, and not everything makes it through the winter, but I can’t do much about it anymore. I just enjoy the flowers and weeds that do bloom, and that’s about all I can do. A gardener like Chris Sears, I’m not. 

Spring Anxiety

It’s that time of year again, when I feel overwhelmed with chores. This happens every year about this time. What few spring cleaning chores I feel I need to do in the house always have to wait until mud season is over. 

Muddy boots and muddy dogs make it difficult to accomplish much in the house and I usually want to wait ‘til I’m not running the wood stove 24/7. So, I put these housecleaning projects on the back burner and go back to my book. The problem with that is, once mud season is over, I wander outdoors and here is where I am overwhelmed. The yard is a mess, with leaves that never got taken care of, thanks to the oak trees that don’t drop their leaves until I’ve put the rakes, etc., away and little branches that have come down when the wind blew. 

Then there are the ruts from vehicles driving over soft spots and leaving a nice mess on the lawn. There is the remainder of the wood on the back porch that needs to be moved so I can put the furniture back on the porch, but I can’t do that until the wood wagon gets welded or the manure is removed from the back of the truck. Can’t do that until the lawn dries up a bit more. The weather becomes a factor. We get four inches of snow and the wood stove is back in use. The snow then melts but the lawn, once again, is too wet to drive over. On a warm sunny day I’ll start to notice all the things that need doing…another list to start. 

Clean gutters, reseed places that got dug up because of the snow plowing, rake stones that are on the lawn by the side of the road, repair things, paint things, replace things. 

The list goes on and on. Is the lawn mower ready for mowing? Does my little tiller start? Is the tire flat on my garden cart? Are my garden tools sharp? 

Do I start bringing in the bird feeders (bears)? Snow tires taken off? Suddenly the spring housecleaning chores get crossed off the list. They can wait until next year. Again. 

Then, one day I notice the colts foot along the road is in bloom and I start looking for the dutchman’s breeches. A neighbor stops by and tells me that her daffodils are ready to bloom and I discover the trillium in bloom. 

My wandering around outside often finds me in the old chair down in front of the barn where I’ll sit while organizing my thoughts. This is where I meet neighbors out walking and enjoying those early warm sunny days and everyone’s dogs are out wading in the pond and puddles. If I can cross one thing off one of my lists, no matter how small, that makes my day. My spring season anxiety diminishes and everything starts looking a little better. 

The mud on the couch from the dog’s feet will dry and get vacuumed . 

No big deal. 

My Window Feeder

Last Fall I bought a new bird feeder. 

From Judy’s window
From Judy’s window

I have quite a collection of feeders, bird seed and suet, in various stages of disrepair in the cellar and because I can’t throw anything out, they are mounting up. A lot of them claimed to be squirrel proof. No such thing! 

Occasionally, I would hang a feeder in a different location, forgetting about the possibility of three feet of snow. How many times have I gone into the woods in the summer to find a Christmas tree, forgetting about snow and then being unable to get to it the week before Christmas because of deep snow. Well. 

A number of years ago, I found bird feeders that hitch to the windows with suction cups. I bought two and put them up on two kitchen windows. I love them. I can sit in my recliner and watch the birds a few feet from my chair. The cats enjoy them too. They do attract other critters besides birds though. Once in a while a bear or two wanders through the yard and checks them out. What a treat to be sitting two feet away from the window and watching a bear get to the seeds. 

Probably like you, I get my fair share of squirrels too, both red and grey. I had wide window sills and the squirrels were able to jump up on them and then empty the feeders in jig time**. They are fun to watch too but what a nuisance they are. Then there are the chipmunks. So cute, but real pests. It seems like everyone was inundated with chipmunks a year or two ago. There were hundreds of them in the yard. They were living on the porch, getting into the cellar, the cat was bringing them live into the house. They were eating my flowers, or I should say, biting the flowers off at the stem and leaving the flowers on the ground or in the pot. 

Last summer I finally gave up and let them go at it. Then, for some reason, the population diminished greatly and I haven’t seen one in quite a while. 

Back to my bird feeders that were turning into squirrel feeders. Last fall, I had the siding on the kitchen replaced and also had the men replace the window sills. After fifty years of bear, squirrels and chipmunks clawing their way to the feeders, the sills were in pretty bad shape. I didn’t think of it at the time, this was before the birds were visiting the feeders in earnest. The new sills are so narrow they can’t get to the feeders. Now the cute little things have to settle for the seeds that get spilled onto the ground and for the crumbs under the suet feeder. Poor squirrels! I’m buying about half the amount of sunflower seeds than in years past. 

A few weeks ago, I purchased a third feeder. As I am typing this, the chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and redpolls are having breakfast and the woodpeckers are busy eating suet. No sign of squirrels. I actually had a pileated woodpecker at the suet feeder a number of times. Soon I’ll be looking for the rose breasted grosbeaks. 

**Editor’s note……”Jig Time” definition: 
Extremely quickly; in a very short time. Derived from the Celtic music/dance known as a jig, which is typically triple-time. 

My Gypson Tours

The other day I saw a photo of the car I rode in for the Gypson tour this year. It was BJ Gonet’s 1931 Chrysler, a beautiful car. It was a lovely but cool day and Cousin Hal and I rode in the back with the top down for better visibility. I started out with my winter coat on and eventually put on my hat and gloves. Filling out the answers on the papers was a bit difficult but when I dropped the pencil for the umpteenth time, I ditched the paper and just enjoyed the scenery. By the time we arrived at our destination I was under one of the blankets that was kept in the back of the car.

1931 chrysler gypson tour
Fred (driving) and BJ Gonet, in front. Cousin Hal and Judy Boardman, in the back

I was reminded of past Gypson tours that we took, one in particular. We were to meet in Jeffersonville, so the Sanders probably had something to do with the planning. It was a cold, blustery, drizzly day and by the time we got to Jeffersonville in the 1929 Chevy I was frozen. Gael loved open cars and he never seemed to get chilled. Anyway, in drives Jim Sears, in his closed car. It didn’t take me long to make arrangements to ride with Jim and I think Cousin Hal might have ridden with Gael. We eventually departed and Jim and I headed down the road in a closed car with windshield wipers and heat.

The tour took us all over the back roads of the neighboring towns crossing over many railroad tracks. Here again, Bill Sander must have had something to do with the route because a lot of questions were railroad related. Because I was trying to fill out the paperwork without much success, I happened to tell Jim about a dear friend of ours who lived in Underhill. Stan Hamlet was a true railroad buff. I then mentioned to Jim…if only I had a cell phone, I would call Stan for help. Jim whips out his phone and for some strange reason I remembered Stan’s telephone number. I dialed the number and much to my surprise, Stan answered. I proceeded to explain the situation to him and read him some of the questions. Well, he knew the answers to most of them and then told me much more about the railroad scene in that neck of the woods than I needed. He did go on a bit, the way old car guys can do with their conversations. I promptly filled in the blanks. Fast forward and you can imagine what happened next. Jim and I won the Gypson tour that year. Thanks, Stan.


1928 packard gypson tour
Dave Stone’s 1928 Packard sure fills the bridge!

The Gypson Tour this year started at Wendell & Mary Noble’s home in Milton and ended at Tom and Michelle Noble’s Home in Fairfax. Their two homes are 22 miles from one another and somehow, they made member’s old car travel 50.4 to get there while finding the answers to 27 quiz questions on the way. The Gypson journey traveled North with a loop through Fairfield, including a covered bridge in East Fairfield, then South through Fletcher to Fairfax. We heard one vehicle was too tall to fit through the covered bridge and had to detour a bit. One quiz question at the 32.1 mile mark was “This is maple country but what are they tapping here?” (Answer…. A field of huge solar panels was tapping the sun.)

This year’s Gypson Tour was won by Buzz and Sandy Stone, congratulations. The Gypson family has provided a trophy since the beginning of the tour, 32 years ago and you will be presented yours when this upside down world allows us.

A little VAE history from Ken Gypson:

This tour’s first name was called the “Fall Foliage Rally” and started in 1956. It was won the first year by Rod and Emily Rice.

In 1960 the name changed to “Gypson Trophy/Fall Foliage Tour”. (Ken’s dad, Ken Gypson, was a founding member of the VAE.) In 1969 the name changed again to “ Fall Foliage Gypson Trophy Tour”. From 1977 to 2002 it was simply called “The Gypson Tour”. The 1988 Gypson Tour began in Vergennes and had 16 pages to the quiz…that is 144 questions! Aren’t we lucky it is the year 2020?

In 2002, my Mom was sick and in Long-term care. My Dad requested the VAE Board change the name to “The Anne Gypson Tour”, which it is presently called. In January, my Dad received a letter from board members, Jim Willett and Gael Boardman, agreeing to change the name. Mom passed in September 2006. Dad passed in August 2004.

What to do with all these photos…

Thinking back on the winter chores that I didn’t get done, one thing that is always on my list is ‘photos’.

I went through boxes of greeting cards, birthday cards and Christmas cards that seem to have accumulated in the desk.

Does anyone else save cards for thirty years or more? In a weak moment I discarded cards from people I don’t even remember, Christmas cards that go back to the time when people sent cards to everyone, even people you saw almost on a daily basis. That was when postage stamps were only a few cents. I did save those special cards that the kids made when they were little, the cards Gael made with the funny little poems in them, cards from the grandparents who are no longer with us. The kids will have to go through them next.

How about calendars. I saved calendars for thirty years or more. I’m not sure why, but there have been times when I couldn’t remember someone’s birth date and would look it up on a calendar in my stack.

family photos

But back to ‘photos’. If your house is like ours, you might have pictures from your grandparents, your parents, your in-law’s, not to mention all the photos of your immediate family, starting with your early days of marriage and then the kids, animals, etc.

Here, at our house, we have an additional category… old cars and equipment. These go back to the days of the Brownie camera with the film that would be taken to the store and a week later you would go back and pick up the photos.

Gael wasn’t too keen on having his picture taken, as many of you know, but he loved to take pictures of old stuff.

I came upon stacks of photos of trips to auto museums, automobile meets, various auto trips, Gael’s collection of things here at home, Stowe VAE shows, some having people from the club who have been gone a long time. Bob Jones, Peveril Peake to name a few.

My first trip to the Stowe Show was in 1960 when Mahlon, Gael and I took the speedster that they made from a fire truck in St. Albans.

I haven’t tackled the boxes of family photos that go back generations, I’m not sure what to do with them, so they will remain in their boxes another year. Throwing them out is not an option. At this point they are tucked away in safe places where I know they are.

Gael’s photos, on the other hand, are finally in a few shoe boxes, all in one location and sorted out as best I can. Is there anyone out there that would like to go through them with me and perhaps identify cars, equipment and people so they can go back in their boxes in some kind of order. Here, again, throwing them out is not an option. A little dust on the top of the boxes won’t hurt anyone.

I can talk to the people at the end of the road now

A few days ago when I turned the calendar to a new page, I noticed something that I haven’t seen in all my years of keeping a calendar. The page for May was blank. There was nothing written anywhere, with the one exception that there was a reminder to give my dog, Dixie, her heartworm and tick pills on the first of May. I promptly did this because the ticks are out in full force. 

There were no appointments, no reminders of meetings, dates to have my weekly and monthly breakfasts with friends, no community dinners at the church, not even a dental appointment. No Meals on Wheels transport, no Bone Builders classes, nothing. This is what my world is all about lately. I don’t have one of those phones, that everyone else has, where people text other people every five minutes. I’ve tried Zoom meetings without luck. Fortunately, most of my friends are older and we are still fine with e-mailing which has been happening a lot lately. Some include pictures which is great. 

Now that the weather has finally decided to show signs of spring, neighbors have been out walking and I can visit at a distance with them, find out what’s going on at their house, if anything. Someone rescued two miniature ponies, another spotted their first wildflower, someone else had her first encounter with a tick. The road crew working on the road and got the grader stuck, that was exciting!

When the snow is gone, I can use a back way (Class 4 road) to my house so now I can visit with neighbors on Lower English Settlement Road that I haven’t seen since last fall. This is always a sure sign of spring. I now can find out all the gossip on that end of the road. A few friends make a point of calling someone every day to check in and visit for a few minutes. My elderly friends have found someone to pick up a few groceries for them, take care of the trash and recycle bin for them, and just check on them once in a while. 

Once in a while someone sends me something in an e-mail that is timely…one such thing has several timely sentences. Here are a few that I found I could relate to and chuckled. Commercials in 2030 will be like… ”Were you or someone you know overly exposed to hand sanitizers, Lysol or bleach, during the 2020 Corvid 19 pandemic? If so, you may be entitled to compensation”. 

Not even a dental appointment

There were others like…. 

  • “If you thought toilet paper was crazy, wait until 300 million people all want a hair cut.”
  • “I’ve spent weeks hanging out with myself and I’m so sorry to every person I spend time with”
  • “After listening to Linda, his human, for 4 weeks while in quarantine as she complained for hours on end, Sparky realized he was not cut out to be an emotional support dog”
  • “Anyone else getting three weeks to a gallon?”
  • “My husband and I decided we don’t want to have children. We will be telling them tonight at dinner”.

I have more but I might save them for the next time it’s my turn to write the Softer Side, if things continue like this for three more months. Meanwhile, be lucky you live in such a great state, enjoy the spring, be thankful for good friends and neighbors and keep wearing your masks. They are colorful, aren’t they? 

I was in the car the other day…

I was in the car, the other day, running errands and having a conversation with myself (Dixie, my dog, was not with me that day). 

I was muttering about the depressing state of affairs in the nation and world, when I found myself singing a song that just popped into my little brain, “Keep On The Sunny Side”. I felt much better after a few minutes. 

Then I started to think about all the songs that were written about sun, and sunshine and in just a few minutes thought of quite a few. How about these: 

The Sunny Side of the Street, Here Comes the Sun ( Beatles), Good Day Sunshine (Beatles), Keep on the Sunny Side (Carter family), Sunshine on My Shoulder (John Denver), You Are My Sunshine. 

Years ago, when Joe Kaelin would call Gael, they would often start singing OLD songs on the telephone and that would last for hours, it seemed. Fred Cook was another one that knew all the OLD songs. Fred and Gael would, again, sing at length. I have fond memories of Fred starting to sing without any notice…..a good memory. 

One of my favorits is… Keep On The Sunny Side which played a part in the recent Ken Burns series about country music. Years ago, when we would sit around a camp fire with neighbors, we always started singing and one song that was sung was “You Are My Sunshine”. I wonder if kids these days know that song. Do people sit around camp fires and sing any more? Maybe, maybe not, but I will continue to sing these songs, especially in the months to come. Singing, and humming, is good for the soul and it makes me feel a little bit better, if only for a short time. 

Can you think of any more songs that you could add to my list? 

PS… There is a good video on You Tube about dogs at the beach with the song ”Walking in Sunshine”. I think that’s the name of it, another sunshine song.