Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nothing to Waste. Vermont Folktale.

  Nothing to waste, a Vermont folktale, written by Bernard Paquette 2009, revised January 2011.


Mr. Gardner steps into the general store, each arthritic step carefully chosen. The conservative Vermont farmer now storeowner scans his new domain. The pyramid of apples on display gives testimony to the efficiency of his art. Each apple positioned to support those above it, each turned to highlight the shiny red and green coat covering the crisp juicy interior. An old chipped, never stained or painted six layer Oak bookshelf catches the reflected light beaming off the apples. The sun begins to rise and streak through the wooden sash windows. On its base and on the next shelf up sit gallons of pure Vermont liquid gold or more precisely amber colored remnants of boiled maple sap. Maple syrup, made in Vermont by nature, conserved and collected by Vermont farmers, every drop precious, as it is sweet.

          Other neatly organized products lie across desks and shelves and in coolers leaving only a pleasant pathway in which to stroll. The delectable homemade and freshly baked goods provide the in-season selections canned and baked by the wise farmer's wife. Mrs. Gardner makes the best use of each locally grown and harvested vegetable and fruit and nut. Nuts from walnut and butternut trees incorporated in pint size loaves of sweet heavy aromatic bread. Pastries carrying maple topping as enticing as candy canes at Christmas. Maple candies in the shape of maple leaf for children and adults alike. The apple pies are erupting upward, apple slices pushing at the roof that shines in a glaze of polish. Canned fruit of all kinds preserve that which otherwise would not last beyond a few weeks of their natural season.  Of the harvest that is brought in to her kitchen little goes out which is not intended to be eaten. Moreover, what little refuse remains comes to good use in the compost pile preparing new dark loamy soil for the next generation of plants.

          It is four A.M., too early for customers. There is no need for electrical lights just yet. His granite surfaced and deep veined hand wraps around the cold iron wood stove door handle.  A chill reaches through to his mind and draws out stored memories, memories packaged and labeled for use and re-use. Past events preserved like fruit, beyond their debut; then later brought out, opened, and enjoyed as they were in their prime time. Like opening a sealed jar of cherries or peaches in February bringing forth the escaping scent of spring. The memories are as crisp as fresh fruit, providing delight both palatable and aesthetic. Not just memories as in remembering a time when, but more like stepping back in time to re-live events, experiencing the same sadness, the same joy, the same disappointment, the same surprise and excitement as the first time. 

Remembering a time when…

          Mr. Gardner took the same well-chosen steps, only not arthritic back then. He started early – four in the morning-just as he did today. This was the beginning of what was to become a lifetime habit taking full advantage of nature’s gift of early dawn's natural light. This time the cold door handle was on the barn door. 

No wood-stove rested in the corner to fight the frosty air, only cows expelling their body heat through black and white mosaics and steamy breaths. Expelling their body heat the cows helped to keep the barn and the farmer warm. Energy harvested and recycled. Recycling, an old concept well known to native Vermont Indian tribes (Abnaki, Mahican, Pennacook, and Pocomtuc) carried forth by farmers. Fields harvested to feed the cows, milk from the cows to feed people, cow paddies to feed and nourish the soil to aid in the next crop growth. Tools sharpened, handles rubbed with linseed oil in the fall to be sharp and strong for next year, and repeated each year for a long and durable life. Obsolescence is unheard of as is replacing a tool for a new and improved model.

          The model followed by the farmer mimics that of the forest and the meadows, the streams, rivers, lakes, and the mountains, wherever nature runs its course freely. Each element down to a crystal of silicon sand is precious. Mr. Gardner the farmer fully utilizes nature’s bounty from the tiny spotted red-capped ladybug to the full pallet painted maple tree in October. From maturity to death, many give multiple returns as seasons change and time wears on them.

          A younger Mr. Gardner fills his farm stove with wood, cut from a tree toppled the previous October with the help of his aging father. The tree no longer offers seasonal colored ware, or sticky sweet maple sap, but is willing to give a final return in the form of a crackling flickering fire.
The flames wave goodbye through the stove glass. Heat is expelled offering a toasty corner to warm ice-cold hands, and shuffling feet belonging to those who once walked under her. Then his mind returns to today and the store.

          Tales are exchanged; some old and well rehearsed, some refurbished and spiked with new twists. The store is open to customers now. Neighbors savor Mrs. Gardner’s homemade pastries and hot cider. Some sit a spell to partake in a chess game on a board so worn one can barely distinguish the black squares from the tan squares. The day stays bright but cold. Yet the iron door handle retains warmth from so many hands sharing its utility. One of a few stores that still sells penny candy, honoring frugality-is sure to endure through generations.

          After fully utilizing the entire spectrum of daylight hours, the well worked but refreshed farmer closes up shop. Walking the mile or so home brings him past a leaning barn. Not fully standing, yet not ready for demolition. Never brash, only stoic, never painted, only enamored by boards weathered and warped. The stone foundation is crumbling, making way for critters to hide. This is no longer a functioning farm structure. The mature aged and seasoned barn now offers rustic beauty as it places a stamp on the cornfield and pastures like a postmark on a Vermont postcard.  The leaning barn like the farmer, now general store owner, belaying the ole farmers creed- Waste not, Want not.

All rights reserved 2009.

For current useful waste not information:

 * We hate to waste web site: http://www.wehatetowaste.com/forget-wrapping-paper-try-cloth-bags/
WeHateToWaste.com is a community of people just like you who hate to see things go to waste: food, energy, water — you name it! (You know the waste we’re talking about. It’s the kind that makes you cringe and cry out, “What a waste!”) We were founded by “Junky Jacquie” Ottman, an expert and author on green marketing and “eco-innovation”. 

And here is more about "Less stuff, more time":         

2.       Ways to need less money have more time. http://tinybuddha.com/blog/9-ways-to-need-less-money-stress-less-enjoy-more/

4.       Stuck in Vt: Tiny Houses. http://www.7dvt.com/2008tiny-houses

5.       Stuck in Vt. Tiny Houses sequel: http://www.7dvt.com/2010tiny-houses-sequel

6.       The high price of materialism: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGab38pKscw&feature=player_embedded#!
7.       The Story of stuff: http://www.storyofstuff.org/blog/
10.   Unconsumption-Re-Use blog: http://unconsumption.tumblr.com/
11.   Global waste-not, trash into musical instruments... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXynrsrTKbI

On Sustainability:

Other personal stories and folktale postings:

Ø  Thanksgiving Intensive Care(3 mos. Preemie): http://litterwithastorytotell.blogspot.com/2010/11/intensive-care.html