Thursday, July 30, 2015

Chapter 21: Tiemann Memoirs/Halloween

Following Chapter 21 is another memoir of Halloween at the Center Rd School, approximately a decade or more after Tiemann’s recollections. For the prelude and links to all of the chapters go to Coming to Vermont (Cavendish):Memoirs of Philip Tiemann.

That year there was a delightful Indian summer, than which is no more pleasant season. Crisp nights gave place to mild, sunny days; the hazy atmosphere was relaxing, On every hand the great golden maples surrounded by their brethren of varied hues illumined the nearer landscape against a more somber backdrop of evergreens clothing the mount­ains. No matter how busy, I always could pause now and then to "lift up mine eyes unto the hills," How right was the old prophet who first voiced those words!

Of course, as I have intimated before, one never accomplishes all the last things which should be done, However, we progressed, There was a good supply of cord wood stacked by the roadside waiting for my neighbor friend (whom I had again helped hay during the, summer) to haul it to the house and saw it,- but if I could cut more, all, the better!  I finished the first coat of paint on the windows and a bit later, on all the trim, Then came our first butchering job: the yearling calf, which made the children feel badly and we did not enjoy; yet no one was sorry to have the delicious chops and cutlets, and the 33 quarts of meat which Isabel put up in jars. I had prepared myself, for it - yes- by studying government bulletins, which showed in detail how the carcass should be opened and skinned and cut up. And I had helped a neighbor with the same process. But I was clumsy at it and wasted a lot of time.

Despite all the work, we managed to fit in some good times. The usual Halloween party at the school on a Friday evening was attended by all the parents, and was fun, The children got a great kick out of dressing up. It started on a discordant note for us because or cows had turned up missing; but we couldn't search for them after dark and at the party we heard of some "strays" so next morning at 6 A.M. Wy and I were after them and they were ours. We brought them home just in time for him to go with a load of children Isabel was taking to a 4H roundup at White River Junctions.- Also, Wyeth had begun to take an interest in photography, and was learning to develop the films and make prints.

As the days grew shorter the nights became frostier; the leaves had fallen and the fields were drab. Yet there always is some color, At certain seasons I take pleasure in looking out on the steep bank of trees behind the house, which turns pink as the sun rises, while the glittering frost crystals on the fields melt when the sun strikes them leaving white patches in the shaded spots. It is over too soon.

Then came the grey days, overcast and shivery with chill wind moaning in the chimneys and causing the trees to wave their naked limbs. These evenings we drew close about the hearth-fire, ant talked of moving in the kitchen range. However, it was almost Thanksgiving before we were forced to do this, which of course necessitated the change-over of the water inlet pipe and drain, This year I put the sink under the back win­dow between the bookcases in place of the shelf, and had everything ship-shape only to discover that the drain thru the foundation leaked back into the cellar. "I'm sorry," I told Isabel. "While the drying I'll have to run the drain pipe out the window." Which I did, us­ing a piece of hose. By this time my wife accepted such things philo­sophically. Also she was cheerful because she had received some advance orders for syrup and felt her business was making headway,

A Heatrola from the 1930's.
At last we were able to buy a new "parlor stove to replace the old pot-bellied affair, which had served us so far. It was a "Heatrola" with an 'outer shell, which was designed to circulate the warmed air. It could be fed larger logs or chunks thru the end door and so kept a fire better, This proved a very good investment, adding materially to our comfort, Along with tip stove we purchased storm windows for all the first floor. Of course despite ordering them as near to size as possible none fitted without considerable trimming, which job I was most happy to complete in mid-December, by which time we were having some very cold days. They worked a tremendous improvement by keeping out the cold breezes.

I was at last finishing the shingling of the chicken shed, into which the prospective new laying flock had been moved when it had outgrown its quarters in the summer kit hen, (The cocks were disposed of when they reached a size for fryers, being either sold or "canned.") The old biddies in the first shed-section were molting most of the fall and hence were off their usual good egg production; the young ones were just beginning to lay. We were troubled by a rat infestation,- they became so numerous and bold that Wyeth or I could go out with the .22 and shoot them as they stole grain from the feeders. Also using traps and poison, we kept them under control, but it remained a problem. The dog and cat were of little help.

The two cows we now had - one of them dry - were tested for TB, a new and good state requirement, and were found OK. Then the one I 'was milking caught cold and developed a caked bag which gave us quite a bit of concern.   This was a different kind of trouble than that which often occurs after freshening but the treatment was much the same. As I recollect, it was not until after the war that some of the new "wonder drugs" proved useful to inject into the, teats. Anyway, she recovered; but for a while we had to boil the milk, which no one liked.

The children were invited to attend Sunday-school at the Baptist church in Cavendish, and Isabel was glad to furnish transportation; it meant a late dinner but was nice for the kids, The simple life of that time provided few social activities for young people; by today's standards, especially on the farms, it was a bit rugged. So any chance to get out was welcome to them.

Center Rd School
Halloween Memoirs of Center Rd School: Sandra Stearns in her book “Cavendish Hillside Farm 1939 to 1957”  describes her memories of Halloween at the same school the Tiemann children attended, Center Rd School, just a decade or so later. Below is an excerpt from the chapter “Ghosts and Goblins.”

Each year the Center School had a Halloween party. Our greatest joy was to be invited to Cliff and Marion Johnson’s home to explore their attic looking for our attire. High button shoes, red flannelled long johns and dresses and hats from years ago were abundant there. Marion was always good for a unique costume herself. An unknown student always appeared and only by the process of elimination and observance of a missing person were we able to identify her.

Corks were burned and rubbed on our hands and faces to darken them. Lipstick was used liberally and we wore it for days before it washed off completely. Pillows were stuffed everywhere in our costumes making humped backs, roly-poly bellies, extreme fannies and bouncing cleavages. We wore our Dads’ boots and shoes, the bigger the better. Our teacher, Mrs. Pickard, often dressed up as a gypsy and would tell our fortunes by the lines our psalms. Costumes were judged and prizes were awarded. ...

The older students made a ghost walk outside, around the building. It was real dark so a rope was used to guide the “unsuspecting’ parents thru our horrible moans, rattling chains, clanging pans, crazy cackles and wolf howls. The route and the noise never changed much from year to year, but our loyal parents made our efforts worthwhile. They fulfilled their role of scared participants and we were delighted with their shrieks of fright!

One year we were invited to attend and participate in the large Halloween party at Duttonsville in the Town Hall. [This would have been in what is today the Cavendish Historical Society Museum building. At one time, Cavendish village was referred to as Duttonsville.] We had never trick or treating and most of us were too bashful to try. I for one felt lost among all those unknown kids and did not enjoy myself. It was decided after that to continue our own party.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Chapter 20: Tiemann's Memoir/Blueberries

Following Chapter 20, and Tiemann's memoirs of summer gardening, its all about blueberry season in Cavendish and how you can help the Cavendish Historical Society by picking the best organic blueberries in Vt.

 For the prelude and links to all of the chapters go to Coming to Vermont (Cavendish): Memoirs of Philip Tiemann.

We had kept the calf thru the winter, planning to have “baby beef” the next fall. He was turned into the pasture with the other animals and was doing nicely. I also invested in a piglet to be fed on skim milk and later, on cull apples and corn, For him we fixed up the low shed, which had sheltered the old water trough before I built a new one. To hold this active little creature required a substantial board fence, and his rather small yard had to be kept clean and as dry as possible both for his health and to avoid objectionable odors. On the loose a pig probably would be as clean as any animal-not considering a plastering of mud, as they do enjoy wallowing - but when confined he will, if he can, clam­ber into his feed trough, and roll in any much available. So he needed a good deal of care. In the fall we planned to put him in an unfinished section of the chicken coop until it became cold enough to butcher, probably around Thanksgiving. Two sections of the chicken shed now wore-in use. The outside was partly unfinished as I worked at it off-and-on, using roofing felt under shingles. The protective material over the wire screening had proved excellent.

I started to plow a new garden spot in the north-east mowing, turning over about half of its three acres. This was not near enough to the house to be really convenient, but it was dry, and following a good dressing of barnyard manure and ground limestone it proved quite fertile.

The difficulties here (along with the inevitable witch grass) were elm tree roots. The north boundary wall was lined with fine old trees, and as I got over toward them 1 began to have. trouble. No one would have believed how far those tough roots could extend, just below the surface,  except my neighbor: who stood and laughed at me as they kept tripping the plow and I cussed. I had to leave a good deal wider border than I had planned. Yet I had the last laugh, as this land grew very fine sweet-corn.

The newly-broken ground (it should have been done the previous fall so the sod could rot) I left for a time while I barrowed hay-seed into the area of the large. mowing where feed-crops had been the year before. A bit above this (the field had an easterly slope) I put in an acre of field- corn. “You can buy mixed grain cheaper than you can raise it” was the general opinion. Not quite convinced, I put in half an acre of oats north of the barn-yard. But this was the last time I planted small grains except as a nurse crop (mixed with hay-seed, the heavier growth protects the tender new grass and provides stouter hay the first year,) Cows unquestionably do better on a balanced ration such as the commercial feed companies provide. And I had no further need for oats as in the course of the summer I sold Dan and did not replace him.

This came about unexpectedly. A man from Reading Stopped by one day and asked if I would sell my horse. At first I said no but upon thinking it over it seemed perhaps a good idea. The hay was\in and for the rest of the year Dan would be pretty much a boarder with little to do. Without him there would be more hay to sell or trade for labor. As he grew older standing around in the pasture would do him no good, and the cows would have better grazing. So I first made a deal with the second-mortgage hold­er (as that mortgage included the live-stock) to pay something on account; and having agreed on a price which suited both the buyer and myself the sale was made. I missed the old fellow when he was gone but we were better off. We never again kept a horse.

Speaking of pasture, this always was a weak spot in our farming (and the same applied to many places.) A pasture needs to be kept up. If grazed year after year with little or no attention as ours had been, brush and scrub trees encroach and nutritious grasses are replaced by light “June grass” and weeds except where animal droppings have supplied fertility.

The Windy Hill pasture area was about half woods, useful chiefly as a retreat on hot days and young growth was damaged by being cropped when better feed was lacking, Being anxious to have our present cows produce and also to build up the herd, I made an effort to improve matters by top dressing with chemical fertilizers and ground limestone. This helped somewhat but was not sufficient. The soil was hard and should have been turned over and had organic matter added and then been seeded. As I found with other endeavors, half-measures never are satisfactory.

This particular spring my greatest interest was to have a good kitchen garden. I pulled out a great number of severed elm roots, Then the sods fortunately were dry enough so that they broke up easily under the disc harrow, and after repeating the operation a couple of times I had a sat­isfactory bed. Then it was a bit late\for peas, which should go in as soon as the ground can be worked,- preferably early April altho this seldom is possible in this country of long winters. Succession plantings made weekly apace out the crop. Being late, I got in only two plantings, The same applied to spinach, which, when it comes fresh from the garden, the family always has enjoyed. Then the seedlings started in February in flats indoors could be set out, beginning with cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower which are hardy, Tomatoes, peppers, and egg-plant don’t stand frost and so usually have to wait until Decoration Day [Memorial Day]. Meantime I could put in the various root crops and lettuce; and toward the end of the month beans and corn (“when the maple leaves are the size of a mouse’s ear”.) A few pumpkins planted with the corn took no extra space and were nice to have (the children liked to have big ones for Halloween) altho they prevented clean cultivation when they began to “run.” And finally some varieties of squash; cucumbers; melons; and citron. Several were experimental and we did not try again. Both watermelons and muskmelons were doubtful as to maturity and thereafter unless the planting season was un­usually early we skipped them, The same applied to eggplant. Citron and chard no one liked well enough to repeat. Some varieties of tomatoes we liked better than others, and also squash. This is all a matter of family taste.

Being city people we first put in pea beans for drying and shelling, then one of Isabel’s friends suggested Maine Yellow-eyes, a larger bean, and tastier, so this became our standard, “Sojer” (soldier) beans are another local favorite but did not appeal to us, - That year I also put in pota­toes, We did not depend upon them as a staple of diet as did most Vermont­ers and we came to the conclusion that the small quantity we needed could be purchased as cheaply as they could be grown, not to mention the labor of planting and cultivating and spraying and digging with a chance of losing at least part of the crop to blight.

Then we set out our first red raspberries,» two short rows in one corner of the garden. The canes as received from the nursery were flourishing and the children couldn’t understand why they had to be pruned back, nor why - after a long summer of weeding - berries should not be picked the first year. 

Later on, however, the fine fruit made up for the trouble and was one of our most successful crops. Any kind of mulch between the rows, even old burlap bags or sawdust; helped to control the weeds; the greatest labor was at season’s end when all old canes had died and had to be cut out, and the rows well weeded and fertilized. Raspberries are hardy and subject to few troubles, They are readily salable, some­times people coming to pick their own at a reduced price or “on halves.” The birds are a nuisance and steal a lot of berries, and in a very dry season all the creatures come to help themselves to the nice juicy fruit, At such a time the deer are specially addicted to the new green tips, which results in stunted growth the following year.

Our friends next door favored strawberries, and of course they are very good indeed; but when I had observed the labor and the uncertainties in­volved I concluded they were not for us. Later I was argued into trying a few but after a couple of seasons I knew I had been right the first time. Yet some people make good money from them.

In one way or another the summer went very fast and before we knew it time for harvest had come. Most things, were productive that year. We sold sweet-corn in addition to having all we could eat and the sixty-four pints that Isabel “put up.” There were plenty of blackberries and a good apple crop. Yet despite a long season we got very few ripe tomatoes and perhaps a dozen squash.

By hanging up the green tomatoes on the vines under shelter we hoped they would ripen but they only tended to spoil. We had green tomato pickle practically running out of our ears. -I was tempted to leave the field-corn out just too long and it was frosted, when the temperature went below freezing one night, But those things we took in stride.

Interior work never did seem to end, - there always was painting or plastering or something else waiting for a rainy day. The kids helped at clearing brush from along the walls in the mowing. An in the hope of getting a little bit ahead, I chopped and stacked wood when not altogether too weary.

In mid-autumn we had a nice windfall when an elderly cousin gave up housekeeping and sent us a truck-load of much-needed furniture. Some pieces were immediately usable; others required repair. But “beggars can not be choosers” and we were delighted with everything,-the more because much of it had been in the family for a long time. Nicest perhaps was an Empire-style sofa, which Isabel proceeded to recover wile I repaired some of the chairs. It gave the house a new aspect.

Blueberries for Cavendish: As the Tiemanns picked blueberries; Mrs. Tiemann turned them into a variety of delicious summer treats, as well as canned some for winter use.  We are fortunate that CHS board member Bruce McEnaney, better known on Facebook as Bruce’s Berries, has the best blueberries in Vermont (100% organic) and they’re ripe for the picking. If you get there quick enough, there are even red raspberries.

As Bruce notes, The picking procedure is the same as last year...scale on the porch...honor system...blah, blah, blah. Half of the proceeds will go to the Cavendish Historical Society to supplement the funds that the good citizens of Cavendish voted to give the Society. The money will go into a fund to repair and paint the former Cavendish Baptist Church that is now the museum. Pick delicious, healthy, never any sprays (except water) blueberries and help refurbish one of the towns beautiful buildings. And remember Bruce's Berries are the freshest and tastiest because YOU PICK THEM YOURSELVES!!!

So now that you have lots of this delicious goodness, what can you do with them? Below are options to consider, most of which Mrs. Tiemann would have tried-except for the freezing.

Freezing: These need to be dry. Basically take Bruce’s Berries-no worries about pesticides and place in re sealable plastic bags or suitable freezer containers and put in the freezer. Some people like to do a single layer on a cookie sheet, freeze and then place in freezer containers. Best to use these prior to six months. Be sure to purchase enough to get you through the winter. 

Drying Blueberries in the Oven: Don’t know as Mrs. Tiemann would have done this, but it’s very simple. Think lower, slower temperature-closer to 135-for a chewier texture. Don’t go above 200 or it will cook instead of dehydrate. Put the berries on a single baking sheet and pop them in the oven. 135 degrees for 10 hours or 6-8 hours at 200. Check more frequently at the higher temps.

Recipes for Summer Eating: So if you want something more than blueberries and cream, try one of the following:
• Blueberry Recipes from Vermont Weathervane: Blueberry Irish Bread sounds yummy 
• Grilled Quail with Blueberries:  Combines two wonderfully locally grown products, Cavendish Game Birds and Bruce’s Berries.
• Honey Sweetened Blueberry Jam:  Don’t forget the Honey Fest (Golden Stage Inn, Proctorsville) takes place on Sept. 12.

• Blueberry Jam from the makers of Ball Jars 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Pick some Blueberries and Support the Cavendish Historical Society

It's Blueberry Time! Are you looking for a wholesome, family-type summer activity? Then spend part of your Summer Sunday at Bruce's Berries! The blueberry bushes have loads of berries on them and for the next 3 or 4 days you will be able to pick lots of red raspberries. The raspberry season is short so don't delay. The variety of red raspberries I grow originated in Ireland and are named Boyne and Killarney, They are full of flavor but do not keep long. Get 'Em and eat 'Em or freeze 'Em now.' Stay tuned for stories about Camden and Lester. They both just got back from a trip out west where they claim they were hunting for dinosaurs.
The picking procedure is the same as last year...scale on the porch...honor system...blah, blah, blah. We will be splitting the sales 50/50 with a different group this year. Half of the proceeds will go to the Cavendish Historical Society to supplement the funds that the good citizens of Cavendish voted to give the Society. The money will go into a fund to repair and paint the former Cavendish Baptist Church that is now the museum. Pick delicious, healthy, never any sprays (except water) blueberries and help refurbish one of the towns beautiful buildings. And remember Bruce's Berries are the freshest and tastiest because YOU PICK THEM YOURSELVES!!!

Bruce's blueberry patch is at 345 Minor Rd. Take route 103 just over the Cavendish line to Smokeshire Rd in Chester. Stay on Smokeshire until you see Minor Rd. Go up the hill and you'll tend end onto Bruce's property and his magical berries, which are contently waiting for you to pick them. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Chapter 19-Tiemann Memoirs Town Meeting

 Following Chapter 19 is information about how town meeting operates today. For the prelude and links to all of the chapters go to Coming to Vermont (Cavendish): Memoirs of Philip Tiemann.

For the most part, that second winter must have passed without incident, or else I was too busy to write about it, Lacking a record, I can only think that I was able to work in the woods a good part of the time, as the weather was less rugged than the previous year. I had no desire to do this kind of work again in the summer. Our day-to-day living had settled pretty much into routine, but with too much to do for it to become monotonous. A trip to the village or a visit with friends gave us an occasional break.

Then on the first Tuesday of March we had, our initiation into that good old New England custom, the annual, town meeting. This was hold for many years in Cavendish village in the town hall, 'a converted church with a stage, a balcony, and high arched windows; lighting a not very large room in which sixty or so deacon-style benches provided for the early comers, Most of the ladies were there in time to find seats, but always the rear of the hall was crowded with standing men', mostly in working clothes and boots as they had come from the shops and woods. Thing were run by the moderator from his place behind a lectern on the stage, with the town clerk keeping record of proceedings at a table beside him. For some reason the selectmen preferred to sit on the first bench against the left-hand windows, facing the room but below the stage.

In a rear corner some of the women representing one of the clubs had a table with coffee and sandwiches for sale. A ballot box on the edge of the stage, for use only if someone called for a vote by ballot, completed the furnishing. That was before the days of the "Australian Ballot" requiring more for­mal voting in booths set up along the right-held wall: to be eligible, people's names now have to appear on the "check list" which is presided over by clerks at tables on the way to the booths. This doubtless is more practical but it isn't as much fun.

The meeting was announced well in advance by the "Warning," which gave time and place and listed the Articles, which were to be acted upon. "To see if the town will vote...." was the phrase used. This document was posted in prominent places and was published in the town report. The latter supposedly gave a resume of the towns business, vital statistics etc. for the past year; gotten up by the auditors, it sometimes was comprehensible to no one else.

Punctually at ten o'clock the moderator hammered on .his lectern and called the mooting to order, and from then on almost anything could happen. People took their town politics very seriously, and, while I never knew of an actual fight, there were some pretty bitter exchanges ­generally forgotten when it was all over. Town officers had to be nomi­nated and elected (usually there was good competition) and then money voted to pay for the various town expenses, Those always included approp­riations for Memorial Day and for the town libraries (one in each village naturally.) The progress and orderliness of proceedings depended upon the moderator, who perforce must he a man acquainted with the people, knowledgeable in parliamentary procedure, and of the best standing. I believe there have been only two in our time.

Doing all the voting from the floor, often with one article requiring several votes, not to mention the explanations and arguments, town bus­iness generally took until noon and sometimes longer. Then there was a recess, during which the lunch table did big business. After the town was thru, the town school district (as distinct from an Independent School District in Cavendish village,- the Duttonsville district) held its meeting. Altogether it resulted in a long-drawn-out affair. A great deal of what went on was next to incomprehensible to the novice, and Isabel and I left with the feeling that much could be done differently! In years to come we had our chance to try.

With that out of the way of the way, sugaring came on the •scene, There were years when the sap ran earlier, 'but not often. It depended to a large extent upon the location of the sugar bush, which varied from farm to farm, , Those' balmy days following 'frosty nights4 required to make the sap run,
never could be determined in advance, and sometimes boiling continued into April. Always there were interruptions, either by a freeze or snow or rain; buckets might be out for six weeks or longer but with gathering possible perhaps only half of the time. The operation commenced with the tapping of the desired number of trees,- boring a hole with brace and bit for the spout, which was equipped with a hook, and hanging anywhere from our twenty buckets or so up to perhaps a thousand. Two or three hundred was quite a lot to handle. They had to be visited at least daily while the sap was running, collecting in a larger bush being generally done with a horse-=drawn sled on which a sizable tank was mounted. It took a good team t o break a path thru the deep snow. Of course we collected ours by hand in oversize buckets, generally requiring snowshoes. Sometimes when sap did not run for a while the process of tapping and hanging the buckets had to be done all over again, the original tap-holes apparently having begun to heal. In any event, the buckets had to be kept clean.

The tankful of sap was hauled to the sugarhouse, which as a rule, was located not far from the farmhouse. Here the sweetish liquid-about the viscosity and color water-was emptied into a much larger storage tank connected with the boiling apparatus. This consisted of a very large-perhaps as much as four by six feet—compartmented pan or evaporator into one end of which the sap was fed thru a pipe (or perhaps dumped from a can). The pan rested on an “arch” (I would have called it a furnace) made usually of brick with large iron doors thru which unbelievable quantities of fuel were fed to produce a roaring blaze. Here is where all the scrap wood, old tires, and other combustibles were accumulated during the preceding year to augment the cordwood supply. The compartments of the pan were designed with openings thru which the sap would flow as it boiled down, from one end to the other, gradually becoming thicker. When it reached the proper consistency it was ladled or drawn off into gallon cans, which were closed and sealed hot. In the old days consistency and color were a matter of judgment on the part of the maker and hence tended to vary considerably, but by our time more accurate grading was beginning to be required both by range of color and by weight, which was determined by a hydrometer and was supposed to be pounds for a legal gallon of syrup. As I have mentioned, the first or fancy grade is quite pale.

To make hard sugar requires considerably longer boiling than does syrup. Local practice has been to make quite a quantity of "soft sugar" which, when packed in small covered pails (lard pails are fine), can be spooned out as wanted, This is easily melted or, if desired, cooked down further to make real sugar. But it is apt to be rather dark.

There always has been a good demand for quality syrup, and so it was that many thrifty farmers made use of what otherwise might have been idle time to increase their income. It also put their teams to use. But it was not all gravy, Equipment is expensive and has to be maintained; a good supply of fuel is essential;, and when the sap is running there is a lot of hard work and long hours, often extending far into the night. Then there is the business of marketing whatever the family does not want to keep for its own use. In this respect Isabel was of help to both neighbors and ourselves; acting as middleman she managed to sell quite a bit.

Town Meeting Today: Did you know that in 1912, women did not participate in town meeting?  That year the Sunshine Society decided to offer a luncheon, “...Some of the old guard among the men grumbled at the intrusion and would have none of it. A compromise was effected wherein the ladies might spread their luncheon in the gallery if they would screen off their view of the men below. But that first meal was enough to make the Sunshine dinner welcome at every Town Meeting since.”

The biggest change from 1912 to 1934, when the Thiemann’s first attended town meeting, was that women could vote. However, significant changes have continued to occur with the most recent being in 2009.

Since its inception, Vermont has had a tradition of secret hand written balloting, and by 1832, Vermont had printed ballots.  At the end of the 19th century, Vermont had adopted the “Australian Ballot” to distinguish voting by a secret ballot as opposed to a face-to-face town meeting

In Tiemann’s era, Town Meeting was held in what is today the Cavendish Historical Society Museum. Today’s Cavendish Town Meeting, held in the multi purpose room at the Cavendish Town Elementary School,  is no longer a day affair but takes place the Monday night before Vermont’s Town Meeting Day, which is the first Tuesday in March. That means in some years, it occurs in February. While the town budget is still discussed and voted on at town meeting, in 2009, the voters elected to have the school budget voted on by Australian Ballot. Starting in 2010, the school portion of the evening still takes place, but it is informational only.

Solzhenitsyn addressing Cavendish Town Meeting 1977
Cavendish Town Meetings have taken on a life of their own. It was here in 1977, that Nobel Laureate and Cavendish resident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn explained to the community about his need for privacy. He appeared again in 1994, just before his return to Russia, to thank the community for their cooperation in giving him the space, privacy and freedom to write.

In more recent years, town meeting is when awards are given to community members and groups who have made significant contributions to the community. While comments are often made each year about whether town meeting is needed and “shouldn’t the town budget be voted on by Australian Ballot,” it is a unique tradition then is more than just voting up or down on a particular item. It is a forum for discussion, as well as chance to catch up with neighbors and friends.

For another perspective on Vermont's Town Meeting, check out this article in The Economist.