Luskin: Changing Course
09/01/11 8:50AM By Deborah Luskin
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(HOST) Commentator Deborah Luskin is among those finding it hard to get
around in Post-Irene Southern Vermont. She certainly can't get to a
broadcast studio to record. So, amid the distant sounds of storm
recovery, she managed to record her impressions of the storm's aftermath
in a nearby neighbor's house.
(LUSKIN) I live in Williamsville, next to the Rock River, which is usually more rock than river, but not during or after Irene. During the storm, I was awed by the volume and power of the water gushing through the village, sweeping whole trees along with it. Underneath the waves, I heard stones tumbling along the riverbed. The earth shook as boulders bounced down stream, reminding me of the earthquake earlier in the week.
I was equally amazed by the dryness of my basement. I didn't even lose power. So I wasn't really prepared for the devastation just a mile upstream, in South Newfane.
On sunny Monday, I joined my neighbors and strolled across our newly rebuilt Covered Bridge, which withstood the flood. But nothing prepared me for what lay beyond. Great slabs of the road were missing, and the road itself blocked by the top half of my friends' house, which had been broken and shoved by a huge logjam. Nearby, older neighbors were evacuating their ruined home of many decades. Other houses stood empty, scoured by mud. Power lines hung from downed poles. The Green Iron Bridge was canted, having come loose at one end. It looked like the settlement had been bombed.
The wreck in the road had been a second home, and its owners are safe in their primary residence, so this loss sad, but not life-threatening. The destruction of my friends' farm, further north in Cuttingsville, is another story entirely.
Kara and Ryan are young farmers, who bought their dilapidated farmhouse and neglected fields along the Mill River last year. They came from Pennsylvania, where they'd established a successful CSA on borrowed land. The purchase, renovation, and creation of Evening Song Farm had been their carefully-planned dream. By all accounts, they were thriving. With strict adherence to their business plan and their own Herculean effort, they had reclaimed and planted fields. They had built and filled hoop houses. They had populated their barn. Their dream was coming true.
Their first season was headed toward success: they had 50 CSA members, and were familiar vendors at Farmers' Markets in Dorset, Ludlow and Rutland. They were bringing fallow farmland back to life, setting down roots in the rich soil they were improving with dedication, passion and endless effort. Ryan and Kara epitomize the new hope for organic, local, agriculture in Vermont. Both in their mid-twenties, they were part of a migration of young people resettling in Vermont.
But all that changed Sunday, when the Mill River didn't just jump its banks and flood their fields, washing away an entire season of crops. The river cut a new watercourse, changing the boundaries of the farm, and shoveling acres of improved soil downstream.
There's no way to describe what a blow this is, not just to Kara and Ryan or to Evening Song Farm, but to the whole state of Vermont. And the test of our mettle as Vermonters will be how we respond to this forced change of course.