In the writing room right now ...

In the writing room right now ... I have taken down the brown "butcher" paper that held ideas, photos, drawings, and my hand-drawn maps and plot outlines for the past five or six books. I've placed all those items into three-ring binders, and cleared the deck for paintings and photographs that involve courage, as I move forward in GHOSTKEEPER, the new novel set in Lyndonville, Vermont. My 1850 Vermont adventure THE LONG SHADOW is under contract with Five Star/Cengage -- I will give you a publication date as soon as I know! Scribbling lots of poems, too. And there's a possible route to publication of the "Vermont Nancy Drew" novel I built on Wattpad (see right-hand column). Yes, I guess I do like multi-tasking! How about you?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Change Happens: History of The Farmer's Daughter, St. Johnsbury, Vermont




Last year it looked like our region of Vermont had lost, forever, a tourist icon we'd enjoyed for decades: the Route 2 gift shop called The Farmer's Daughter. Jim Young's family had closed the business and although there was a steady trickle of customers for the ongoing stock sale (stuffed moose toys; postcards a bit faded but still capturing memories; Chinese-made coffee mugs that said "Vermont"), the building had an air of sorrow and darkness.

But Anna and Bruce Cushman stepped in to buy the business, and it's been a busy and happy year in the barn -- where the couple and their family offered ice cream and fresh-picked berries, plus live animals (goats, ducks, chickens) to photograph and pet (https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Farmers-Daughter/370443859742497).  Now it's December and they are still resolutely open each weekend until Christmas, despite the bitter cold of the barn in this season. They feature Vermont products, including fudge they make themselves, as well as the work of local crafters.


Anna showed me a page from an old atlas, where the property was featured from way back in the 1800s, and not long after, I found the same page "at auction" online and purchased it. Here's the atlas page:



And here's an old photo of the farm in use, brought to Anna by a customer:




And a map that includes the property:

 

The property owner was J. G. Hovey, and here is an ad from an 1894 church cookbook bearing his name:


Now -- the Big Question -- why is all this important?

1. It's research: It tells us the reality of both the property that's now the Farmer's Daughter, and the changes that time and commerce bring.

2. It's human: J. G. Hovey as farmer is one thought, as bank director is another. And are there recipes in this cookbook from the women in his life? Women's history before the 21st century is much less documented than men's; this gives us a route into those other documents. Recipes, clothing, family ... the 1800s are rich with artifacts of these.

3. For me, it opens up story possibilities. I'm as interested in Anna's life as current (and shivering!) store owner (take heart, Anna, the days begin to get longer next week, and spring will warm the building again), as I am in the Hoveys, whose history is significant for both St. Johnsbury (did you ever buy clothing at the Hovey Shops?) and Waterford (see the Hovey Place farm: http://waterford-vt-barn-census.blogspot.com/2013/09/hovey-barn-date-unknown-farm-dates-to.html). Will they be background characters in my next novel ... or maybe I'll borrow one of them for a "model" on which to base a protagonist.

Some of the best stories are the real ones. And sometimes it takes a novel to reveal the history underneath.

No comments: