Sometimes I’m unsure what to write. So I write what I find interesting. Unknown to many today, there are two Vermonts. All are aware of the Vermont we live in today. However, very few know that old Vermont is still with us. What worked 50 years ago still works.
Over the years I have written much about old Vermonters and their ways. I try to record our history while others live it. There are as many ways to live old Vermont as there are people to live it.
I know several Vermonters who do things the old way. A few have vegetable gardens without using pesticides or manmade fertilizers of any kind. What is known as organic gardening today was practiced long before we came along to claim it as something new. My friend Fitzie would say, “You’re re-plowing old ground Patch.”
Others I know have mastered making wine, brandy, sherry or applejack from apples. It’s a tradition handed down for generations. Today’s generation has taken it to a new level. Some of the best wines I’ve had are made locally.
I’ve known Bob since the 60s, when he and his wife Susie lived in the small place next to the library. In those days everyone called me Ronnie. Bob is one of the few today who still calls me Ronnie. It pleases me. Bob is five years my senior.
In those days Bob and I shared time fishing, hunting, or trapping. I remember learning to flesh hides in Bob’s cellar. But, as so often happens, life led us in different directions. I went in the antiques business. Bob continued as a woodsman.
Bob was a farrier for 25 years. For those who don’t know, a farrier shoes horses. On many occasions Bob teamed up with Larry Moses (my classmate). They travelled from Chester as far as Peterboro, N.H., or Lake Placid shoeing horses. The ideal stop was two horses. Each man would shoe one horse. Bob told me when there was an odd number of horses to shoe, how they did it. One man would raise and trim the right front hoof. The other would say, “Ok, I’m lifting the left rear leg.” The horse would stand there on two legs while the men did their work.
Bob built up a business buying deer and moose antlers. Bob began by putting an ad in Maine Sportsman magazine that he was buying sheds. Immediately he got calls from Maine and New Hampshire. He began buying moose sheds. For those who don’t know, both deer and moose shed their antlers in early winter. Shed hunters pick them up to sell.
He found a man in Colorado buying sheds. They talked on the phone. Bob drove to Colorado with a small U-Haul trailer loaded with sheds. Bob smiled and said, “Ronnie, I never made so much money.”
Bob found a man in Pennsylvania who sold antlers. Bob bought his antlers. Bob sold his antlers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, and Wisconsin. He developed a very lucrative business.
Artist conks & Reishi
Artist conks I was aware of but didn’t know what they were called. They grow on dead trees or stumps and can be quite large. This fungi is used as a medicinal or served as tea in the orient. They got their name because artists use them as a canvas. The underside is white. With a sharp instrument, artists etched the white exposing the brown underneath. Once dry the drawing was fixed.
Reishi is another fungi Bob harvests. The Chinese use this as a traditional medicine. In Japan it is known as the “mushroom of immortality.” Orientals believe it improves their immune system.
They are dried before being sold. Bob sold both of these fungi to an oriental buyer in Western Pennsylvania.
The photo with this article shows part of Bob’s reishi mushroom harvest, drying. Bob says it’s a lot of working finding them, hauling them out of woods, drying, and then peddling them.
Ginseng is a plant I know. You need a permit from the state to harvest. Bob bought ginseng from those harvesters. A man from the state came and certified Bob’s ginseng. Now Bob could sell it to buyers in the city.
Bob has a son Justin who is an airline pilot. Others will know Bob’s daughters, Hannah, and Sarah, who manages Salon 2000.
This week’s old saying is from Bob Turco: “I love Vermont and I live it.”