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History of a Vermont Sheep Farm
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A Flock of Your Own Icelandic Sheep
A Flock of Your Own Chickens
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Dreaming Vermont: Relocating and Living in Vermont

The 1957 Dodge truck was dubbed “Semper” when it was half way home. When we picked it up, it started. It started again after we filled the tank with gas, topped off the oil, and fortified ourselves with coffee for the long run home. Foolishly, we assumed this was an indication that all was well, and that it was safe to stop at a rest area half way up I-89.

Unfortunately, past performance, even stellar past performance, is no indication of future performance. The truck, having labored manfully along I-89 at a gasket blowing 50 miles per hour flatly refused to turn over after a short rest.

Fortunately, and purely by accident, we’d stopped the truck at the crest of a modest hill, and a good shove sent it rolling toward either impending doom, or a successful start. Halfway down that hill, when the tailpipe sent forth a cheerful white plume, I named the truck “Semper.” Always.

Bestowing a moniker on a rusty pile of bolts powered by an old flathead six immediately vests it with a certain distinction. The headlamps become eyes, the grill a smile, and your truck, with its bulbous nose, develops all the personality and charm of a child’s teddy bear. Which is a good thing, because shortly after you acquire an old truck you start to realize what it takes to keep an old truck running.

The first things you acquire are tools. Big tools and little tools. Tools which might have a use beyond messing about with an old truck, and tools which are completely useless except, possibly, as ballast, when you’re not using them to mess about with an old truck.

The next thing you acquire is a file cabinet. The file cabinet is necessary to house all the new catalogues, books, and downloaded “how to” columns you are going to need to keep the old boy running. The file cabinet should be the size of the back wall of your living room. You can use the extra space to store small spare parts.

The last thing you acquire is another old truck. For parts. And a spare engine. Or two. And then another truck... which might come in handy some day. And, oddly enough, the front end of a schoolbus of the very same vintage, which may, or may not, prove useful at some future date.

These parts are piled up in the garage, around the garage, off to the side of the garage, and under tarps. The garage is now navigated by a series of small paths which wind around spare fenders, the odd windshield, and a couple of old truck noses, some complete with grills, some not.

In the midst of this mess the brakes on the original truck fail. It is beyond comprehension, but in this sea of parts is not one spare set of brakes, and even if there were, the brakes flatly refuse to come off the original truck. With great caution, and a hand firmly on the parking brake, you drive the original truck (the only vehicle capable of moving under its own power) to a local garage and acquire the last fixture of every old truck owner: the bemused, very capable, sage, and kind, mechanical wizard. It takes him three days, with the right tools, to get the brakes off. And another two and a half weeks to rebuild them.

About the beginning of the second week, when you realize you’re stopping in at the garage simply to pat the truck on its bonnet and tell it everything is going to be fine, it occurs to you that old truck ownership is a form of madness. There is an entire industry, and no less than four monthly magazines, devoted to this insanity. The fact that you’re in good company is scant consolation when you’re hanging upside down in a wheel well trying to wrench a rusty nut loose.

This weekend we began the painstaking process of breaking the bed and nose of another ‘57 apart to harvest the useable pieces. Hunkered in the garage, its engine lying on the floor, frame bent, and floorboards long gone is the ‘55 Dodge parts truck, next in line for disassembly. One headlamp in, one out, “he looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Terminator Two,” my husband remarks. “I think I’ll call him “Arnold.”

He gazes fondly at the battered visage of his new buddy. “First, we’ll need a new frame...”

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Stories From a Vermont Life:

Camilla Blue
Frozen Gifts
Making Wreaths
Shearing
Hobblewood
Flush
The Fourth of July
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The Farm at Morrison Corner raises Icelandic Sheep on the last hill farm in Mansfield, VT.  Learn about Raising Icelandic Sheep, Raising Chickens, Moving to Vermont and Living in Vermont on this and our other sites.

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