Sunday, November 09, 2014

Picking Up Sticks

“November is a month of transitions, offering multiple paths all leading to the same destination.” --Mark Breen, Fairbanks Museum

The destination, of course, is death. The year is dying. Halloween and the Day of the Dead have passed. The light flees us by handfuls of minutes each day. The harvest is in, the leaves are down, and the Connecticut and New Jersey plates have receded with the outgoing tide. It’s stick season.

We’ve been busy at the inn, so it hasn’t felt like a traditional stick season. So when a young family was asking me the other morning where they could go for a short hike, I enthusiastically shared a few spots I thought would fit their needs. Then I stopped.

“Do you have any blaze orange with you?” I asked. “It’s youth hunting season in Vermont this weekend.”

They were Canadians, so they weren’t aghast at my inquiry. But they were amused, and we finally sent them on a hike to Taylor Lodge, behind the trout club, which isn’t normally populated with hunters on youth weekend. “Just don’t grow antlers,” I advised them, and we all had a laugh. Then I remembered that during youth season, young hunters can take any deer, antlered or antlerless. “Better wear some orange.”

Hunting is a big part of autumn in Vermont. Thanksgiving soon approaches, and to wit there was a lively discussion around the wood stove at the Auberge the other night about how to cook a turkey. Big turkeys are problematic (and their place at the table is mythological anyway). Cooking methods that were discussed: smoking (not moist enough), deep frying (“What the hell are we going to do with five gallons of peanut oil?”), brining (Avast!), trash can turkey (“Who’s going to go out and buy a galvanized trash can and a bag of coals?”), and brown bag cooking.

The brown bag method was met with incredulity and refills in all the wine glasses. “Doesn’t the bag catch on fire?” Well, no, Chantal explained. The flashpoint of paper is 451 degrees Fahrenheit, and brown bags are heavier, with a higher flashpoint. And the turkey bastes itself in the bag while it cooks, forgoing the need to open the over repeatedly and baste. Promises to try this method were made all around, and small, side discussions erupted. Somehow, the conversation drifted to ebola, as is often the case.

And we’re waiting for snow. Many of the slopes on Mt. Mansfield are covered, and we’ve had reports from early season skinners that there’s mountains of the stuff banked on North Slope, with lots of natural snow above that. So we’ll be out there soon.

But until then, we’ll cope with the darkness by soaking up all the light we can, and we’ll keep an eye on the gunmetal gray sky as we make our way to the same yearly  destination.