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Recently Nate and I had a young guest from New Jersey come to our farm.  It was the first time he had been to Vermont and his face was full of awe and admiration from the time he got here to the minute he left. Although he struggled for words…he was able to convey to us that he felt more “at home” here in Vermont than he ever did where he grew up and lives now. I remember feeling that way the first time I came to Vermont too. (no, I was not fortunate enough to be born here)   I still can’t quite describe it, but I have come to accept that it has something to do with being connected to the land. 

 We have livestock.  Doing chores every day, twice a day kind of forces you to embrace nature.  As I don layer after layer on single digit mornings, I insulate myself from the cold so I can stay outside longer in (something approaching) comfort.  Sometimes though, the chill is brutal and I chug through the morning tasks with rhythm and determination and little time or inclination to enjoy the world in or around the barn.  But every so often, something beautiful and spiritual strikes me and I find myself feeling thankful of everything…even in the harshness of the season.   It could be the mist of bluish fog drifting down from the north through our hay fields, it could be the micro thin layer of ice formed on the hoof print shaped puddles in the barnyard or the way the snow squeaks as I step through it.  It is my world and I love it with all my heart.

 As with our young guest…there are many people who would kill to have the opportunity to experience the land as we do.  And then there are those that live in their comfortable homes and their time outside during the winter consists entirely of the time it takes to scrape off their windshields while their cars are readying to take them to and from work.  I am not criticizing anyone for not enjoying what I do… I am just pointing out that their perspective on their environment is entirely different.

 I have been trying to come to terms with how anyone could condone Vermont Gas putting this pipeline through our countryside.  But if a person does not understand this connection to the land that some of us feel, they might not feel the same revulsion at the thought of this big pipe full of lethal gas being installed under our soil. And if they don’t feel that connection, it stands to reason that the money saved from buying cheaper energy would be more important to them.  My connection to the land  might also explain why I feel empathy for farmers and ranchers in parts of this continent that have had oil and gas wells punctured into their landscape.  I know some are happy with the monetary compensation they are finally receiving for their land…returns that often tend to elude farmers.  But some that are watching their royalties and bank accounts swell and are enjoying all the benefits that come with the money they no longer have to toil so hard for, are wondering if they did the right thing.  When you put your signature on the easement agreement with the corporation that will do the drilling or own the pipeline, you are essentially entrusting them with your land.  It is a very difficult thing to do.

 I need not go into individual accounts of how things can go horribly awry in the gas and oil industry.  But every time I read of a spill, an explosion, a leak or a drilling boo boo, I take it to heart as if it was my own land that has been forsaken.   Every time I peer into a bucket filling with cold pure water, I am thankful that we have a good clean source of water to rely on and I try not to take it for granted.  

 It is not the fear of blowing up in a fiery conflagration that makes me resist this pipeline…although the news brings word of more and more leaks, spills and explosions every week it seems.  Mostly it is the easement that makes me so uneasy.  The idea that a large corporation…so large that I will never meet the head of it and they will never set foot on our farm….could have a right to do what they want…take what they need…and have almost total disregard for our wants and values.  Did you know that if the pipeline crosses through a fenced pasture, the landowner is obliged to install gates located so the gas company can access it either on foot or by motor vehicle twice a year?  That means strangers can come and be amongst our livestock… perhaps leaving gates open or ajar.  Having more gates makes unauthorized access easier so theft or damage is not as easily thwarted.  I cringe at the thought.  This intrusion to us might be like someone else would feel if they had to open their homes to strangers on a regular basis.

 We have been given no reason to trust this entity that is Vermont Gas.  The representatives they send out among us haven’t a clue what I am talking about here.  They just don’t get it.  They assure us that we will forget this pipeline is there, once it is installed and buried.  I think if it were them, that might be the case…but this is us, and we do not agree.  That pipeline will taint our land for forever…even if it never spills a drop or molecule into our soil.

 Nat and Jane Palmer





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