|Vermont is a fertile and beautiful environment. A land of open meadows and green mountains, intimate villages and working farms, it is a unique region that has maintained a sense of past traditions while forging its future. It is a place that symbolizes pastoral—the qualities of charming simplicity and idealized country life—but Vermont is not entirely free from the distractions that govern this century. Like anywhere, it is sometimes important to weed in order to ﬁnd that which is fulﬁlling, beautiful, or lasting.|
Pastoral features the work of creative souls who share a common inspiration combined with the highest level of quality and integrity in the fields in which they work. No fences are raised between these varied arts, whether they are utilitarian, agricultural, visual, or gastronomic. Pastoral is the context for the interaction of many art forms to provide multiple visions for a common goal. Our goal in presenting these resources is to widen and deepen appreciation of the individuals, the processes, and the products behind these creative manifestations and to provide sustenance to open minds and interested patrons.
THE ART OF A POTTER
Utility is transcended by the beauty of form in the traditional garden pots made and fired by Jeff Pentland. Having grown up, studied, and apprenticed in England, Pentland has established his own pottery aside his home in Hartland, Vermont. All the pots—some of them quite large—are hand thrown and wood fired in a magnificent traditional downdraft kiln that he built himself and which allows ample space for a few choice firings each year.
For patrons visiting the pottery, Pentland creates an experience that easily articulates the process of making pots from clay—his unique blend of natural ingredients—then finishing and firing. He invariably offers both useful tips and wit for using his pots. A pot in his own garden may be filled with a cherry-tomato plant in summer; after the harvest, he will clean the pot, take it into the house, and his three children will use it to store their mittens, scarves, and hats for the winter. A warm host, Pentland is keenly interested in helping children and adults understand and appreciate the natural world and the art of pottery. His impeccable vegetable gardens and apple and blueberry orchards attest to his love for gardening and homegrown produce. By working with natural materials to make his pots, using wood to fire his kiln, and then planting flowers and vegetables in the final product, he demonstrates his commitment to the entire process.
Pentland plans his year carefully. He makes the majority of his pots in winter and, when he is satisfied with the range, quality, and quantity, will fire them in spring and is ready to sell them summer through fall. He does not usually take advance orders but rather creates a range of forms that would more than satisfy any gardener. His pots are available year-round, but the summer offers a splendid time to visit the pottery, as many of the pots are displayed outside. The pots are very durable and made to be planted, to hold up to time, and to grow rich with the lovely natural patina that only comes with use.
In a world where virtually anything can be purchased from anywhere at any time, Pentland’s pots cannot be found or bought online on the Internet nor are they available in large stores anywhere. A few shops in neighboring towns may carry a pot or two, but Pentland encourages interested gardeners to visit the pottery, to meet the potter, to see the product made at its source, and to leave—pots in hand—with a good story and an understanding of the process of making a pot.
Turning clay into vessels to fill with rich earth and grow good things is essential to Pentland’s process and vital to his art. Our appreciation of his products is elevated beyond our awareness of their function.
THE ART OF A PAINTER
The art of painting is not unlike other creative processes, whether they be growing fine lettuces to take fresh to market or making a large garden pot from a mound of clay. The process is often a lengthy one, requiring skill and disciplined patience. In the work of Glenn Suokko, the process, materials, and subjects are inextricably linked to the final product—a painting that reflects a sensibility informed by the environment in which he lives. Living with his family on a majestic hill in Woodstock, Vermont, he paints in his spacious studio nearby. For Suokko, painting—like eating or walking—is a vital and necessary part of the rhythm of each day. Trusting in the pleasure of developing art of all forms—whether it is the art of gardening, cooking, or conversation—is to live and share a fruitful life. Suokko’s paintings are the manifestations of an ongoing creative process that he cultivates through careful observation, considered study, and continual practice.
Painting directly from life and depicting the natural qualities of the objects placed before him, Suokko often chooses as subjects handmade household objects and vessels or fruits and vegetables that are subtle in form and rich with natural color. In his recent still-life paintings, Suokko avoids a narrative (a story within the frame) and instead focuses attention on depicting the sublime nature of utilitarian and natural objects, thereby bestowing significance—even monumentality—when these simple objects are seen in isolation. His paintings are the final product of the process and, through composition, color, form, and light, become the poetry of the subjects represented.
Cautious of showing his paintings in the anonymity of a traditional white-walled art gallery, Suokko chooses to present his work in the familiar context of his studio and invites the opportunity to meet patrons who wish to know the artist behind the artwork. Anyone wishing to see his work is encouraged to arrange a visit by simply telephoning in advance. His paintings are also offered for sale throughout the year at special shows by invitation and at annual pastoral exhibitions that showcase a selection of work by Vermont artisans.
THE ART OF VERMONT-MADE FURNITURE
Historically, Vermont’s unique location and its access to the great Connecticut River along its eastern border made possible both the production and trade of handmade furniture. With the earlier established settlements in Massachusetts and Connecticut to the south, and in Montréal and Québec to the north, many towns in Vermont experienced significant prosperity as a result of trade in the 19th century. Furniture making became an important industry in this small, mountainous state.
Finding antique Vermont-made furniture is now increasingly difficult because of the interest in country antiques made accessible to urban collectors with the introduction of the interstate highway system in remote Vermont in the late 1960s. Through the generosity of local benefactors, many area historical societies possess varied examples of early furniture, but Eric Nesbitt has made it his interest and work to find and sell furniture made in New England, specifically made in Vermont, and very specifically made in Woodstock.
Working for several years selling antique English furniture, Nesbitt became interested in American furniture with the purchase of an early painted dressing table from Salem, Massachusetts, that had caught his eye. He developed a love of American painted furniture and collected interesting and unusual pieces—particularly if they were local. Finding furniture with its original paint is rare, but it is still possible, and Nesbitt offers many fine examples at his shop—a charming and appropriate 19th-century house in the village of Woodstock, where he also lives.
Nesbitt deals in painted furniture, household accessories, garden furniture, and paintings, and at any given moment he may have a handful of Woodstock-made furniture, like the handsome secretary (top left) made in the 1820s for a prominent citizen who lived in the village or the wooden chair (left) made between 1810 and 1840, attributed to Woodstock furniture maker John White, and which retains its original white paint. The majority of Nesbitt’s offerings are unique pieces (right) from greater New England, handmade and hand painted between 1700 and 1850.
BRINGING A SENSIBILITY TO THE TABLE
Eating well is essential. Finding food that is grown and produced honestly means beginning every meal with the knowledge of the product and an appreciation of the environmentally responsible producer. Knowing where and how our food is grown and produced creates a rich opportunity for dialogue that encourages the preservation of good farming practices and the important work of a special, new breed of artisanal Vermonters.
Summer is a demanding time in Vermont for gardeners and gardening. The short but intense growing season and the warm sunny days and cool nights allow the fruits of producing plants to develop full, rich flavors that are synonymous with the word fresh. The abundant harvests of backyard gardens and working farms become the ingredients for the next important and rewarding step in appreciating them: gastronomy.
Local farm stands are, unfortunately, disappearing from the Vermont landscape. However, farmers’ markets—52 in Vermont alone—have increasingly become quite popular and successful and promise the discovery of honestly grown and produced food. Many farms and food producers presented in pastoral can be found at these colorful weekly venues or at local food co-ops.
Tunbridge Hill Farm
On a sunny farm each Monday from May to October, individual large boxes are prepared and distributed for shareholders. Opening a box is akin to opening a gift—one that is filled with a vast array of clean, beautiful produce picked fresh that morning depending on what greens and vegetables are ready that week and on that day. This is the week’s supply of outstanding food grown organically by Wendy and Jean Palthey at their hillside farm. Along with the more-than-ample bounty, a flat of herbs might be included—a good wish from the two farmers to encourage the shareholder to plant the seedlings to grow and prosper. This is community supported agriculture (csa), a unique relationship between a new breed of farmer/artisan that offers a favorable and sensible arrangement for both farmer and shareholder. For the farmer, financial support is made in advance of the season, assuring a guaranteed market and the stability that comes with that assurance; for the shareholder, a steady and constant supply of healthy, locally grown food is provided from a known and valued source.
Some of the contents a weekly box from the Paltheys may hold are herbs, lettuces, artichokes, arugula, melons, tomatoes, carrots, peas, new potatoes, garlic, onions, corn, cucumbers, beets, tatsoi, green beans, fava beans, zucchini, and peppers. Occasionally something only vaguely identifiable will be included in the box and will require searching through illustrated cookbooks to determine just what one does with the mysterious inclusion. For the cook in the house, this can be very exciting, as it leads to discovering not only a new food but new recipes and menus—a gentle challenge that can produce exciting and unexpected gastronomic results.
To commit to a share of CSA at Tunbridge Hill Organic Farm is to support a clear vision—one in which good, honestly grown food is essential nourishment, shared through a mutual commitment to a unique and beneficial relationship.
THE ART OF A BREADMAKER
Bread, the staff of life, with its ancient and symbolic associations, is often central to a meal. To break bread with family and friends has traditionally served to renew the ties that bind us to one another and to the earth.
John Mellquist, of Trukenbrod Mill and Bakery, knows bread and knows how to make great breads. He works with organic grains grown and purchased directly from local farmers within a 100-mile radius of his mill. Understanding the importance of contributing to a vibrant local agriculture, Mellquist is committed to working with local organic producers and offers his breads to a local constituency who value this sensibility.
Grains are stone-ground daily at Trukenbrod, and the bread dough is hand shaped into loaves. The day prior to breadmaking, the clay oven is fired with wood. When the oven has reached and maintained the desired temperature, the oven is cleared of hot coals and receives the bread dough with gentle but intense radiant heat. Mellquist explains that “conventional standard ovens, with high internal airflow, carry essential steam and volatile oils away from baking bread—hence the good smell during baking.” At Trukenbrod, one cannot smell the baking bread because the oven chamber is airtight, ensuring that the goodness stays in the bread and doesn’t escape.
To create a bread of such high quality demands not only great skill but a true love and commitment to this ancient art.
—Glenn Suokko, 2005