I was reading a story in the New York Times Sunday Magazine recently about turning standing trees into firewood. It was a short, how-to type piece, like something that might appear in Vermont Almanac. But it was written by someone who had clearly never put up much firewood. The tips were banal at best (“Never take down trees when it’s windy”) and troubling at worst, like the idea that “you’ll want to take trees that are already dead,” which sounds eco-friendly to a layperson but is really dangerous advice. If you’re new to felling, never cut a dead tree. They’re unpredictable, and the whole top can crumble out of it and crush you. Not to mention that dead trees are often best left to the myriad creatures who live in and slowly decompose them.
I’m using a story from the New York Times as a strawman because the Times is truly a world-class publication. I’m a regular reader. The point is that no one, no matter how good they are, can write well about things they don’t know intimately. And as the small-town, small-state print publications that intimately document the rural experience disappear, the big urban ones that are left can’t fill that void. I won’t even get into the false choice that is the Internet, where a Google search on tree felling will turn up a bunch of videos by people who are proudly cutting trees for the first time, documenting the experience, and sharing it with the world. (The worse things go, the more popular the video will be.) I’ve known dozens of loggers in my life here in Vermont who are masters with a chainsaw, but I’ve yet to meet one who carried a video camera and filmed himself on the job.
We created Vermont Almanac because we think rural Vermonters should have a publication that’s resonant and relevant to their lives. And we exist because you saw fit last year to not only prebuy a copy, but to donate something extra to help us get off the ground. We did it together. Now, with Volume II in the works, we’re going to do it again.
The business model that’s supporting this non-profit venture is much like the CSA model that supports small farms in the state. We both need money up front to grow and nurture a product before it exists to sell, so we both depend on people like you who appreciate this reality and who see the value in what we’re doing beyond the commodity that sits on the bookstore or farmstand shelf.
We are about as lean as a non-profit can be. The money you donate goes directly into the creation of an annual book, and what’s left over supports the writers, editors, photographers, artists who are using their talents to document and celebrate rural lands and rural ways.
Please give what you can to help us create Volume II. And thank you.
Dave Mance III