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Thank you for visiting our site. We have sold the farm and are not taking reservations.

We appreciate all of you who have contributed to our wonderful experience at the farm, memories we’ll carry forever. We're not sure if the new owners, who take possession May 24, are planning to run the B&B in the future, but they are definitely keeping the store open so please continue to visit. As you know, small farms in Vermont are a rarity and becoming more so every year so anything you can do to support Hollister Hill Farm so it’s here for future generations is greatly appreciated. Thank you, again, for your part in our fantastic adventure.

The Dunlops 
Hollister Hill Farm

A year of firsts

I’m a curious person. I don’t mean odd, though I’m sure some could make an argument for that. I mean I’m curious about life. I like learning things. Like millions of others, I got on the Wordle bandwagon, but I prefer Worldle, which challenges you to identify a country by its silhouette, because I learn something every day. (Did you know there’s a sock-shaped island in the middle of the Indian Ocean that serves as a U.S. military base? Diego Garcia. Look it up.)

My inveterate curiosity led me to lead our family from its comfortable (but relatively staid) life in the nation’s capital to a farm in Vermont. I wanted to know what it would be like living on and operating a farm. In terms of learning something new every day and having unique experiences, I certainly tapped into the motherlode. Whereas it hasn’t always been fun, per se, it has certainly been educational. Not just for me, either, but the whole family.

I have mostly embraced every fresh challenge and attempted to meet it head on with the realization that complaining would make me look bad because I was the one who thought it was a good idea to move here and take over a busy and diverse farm. Our four teenagers, on the other hand, have not always been so equanimous in their reception of the unique challenges of living on a farm in rural Vermont. My wife, Catherine, however, has been a complete trouper and cheerfully tackled each job with the abandon and tenacity of a NFL free safety or a chicken chasing a bug if we want to get all homey about it.

It would take much more space than the newspaper is willing to give me to recount every experience that has been a first for us since we moved to Hollister Hill Farm in November 2020. In those approximately 500 days, not one has passed without me either learning something new or doing something for the first time. Other than the sheer novelty of actually owning a farm, several historic barns, three tractors, a large shed full of weird tools, 205 acres, a pond, and about 150 animals, here are some highlights of our first 17 months:

  • Milking a cow.
  • Helping a cow give birth to a calf.
  • Bottle feeding a calf.
  • Burying a cow.
  • Transporting animals in a trailer.
  • Visiting a slaughterhouse.
  • Operating a tractor and its various implements.
  • Tapping trees, collecting sap and boiling it in our own sugarhouse.
  • Eating meals composed exclusively of items raised and grown on our farm, by us.
  • Wrapping hay bales.
  • Stacking hay in our barns.
  • Artificially inseminating a sow.
  • Birthing piglets, rubbing them with towels and even breathing into the mouth of one to successfully revive it.
  • Operating an acetylene torch.
  • Using a grinder (my favorite new tool of 2021).
  • Hiring a farrier (just having the need for a farrier is super cool).
  • Giving an injection, many injections.
  • Putting my hand inside an animal.
  • Castrating stuff.
  • Making cider with our own apples.
  • Owning a pickup truck and actually needing it.
  • Killing a sick chicken with my bare hands.
  • Killing a sick piglet with a gun.
  • Taking a sick Angus calf to the vet in my truck and saving its life.
  • Digging up and opening a septic tank to clean it out.
  • Hosting guests at our Bed-and-Breakfast.
  • Holding off an angry herd of beef from killing a wayward hog.
  • Pulling a baby lamb into the world (did this yesterday).

What has really surprised me, and for which I’m really grateful, is how successful we’ve been. I don’t mean financially because that’s a joke (How do you get a farm worth a small fortune? Spend a large fortune. Ha, ha.). I mean we’ve produced great animals, really tasty produce and we haven’t destroyed this beautiful farm with our complete ineptitude. It’s kind of a miracle because, most of the time, we don’t really know what we’re doing. Our salvation has been the amazing people we’ve met in Vermont, from the skilled tradespeople we’ve hired to fix and build stuff, to workers we’re blessed to know who knock out hard jobs with good humor and no fanfare, and new friends, neighbors and acquaintances who are willing to help us troubleshoot, repair, hoist, tow, tote, gather and spread pretty much everything on this farm. And, most amazingly, they seem glad to do it.

Because it’s not really the way things are done in cities, I was reluctant to ask for help when we first arrived in Vermont, but due to necessity and the insistence that folks were willing to help (“I wouldn’t have offered, otherwise”), I asked for and accepted help whenever we were in a real bind. The response has been amazing and a huge part of our survival. People’s cheerful willingness to lend a hand is one of the most pleasant surprises of our first 500 days in Vermont.

See the original article, published on The Barre Montpelier Times Argus.

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