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Mud Season: How One Woman's Dream of Moving to Vermont, Raising Children, Chickens and Sheep, and Running the Old Country Store Pretty Much Led to One Calamity After Another Hardcover – October 7, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-1581572049 ISBN-10: 1581572042 Edition: 1st

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Mud Season: How One Woman's Dream of Moving to Vermont, Raising Children, Chickens and Sheep, and Running the Old Country Store Pretty Much Led to One Calamity After Another + Chickens in the Road: An Adventure in Ordinary Splendor + One-Woman Farm: My Life Shared with Sheep, Pigs, Chickens, Goats, and a Fine Fiddle
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Countryman Press; 1 edition (October 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1581572042
  • ISBN-13: 978-1581572049
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #186,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Stimson's predictable tale of uprooting to Vermont after an idyllic fall vacation has its fun moments, including "choosing the cheese" and experiencing Mud Season, the time in early spring when "the snow opens up the hard, bare ground beneath it," but never enough of them to outweigh the plodding narrative. Initial visions of a picturesque small-town life are immediately sidetracked by the day-to-day of historic home renovations and management troubles at the "Horrible Quaint Country Store" that Stimson and her husband decide to open. Natural descriptions provide moments of serenity: "There seems to be a whole, separate world just below the snowy, melty surface." Such instances, unfortunately, are often bogged down by repetitive footnoting. Stimson's story, which concludes with bankruptcy negotiations and a promise never to buy a store again, is fraught with anxiety and missteps. More than thirty appended pages of recipes, including three pet memoriam, supply cheerier resolutions than the story commands. Such additions detract from what would otherwise be a bittersweet story, making this book far more complicated, and less enjoyable, than it should be. (Oct.)

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Get your schadenfreude ready. Stimson’s fish-out-of-water memoir is chockablock with self-deprecating, belly-laughable vignettes. Not since Betty MacDonald’s The Egg and I (1945) has anybody seemed more ill-suited to country life. And yet this born-and-bred midwestern city dweller, having run up an enormous tab at her local Vermont country store, thinks, Maybe I could run a quaint country store. Visions of herself, husband John, and their Bernese Mountain dog, Eloise, greeting delighted customers with homemade breads and soups and cozy woodstove fires eclipsed all logic. They bought the store. Which sounds ominously like the phrase, they bought the farm. Which it may as well have been in the case of this former wholesale book businesswoman who seemed hell-bent on proving she had more money and credit than brains. Naturally, first thing, Stimson rearranged the store to suit her well-intentioned yuppie sensibilities. The locals stayed away in droves. Indeed, her first customers—staid, khaki-and-sensible-shoe-wearing native Vermonters—took one look at her swingy orange and purple outfit accessorized with jangly jewelry and thought she was a fortune teller. The experience foretold a very long acclimation and heaps of hilarious anecdotes. As for this book—come for the humor, stay for the recipes. --Donna Chavez

More About the Author

Ellen Stimson is blessed with a wild pack of children; not-so-wild but completely adorable husband; and a very civilized group of chickens, dogs, and cats. Lately she's decided that she really wants a pig. She writes about the whole catastrophe from an old farmhouse in Vermont.

Customer Reviews

Overall I would recommend this book, and enjoyed it as a fun, happy, read.
Kathy conway
While I generally enjoy self-deprecating humor, I found her style to border on just being helpless, like a damsel in distress on the railroad tracks.
Donna Talarico
I think there are some books you just realize are not for you and so try not to damn them for being other people's tastes.
Rebecca Burke

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
On a vacation trip to Vermont, Ellen Stimson and her husband John so fell in love with the state that they made a vow: they would move their entire family from St. Louis, Missouri to what the author describes as the most naturally beautiful place she has ever been, and she says she has been to a lot of places. In due season the family consisting of dad, mom, three children and two dogs and a cat sold a business and house in St. Louis, packed up their belongings-- I knew I loved these folks when they moved 158 boxes of books-- and, some by air, others by automobile, made their journey and lit down in Dorset, Vermont-- according to the 2000 census-- population 2,037-- with no bill boards and no street lights.

What happens when in following your bliss, you get a lot of blisters? Ms. Stimson's MUD SEASON is her outrageously written account that never ever even thinks of being dull of all the things these novice pioneers did wrong and, yes, they did some cleverly wonderful things right as well. From making the first mistake of hiring a "foreign" contractor from St. Louis with a crew from Alabama that the Dorset townspeople groused about and apparently never forgot or forgave anyone for to purchasing a lovely quaint country store, Ms. Stimson covers it all in glorious singing prose: On the store that she and her husband John eventually labeled the HQCS (horrible quaint country store) she gushes with beginner's enthusiasm: "We would stitch ourselves into the fabric of this historic place. . . The right family could really make it sing and dance. We had that notion that maybe we could even franchise these stores out to other places all over the country, bringing a bit of Vermont happiness to folks who's never experienced this little slice of heaven.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Suzie Squirrel on January 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover
In the first few pages I found the author witty and amusing and thought I was going to enjoy her book, however, after several chapters I began to find her nearly insufferable with her narcissistic view of the world and self serving "wit". No wonder the neighbors didn't much care for her! I skimmed the last half of the book, eager to be done with it, however, I did enjoy the parts strictly about Vermont without her persona taking over-- how beautiful it is and what kind of people live there. Read it with low expectations and skip the parts where she dwells on herself and what a "wacky" gal she is!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mary Greensboro on April 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I too was disappointed by this book. I have lived in Vermont for 27 years, and have seen many "flatlanders" come and go; I'm so glad the author didn't settle in my neck of the woods and proceed to run our beloved general store into the ground. She is beyond impulsive, clearly has no respect for any ideas but her own, nor for the few natives remaining in Dorset after the influx of yuppies like her who've gentrified the place. The final straw for me is in the last chapter, in which she and her family vacation at Lake Willoughby, in the Northeast Kingdom where I live, and "rented a big, cheap pontoon boat and sailed to Canada and back on the day of the closing. We jumped off the side of the boat and swam in another country". Quite a feat, as Lake Willoughby is a good 20 miles south of the Canadian border. Did they go to Lake Memphramagog, which is indeed partly in Canada? Just another instance of her ditsy obliviousness.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Kearns TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Ellen Stimson's new book, Mud Season, is an entertaining yet puzzling story of her family's move from St. Louis to Vermont. With our family having uprooted and moved many times, I could relate immediately to the humor and disaster of packing up a lifetime of belonging and trying to recreate a home and fit in in a new place.

Ellen and her husband buy a lovely old historical house and then the town's general store, and revel in the beauty and quaint, small-town charm of their new surroundings. However, they realize almost immediately that being too "different" and trying to change the way things have always been done alienates you from the locals. Using an out-of-state contractor for the remodeling of their house put them on bad footing with their new neighbors. Changing everything in the country store outraged a lot of people who liked things the way they had always been. I wondered as I was reading why she and her husband didn't just slow down a little and get a feel for what's acceptable and normal before proceeding. In all our many moves (overseas, too), we kept a low profile until we understood the local culture and then made an effort to fit in. It takes time, tact, and an investment in the community to finally be accepted.

I enjoyed Ellen's sense of humor when she told of runaway goats, falling roof ice, environmental disasters, and surprise visits from the local historical house touring club. A lot of people would have packed up and left in the night after some of the things her family went through. She also has a gift for describing the beautiful New England seasons, mud and all. Her touch-stone through the tough times was a waterfall near her house, and her descriptions of its effect on her soul is enough to make anyone want to move to Vermont.
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