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The Stonehouse Diary – The Vanzant Country Store

How quickly our hills and hollers forget winter. Recently bare limbs are popping with tender new leaves. A carpet of eager grass is filling in the brown spaces between the blooming daffodils and just-coming-on forsythia. Redbuds are swelling. Dogwoods are putting on buds. Sassafras are preparing to explode with yellow pompoms. A pale haze of fresh pollen coats the truck. The first bugs are emerging. A wasp here. A fly there. Everything is abuzz. The air is filled with the coos and chirps and whistles of singing birds. Our world has become a symphony of life, fertility, renewal. Spring has come early and our world is grateful.

Out at the barn, the goats have finally finished kidding. Fortunately for all, the last nannies to deliver were more successful than the first, their kids healthier and stronger. Still it was a tough season. Of the twenty-eight kids born on the farm, thirteen survived. Enough to fill Goat Flats with gamboling, playful, often napping billies and doelings. It could have been worse.

Near the goats, Take-A-Gander is on the mend after his leg was broken in February. He can’t use the injured leg very well and his gait has become something of a hop and skip and a jump, but he’s happy. His appetite is excellent. He feasts daily on new sprouts and thrown corn. He bathes with Lucy Goosy in the goats’ water troughs. He makes quiet talk to Lucy at night and keeps the goats in line in the daytime. He hasn’t just survived his injury. He has persevered.

In the north pasture the fence is down and a dream is on the rise. Two buildings stand on the freshly brush-hogged grass. One will be for storage, feed mostly. Chicken scratch and corn, dog food and such. Enough to get a farmer or dog breeder or pet owner through a weekend shortage. The other building is for my new business.

Originally, I’d hoped to build a little gift store. A place to sell crafts and such on the weekends. But then the Junction closed its doors and our area’s last source for a quick gallon of milk and cup of coffee disappeared. Worse, with the turning of the locks, we lost our daily community gather place.

And, suddenly, my dream expanded.

Instead of just a gift store, I’m opening the Vanzant Country Store: One-quarter privately-run post office, one-quarter print shop, one-quarter grocery store, one-quarter recreational area. The postal area will have stamps and mailing supplies and mailboxes for rent. In the print area I’ll make copies, send and receive faxes, notarize signatures, and (in the quieter moments) make custom printed items. In the grocery area there will be basic necessities, snack items and gifts. In one corner there will be a few ready-made food items and free coffee and, if it’ll fit, a table. Outside there will be picnic tables and a horseshoe pitch. Or two.

I’d hoped to open the store this coming weekend, but that was a tad optimistic. My friends and I are doing most of the work to get it ready and we’re doing it carefully, thoughtfully, working hard but not exhausting ourselves. The electricity is in. The insulation installation begins today. Then wallboard, paint, displays and inventory… If we keep to the pace, the store will open Saturday, March 24th.  An auspicious date in the diary of my life. March 24th is the day I arrived in Douglas County. On the homestead. Eight years ago!

I’ll continue to write this column while running the store and look forward as I do each week to seeing you in paper. But, if you happen to pass through my neck of the woods, I hope you’ll stop by the store, to say hello.

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Best wishes to my fabulous neighbor and local legend, Esther Wrinkles who had a gash carved in her leg when a stout gust slammed a car door on it.