The Cycle of Life
One of the highlights of a visit to Manchester, Vermont, is the Hildene Estate. Built in 1905, Hildene was the summer home of Abraham Lincoln’s son Robert, who achieved tremendous success as the president of the Pullman Car Company. There’s a nice visitors’ center, a breathtaking mansion, and a perfectly preserved Pullman car named Sunbeam.
But Hildene is more than a museum. Its 412 acres include miles of trails for walking and cross-country skiing, the biggest organic composting operation you’ve ever seen, and—one of our family’s favorite spots—Hildene Farm. Here goats are raised, and their milk is made into both fresh and aged artisan cheese, all with nearly zero waste and powered by renewable energy. Farms like Hildene are leading an agricultural renaissance in Vermont run by a new generation of farmers learning new sustainable farming techniques and relearning lost ones.
Spring is the best time to visit. Not only is the apple orchard in bloom, but it’s kidding season, and you can watch the kids go from struggling to stand on wobbly legs to running and bounding around the barn, usually all in one day. You might also see some cows, llamas, and the occasional horse in the fields, but none are as friendly and curious as the goats. If watching goats doesn’t make you smile, nothing will!
On the way out of Hildene, Dellwood Cemetery is on the right of the driveway. Established in 1865, it is a serene place with artfully winding paths, majestic maple trees, two ponds, and various monuments, from simple Gothic-arched slabs to regal vaults. Some people find cemeteries depressing, but we think one can find solemn comfort in the sense of historical connection. This is where we come from, and these are the people who made us—they lived on this land and are still a part of it. And over the stone wall, in the next field, the goats are bounding and playing and looking for clover to eat. It’s the circle of life and a reminder that spring is on its way, once again.
Gardner, Cabot, Eliot, Lyman Orton
Proprietors of The Vermont Country Store