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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

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In self-deprecating and hilarious fashion, Mud Season chronicles Stimson's transition from city life to rickety Vermont farmhouse. When she decides she wants to own and operate the old-fashioned village store in idyllic Dorset, pop. 2,036, one of the oldest continually operating country stores in the country, she learns the hard way that "improvements" are not always welco In self-deprecating and hilarious fashion, Mud Season chronicles Stimson's transition from city life to rickety Vermont farmhouse. When she decides she wants to own and operate the old-fashioned village store in idyllic Dorset, pop. 2,036, one of the oldest continually operating country stores in the country, she learns the hard way that "improvements" are not always welcomed warmly by folks who like things just fine the way they'd always been. She dreams of patrons streaming in for fresh-made sandwiches and an old-timey candy counter, but she learns they're boycotting the store. Why? "The bread," they tell her, "you moved the bread from where it used to be." Can the citified newcomer turn the tide of mistrust before she ruins the business altogether? Follow the author to her wit's end and back, through her full immersion into rural life--swapping high heels for muck boots; raising chickens and sheep; fighting off skunks, foxes, and bears; and making a few friends and allies in a tiny town steeped in history, local tradition, and that dyed-in-the-wool Vermont "character."


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In self-deprecating and hilarious fashion, Mud Season chronicles Stimson's transition from city life to rickety Vermont farmhouse. When she decides she wants to own and operate the old-fashioned village store in idyllic Dorset, pop. 2,036, one of the oldest continually operating country stores in the country, she learns the hard way that "improvements" are not always welco In self-deprecating and hilarious fashion, Mud Season chronicles Stimson's transition from city life to rickety Vermont farmhouse. When she decides she wants to own and operate the old-fashioned village store in idyllic Dorset, pop. 2,036, one of the oldest continually operating country stores in the country, she learns the hard way that "improvements" are not always welcomed warmly by folks who like things just fine the way they'd always been. She dreams of patrons streaming in for fresh-made sandwiches and an old-timey candy counter, but she learns they're boycotting the store. Why? "The bread," they tell her, "you moved the bread from where it used to be." Can the citified newcomer turn the tide of mistrust before she ruins the business altogether? Follow the author to her wit's end and back, through her full immersion into rural life--swapping high heels for muck boots; raising chickens and sheep; fighting off skunks, foxes, and bears; and making a few friends and allies in a tiny town steeped in history, local tradition, and that dyed-in-the-wool Vermont "character."

30 review for 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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Randal White

    I really wanted to like this book. In fact, I have to admit that it started well. But by the end of it, I found I had a visceral distaste of the author. Entitled, snobbish, holier-than-thou; those are just a few words to describe her. How anyone who claims to be an expert business person can make so many ill-advised, nay, stupid, decisions is beyond me. The woman is clueless! In her defense, maybe she doesn't realize how bad her decisions are, because before they play out, she abandons the situa I really wanted to like this book. In fact, I have to admit that it started well. But by the end of it, I found I had a visceral distaste of the author. Entitled, snobbish, holier-than-thou; those are just a few words to describe her. How anyone who claims to be an expert business person can make so many ill-advised, nay, stupid, decisions is beyond me. The woman is clueless! In her defense, maybe she doesn't realize how bad her decisions are, because before they play out, she abandons the situation and dumps them on someone else (drive your car in a snowbank, call your husband to get it out while you take a hot bath; take a successful business and drive it into the ground because you think you know more than anyone else, no problem, dump it on your husband and take a job in a different state; children out of control, must be the teacher's fault). Doesn't like her former business partner, her mother, the local townspeople, teachers, preachers, etc. Bankrupt and losing a business? No problem, take a vacation and order a barn built so she can raise a darned sheep! I feel sorry for her husband (he must be a saint), her family, and for the townspeople of her new town. And for myself, for wasting the time to read this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kristina

    Mrs. Stimson is a very good writer, crafting laugh-out-loud anecdotes with plenty of self-deprecating humor. I LOVED this book almost as much as I love Vermont. Having visited the book’s locales added to my enjoyment and the author’s vivid descriptions of the smells and tastes of Vermont brought me instantly back to my favorite places. My only criticism (nit-picky and purely defensive) is Mrs. Stimson’s portrayal of native Vermonters. Having moved from St. Louis to rural, Dorset, Vermont, Mrs. S Mrs. Stimson is a very good writer, crafting laugh-out-loud anecdotes with plenty of self-deprecating humor. I LOVED this book almost as much as I love Vermont. Having visited the book’s locales added to my enjoyment and the author’s vivid descriptions of the smells and tastes of Vermont brought me instantly back to my favorite places. My only criticism (nit-picky and purely defensive) is Mrs. Stimson’s portrayal of native Vermonters. Having moved from St. Louis to rural, Dorset, Vermont, Mrs. Stimson had grand, creative ideas and (obviously) lots of enthusiasm and energy. However, she wasn’t interested in “fitting in” (no biggie) but then criticized her neighbors for not accommodating her various undertakings and immediately supporting her new ideas. It was not portrayed as outright hostility and she admitted that she was wrong numerous times, but I am sorry if she felt rejected by her neighbors even if she truly was. Northeastern folks are often portrayed as aloof, unfriendly, and cold but I don’t feel that way about Vermonters at all. My fellow New Yorkers maybe but NOT Vermonters. This being Mrs. Stimson’s first book, I can’t wait to read about her further adventures in the most beautiful place on earth. I’m sure she will keep me laughing and well-fed!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

    Mud Season is a particularly bad book in so many ways. The author is supposedly, by her own admission at least, an accomplished business person who knows how to start and grow enterprises and make money selling them. How that is true, based upon her admittedly well-embellished memoir, is an opinion apparently only she holds. There was nothing wrong with her desire to move the family to a small bucolic Vermont town from the busy city/suburbs of St. Louis but there were more wrongs than I want to Mud Season is a particularly bad book in so many ways. The author is supposedly, by her own admission at least, an accomplished business person who knows how to start and grow enterprises and make money selling them. How that is true, based upon her admittedly well-embellished memoir, is an opinion apparently only she holds. There was nothing wrong with her desire to move the family to a small bucolic Vermont town from the busy city/suburbs of St. Louis but there were more wrongs than I want to get into when she displayed such profound ignorance about how she could act and appear in this small bucolic Vermont town where new residents are considered new for at least several generations. Stimson’s first error was to think she could buy a centuries-old home and renovate it into a McMansion of mid-western pretensions and doing so by flying in her own contractors with their own mid-western overly ambitious ideas of remodeling. In her mind, Vermont was good enough to move to but certainly not good enough for local contractors with decades of Vermont building knowledge and taste. No wonder the natives were askance even before the moving van arrived. Then having not been sufficiently humbled by the horrified neighbors, Stimson decides to buy the very old very original really quaint village general store that had outfitted the townspeople very well for years and years. No, all that quaint Vermont ambience simply would never do and these Vermonters needed to be properly and quickly educated to the ways of yuppie high tastes. Out went the local bread and apples and simple basics and in went artisan baked goods (properly imported from the big cities), caviar (really?), and fresh-off-the-tree peaches (only $4 a peach, mind you). Then Stimson has the nerve to wonder why no one is coming into the store anymore to buy their daily needs. Did she ever stop to think that maybe these beautifully simple, frugal, and very REAL Vermonters had no need for $4/a piece produce and lobster (really?) sandwiches? And just to add to the super atmosphere, Stimson decided to foist upon these lovely people, a Fourth of July parade; the annual one in the town next door was simply not good enough. Of course, she neglected to even imagine that she would need permits, road closures, and maybe even town favor to accomplish this. When the weather on the Fourth decided to be angrily uncooperative in the way of monsoons and mud, I could only applaud Stimson’s losses. Even beyond having exceptionally delusional ideas about how people in Vermont should live, after over 200 years of living well enough, she could not even take on native dress of jeans and boots. No, she continued to dress just as she had in St. Louis, covered from head to toe in loud blousy caftans and flowing skirts, blinged out in jangling jewelry, most likely in what she thinks is an amusing losing attempt to hide her “fat ass” as she so often joked. Living in the Midwest myself, I can only believe her “fat ass” (the very one that got stuck between rocks on a river and even on a roadway) really means she is morbidly obese as many mid-westerners who prefer to eat as if every meal were their last (as Stimson amply evidences in her ending pages of recipes so filled with fats and sugars that I needed Lipitor and insulin just to skim them) and forgo any physical activity that involves breathing heavily (hence her “hikes” that could not be more than walks). As the general store slid inevitably into bankruptcy (she never did care to learn what Vermonters wanted and she treated them very rudely in the process) and as she pretty much joked about the considerable amount of financial losses that would have devastated a normal person, Stimson blithely traveled to New York City every few days (leaving her saintly or just egregiously stupid husband to mind the failures at home and store) to start not just a new business but THREE new businesses, each more remunerative than the next because, thank God, they weren’t in Vermont depending on the hicks for success. The only conceivable reason Stimson wrote this book (complete with a plethora of moronic footnotes) was to trick the reading public into covering her Vermont losses. If she has any friends in Vermont, or elsewhere for that matter (since her extended family and mother don’t like her), I would be amazed. She is exactly the kind of person I would hate to meet, especially in a quaint Vermont town.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    This is a fun and light memoir about a family who moved from St. Louis to Vermont because they wanted to live someplace beautiful and rustic. Ellen Stimson and her husband liked to vacation in New England, so why not live there? They bought an old house that needed lots of remodeling, a historic country store, and along the way they picked up some chickens and sheep. After living in a big city, Ellen had trouble adapting to a town where you sometimes saw bears walk out of the woods and frequentl This is a fun and light memoir about a family who moved from St. Louis to Vermont because they wanted to live someplace beautiful and rustic. Ellen Stimson and her husband liked to vacation in New England, so why not live there? They bought an old house that needed lots of remodeling, a historic country store, and along the way they picked up some chickens and sheep. After living in a big city, Ellen had trouble adapting to a town where you sometimes saw bears walk out of the woods and frequently had bats in the house. She also learned that you will get laughed at if you call 911 because a herd of cows escaped the neighbor's fence and were blocking the road. The local villagers were suspicious of the newcomers and it took a while to warm up. Ellen and her family faced several humorous adventures, like when a skunk attacked their dogs, who then ran crazily through the house and stank up every room. Or when Ellen forgot she had agreed to host an open house and was doing chores and covered in chicken poop when the guests arrived. Or when she tried to organize a Fourth of July party and parade, but ran afoul of small-town politics. Luckily, some villagers always had the heart to be straight with her about what social norm she had unwittingly broken. The book did have a sad chapter because the family's country store was not doing well and was slowly bankrupting them. But the memoir ends on an upbeat note, and Ellen also included about 30 pages of recipes. The title is a reference to the five seasons of New England: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Mud. The author explains using a definition from Wikipedia: "Mud Season is a period in late winter and early spring when dirt paths such as roads and hiking trails become muddy from melting snow and rain." (Wikipedia? Seriously? There are more credible sources, you know.) Overall I enjoyed the author's stories, despite her self-amusing writing style and unnecessary use of footnotes. Most importantly, her lovely descriptions of autumn in Vermont made me want to immediately pack a bag and get on a plane to Burlington. But I promise not to buy a store.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Karoline

    There were definitely a couple of funny moments, but I honestly couldn't stand this woman. As a person who is well-versed in Vermont culture and have married into a 200+ year Vermont-residing family, I can honestly say it is simply by sheer virtue of the good-natured-ness of Vermonters that the locals did not just carry her to the NY border and kick her and her family out. What I think a lot of flatlanders seem to fail to grasp is that you cannot come into an old VT town, change all of the tradi There were definitely a couple of funny moments, but I honestly couldn't stand this woman. As a person who is well-versed in Vermont culture and have married into a 200+ year Vermont-residing family, I can honestly say it is simply by sheer virtue of the good-natured-ness of Vermonters that the locals did not just carry her to the NY border and kick her and her family out. What I think a lot of flatlanders seem to fail to grasp is that you cannot come into an old VT town, change all of the traditions, cater to tourists (lobster rolls?? crab cakes??) I do not know many VTers who are into that), and complain about how the "mean" locals wouldn't meet her half way and expect the town to greet you with open arms. Go ahead, write a book about how weird and quirky local Vermonters are. They love that, just like zoo animals love being stared at. She ruined any chance of a good rapport with the town when she trucked out a construction crew all the way from St. Louis to fix up her new home. A couple of her stories did make me chuckle, but I can only imagine that the locals in Dorset are not impressed with what she has to say (so haphazardly, by the way) about her new hometown. And on another note, how on earth has this woman not succumbed to the laws of Darwin with all her bad luck. Or has she totally over embellished every story in this book? I was barely able to finish this.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Casey

    The writing in this book is light and funny. But I found the author a bit overconfident in describing a series or reckless and rash choices. It takes a certain kind of privilege to be able to buy a home and a business at the same time, then completely blow your budget (without regard) and then write a book about how funny debt it. I had a hard time getting around the white, wealthy privilege showing up in this book. From a social justice lens there is something off about celebrating a simpler li The writing in this book is light and funny. But I found the author a bit overconfident in describing a series or reckless and rash choices. It takes a certain kind of privilege to be able to buy a home and a business at the same time, then completely blow your budget (without regard) and then write a book about how funny debt it. I had a hard time getting around the white, wealthy privilege showing up in this book. From a social justice lens there is something off about celebrating a simpler life when that is a choice VERY few people in the world could make. I wanted to really like this book, but I found myself pretty annoyed with the disproportionate alternate reality. "Ha, Ha aren't we bohemian, we just went several hundred thousand dollars in debt. Oh well, lets go get some livestock to make our selves feel better. Ta now"

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Dacyczyn

    Did not finish. I really tried, because I thought it looked great because the tagline on the cover was so promising: "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." But then....nope. Firstly, the writing was not the best. It reads like a first draft of a book, or more like a blog. Or, like this review...just a running stream of thought with poorly constructed sentences and no edito Did not finish. I really tried, because I thought it looked great because the tagline on the cover was so promising: "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." But then....nope. Firstly, the writing was not the best. It reads like a first draft of a book, or more like a blog. Or, like this review...just a running stream of thought with poorly constructed sentences and no editor. But, I could get past the writing....except for the woman herself. I thought this was going to be like your regular everyday suburban woman who decides to rough it. And I'm sure that's what the author believes she is. However, the reality is that she's just a rich yuppie. Like, seriously rich. It's hard to relate to someone's "one calamity after another" when really all that means is that she shells out more money to fix her problems. Ok, here's the gist: a rich couple and their kids from St. Louis decide on a whim (literally on a whim, there's your first hint that this family has more money than your average Joe) to move to Vermont because the mom wants to live somewhere "beautiful". Vermont, in her eyes, is just the perfect place...and of course it is when all you see are the quaint country stores and local cheeses, while ignoring the backwoods poverty that New England has just like everywhere else....but I digress. They hire a realtor to scour Vermont for them (there's Yuppie Rich Folks Hint #2: hiring someone else to do the hunting) to find the perfect house. He finds them a fixer-upper Victorian house in a nauseatingly adorable little town. Which they buy (while complaining about how broke they are...the rich twerps), and then hire a local contractor to renovate. Of course. No DIY fixer upper nonsense here! And then when they're ready to move to Vermont, they find that the redneck yokels (as I imagine they viewed them) hadn't finished renovating the house nearly on time. So the rich family calls up their contractor from St. Louis, flies him and his crew of sixteen workers (I believe, since they worked in alternating shifts of eight) up to Vermont, and then RENTS A HOUSE FOR THE WHOLE CREW to stay in while they work on the house. Now, I've lived in New England since I was 3 years old, and I don't know ANYONE who could/would afford to house over a dozen out-of-state workers for their own personal work crew. That's about where I quit. I just can't sympathize with someone's woe-is-me "calamities" when they're this obnoxiously wealthy but seem to think they're just a cute clumsy family having an adorably slap-stick adventure. I mean, when you're talking about renovating the kitchen with a state-of-the-art chef's oven (with six burners) then I think you're out of your league when it comes to making friends with actual New Englanders. At least she seemed to notice that the locals weren't warming to her charms....Of course not, lady! It's insulting to the locals to think that you can replicate their lifestyle just by moving here, eating some cheese, and then dumping more money into a house than most of the locals make in a year....especially when you decide that the local folks just aren't up to your standards and end up hiring more people from your yuppie city to come do all the work. Argh! I think this book was probably intended to be read only by other people from the author's background. Other wealthy yuppies with boat loads of money probably think she's just so quaint and adorable for moving out to the country and getting chickens. How daring! I bet there isn't even a J Crew store anywhere near her house! What a crazy adventure! Did not finish. Won't continue.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kellie

    I think the author should have used the titleOf Stars... and Manure," which is a line near the beginning of the book. Is there such a term as clueless optimist privilege? If not, I would like to coin it and use this book as Exhibit A. These are the kind of people who break rules because they think the rules weren't ever meant to be applied to nice people like them, and of course they have good reasons for breaking rules which, naturally, all other nice people will immediately understand. If I had I think the author should have used the titleOf Stars... and Manure," which is a line near the beginning of the book. Is there such a term as clueless optimist privilege? If not, I would like to coin it and use this book as Exhibit A. These are the kind of people who break rules because they think the rules weren't ever meant to be applied to nice people like them, and of course they have good reasons for breaking rules which, naturally, all other nice people will immediately understand. If I had read this even five years ago I probably would've had few reservations and found it very funny. It is quite humorous, but becoming more aware of the concept of social privilege makes this kind of narrative a bit cringeworthy for me. Also, I thought lemon water was an offense against all that is good but these people raise the horror to a whole new level by drinking Starcucumber water!* And now I've been forced to know that such an outrageous thing exists! Content advisory: occasional strong profanity

  9. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    I have read lots of memoir/adventure books, and I have to say that Mud Season by Ellen Stimson is my most favorite! I don't know if it's because...one - I would love to move to Vermont and attempt the laid back lifestyle...two - we also made a very bad investment several years ago and watched our dreams crumble...or three - she is incredibly entertaining. I think it's all three! There are a lot of get back to the land, homesteading, simpler life books out there. It is the new thing. What I love a I have read lots of memoir/adventure books, and I have to say that Mud Season by Ellen Stimson is my most favorite! I don't know if it's because...one - I would love to move to Vermont and attempt the laid back lifestyle...two - we also made a very bad investment several years ago and watched our dreams crumble...or three - she is incredibly entertaining. I think it's all three! There are a lot of get back to the land, homesteading, simpler life books out there. It is the new thing. What I love about Mud Season, is the total honesty in it. The seemingly spur of the moment, not really thought out decision to move to Vermont. Not just to move to Vermont, but to buy a country store in Vermont. The total clueless way with which they pursued this dream. Some things happily fall their way, and some things not so much so. What sets this book above the other memoir/adventure stories that I've read is that the author keeps it focused more on the adventure. So many times, I pick up one of these books thinking it's going to be about hiking or farming and then discover it's really some horrible private journey through someones psyche. This book however, is pure adventure. She manages to toss in just enough personal information to keep it interesting, but focuses mainly on the point of the story - what it's like to give it all up and move to Vermont. What also sets this book apart is the humor and talent of the author. She is excellent at both. What lead up to getting chickens: "After living the country for a while, you start wanting things. Really it's no different from living in the city. You want things there, too - mostly new shoes, in my experience. Of course, what you want is shaped by what you see. If you walk down Fifth Avenue to work every day, then shoes and bags and sunglasses might make the list. If you live in the middle of the country where the winters are long, you might crave a better lip balm and snazzier long johns. You want what you see. John thinks he wants a pick up truck. What I saw were chickens." On deciding to get chickens: "Before very long, I was ordering catalogs from hatcheries and mooning over various breeds, as well as the clearly yuppie water warmers with the cute little chicken-track designs on their side. Before John could say "Absolutely not," we had a dozen day-old chicks living in our screened porch. We ordered all girls, and planned on a flock of happy lady chicken that would all take a vow of abstinence. There would be no unruly roosters to stir our girls up. Absolutely not. These were going to be friendly family pets. We gave them names like Edith and Mabel, Louise and Mildred - all "old farm lady" names. We would resist giving them each little prairie bonnets and aprons. That would have just been silly." That is exactly how I would approach chicken farming - focusing on the fun parts and nothing on the reality of it. Funny, entertaining and insightful. A great read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Erica

    I was really excited to get my hands on this book. I was very much hoping it would be in the vein of The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love. It's a different beast entirely. It's meant to be a breezy, chatty collection of anecdotes about making a major life change. The family decides to start the next phase of their life in a small town in Vermont, apparently without giving any serious thought to what this entails.... for the family, or for the town. Though many of the anecdotes Stimson shar I was really excited to get my hands on this book. I was very much hoping it would be in the vein of The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love. It's a different beast entirely. It's meant to be a breezy, chatty collection of anecdotes about making a major life change. The family decides to start the next phase of their life in a small town in Vermont, apparently without giving any serious thought to what this entails.... for the family, or for the town. Though many of the anecdotes Stimson shares about her raucous family are charming in a typical fish-out-of-water way, I was put off by how little thought she appeared to put into how they would become a part of this little community, and how surprised she is when she and her grand, impulsive gestures and are not met with open arms. And how little thought she puts into the consequences of her impulsive gestures: let's buy the general store that has been here forever! Let's run it into the ground because we have no retail experience! Who cares that the town might be left without a store; they didn't like our fancy socks we sold so they don't deserve a store! Granted, Stimson owns up to many of the mistakes she made along the way, but she never quite owns up to the role her alienating attitude (taking over the parts of the town she likes and ignoring the parts she doesn't, rather than becoming part of a community) must have played in at least the failure of their general store "adventure". Even though this book is supposed to be all about moving to a small town in Vermont, I ended it with the impression that the book was quite revealingly all about her.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Laura Ramos

    Hated it! Yup, that's right. This book is one sad pathetic story of a privileged woman who moves her family to rural Vermont and decides to buy the local general store, which she then runs into the ground with ridiculous ease all while managing to make everyone in town loath her. At the end of the first chapter I couldn't stand her and feel for the locals who, I mean who "accidentally" dyes the local pond red, calls 911 because there are cows in the road, . Her failure could have been spun into Hated it! Yup, that's right. This book is one sad pathetic story of a privileged woman who moves her family to rural Vermont and decides to buy the local general store, which she then runs into the ground with ridiculous ease all while managing to make everyone in town loath her. At the end of the first chapter I couldn't stand her and feel for the locals who, I mean who "accidentally" dyes the local pond red, calls 911 because there are cows in the road, . Her failure could have been spun into one of those motivational stories of lessons learned and becoming a better human being but alas, the book ends without any take home meaning.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Marcie Lovett

    This is a mildly amusing story about a family who makes a big change. It would have been more amusing if Ellen Stimson hadn't tried so hard. The technique of using footnotes instead of parentheses got old very fast. I read an advanced reading copy, so maybe that will be changed by the time the book makes it to print. Ellen Stimson appears to have a rampant case of ADHD. She takes things on without thinking them through, then is amazed at the fallout from the choices she's made. There are some go This is a mildly amusing story about a family who makes a big change. It would have been more amusing if Ellen Stimson hadn't tried so hard. The technique of using footnotes instead of parentheses got old very fast. I read an advanced reading copy, so maybe that will be changed by the time the book makes it to print. Ellen Stimson appears to have a rampant case of ADHD. She takes things on without thinking them through, then is amazed at the fallout from the choices she's made. There are some good anecdotes in there, but they get lost among the author's constant attempt at humor.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I feel like I've been a little hard on some of the memoirs I'm reading these days but I guess if you're going to put yourself out there, you'd better have a thick skin. This one is actually okay - cutesy and has an overwhelming "I'm-poking-fun-at-myself" vibe. I enjoyed the animal forays quite a bit. But...(I don't think this is a spoiler?) If you are going to bitch about how much money you are losing on your business and how you are going to have to declare bankruptcy and lose your house and bla I feel like I've been a little hard on some of the memoirs I'm reading these days but I guess if you're going to put yourself out there, you'd better have a thick skin. This one is actually okay - cutesy and has an overwhelming "I'm-poking-fun-at-myself" vibe. I enjoyed the animal forays quite a bit. But...(I don't think this is a spoiler?) If you are going to bitch about how much money you are losing on your business and how you are going to have to declare bankruptcy and lose your house and blah, blah, blah - you really shouldn't mention your manicurist or that you went on vacation the day of the closing on the sale of said business. It's clear this is a privileged family (they hire contractors from MO to work on their house in VT and maintain both a MO home and the VT home until the renovations are done - oh, there are lots of excuses why) and while there are other falling-down-house-in-the-country-restored-to-splendor memoirs out there (ie: Roots in the Rock; Cottage for Sale, Must be Moved; maybe even Animal, Vegetable, Miracle) where you know there must have been lots of money involved from the get-go, those authors don't act like they are average folk putting their actual financial lives on the line. Fortunately, most of this happens in the last chapter so I was only mildly annoyed by the alleged financial woes for most of the book - it's a shame the last chapter went so far overboard with it because it definitely changes the feel of the book from a genuine adventure story to a 1%er throwing money around. That said, I'll end on a high note by recommending this to folks looking for a quick read who enjoyed the books I mentioned earlier or who dream of moving to the country.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Kearns

    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 charming old house and then the town's general store, and revel in the beauty and quaint small-town charm of their new surroundings. They realize a 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 charming old house and then the town's general store, and revel in the beauty and quaint small-town charm of their new surroundings. 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 the 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. The afterward of the book contains traditional Vermont recipes, and some that she prepared and served in the store/restaurant. She also included tributes to several family dogs who passed away over the years, which brought tears to my eyes. In summary, I enjoyed Ellen's writing style and humor, but found her "invade and conquer" approach to settling in a new town to be a little off-putting.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Allie

    It took a little while to grow on me, but I really liked this book. It was funny, charming and did a wonderful job of painting a picture of the author's life in Vermont - both good and bad. I especially enjoyed the sections about the quaint country store, raising sheep (she described one lamb as "joy in a wool suit") and the author's many gaffes (the funniest of which happens while she's cleaning a chicken coop.) Her descriptions of the beauty of Vermont made me want to visit (but maybe not live It took a little while to grow on me, but I really liked this book. It was funny, charming and did a wonderful job of painting a picture of the author's life in Vermont - both good and bad. I especially enjoyed the sections about the quaint country store, raising sheep (she described one lamb as "joy in a wool suit") and the author's many gaffes (the funniest of which happens while she's cleaning a chicken coop.) Her descriptions of the beauty of Vermont made me want to visit (but maybe not live) there, go camping near a pristine lake and count shooting stars. Aside from a few parts where it seemed like the author was exaggerating quite a bit (pretty much all of the incidents caused by her having an "ample backside" for example), I only had one major issue with the book. I got confused in parts because of seeming contradictions that were never really explained. For example, she first made it sound like everyone in town hated her family but then, all of a sudden, they seem to have a multitude of Vermonter friends. It's never explained how the friendships developed (or were all the friends transplants from NYC and Missouri?) Also, at first it was strongly implied that all of the villagers were staunch lifelong locals who couldn't stand bumbling newcomers, but then later it was mentioned that almost everyone in the town had moved there from Connecticut or New York City. So, it then made less sense why everyone was so upset about newcomers buying the local store and moving the bread. Overall, it was a great, cozy read. It was well-written, and the author has a unique voice. (I really liked her footnotes, too.)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Peggy Iglinski

    I personally know and love Ellen and so loved reading her story. You see one of the most endearing qualities about folks who choose to make Vermont home is that rarely will you ever hear them complain. So...although I know Ellen and her family, I had never actually heard their story. Being a Vermont transplant myself, this book made me smile, a lot, and then, because I could relate, it practically brought me to tears a time or two as well. Vermont is a tough place to make a living but is equally I personally know and love Ellen and so loved reading her story. You see one of the most endearing qualities about folks who choose to make Vermont home is that rarely will you ever hear them complain. So...although I know Ellen and her family, I had never actually heard their story. Being a Vermont transplant myself, this book made me smile, a lot, and then, because I could relate, it practically brought me to tears a time or two as well. Vermont is a tough place to make a living but is equally hard to leave once you've experienced its attributes. Thank you Ellen for sharing your thoughts, stories, failures, victories and recipes with me. I have to add that I rated your memoir with a little strictness only for two reasons. The first because of the unnecessary foul language, but...it's you so I was willing to smile and read on. The second aggravation for me was it not being longer...I hated to see it end. I do want to try every one of your recipes, I now understand why my son has always loved eating at your house, wow your recipes sound so amazing!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Deb Buckhout

    I was very excited to have won this book from Good Reads. I had recently moved to Upstate NY, and spent a good amount of time in VT this summer and loved it! The book began interestingly enough. The author's candid self-deprecating style is engaging, interesting, and felt promising. The story moves along at a good pace. The family moves there, finds a house and General Store - but then it gets squirrel-ly. She describes doing things - hiring out-of-state contractors, completely and radically cha I was very excited to have won this book from Good Reads. I had recently moved to Upstate NY, and spent a good amount of time in VT this summer and loved it! The book began interestingly enough. The author's candid self-deprecating style is engaging, interesting, and felt promising. The story moves along at a good pace. The family moves there, finds a house and General Store - but then it gets squirrel-ly. She describes doing things - hiring out-of-state contractors, completely and radically changing the layout and merchandise of the store, calling 911 for ice - that appear to be told for effect and humor, but as I was reading it, it was with cringing alternating with disbelief. Could anyone be that out of touch with what is prudent, small town-acceptable behavior? Or is the author taking liberties with what really happened? We can hope for the latter. The other thing that really did not endear me to this author was the smug political barbs which presumes every reader is a Democrat to the very far Left. In all, this author left me with a very strong dislike of her - and her story.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lea

    Very sweet, low key story about the author's (mis) adventures living in Vermont. Stimson writes in an engaging, folksy style, just as if you were listening to her talk rather than reading -- it makes for a fun, fast read. I will admit that the ending left me feeling a bit blue -- the author is honest about the difficulties they had integrating into their new life, as well as her part in creating many of those difficulties, but I was still hoping they would find a way to make it all work out. To Very sweet, low key story about the author's (mis) adventures living in Vermont. Stimson writes in an engaging, folksy style, just as if you were listening to her talk rather than reading -- it makes for a fun, fast read. I will admit that the ending left me feeling a bit blue -- the author is honest about the difficulties they had integrating into their new life, as well as her part in creating many of those difficulties, but I was still hoping they would find a way to make it all work out. To be fair, it seems like they are making it work -- just not in the way I had hoped the would. The author includes many recipes at the back of the book -- I'm not really a cook, so I haven't tried any of them, but they do look pretty good! I'll definitely look for more of her work in future.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Frances Strasbourg

    I received this galley highly recommended last week at BEA and read it on the flight home. I was afraid I was going to be barred from my connecting flight in Chicago because I was laughing so uncontrollably that I must have appeared insane or at least too inebriated to travel. (I wasn't drinking). When it wasn't drop-dead funny, however, this story of family and friends and the things that really matter in life touched me on many emotional levels. There is much to learn from and ponder in this w I received this galley highly recommended last week at BEA and read it on the flight home. I was afraid I was going to be barred from my connecting flight in Chicago because I was laughing so uncontrollably that I must have appeared insane or at least too inebriated to travel. (I wasn't drinking). When it wasn't drop-dead funny, however, this story of family and friends and the things that really matter in life touched me on many emotional levels. There is much to learn from and ponder in this wise and honest account of trading one's old life in for a new one without knowing exactly what is going to be around each corner. Mud Season is written in an accessible, self-deprecating style by a debut author who clearly revels in her family, close friends, animals, books and food.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    Stimson thinks she is just delightful and is only too happy to tell you so. She gushes over being able to sell her business, move her family across the country, and restore her new mansion. Oh, and in order for her and hubby to restore said mansion, they took a year off from their respective jobs. 'Cause everyone can relate to that and wants to read about that. Oh, and Ms. Delightful is a pretty terrible writer, often using the same adjective two sentences in a row. I couldn't push myself to rea Stimson thinks she is just delightful and is only too happy to tell you so. She gushes over being able to sell her business, move her family across the country, and restore her new mansion. Oh, and in order for her and hubby to restore said mansion, they took a year off from their respective jobs. 'Cause everyone can relate to that and wants to read about that. Oh, and Ms. Delightful is a pretty terrible writer, often using the same adjective two sentences in a row. I couldn't push myself to read more than 40 pages of this book, so I don't even know (nor do I care) what happened when she finally moved to Vermont. Skip this dud.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Steaphanie Milner

    Hilarious! Quit your job cash in yur 401 K and move to bucolic Vermont. Then buy an old established business and fail publicly with great humor. Along the way try homeschooling, cooking gourmet meals for the neighbors, gardening, raising chikens and meet the local wildlife---this book will make you laugh with the author who has no idea what she is doing but has lots of fun doing it and telling us all about it. I read parts of it out loud to my husband because I was laughing so hard. Then when th Hilarious! Quit your job cash in yur 401 K and move to bucolic Vermont. Then buy an old established business and fail publicly with great humor. Along the way try homeschooling, cooking gourmet meals for the neighbors, gardening, raising chikens and meet the local wildlife---this book will make you laugh with the author who has no idea what she is doing but has lots of fun doing it and telling us all about it. I read parts of it out loud to my husband because I was laughing so hard. Then when the first dog died I cried and cried. Love and humor and food. Doesn't get much better than this.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Karen Keene

    I wanted to like this book. I really did. However, the author irritated the heck out of me. I can see why the people of Dorset didn't embrace her. Ms. Stimson, could you possibly come up with more excuses for your bad choices, bad behavior, and just plain (I have to say it), stupidity. Calling 911 because there were cows in the road and they were making you late? My husband and I were traveling in Wyoming and were stopped by cattle crossing the road. You know what we did. We waited. Calmly. You I wanted to like this book. I really did. However, the author irritated the heck out of me. I can see why the people of Dorset didn't embrace her. Ms. Stimson, could you possibly come up with more excuses for your bad choices, bad behavior, and just plain (I have to say it), stupidity. Calling 911 because there were cows in the road and they were making you late? My husband and I were traveling in Wyoming and were stopped by cattle crossing the road. You know what we did. We waited. Calmly. You can't rush cattle. And another thing....why didn't you just move the bread back?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    Parts of this had me in stitches! Such a hilarious account...and I cannot even imagine the stress of running the country store!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Carin

    I was overjoyed to get this book unexpectedly in the mail, after the publisher saw I had noted it as a book I was eagerly waiting for. As it is not only a memoir (my favorite genre) but a faux-farming memoir (one of my favorite sub-genres), I jumped on it right away. And Ms. Stimson didn't disappoint. It read like Jen Lancaster had moved to the Beekman Mansion of The Bucolic Plague. Ellen and her family of five had lived in and near St. Louis all their lives but traveled extensively. One day, on I was overjoyed to get this book unexpectedly in the mail, after the publisher saw I had noted it as a book I was eagerly waiting for. As it is not only a memoir (my favorite genre) but a faux-farming memoir (one of my favorite sub-genres), I jumped on it right away. And Ms. Stimson didn't disappoint. It read like Jen Lancaster had moved to the Beekman Mansion of The Bucolic Plague. Ellen and her family of five had lived in and near St. Louis all their lives but traveled extensively. One day, one of the kids asked, do we have to live here? And Ellen and her husband thought about it and decided no. Ellen had wanted to sell her half of her business anyway, and after having successfully started multiple businesses, she figured she could do it again elsewhere, so why not? After much exploring and thinking, they decided on Vermont. Throughout this book of "flatlanders" trying to fit in, in a place where third-generation families aren't considered "Vermonters" yet as they're too new, images from Newhart and Baby Boom continually floated through my mind. I have spent a little time in Vermont myself. My family went up for two weeks every summer when I was a kid, and when I traveled New England selling books, it was a favorite state, particularly the next town over from Ellen's town, Manchester, home of the awesome Northshire Bookstore. But I shook my head and closed my eyes at the very obvious mistake they made in buying the town general store, and thinking they could improve it by bringing in a dozen varietals of balsamic. I knew they were in over their heads and wondered if they had ever spoken to an actual Vermonter. But they were well-intentioned if naive and foolish (who personally guarantees a business loan!? No!!!) I have also experienced the horror that is mud season (and as a sales rep, I did it in heels and a skirt, crazy as that might have made me seem to my customers), although I have not driven into a snowbank or had a fish fall on the roof of my car, thankfully. Ellen certainly experienced the full gamut of Vermont experiences, from the gorgeous landscapes and brisk hikes, to seeing her breath in her kitchen and chasing after an errant goat. It is a good cautionary tale for any of us who think a change of scenery is both a cure and an easy thing to accomplish. I do wish she'd given us an update about how things were going now, as the events in the book were several years ago, especially as she did give us an update on which of her beloved animals had passed away since the writing. But overall it was a fun, fast read. Ms. Stimson launches into things headlong, cares passionately, and is willing to make the mistakes so we don't have to. I appreciate her honesty and humor, and it was a great breath of fresh air. Now I want to visit Vermont again, but I think two weeks is probably long enough.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Laura (Books, Interrupted)

    I finally finished a book for book club! Although this was a quick read, it was also a bit annoying in that the author seemed to have an attitude that she was better than the locals and didn't want to "assimilate" at all. The community rejected her because she didn't accept them and she didn't seem to understand, or even want to understand, why her ideas weren't being accepted. Stimson did fully admit that she was always jumping from one project to the next, and while I understand that it's diff I finally finished a book for book club! Although this was a quick read, it was also a bit annoying in that the author seemed to have an attitude that she was better than the locals and didn't want to "assimilate" at all. The community rejected her because she didn't accept them and she didn't seem to understand, or even want to understand, why her ideas weren't being accepted. Stimson did fully admit that she was always jumping from one project to the next, and while I understand that it's difficult to manage a store, especially in a town you're unfamiliar with, I couldn't help but be annoyed that she was making decisions based on her misconceptions of the area. She thought she knew what was best and made assumptions, rather doing her research and taking the time to figure out what the locals wanted. As a flatlander myself who moved to southern Vermont and eventually to central Vermont, I learned very quickly within a few months that I needed to adjust to my new community instead of the other way around. It was a quick, easy read in part due to her obvious lack of book writing experience. It often sounded like journal entries and an inner monologue. Some people enjoy that style, but it really turned me off because it took away from the story at hand. Also, at some point I'd like to try the recipes she calls Vermont recipes.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    What a horrible book! I can honestly say that this is the first time that I read a memoir and was rooting against the author. She is trite and doesn't even seem to comprehend her position of privilege. Others have compared this to the The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir, but they can admit when they've made mistakes. Mrs Stimson is convinced that she holds all the cards even after she is proven wrong again and again. Her characterization o What a horrible book! I can honestly say that this is the first time that I read a memoir and was rooting against the author. She is trite and doesn't even seem to comprehend her position of privilege. Others have compared this to the The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir, but they can admit when they've made mistakes. Mrs Stimson is convinced that she holds all the cards even after she is proven wrong again and again. Her characterization of her neighbors is horrid. She makes Vermonters seem like quaint caricatures, especially those who have to work to survive. She treats her adopted home as an extended trip to Disneyworld and she pays the price--quite justly. Summary: Not worth the paper it is printed on. I only finished it because I once lived in Dorset and even went to same school as her children. I even vaguely remember hearing about this train wreck while I was away at college.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    Ugh. I love city to country memoirs, but not this one. Seems the author is just "so much better" than everyone in Vermont. She is trying so hard to be funny, but it isn't, it's kind of mean. She and her husband bought an old country store and tried to make it fu fu, but the locals, who would be the backbone of their business, weren't going for it and then she made fun of them for it. They spent and spent and spent and kept digging themselves deeper in the hole financially while never listening t Ugh. I love city to country memoirs, but not this one. Seems the author is just "so much better" than everyone in Vermont. She is trying so hard to be funny, but it isn't, it's kind of mean. She and her husband bought an old country store and tried to make it fu fu, but the locals, who would be the backbone of their business, weren't going for it and then she made fun of them for it. They spent and spent and spent and kept digging themselves deeper in the hole financially while never listening to the complaints because they knew better. She admits they weren't cordial and that they were angry at the store failing and took it out on the customers who remained. Not funny. And her poor husband, she is right, he is a saint to help her get out of one situation after another. I did read the whole book, it was well written and there were some great recipes in the back, but I didn't like her as a person, (or the way she portrayed herself, she could be very nice for all I know), which is why I rated so low.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    What an annoying book! The author moved to Vermont to get a new life with her husband and children, but freely admits (she's very honest, this is why I give the book 3 stars!) that the rich little town she moves to has pretty much no natives left---people like her have priced them out. Her family proceeds to buy the local general store and immediately run it into the ground, she tries the local school and local church and dismisses them when they are not able to handle such things as her dog bit What an annoying book! The author moved to Vermont to get a new life with her husband and children, but freely admits (she's very honest, this is why I give the book 3 stars!) that the rich little town she moves to has pretty much no natives left---people like her have priced them out. Her family proceeds to buy the local general store and immediately run it into the ground, she tries the local school and local church and dismisses them when they are not able to handle such things as her dog biting the minister or her son being disruptive, she mentions on nearly every page how successful she is and always has been, she makes every little story into a long, supposedly funny incident...and so on. I finished reading to see if she finally got some insight into what Vermont was really all about, but I don't think she did. Or maybe she is writing tongue in cheek, laughing at herself, but even if that might be the case, it's not as funny as she thinks.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

    This book is INSUFFERABLE. Or the author is, I guess. As a native Vermonter who doesn't even live in VT anymore, she managed to offend me on just about every other page. Even if you take VT out of the equation, the way she talks about moving to a new place and fitting right in- "How hard can it be?", "I've read all about it", "they'll get used to us", etc... She has no respect for the locals, the history, the feeling of community and she's so oblivious to the feelings of others it's more embarra This book is INSUFFERABLE. Or the author is, I guess. As a native Vermonter who doesn't even live in VT anymore, she managed to offend me on just about every other page. Even if you take VT out of the equation, the way she talks about moving to a new place and fitting right in- "How hard can it be?", "I've read all about it", "they'll get used to us", etc... She has no respect for the locals, the history, the feeling of community and she's so oblivious to the feelings of others it's more embarrassing than comical. I'm just thankful I got this out of the library rather than from a bookstore. I don't want to contribute any money to this woman's reign of misguided tactlessness. Pass right by this book and read about something- ANYTHING else.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Savannah Mabry

    Best advice I can give if you pick up this book: give yourself the freedom to dislike the author. While the author does seem to be aware of her own failings and jokes at it, by the end of the book I felt her assessments of the townspeople and her actions were not credibly conveyed. It is easy to take the side of the locals in this book. That being said, if you can allow yourself to peacefully dislike the author and move past her shrill encounters with belligerent locals, she does have some very Best advice I can give if you pick up this book: give yourself the freedom to dislike the author. While the author does seem to be aware of her own failings and jokes at it, by the end of the book I felt her assessments of the townspeople and her actions were not credibly conveyed. It is easy to take the side of the locals in this book. That being said, if you can allow yourself to peacefully dislike the author and move past her shrill encounters with belligerent locals, she does have some very lovely descriptions and overall the anecdotes are amusing. In summary: an interesting peek into small town Vermont life and an overly intimate peek into the life of a meddlesome yuppie who seeks to move there.

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