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A Calais goat farmer is still recovering from the floods, on higher ground and with neighbors' help

A woman standing with her goat in a barn
Erica Heilman
/
Vermont Public
Alice Seavey-Windsinger with one of her goats in a barn in Calais. After floods last summer led to a canoe-involved rescue mission, Seavey-Windsinger continues to recover on higher ground.

Alice Seavey-Windsinger lives on the Kingsbury Branch in East Calais with her husband and daughter. Last year, the river flooded her fields and part of her goat herd, and wiped out her bees. Rescue operations involved loading goats into canoes. They’ve since moved most of their operation across the river to higher ground on Alice’s parents land.

This interview was produced for the ear. We highly recommend listening to the audio. We’ve also provided a transcript, which has been edited for length and clarity.

Alice Seavey-Windsinger: So we've already gotten some hay in. This is actually this year's cut. We were very lucky, having lost the bulk of our hay fields to the flooding, that a very kind neighbor allowed us to use some fields he wasn't using. And that is, like, all we were able to get from our fields.

More from Vermont Public: Washed out roads and a shared community: Calais residents look back on summer flood damage

Erica Heilman: Which is about how many bails?

Alice Seavey-Windsinger: Oh, 30. And we used to get 300. Yeah, they're just under silt, and probably not safe anyway, although we're working on testing right now.

"This is unprecedented for us. My dad has been haying those fields since the '80s. Never had this happen. Irene didn't do this to us. The other small flooding without names didn't do that to us."
Alice Seavey-Windsinger

Erica Heilman: So you're thinking you have another year, of bad hay?

Alice Seavey-Windsinger: Easily. Maybe more, because there's 4 to 6 inches of river silt that washed across the fields. And even grass didn't even come through some areas, there's just so much silt. And we're still investigating what that's going to take to recover that.

This is unprecedented for us. My dad has been haying those fields since the '80s. Never had this happen. Irene didn't do this to us. The other small flooding without names didn't do that to us. But this is a mess.

But we're OK, in terms of that, because of the wonderful neighbor. We have 325 bales that we got in so far. And because we had such an early spring, with everything being so warm, we're gonna be able to get a second cut, we're fairly confident, you know, late August. And so that's the beauty of having a great community where people take care of each other.

"We're gonna be OK. The piece that probably will never go away is just the fear of it happening again. You know, it's going to play a role in everything we do, because now it has to."
Alice Seavey-Windsinger

Erica Heilman: What has been the weight that you've carried in the year?

Alice Seavey-Windsinger: Well, it's like the loss of innocence, in a way. That flooding we had last year was like nothing else we've ever experienced. My parents have owned this property since the late '60s and nothing like that ever happened. And so what it's done is it's not only changed our now, but it's changed our future. Because now it's the devil that we know that it's most likely going to happen again.

More from Vermont Public: After the flood, this Plainfield, Vermont couple planned to leave. Then their neighbors showed up

When it rained really hard just a few days ago, instead of enjoying an interesting storm, which I used to love thunderstorms, I ended up worrying and spending more time and mental energy thinking about "What, what did I maybe not do that I should have done in case this is the next one?" And like I said, we're gonna be OK. The piece that probably will never go away is just the fear of it happening again. You know, it's going to play a role in everything we do, because now it has to. And like I said, it's kind of somewhat ruined my love of a hard rain. Because when it's hot, it's my favorite day. And I still will find the joy in it. Somehow.

(To her goats) Hi Sedona. Hi Margarita. Hello Sangria.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Erica Heilman produces a podcast called Rumble Strip. Her shows have aired on NPR’s Day to Day, Hearing Voices, SOUNDPRINT, KCRW’s UnFictional, BBC Podcast Radio Hour, CBC Podcast Playlist and on public radio affiliates across the country. Rumble Strip airs monthly on Vermont Public. She lives in East Calais, Vermont.
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