209 pages, no illustrations
When Middlebury writing professor Don Mitchell was approached by a biologist with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department about tracking endangered Indiana bats on his 150-acre farm in Vermont's picturesque Champlain Valley, Mitchell's relationship with bats – and with government – could be characterized as distrustful, at best. But the flying rats, as Mitchell initially thinks of them, launched him on a series of "improvements" to his land that would provide a more welcoming habitat for the bats – and a modest tax break for himself and his family. Whether persuading his neighbours to join him on a "silent meditation", pulling invasive garlic mustard out of the ground by hand, navigating the tacit ground rules of buying an ATV off Craigslist, or leaving just enough honeysuckle to give government inspectors "something to find," Mitchell's tale is as profound as it is funny – a journey that changes Mitchell's relationship with Chiroptera, the land, and, ultimately, his understanding of his own past. Ruminating on the nature of authority, the purview of the state, and the value of inhabiting one's niche – Mitchell reveals much about our inner and outer landscape, in this perfectly paced and skilled story of place.
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