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  • Stephen D'Agostino

Don’t Forget to Return Absentee Ballots

Last Friday, I was on my way home from Woodstock. When I turned on to Jenne Road, I saw two smallish, strange-looking birds dart in front of the car. My first thought was "grouse," always a favorite sighting on my road. It wasn't until I saw two more cross with seemingly greater urgency than the first two, and then two adults join them, that I realized they were turkeys.

Later that day, I read that the state engages in a count of young turkeys—called poults—in August. The purpose is to determine the health of the state's population of the bird that Ben Franklin had suggested to be the national symbol.

I imagine the results of the survey will be "very healthy." On my road, on a state highway, or in fields in the distance, most of the low-to-the-ground shapes I see pecking in the grass, racing across the asphalt, or taking flight are turkeys.

I thought of reporting my sighting but decided to play by the rules. The event officially started on August 1. My sighting was on July 31. I'm sure I will have dozens of opportunities to participate. If you want to take part in the gobbler census, visit

If there had been a census of barred owls—another population that seems very healthy—I would have jumped in, even bending the rules a bit to include my sightings. If you follow me on Facebook, you know I've been treated to daily owl sightings on walks up and down the hill on the south side of Jenne Road. One day last week, I saw three owls, all close together, making me think there is a new owl family in the woods that bracket my road.

People have joked about the owls moving up the hill and discovering our chickens. I hope not, and I feel confident they won’t. There is plenty of other food for them to eat. Have you noticed all the chipmunks around lately?

A census you can—and should—take part in is the US Census. Consider this my occasional reminder. It is essential that you participate. An accurate number of people living in Vermont determines how federal funds are allocated and how we are represented in Congress. Though I am not a fortune teller, I think it is safe to say the state will not gain another representative. However, it's still vital that you participate.

The participation rate is up slightly since I last wrote about this a month ago, but it is still less than 50%. In our school district, only one town is above 50% participation, and that is Pomfret.

To participate in the census, go to If you have the 12-digit census ID sent to you earlier, you can enter it to begin. If you do not, you will need to answer a few questions to get started.

You can respond by phone to 844-330-2020. If English is not your preferred language, visit to find the number for your preferred language.

While we are on the topic of civic duty, here is an important note for people who requested an absentee ballot. When my column sees print on August 6, you will have only one option for returning your mail-in ballot to ensure it gets to the Town Clerk on time. You need to bring it to Town Hall in person on or before Election Day, August 11. To make it easy and safe, you can drop your ballot into the box outside the door of the Town Clerk's office. And just like that, your civic duty is done. Thank you!

Enough with the serious talk. Let’s talk about something fun! What a night last Saturday was at Puddledock Park! The weather was near perfect, the socially distanced crowd was scattered across the grass, the movie screen was angled in the corner, and the film shown on it was a blast. It was the first time I’d ever seen Hook, and I enjoyed it. One thing the Recreation Commission learned was that on August 1, 7:30pm is not an appropriate time to start a movie.

Of course, the Reading Recreation Commission learned more than that. The Rec knows that it is possible to have a socially distanced outdoor event in town.

Playing it safe, I didn't get a chance to visit the Marletta’s pod of viewers, including Gerry, Erika, Zoe, and their friends, Adrienne and Indigo. I missed the opportunity to spend some time with Andrew Simonet and Elizabeth Stevens, whom I had never met before. Still, it was nice to see so many people safely together in one place. It was nice for the Reading Recreation Commission to hold an event.

I am happy to report that more events are coming!

The Rec is running another movie night on August 21, a Friday. On that evening, the sun sets at 7:29, so the movie will start closer to sunset. More details to come, but for now, mark your calendars.

Also, one week from today, the Rec will be holding the annual Ice Cream Social at Puddledock Park. The event starts at 6pm. It's always a crowd-pleaser! Will I see you there?

That’s the news from Reading! See you next week!

This column originally appeared in The Vermont Standard on August 6, 2020.

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