Archive for the ‘vermont’ Category

Weedy but productive

August 21, 2009

Well, the garden is very weedy.  I’ve made my peace with it — things like this are good for me.  I can’t be tied down in the summertime, I have to do what I feel — and this summer I had to take an 8 day vacation in early August.


But just because it’s been weedy, doesn’t mean it’s not producing anything!

calendulachardtomatomatoCalendula to dry for winter soups, beautiful and effortless swiss chard, productive tomatillos, and not-yet-totally-blighted tomatoes!

It’s been hard to focus on weeding because right across the field from the garden is the biggest and most bountiful blackberry bramble ever!

black berry


July 22, 2009

Well, it’s been considerably rainier than June, but summer is still summering along……..


I saw the Binghamton Mets trounce some Tigers farm team on the 4th of July.  Binghamton has one of those charming stadiums where trains go by during the games, leading to fantasies about home runs and open cars and other kinds of Americana.  Also, it’s nice to see a healthy crowd in Bing!

dog beach

I’ve also been spending time at the beach.  Lake Champlain is the perfect temperature in July.  Seriously!


The garden is doing really well and so far surviving most of the rain and hail.  Things are pretty weedy down in the bottom third (next year, I should just plant all that with corn), but there is a tiny tomatillo, my battles with insects seem to pretty much be a tie at this point, and we are REALLY starting to eat the benefits!


Summer vegetable salad: boiled new potatoes, purple and yukon; boiled beets (not in the same water); sliced scallions, dill, snap peas; olive oil, rice vinegar, salt and pepper

Some truly great news in the Free Press

July 15, 2009

I read yesterday that the state of Vermont is applying for $125.6 million dollars in federal aid to expand rail travel in the state.

Do you realize how fantastic this is?

They are going to try to make the Vermonter go faster — that’s the train that takes 10 hours to get to New York City.

They are also going to BRING RAIL SERVICE TO DOWNTOWN BURLINGTON and connect Burlington to Rutland, so that we can hop the super fast trains to New York and beyond.

Dudes, this is awesome!!!!!!!  Go for it, Vermont!!!!!

Is anything I can do to help make this happen?  Can you also add high speed service from downtown Burlington to Montreal?  It’s my dream!


The Quadricentennial and going through the motions

July 15, 2009

So, Burlington has had its festival commemorating the Champlain Quadricentennial —- meaning that 400 years ago in July 1609, Samuel de Champlain traveled down Petonbowk (the waters that lie between), making him the first European to set eyes on it.  Then he named it after himself.

Now, it is my understanding, from the big biography of Champlain that came out this year, that he was a pretty good guy, for an early European colonizer.  He spoke native languages, and was interested in collaborations and partnerships.

And, despite how very suspect the motives and urges of the Europeans who greedily came here were, to be fair, nobody had any idea how destructive the diseases they were carrying were going to be.

That was 300-500 years ago, and we can’t go back.

lake between

Big anniversaries of ambivalent and destructive events are really tough to figure out.  How do you commemorate something like this?  With seriousness?  With regret?  With celebration?

The celebratory commemoration is really a Victorian specialty — 100 to 150 years ago, every little town in Vermont was having a massive pageant to celebrate something or other.  In 1909 in Burlington, there was a massive pageant with Kahnawake Mohawks hired to paddle down the lake, reenacting Champlain’s historic visit (I learned this from a talk given by Kevin Dann last year, correct me if I’m wrong).  This was much easier to do in 1909, because all white people in Vermont knew for sure that all the Indians were long gone from the state.

Thankfully, 2009 is a tougher time for people to do something like that.  So Burlington assembled sort of a mish-mash of artists and musicians, some of whom were from Quebec and some from France.  There were some Abenaki and Iroquois artists in there too, as well as an Abenaki encampment.  And a parade.

I really support paying artists and musicians.  Paying artists is an excellent way to stimulate the economy.  Paying artists is also important for it’s own sake.

But if I had been in charge of the Quadricentennial, I would have mustered whatever ceremoniousness might have still be available to me from those repeating 09s and used it to make some serious commitments on behalf of the state of Vermont to Abenakis and other Native Americans here.

It would include official proclamations about history and responsibility.  It would include addressing poverty in the present.  It would include letting people label their crafts.  It would include not expecting people to show up and perform their culture for tourists for 10 days.  It would include admitting that we screwed things up in the intervale.  It would involve listening and asking questions and not hoping for a single spokesman for the “native perspective.”  It would involve a real pledge to be an ally on the state level and a supporter on the national level.  It might even involve giving up some land.

I would take all the money devoted to drinking beer and listening to music on the waterfront (you don’t have to put a million dollars toward people doing that! people are already doing that on their own dime!) and put it towards research and conservation.  I would commit to a bold environmental goal for the Lake Champlain region.  I would get a bunch of scholars to rigorously do the busywork and collaborate with native scholars and communities, researching and recording stories until we actually know a lot more about Vermont’s real history.  Because we don’t actually know that much.

That would be, I think, a commemoration that connects the past to the future.  Maybe they will let me do it in 2059.

German potato salad – the summer standby

June 18, 2009

This recipe for german potato salad is totally foolproof and delicious.  I like to try to make a lot to keep for a few days, but we usually eat it pretty fast.  I remember intensely when my mom taught me to make it as a child.  We made it for a potluck lunch at an all-day weaving and felting workshop somewhere.  I knew it would be delicious from the beginning, because it includes mustard and vinegar, my two favorite condiments!


GERMAN POTATO SALAD, courtesy of my mom

Potatoes, as many as you want/have (I like red, but any will do).

Red onion, sliced thin.

Whatever veggies you may have, sliced: radishes, salad turnips, snap peas, haricot verts, pickles, or quartered hard-boiled eggs

Whatever herbs you may have: dill, parsley, mint, basil, tarragon, cilantro (choose carefully)

For the dressing:

Dollop of stone ground, pebbly mustard

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons vinegar (I use brown rice, apple cider, or red wine vinegar)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Teaspoon of sweetener (optional, I use maple syrup or brown sugar)

Copious black pepper

First, put a pot of water on to boil.

Wash and cube your potatoes.  Throw them in when the water boils, adding a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt.  Cook until tender but not crumbly (important), drain, and set aside to cool.

While your potatoes are cooking, make the dressing in the bottom of your salad bowl.

Mix together mustard, olive oil, vinegar, (optional) sweetener, and garlic.  Add lots of pepper, a bit of salt, and minced herbs.

Throw thinly sliced red onion, radish, salad turnip, and whatever else in there to marinate and become delicious.

When the potatoes have cooled, toss with dressing, add more black pepper, and eat!

Nasturtium garnish is optional and delicious.

P.S.  If you don’t have brown rice vinegar around, you should get some.  It’s pretty amazing.

Summer photo dump

June 17, 2009

I’ve been busy.

rock point


IMG_2706IMG_2801snake mountainFrom the top, my past three weeks:

Spring woods at Rock Point

Downtown Plattsburgh

Homemade sourdough

Camping coffee

David Byrne

Ladies of Addison summerfest

Addison county from Snake Mountain

Button Bay bike trip

June 10, 2009

These past few days, Dale and I took a little bicycle trip down to Button Bay State Park, which is about 7 (very long feeling) miles west of Vergennes — 35 or so miles from Burlington.  This was my first touring bike trip, and the thing about taking a longer than 10 mile bike trip, especially with a trailer and camping gear, is that you realize why people wear bike shorts, bike shoes, bright neon clothing, and bike gloves.  It’s a wild world out there, people!  It was also easy to realize why people have touring bikes, and don’t take long trips on fixed gears, like we did.  That was something I already knew, in my mind, but now my legs in general, and more specifically my knees, understand exactly why it is be desirable to have a choice of gear ratios, as well as the ability to not be pedaling 100% of the time for 30 miles.

It was beautiful out there!  I can definitively report back to you that it is SUMMERTIME — meaning everything is green, plants are just growing like crazy, and there one million wildflowers along the lovely roadsides of the Champlain Valley.  Prominently featured: daisies, buttercups, red clover, swamps full of yellow irises, and a TON of phlox hiding the woods.  I had no idea there was so much phlox in the woods around here, and if I had been traveling by car, I would likely still be ignorant of this wonderful reality.

It’s also very lovely to bike through the super agriculture of the Champlain Valley, the highlights of that, for me, being Ferrisburgh and Panton, two very farmy towns with the corn coming up, farmers out spreading shit, and belted, holstein, and jersey ladies all relaxing in their pastures. Many dairies of distinction!

Of course, part of the agricultural landscape in Vermont is abandonment.  Here’s the most interesting thing we came across, a crumbly old windmill just outside of Vergennes that we saw as a witch hat.

witch hat

(one of) the longest covered bridges in the United States!

May 3, 2009

In the spirit of giving the people what they want, here’s another post about covered bridges.  Seriously, my one post about a covered bridge gets about 10 times as many reads as anything else on my random, personal bog.  Maybe the world is hungry for a covered bridge blog?  Or are kids writing reports using google?  Here you go, hungry mysterious internet!


This, of course, is the majestic Cornish-Windsor bridge, spanning the Connecticut River between Cornish, New Hampshire, and Windsor, Vermont.

It is a town lattice truss, and it is 460 feet long, making it one of the longest in the United States!  Of course, note that it is a two-span, while the North Blenheim bridge is a single-span. Which is more impressive?  I say North Blenheim, but you be the judge for yourself!

I took this picture from the train, after the conductor reminded us all to look.  Train sidenote: I also eavesdropped on a conversation where the assistant conductor explained how his lifelong dream had been to work on the trains, and now here he was…. the same sort of magic doesn’t happen on buses — take the train!

My dad worked on this bridge in 1987, and I still have a t-shirt from it’s re-opening after it was fixed.  For some reason, that “Chesterfield Associates” shirt is one of my most cherished possessions.

Want to learn more about historic trusses?  Why not read my dad’s book about Historic American Roof Trusses?


Train travel

May 2, 2009

What can I say to advocate for train travel to you?

I love trains, maybe more than most people.  I wrote my undergrad thesis about trains and American history, and I just LOVE them.  Train stations beautiful, and trains connected cities and encouraged growth in the right way, I believe.

That’s why I was so heartened to hear that Obama is investing $13 billion into high-speed rail development in the US.  If we don’t all die of the flu first, this will be a very good thing for our country.  I get worried when I see all those rail-to-trail conversions — a great thing for bikes in the short run, but I don’t want to see our rail infrastructure disappear.


I took the train to New York last weekend.  Let me tell you, even just the atmosphere at the station is so refreshing……I waited with an excited crowd, and when the train whistled and came rushing down towards us my heart started beating fast and the little kids around me jumped and shouted.  I got on and settled into my roomy, roomy seat, knowing that I could move around the train as I pleased during the 9.5 hours I would be on it.  Which I know is a long time, but if you bring lots of snacks and entertainment it’s really a pleasure.


Of course, the view is beautiful, especially the Vermont part of the ride.  It’s interesting to see all the towns I know really well from the train perspective, not a car perspective.  Here is Brattleboro:


If you look closely, you can also catch site of people’s secret little spots down by the train tracks — I saw a lot of little campsites, tents, hideaways, party spots, and many, many old 40 bottles.  The history of this sort of culture and train track landscape is best transferred through this excellent book, one of my favorites:


I highly recommend it!  I also saw train buffs, watching the trains — not the Amtrak, of course, but some obscure freights.

So take the train!  You won’t regret it.  I don’t even have to mention what a good thing it is to do, environmentally.  It’s also very quiet.  You might also meet people on the train.  And national train day is coming up; it’s May 9th!

Fiddlehead season

April 30, 2009

It’s fiddlehead season!  Or at least, the very tail end.  I picked some in Winooski last night at my plant class, and this morning made a fiddlehead scramble for breakfast.  Granted I was really hungry, but they were meaty, creamy, tender, and crunchy all at the same time.

When picking: look for the unfurled ostrich fern….recognizable by its brown, papery, flaky covering.  And just pick a few from each — don’t pick them all or the fern can’t survive!  I recommend boiling them for a few minutes before you sautee them, they turn bright green and you pour off some brown water.  That makes them really tender!

celendineThis picture is celendine — which is invasive — but is a good remedy for warts, and also has a yellow sap inside that might be a good painting pigment.  And has a beautiful name.

It is also dandelion green season (though I’m not a huge fan), and there is ground ivy and wild violets to be picked and added to salads.

Don’t forget to wash your hands!!