Friday, August 13, 2021

Varnum Memorial Library


The Varnum Memorial Library is a gem in my village of Jeffersonville, Vermont (town of Cambridge). This post is to celebrate the new roof that was put on the library today.

The crew of Three Mountain Roofing started early today. They were well into the job when the following two photos were taken around 8:30 AM.


And they were done by early afternoon! The photo at the top of this post, and the two photos below, were taken around 2:30 PM.


The Varnum Memorial Library is owned by the Crescendo Club Library Association, Inc. The library operates as a public-private partnership between the CCLA and the Town of Cambridge.

The Crescendo Club was organized in 1898 by local women to provide free public library services to their community. The Crescendo Club incorporated as the CCLA in 1927 following the death of Mrs. Harvey Varnum who willed her residence to the club. That property was sold, and the proceeds (together with other funds) were used to construct the original library building in 1938. The addition in the rear was constructed in 2005.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Sunkhaze Meadows NWR

Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is located in Milford, Maine, about 15 miles northeast of Bangor. Nancy and I had not heard of it before this year.

The NWR consists of more than 11,000 acres that include the second largest peat bog in Maine. There were plans in the early 1980s to mine the peat deposits, which reach depths of 15 feet or more, but the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service acquired the property in 1988 and protected it.

In addition to the peatland complex of several raised peat domes, the NWR includes wetlands and uplands with a wide variety of plants and animals. More than 200 species of birds have been identified in the forests and swamps. Larger mammals found in the refuge include beaver, muskrat, otter, mink, moose, white-tailed deer, black bear, coyote, fisher, snowshoe hare, and porcupine.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website for Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge does not explain how to get there, so here are directions. From US-2 in Milford, turn east on County Road (0.0 miles). There is a large sign at about 4.1 miles (photo above). County Road becomes a dirt road at about 4.4 miles. The gated Carter Meadow Road is on the left at about 6.1 miles. Continue another 150 yards or so to the small parking lot at 6.2 miles (photo below).

There are few facilities in Sunkhaze Meadows. There is no visitor center. It is mostly a wild place. There are four small parking areas like the one described above. The best information about the refuge is on the signs and in the brochures at these parking areas. See below for the map from one of these brochures:

There are about 10 miles of semi-maintained trails accessible from three of the parking areas. The fourth parking area provides access to Ash Landing, a canoe/kayak launch on the northeastern side of the refuge. Sunkhaze Stream runs through the refuge from northeast to southwest for nearly five miles and empties into the Penobscot River west of the NWR.

From a brochure that we picked up at the refuge:

The name Sunkhaze is derived from the Abnaki phrase Wetchi-sam-kassek which, roughly translated, means "concealing outlet," referring to the stream's well disguised confluence with the Penobscot River.

McLaughlin Road runs through the western part of the refuge. This 2-mile gated dirt road is open to bicycles, motor vehicles during the fall hunting season, and snowmobiles in the winter.

The State of Maine lists Sunkhaze Meadows as one of its Focus Areas of Statewide Ecological Significance. See the Sunkhaze Meadows Factsheet (pdf).

Sunkhaze Meadows NWR includes three smaller satellite units located some distance away in other parts of Maine. This post is not about those units.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Lockdown Ends in Vermont

The lockdown in Vermont from the COVID-19 pandemic has ended. Governor Phil Scott declared a State of Emergency on March 13, 2020, that originally extended to April 15, 2020. The State of Emergency was extended month to month until it was allowed to expire at midnight on June 15, 2021. The State of Emergency was in effect, with varying levels of restrictions, for 15 months.

The following graphs show the state of COVID-19 in Vermont during this period:



The 7-day average of new cases per day has been below 15 since May 29 and is trending toward zero. There has been only one death attributed to COVID-19 since May 16.

I published these graphs at the end of May last year (link). At the time, COVID-19 was fading away. In fact, the pandemic in Vermont was minimal all last summer. It came roaring back last fall, worse than the initial wave, as shown in the graphs above.

Why do we think this year will be different? Why are we not concerned about another wave in the fall? Because of the vaccines.

In December 2020 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna. The FDA approved a third vaccine by Johnson & Johnson in February 2021. (Links are to the FDA approvals.)

The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine has not been a significant factor, partly because of production problems and partly because of concerns about side-effects. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which require two doses spaced three or four weeks apart, have been widely used and are highly effective. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are a revolutionary new technology called mRNA vaccines.

Supplies of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were initially limited, but soon ramped up. Oldest people generally received the vaccine first in Vermont. The first doses were administered before the end of December 2020. Nancy and I received our two doses in March 2021. Starting April 19, all Vermonters age 16 and older could register for a vaccine (link). Walk-in clinics, with no registration required, opened soon thereafter.

Governor Phil Scott had stated that the lockdown would end when 80% of eligible Vermonters had received at least one dose of any of the three vaccines. He announced on June 14 that this threshold had been reached (link). This news in Vermont made the front page of the Wall Street Journal on June 15 (link) with a dateline of Fairfax, a town adjacent to my town of Cambridge.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Mount Kearsarge

Mount Kearsarge in New Hampshire is a popular hiking destination with an open summit and easy access from two state parks. From the south, the summit can be reached from Rollins State Park by the Lincoln and Rollins Trails, each approximately 1/2 mile. Access from Winslow State Park northwest of the mountain is via the Winslow Trail (1.1 miles) and the Barlow Trail (1.7 miles). Today we hiked up the Winslow Trail and down the Barlow Trail. (trail map)

There is a communications tower and a fire tower on the summit. The fire tower is operated by the NH Division of Forests and Lands and is generally open to the public when staffed. It was staffed today; indeed, we are having a dry spring this year and there are forest fire warnings across the northeast. But the top of the tower was closed because of COVID. The photo above was taken from the tower stairs just below the top. The view is looking south. Visible are the summit cairn and picnic tables in a sheltered spot.

The photo below is also from the fire tower, looking down at Nancy, a communications antenna, and the glacial striations in the exposed granite:


Mount Kearsarge is 2937' high. From Wikipedia:

The name of the mountain evolved from a 1652 rendering of the native Pennacook tribal name for the mountain, Carasarga, which it is surmised means "notch-pointed-mountain of pines".

The bare summit is the result of a 1796 forest fire.

A famous Civil War ship was named Kearsarge. The USS Kearsarge was built at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine, in 1861, and in 1864 it defeated the CSS Alabama off the coast of France in the Battle of Cherbourg.

The commander of the USS Kearsarge was Captain John Winslow, later promoted to admiral. Following the Civil War a summer hotel known as the Winslow House was erected in his honor on the northwest slope of Mount Kearsarge. The hotel was abandoned and burned long ago, but the foundation is visible in the picnic area for Winslow State Park, which was named for the hotel.

Mount Kearsarge is the highest point on the Sunapee Ragged Kearsarge Greenway, a 75-mile trail that circles Lake Sunapee. The Lincoln and Barlow Trails are part of the SRK Greenway.

The photo below is looking north from the Barlow Trail:


The lake is Bradley Lake in the town of Andover. Although it didn't come out in the photo, we could just barely see on the horizon the snow-covered cone of Mount Washington.

More information about Mount Kearsarge can be found on the websites for Winslow State Park and Rollins State Park.

There are actually two mountains in New Hampshire named Kearsarge, and there is some dispute as to which mountain the 1861 USS Kearsarge was named for. We climbed Mt. Kearsarge in Merrimack County near Warner. The other mountain is located farther north in Carroll County near North Conway and is known as Kearsarge North.

This interesting New York Times article dated February 18, 1894 discussed the naming dispute and an alternate theory about the origin of the name "Kearsarge":


Found via the Bartlett (NH) Historical Society here. If the NYT article is behind a paywall, the Bartlett Historical Society saved a copy here.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Northeast Kingdom Adventures


We celebrated New Year's Day this year with adventures in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. Yes, there is plenty to see and do right here in northern Vermont, even in the midst of a pandemic lockdown and even in winter – without skiing.

The Northeast Kingdom – "NEK" or simply "The Kingdom" – consists of three counties in northeastern Vermont: Essex, Orleans, and Caledonia. George Aiken, governor of Vermont 1937-1941 and U.S. senator from Vermont 1941-1975, coined the phrase to refer to this rural part of the state.

Our travels today took us to only a small part of The Kingdom, just four towns: Hardwick, Greensboro, Glover, and Craftsbury. Nevertheless we found many interesting things to see and do in just a few short hours:
The photo above is Caspian Lake in Greensboro, as seen from Barr Hill.

NEK Odds and Ends

Our Northeast Kingdom Adventures today took us on many back roads with interesting sights. The marker above is on Lake Shore Road on the west side of Caspian Lake in Greensboro:

1781
Near This Spot By A
BLOCK HOUSE
Guarding
HAZEN ROAD
Two Scouts
CONSTANT BLISS
and
MOSES SLEEPER
Were Killed By Indians
And Buried Where They Fell
Lest We Forget The Pioneers
This Memorial Was Erected
1941

"Hazen Road," usually called the Bayley-Hazen Road, was a military road constructed during the Revolutionary War in what is now northern Vermont. This 2017 article in the Burlington Free Press has more background about the monument above: Search for the Greensboro blockhouse.

Our travels took us by several interesting agricultural enterprises including Kingdom Creamery in Hardwick, Shat Acres Highland Cattle in Greensboro, Pete's Greens in Craftsbury, and the modern (2015) hay drying operation of Jasper Hill Farm. Jasper Hill Farm makes award-winning cheeses at their farm in Greensboro and at the Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick; the hay drying facility is in Craftsbury. Dry hay is critical to the flavor of their cheeses, three of which are named Bayley Hazen Blue, Moses Sleeper, and Constant Bliss (not currently in production).

Hardwick, where we entered the Northeast Kingdom on today's tour, was once known as the "Building Granite Center of the World." That industry died out about a century ago and the town declined for a time, but:

Over the past few years, Hardwick, Vermont, a typical hardscrabble farming community of 3,000 residents, has jump-started its economy and redefined its self-image through a local, self-sustaining food system unlike anything else in America.

Source: the description at Amazon.com for the 2011 book The Town That Food Saved by Ben Hewitt. Some of the businesses mentioned above are discussed in this book.

We drove by this sign in Hardwick:

The sign says: "The Highfields Institute / West Hill Farm / Compost Demonstration & Research Site / Promoting On-Farm Composting." The Highfields Institute, later the Highfields Center for Composting, is also written up in Ben Hewitt's book The Town That Food Saved, but the organization was dissolved in 2014.

We also drove by something that one does not expect to see in rural Vermont: a $14 million theater in Greensboro modeled on the Globe Theatre in London:


The photo above is from the grand opening of the Highland Center for the Arts in June 2017. News stories about the theater here and here. We have seen several excellent shows in this theater, but like all performance venues it is currently closed due the pandemic lockdown.

Northeast Kingdom Adventures: Follow the link for the introductory post about this series and a list of all the posts in the series.

Barr Hill Natural Area

Barr Hill overlooks Caspian Lake in Greensboro, Vermont. We hiked most of the yellow trails on Barr Hill today, enjoying the overlooks in all directions, and some of the black trails including the Mossy Trail (see trail map below, click on the image to enlarge):

The photo at the top of this post is looking southwest. The view below is looking northwest; Belvidere Mountain is on the horizon near the center of the photo.

The Barr Hill Natural Area consists of 256 acres owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy in Vermont. The trails there connect to the trails at the Highland Lodge on Caspian Lake and the extensive trail system at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.

Barr Hill Gin and Barr Hill Vodka, made by Caledonia Spirits, are named for Barr Hill in Greensboro. Click here for that story.

Northeast Kingdom Adventures: Follow the link for the introductory post about this series and a list of all the posts in the series.

Museum of Everyday Life

The Museum of Everyday Life is on Dry Pond Road (aka Vermont Route 16) in Glover just north of the rest stop and picnic area for Runaway Pond. We were the first visitors to sign the guest book in 2021. The signs said to turn the lights on when entering, turn them off when leaving, wear a face mask and use the hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 pandemic, and consider leaving a donation.

The main exhibit in this museum is about a single theme, something in ordinary life, and the theme changes annually. The current exhibition is about knots. Previous exhibitions have been about scissors, mirrors, matches, dust, and many other things. The museum includes selected items from previous exhibitions.

Once you start thinking about knots, they are everywhere! Below I am looking at the exhibit on different ways to tie a necktie.

Hanging from the rafters was a rope swing with a huge knot at the bottom to sit on. We all enjoyed that! Here Nancy takes a turn:

The Museum of Everyday Life is in an old, unheated barn, hence the winter clothes. We did not see anyone else during our visit.

The museum's website is a rich, fascinating source of information. The Philosophy Department provides insight into what the museum is all about. The News page lists media articles about the museum, including this March 2019 article in the New York Times.

Northeast Kingdom Adventures: Follow the link for the introductory post about this series and a list of all the posts in the series.

Runaway Pond

Vermont State Route 16 north of the Greensboro-Glover town line is also known as Dry Pond Road. Five miles south of Glover is the rest stop and picnic area shown above. The historic marker tells the story:

RUNAWAY POND

On this site, on June 6, 1810 settlers dug an outlet to the north from what was then known as Long Pond. The retaining bank collapsed, causing all water from the 1.5-mile long pond to be discharged toward Barton River, and on to Lake Memphremagog, with extensive damage to the countryside, but no loss of life.

The plaque in the photo below adds more details:


LONG POND / RUNAWAY POND / DRY POND

In 1810 the water level of Long Pond was 70 feet above this marker and the water flowed south into Greensboro and the Lamoille River.

Needing more water to power Aaron Willson's grist mill in Glover, 60 men and boys dug a ditch on the north shore (about .5 miles north of here) to cause the water to flow into the Glover/Barton River.

Due to the quicksand in the earth, the entire hillside washed away and the pond "ran-a-way" discharging its billion gallons of water toward the mill in 1.5 hours.

Spencer Chamberlin raced ahead of the wall of water for 5 miles and saved the miller's wife.

Glover Historical Society 1996

It was thought-provoking to stand at that picnic area, look at the steep hillsides surrounding the narrow valley, and contemplate how they once contained a 70-foot deep pond that drained in just 1.5 hours.

Northeast Kingdom Adventures: Follow the link for the introductory post about this series and a list of all the posts in the series.

Camp Wapanacki


Camp Wapanacki was originally a fishing camp. The historic Trout Lodge, on the edge of beautiful and remote Wapanacki Lake, is said to have hosted many illustrious guests in the early 20th century, including Calvin Coolidge.

Dr. Merle Frampton of New York City and his wife, Iris, purchased the property in 1937 and the following year they established the first camp in the nation for blind and visually impaired children. The New York Institute for Special Education took over camp operations in 1942. Dr. Frampton served as director of the Institute until 1971. See this 1988 article in the New York Times for more information about this phase of the camp.

After operating as a summer camp for blind and visually impaired children for more than 50 years, Camp Wapanacki was sold in 1991 to the Girl Scout Council of Vermont and it became a beloved Girl Scout Camp. Our daughters spent many summers there as both campers and counselors.

The Girl Scouts sold the camp in 2014. Today the camp is privately owned and cabins are available to rent. See Camp Wapanacki, Wapanacki, and Airbnb (the link is to the former camp director's office, one of several cabins available on the property).


The Trout Lodge and Wapanacki Lake are not visible from the road, where the photos in this post were taken. The text of the historic marker in the photo at the top of this post can be found at Vermont Roadside Historic Markers (search for Camp Wapanacki). Other links I found about the history of the camp:
Camp Wapanacki is in both Hardwick and Wolcott. The usual approach is from Hardwick. The historic marker is on the Hardwick-Wolcott town line.

Northeast Kingdom Adventures: Follow the link for the introductory post about this series and a list of all the posts in the series.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanks to Vermont


Thanks to Vermont was a film produced in 1955 by the Vermont Department of Agriculture and the Vermont Development Commission to promote Vermont farm products.

The scene is set on Thanksgiving Day in a typical Vermont home, the mother preparing the turkey and father trying to sneak a taste. After he is shooed out of the kitchen, he sits down in his easy chair, lights his pipe, and commences to think about all the good agricultural products Vermont has to offer to consumers both inside and outside the state.

This 31-minute video is a fascinating look at the state of agricultural technology 65 years ago. In the dairy industry, that was just prior to the introduction of bulk tanks. The dairy industry still used 10-gallon milk cans. Tractors had completely replaced horses in the fields, but not yet in the woods. Maple sap was still collected in buckets and horse-drawn gathering tubs. Today's pipelines came decades later. Other farm products featured in the video include eggs, turkeys, apples, potatoes, sweet corn, and strawberries. The film also shows haying (both baled and loose), cheesemaking, and agricultural fairs.

Thanks to Guy Page for bringing this video to my attention. And thanks to the Vermont Historical Society and the Vermont State Archives & Records Administration for digitizing the original film and preserving it at the Internet Archive. Here is the link again: Thanks to Vermont. Note that audio does not begin until 48 seconds into the video.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Shooting Stories


This summer I have noticed several stories online about first-time shooters.

Blogger Ann Althouse wrote about shooting a gun for the first time in June. There is a short video at the link. Ms. Althouse looks pleased with her bullseye!

Ann Althouse is a retired law professor living in Madison, Wisconsin, where she taught at the University of Wisconsin Law School for 32 years. Bio here. Althouse is a popular blog with an active commenter community. In the comments, Ms. Althouse reveals that she shot three guns that day.

The Denver Post reported in August that: Some women are opting to carry guns on Colorado trails to stay safe. The article stresses the importance of proper training. (Article found via Althouse.)

Closer to home, Guy Page recently wrote in Vermont Daily and True North Reports about women in Vermont learning to shoot from Major Ted Tedesco, USMC (Ret).

I encourage people to learn to shoot guns safely and responsibly, and I am not alone. Guy's articles prompted me to share with him the following story about Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy:

“Senator Leahy was a top shooter on the rifle team at Saint Michael’s College when he was an undergraduate. In 2008 he was being inducted into the Vermont Agricultural Hall of Fame in a luncheon ceremony at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex. I found myself standing next to him in the buffet line, and we started talking about our common experiences on college rifle teams (some 16 years apart – he graduated in 1961, I graduated in 1977). He remembered that experience fondly, and he told me that he still enjoys shooting on his property in Middlesex. He also told me something that I didn’t know before, that he is legally blind in one eye. He thought that helped him be a better shooter. As we parted, he said:

“Everyone should learn two things. They should learn how to swim, and they should learn how to shoot a gun.”

I previously wrote on this blog about my experience on the University of Maine Rifle Team – the Black Bears.

Guy Page kindly reprinted my story about Senator Leahy in Vermont Daily and True North Reports. Full disclosure: Guy is a friend and relative. I've known him since we were boys.

I got to know Senator Leahy when I was CEO of Yankee Farm Credit. For example, see:

All three shooting stories at the beginning of this post, from this summer, are about women. When Senator Leahy was on the Saint Michael's College rifle team, it was likely all men. The University of Maine rifle team was all men in its early days, but became co-ed my freshman year.

The photo at the top of this post is the University of Maine rifle team in 1977, my senior year. I am standing in the back, fourth from the left, wearing glasses. The sign over us shows the years that the University of Maine rifle team was New England Champions: 14 of the 18 years from 1959 to 1976, including three of the years when Senator Leahy was in college. In 1977 we were undefeated (18-0) and again New England Champions.