Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Storm Update

The storm more or less missed our part of Vermont, and we got through Monday evening with light rain and moderate wind. Our power stayed on throughout the night, and Tuesday was actually quite a nice day.

I had posts prepared for this week, but I think I will hold off for a few days. It just doesn't feel right to blog about comparatively unimportant country fluff when I have friends in New York with flooded homes and no power. Kathleen, Locklyn, Adam, Ian, Emily, Bryan, Marie, Evelyn, and Mike -- I love you all and stay safe!

Monday, October 29, 2012


While Hurricane Sandy is not predicted to be a huge event in Vermont, the National Weather Service is forecasting winds up to 75 mph and heavy rain in our town. Winds of that speed could take down trees and cause loss of power, so we've been stocking up on water, chopping extra wood for the stove, and moving items inside this morning. A small brook also runs perpendicular to the bottom of our road, and we cross over it to enter our property. If the brook floods the bridge as it did last year during Hurricane Irene, we may not be able to leave the property for a few days.

Please send good thoughts our way & keep your fingers crossed for no power outages!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Jenna's Wedding

Today is an abbreviated post as we are driving to Ocean Edge resort on Cape Cod for my soon-to-be sister in law's wedding. I'll be back on Monday with more ramblings from the country.

Best of luck to the bride and groom, Jenna and Mat, and everyone in the wonderful Gale, Weary, and Frankel families!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Far Field

Josh has plans to eventually grow a large amount of food in the open field above the orchard at the far end of the property. About a month ago he measured and mowed a 2100 square foot area on the hillside, then gathered and sent soil samples to UMass Amherst for testing. The results came back this week, and their recommendations are quite fascinating (to me at least). Our soil is apparently slightly acidic, and needs more phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen. UMass Amherst's organic growing recommendation is as follows:

Well rotted manure and dried blood (what?!) to replenish nitrogen
Rock phosphate or steamed bone meal to replenish phosphorus
Wood ash for potassium

We already have two piles of old brush set up on the hillside for burning & will spread the ashes into the soil this winter to replenish the potassium. The remaining elements we'll have to purchase at a farm & garden center.

It will take some time to prepare the soil and get garden up and running, but we are hoping to plant next spring or the year after if all goes as planned.

↓ View from the top end of the field.
↓ Burn piles
↓ View from the bottom of the field. Our small orchard is at the bottom of the hill and the large garden will be planted in the space above.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


We've had the new puppy for about a month now, and although Riley was grumpy about the whole situation at first, he and Fern are now playing, wrestling, and generally hanging out together. He still bosses her around, so it will be interesting to see how the dynamic changes in a few months when she is twice his size. For now she is content to follow him around, nibble his legs to instigate playing, and sit on the sidelines while he hoards all the toys on the giant dog bed we bought for her.

In the mornings Fern is going strong by 5 a.m. and uses every trick up her sleeve to wake us up. She pulls my glasses off the night stand, gnaws on the bed frame, and puts her paws on the edge of the bed and whines. After a few minutes of this, Riley (who has always enjoyed sleeping in) comes out from his den under the covers, huffs, and jumps down to play with her. He proceeds to tire her out with 5-10 minutes of wrestling, then jumps back on the bed and climbs under the covers once she is laying on the floor panting. We like to think he is "taking one for the team" wearing her out so we can all go back to sleep.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Homemade Granola

Here in Vermont you can't round a grocery store corner without another fancy granola option staring you in the face. I finally picked up a bag to check out the ingredients on the back, and quickly realized that making granola IS EASY. There are all types of granola, of course, but the basic premise is pretty simple: Mix oats with your favorite ingredients, add a little syrup or oil, bake the whole thing for a few minutes, and you're done.

Here's what I did:

2 cups oats
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup banana chips (mine were store bought, but you could make your own)
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon all spice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 drizzle olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a mixing bowl combine oats, chopped almonds, maple syrup, spices, olive oil, and salt. Mix until oats are covered evenly. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and cover with an even layer of oat mixture. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until oats turn slightly golden. Remove from oven and add raisins and banana chips to mixture.

Now of course you can get creative and add any other ingredients you have a taste for -- honey, walnuts, chocolate chips, coconut, dried cranberries, etc. I'm going to experiment with different spices and maybe try honey instead of maple syrup on the next batch. Granola is also easy to make in large batches and store in a plastic container or Ziplock bag for weeks worth of snacking. Hooray for easy, delicious recipes!

Monday, October 22, 2012

End of an Era

The past four days have been a whirlwind.

Between Thursday and Sunday we put my condo up for rent, drove to Boston, took photos, scheduled showings, packed my belongings, cleaned the place from top to bottom, posted and sold furniture on craigslist, met numerous realtors, found a tenant, signed a lease, picked up our moving truck, and on Sunday morning moved all of my boxes and furniture out at 5:30 AM before driving back to Vermont. I am now a landlord.

During my ten years in Boston I have lived in nine different apartments, and this one has been my favorite by a landslide. I loved it so much that when I came home to a letter under my door explaining the unit would be sold at the end of my lease, my first thought was, "Maybe I should buy it." A year later it was mine, and I have been pinching myself ever since.

Moving out was bittersweet, and it was hard to say goodbye. I adore Boston, and I loved living downtown. I'll miss walking Riley on the Common, and knowing the names of all the dogs in the park. I'll miss waving hello each morning to the old man who runs the flower stand in front of my building. I'll miss the fruit stand across the street where they know me and Riley by name, and throw extra apples in my bag because they like us. I'll miss the Brattle Book Shop around the corner with its alley full of antique books piled high on rolling carts. I'll miss the city's energy, the skyline, and walking or taking the train everywhere, but most of all I'll miss my friends. I've left the city for a new adventure, but I hope always to stay in touch with the wonderful people I have met along the way. You know who you are, and I love you and think of you all every day.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Weathersfield Transfer Station

To those of you who know me well it will come as no surprise to hear that visiting the town dump has become a favorite pastime of mine since moving to the country. We do not have organized city trash removal in the area, so The Weathersfield Transfer Station & Recycling Center, aka The Dump, is where locals bring their trash, recyclables, demo debris, and unwanted household items.

From my perspective, the dump has two things going for it: the "burn pile" and the "Swap Shop."

The burn pile is just that -- a pile of wood, branches, boxes, etc. to be burned by the Transfer Station. Farmers tearing down old barns bring their wood to the burn pile, and each time we go there are piles upon piles of old barn wood siding, doors, crates, palettes, fencing, 2x4s, etc. Granted much of it is not in great shape, but we have found some neat old wood crates and Josh has pilfered palettes to stack cord wood on. A few weeks ago I found a beautiful old barn door to use for photography projects, and yesterday's trip turned up solid hardwood beams to use as side supports on the cord wood stack.

The Swap Shop is where folks leave unwanted household items like furniture, books, toys, and lamps. Instead of dropping items off at the thrift store, around here they go to the Swap Shop. The beauty of the Swap Shop is that it is completely self-service, so you drop off what you want and take what you want. No money changes hands. You like that chair someone dropped off? You take it. Mostly it's a lot of junk, but there are also treasures to be found. Today I found a beautiful vintage Chinese Checkers set with original old marbles, a set of three avocado green enamel pots, and a mid century lamp with a wide fiberglass drum shade. Not a bad haul for $0.

Knowing as I do now the treasures that can be found at the dump, I feel somewhat cheated by all the years of organized trash pick-up in Boston. What happens to all the great old stuff at large city dumps where the general public is not permitted? Does anyone pick out the treasures, or are beautiful antique chairs doomed to sit buried under growing piles of cracked, dirty Tupperware, defunct tape players, and moldy banana peels forever?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Progress in the Barn

We've been working on cabinets for the bottom of the long work bench in the barn for the past few days, and I'm happy to report that we have three out of five in place. The remaining two cabinet faces are measured and painted, and the notches for the hinges are chiseled out. We are headed back to Boston for a few days starting tomorrow, but when we return on Sunday we will pop the remaining two in place and I'll be ready to store merch in the barn.

Our basement is currently stacked high with all manner of thrifted goods that have been piling up over the past few months, and I can't wait to move it all to the barn and start photographing. The vintage shop has now been closed about 2 months (the longest stretch ever), and I am beyond ready to get it back up and running. I need to be thrifting, photographing, listing, and shipping. That's what makes me happy. Time to get back to it!

↓ Before, no cabinets

↓ After, cabinets!

And as usual our carpentry assistants were on hand (looks like I need some dog beds for the workshop)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Malagash in Sepia

↓ The barn at dusk
↓ Fern in the leaves

↓ View of the house during the summer
↓ Riley enjoying the porch
↓ Josh & Riley at the fire pit

Monday, October 15, 2012

Winter Heat

The heating system in our house is set up such that we can use either oil or a wood burning stove to heat the water tank and radiators. Both systems are in place in the basement, so it is just a matter of turning a few knobs to choose which to use for the season. We are currently on oil, but would like to try out the stove this winter.

Cord wood can be quite expensive, but there are so many fallen trees in the woods behind the house that Josh has decided to try splitting our own wood this year. He'll use the chain saw to cut a few fallen trees into sections, haul them out with the truck, then rent a splitter to cut the sections it into logs. So far he's cut one ash tree into large sections, and arranged a number of pallets next to our driveway where we can stack the cut wood.

There is also a large white oak in the woods with a base circumference of about 5' that fell a few years back but has not rotted. Josh has started sectioning it and we hope that between the two trees we will have enough cord wood to keep us going in the house and workshop for the winter.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Deck

We love with the wide, wrap around deck on our house, but the bare wood boards were starting to turn grey and look worn. We spent a number of weekends stripping the dirt and mildew from the wood, then set to work staining the boards. Once the floor boards were done, we painted the railings an off white to match the existing trim on the house. We are almost done, but the constant rainy days have kept us from finishing the last two sections on the right and a few beams under the house. Fingers crossed for a few more sunny days before winter sets in.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Kitchen Garden

The grassy, sloping hill next to our house is the perfect spot for a small kitchen garden, so we are now working on preparing it for tomatoes, lettuce, herbs, and root veggies for cooking. We are currently building a 4' retaining wall at the bottom of the slope using found rocks from our property, and once the wall is in place we will fill in the hillside with dirt and manure to create a flat garden area. We'll enclose the space with split rail fencing and rabbit wire to keep animals out. We will also attach lattice boards similar to these to the support beams under the house to block the ugly view of our foundation. Once those are in place we can grow pole beans or some other climbing vine at the base of the lattice. So far we have measured and marked the rock wall space, dug a ditch for the foundation, began pilfering rocks from the woods behind our house, and laid a few stones in place. If we end up with a garden even half as nice as this one with a retaining wall like this, I'll be very happy.

↓ Measuring and staking the retaining wall area

↓ Running string to mark the face of the wall

↓ Digging the ditch for the rock wall foundation
↓ Rocks we've gathered so far. We'll need about 20x this amount to complete the wall.

↓ Beginning to lay rocks in the foundation ditch

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Watch Where You Step

We've been busy the last few days, so I didn't have time to prepare a full post today, but wanted to share a few pictures of the spider we spotted in the field this morning while walking the dogs.

Now I am no fan of spiders, but when I saw this one I had to stop and stare. The body itself was 1/2", and with the legs we were looking at about 1" in total length. I've never seen a spider with black and orange stripes, and the way the rain drops clung to the web was quite beautiful. As soon as we saw it, I knew I had to get my camera.

After a bit of quick research, it looks like our friend is a female White-Backed Garden Spider. Luckily, they are not poisonous, but I'll be paying better attention to where I step from now on.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Columbus Day Weekend

Josh's parents came up to visit over the holiday weekend, and we spent Sunday afternoon hiking at Rockefeller National Park in Woodstock. The foliage has been somewhat muted this year, due to lack of rain I'm told, but the park was still gorgeous. Pictured above is the The Pogue, a 14 acre pond along our hike in the woods.

↑ Cows at Billings Farm across the street from Rockefeller National Park.

↑ Hiking trail

↑ Foliage at the park

↑ Riley and Fern being good dogs

↑ A canope of yellow

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Barn

Our barn has 750 square feet of insulated workshop space and two horse stalls built into a lean-to-shed off the right side. Josh has been keeping the mower & other miscellaneous equipment in the stalls, and I am now setting up the workshop area as Little Dog Vintage headquarters (photography, storage, shipping). The barn is going to be a great place to work, but there is a lot to do before the space is functional for my needs, and admittedly I am a little overwhelmed.

Soon after buying the house I brought some items into the barn to store. We were in and out of Vermont at the time, so the items sat unattended for a few weeks. When I finally came back to check on them, a mouse (or a family of them) had burrowed inside the foam cushion of my desk chair, created a nest inside my tool box, nibbled the edges of a number of other items, and left droppings all over everything else. When we noticed Riley obsessively circling and sniffing the chair, Josh slammed his foot against it and a little mouse came flying out of the bottom, ran across the floor, and escaped under the sliding barn doors. It suddenly became very clear that I would need a better plan for keeping my items safe & workspace clean. Below is my list of to-do items for the barn:
  • Build storage cabinets with doors that seal shut to store shop merchandise
  • Clean and paint the walls & ceilings (we spent a whole day last week vacuuming spider webs and dirt off the walls in preparation for this)
  • Clean and paint the work bench that runs along the length of the left wall
  • Find a large slab of limestone to set the wood burning stove on (limestone will radiate heat from the wood burning stove)
  • Find flue attachments for stove & install
  • Insulate the wall behind the stove to avoid damage from heat
  • Set up Internet in the barn
  • Install new ceiling lights
  • Clean and seal, stain, or paint the cement floors
  • Have an electrician fix breakers in the electrical box (we are currently only getting power from one outlet)
  • Build photography setup: Make a table with wheels on the bottom out of an old barn door I found at the burn pile at the dump. This will be used as the base surface my my photographs. Buy a large piece of drywall and attach it to a rolling wall frame. This will be used as the wall background for my photographs. The whole setup will be able to roll around the workshop as needed to get the best light.
  • Set up computer, printer, packaging supplies, etc.
  • For next year: paint the outside of the barn red with white trim

Not every item on the list will get done in the next month, but I am aiming to have 85-90% complete by mid November. It's ambitious, I know. I'll be posting progress updates as we check items off the list.

↑ Above, the inside of the workshop. We cleaned all the walls with a shop vac and started painting the bench along the wall white the day this photo was taken. The wood stove in the back is waiting for a limestone slab to sit on and a flue attachment. Josh is going to set up his carpentry tools and table saw on the right side. I would like to find a long work table for the middle of the room that we can share when we work together in the barn.

↓ Below, the horse stalls, now serving as storage. Josh would eventually like to use this space for goats and/or chickens. I am not completely sold on farm animals, only because I know I will get attached and be heartbroken when they get sick or when a raccoon or Fisher cat breaks in and picks a few off for dinner.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Trails in the Grass

Each morning when we walk down our hill and around the field with the dogs, we notice new trails in the grass that must have been made sometime in the night. The blades are gently bent where it appears an animal has passed through. A bear? A deer? A coyote? A Fisher cat? The trails feel too small to be made by raccoons, rabbits, or a fox.

Riley sniffs furiously and follows the trails through the field until he gets bored and comes barreling back down to the road.

I'd like to install a motion detecting night vision camera on the deck to snap pictures of any night activity in the yard. Josh seems blasé about it, but I think it would be a thrill to wake up to pictures of a deer or bear family cruising through the yard.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Kale Chips

Josh & I are currently on a 21 day cleanse that, among other things, involves eating only fresh fruit and vegetables for the first 10 days with lean protein added on day 11.  No pasta, no cheese, no cookies, basically no fun.

In all my 30 years I have never been on a diet, so I was unsure as to how well I could stick to the plan. Surprisingly, I've ended up being more of a stickler about staying on track than Josh, shutting down his plan to make homemade hummus when I saw that he had bought canned chickpeas with a preservative on the ingredient list and refusing store bought dressing on my salads. By day 8 my resolve began to crumble, though, and yesterday morning I cheated and had pancakes. They were delicious.

The cleanse program comes with a set of recipes to try, and while most of them I could do without, there is one I'll definitely be taking with me - kale chips. Before you roll your eyes and mutter under your breath that Vermont has turned me into a dirty hippie, hear me out. The recipe for kale chips is incredibly easy, and they are surprisingly delicious. On a snackability scale where 10 is a Pringle and 1 is a palm full of All-Bran, I give kale chips a solid 8. Now for the recipe:

1 bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt to taste

Preheat the over to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash and dry kale leaves, and tear them into bite size pieces, removing the large stems. Lay the leaves flat on your baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and salt to taste. Bake until the edges are brown but not burnt, about 10 minutes. Tip: a tad more olive oil will keep the chips from being too brittle & bring out the flavor.

Give them a whirl. You might be surprised.