On pies, soup, and yoga

by Bethany M. Dunbar, November 26, 2011

In the darkest time of the year, we celebrate.

As November settles in, I soon begin to think about December 21.  After that date, the days will stop getting shorter and start to get longer again.

Meanwhile we have Thanksgiving and Christmas to think about.  We celebrate our family and friends and buy or make gifts for each other.

One way to celebrate and be thankful is to help others.  The Center for an Agricultural Economy does this by taking extra squash grown by High Mowing Seeds, pureed by Pete’s Greens, and making it into soup and pies for food shelves, schools, and nursing homes.

Last week I went to the Sterling College kitchen to do a story for the Chronicle and a video for the Chronicle’s web site.  Check it out at www.bartonchronicle.com.

Another way to get through the dark times is to take care of yourself with yoga.  I started taking yoga classes from my friend Bethany Knight this past summer at IROC.  I found it to be a tremendous help for what has become chronic lower back pain.  This might have SOMETHING to do with sitting in front of a computer for so many hours each day.

Plus it must be said that it’s just not as easy to maintain flexibility as we age.

Yoga is incredibly relaxing and invigorating depending on which way you breathe, and Bethany Knight is an excellent teacher who encourages everyone without making anyone feel like a failure for not being able to manage all the hardest moves right away.

I started thinking how nice it would be to have a DVD to do yoga at home, and I asked her if she had one for sale.  She said she didn’t, but people had been asking her for one.  She had been thinking about trying to put one together.  I suggested she and I could make a video and give it to IROC as a fund-raiser.

So we did!  The DVD is available at the IROC front desk.  There’s an idea for a Christmas present that won’t cost much, will help a good cause, and will help whoever uses it with holiday and winter stress at the same time.

I did something else to be thankful for on Thursday.  It’s become a holiday tradition for me — the Turkey Trot in Barton.  This was the tenth annual race.  I’m working on a story about the race for this week’s Chronicle.

Among the participants was Phil White, the executive director of IROC who has done so much to keep the place going.  It was his very first race.  Quite an accomplishment.  Congratulations!

The days are wicked short right now, but there’s beauty to be enjoyed and appreciated in the low light.

Sunrise in the swamp. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

Parker Pie show of Kingdom’s Bounty photos

by Bethany M. Dunbar, November 6, 2011

Yesterday I hung my photo show at Parker Pie.  I hope all of you within driving range will come take a look.  It turns out to be a preview of coming attractions as the publication of my book, Kingdom’s Bounty, is postponed until spring.  This will no doubt be better timing for marketing, and for many of the farmers and seasonal businesses that are featured and listed.

Kingdom’s Bounty will be a guidebook — a collection of photos, stories, maps and basic information about the Northeast Kingdom.   The publisher is Umbrage Editions in Brooklyn.  Many of you know Nan Richardson who has a home in Barton; she is the publisher.  We’re wicked excited about this project.  Here’s a chance for everyone to take a sneak peek.  I’m not sure that all of these particular photos are going to appear in the book, but most of them are.

You can buy a copy of Kingdom’s Bounty ahead of time on the Umbrage web site:  www.umbragebooks.com.  Meanwhile I hope you will come take a look at the show, and let me know what you think.  While you are there try some delicious pizza with local ingredients.  The Hill Farmstead beer is always on tap. Maybe I will see you there.  The show will be up through Christmas time.

Thanks to Elizabeth Nelson who does a wonderful job as curator at the Pie.

Featured here are Jay Peak, Claire's, Hill Farmstead, Ploughgate, Too Little Farm, Vermont Highland Cattle Company, Pete's Green's, and the Lazy Lady.

On this wall are Too Little Farm, Peak View, Eden Ice Cider, a big trout, and the Zipper at the fair.

On this wall are Monica Aldrich leading Isabel Karsch at a horse show at the fair, Taylor's maple syrup, Good Life Valley Farm, and Mountain Foot Farm.

Pond skimming at Burke and prize-winning onions at the fair.

Butterworks Farm and Dennis Gibson at the Old Stone House.


Learning on the job

by Bethany M. Dunbar, August 25, 2011

Barton was styling for the first day of the Orleans County Fair on Wednesday, August 17.  It was the day of the Cadillac parade, and it must be said that Lorie Seadale and all the other volunteers should be feeling pretty proud of their accomplishments right now.

Great job.  It was a lovely day and brought lots of people to town who probably never would have found us without this wonderful event to bring them here.  We have already heard from some Cadillac aficionados who are planning to come back next year and bring all their friends.

A new Guinness Book of World Records for the longest Cadillac parade ever was set with 298 cars wending their way through town and into the fairgrounds.  It was something to see.

I made my first video ever.  You can see it at the Chronicle’s web site:  www.bartonchronicle.com.  I feel pretty happy about it considering I really didn’t know what I was doing.  So far I have learned absolutely everything I know about journalism on the job.

Oh, not everything.  I already knew how to type.

But when I first started selling stories to the Hardwick Gazette I was in high school.  I must have had some kind of camera because I remember buying some film to take a photo to go with my stories.

I went to college (first the University of Vermont and later Lyndon State College) with the idea firmly in mind that no one actually makes a living by writing, so I’d better have a back-up plan.  That was to teach, and therefore my degree is in education.

After a year of substitute teaching I found myself being drawn back magnetically to journalism.

My first day of work at the Chronicle, the owner and founder of the newspaper, Chris Braithwaite, showed me how to use a single-lens reflex camera and explained in some fairly deep detail the principles of how it works.  I didn’t understand much more than about half of his explanation, but that was enough.  Off I went to my first parade where I was shooting away in my glory, wondering why I wasn’t running out of film.  Turns out I had forgotten to put film in the camera.  Wait!  Parade, come back!


I didn’t get fired.

I tried again, and another time I got some nice photos, then learned how to use the darkroom to develop them.  I learned how to write a decent lead on an article, take notes quickly, listen for the good quotes, ask good questions and put it all into a format that someone might hopefully want to read.

I learned that you should basically never write in the first person.  News is objective.


As I write this I’m still not fired — stay tuned.

The first computers were awful things that constantly erased all your work for no apparent reason.  I learned that, and then along came digital cameras and another thing to learn.  Hey at least you can’t forget the film in these things.

But there is so much more that can go wrong.  The battery can die, you can run out of room on your memory card, start erasing photos and erase a photo by mistake.  I did that last week — you know who you are.  I’m sorry.  Thanks for coming back and doing it over.

Now we have the Internet, web sites, blogs, and video.  It’s fairly mind-boggling when you think about how much has changed in journalism.

Some things are the same, though.  A great parade is a great parade.  I hope you will take a look at my first video and send me a comment to tell me what you think.

At least I didn’t forget the film this time.

On sock drawers, Cadillac parades, and high milk prices

On sock drawers, Cadillac parades, and high milk prices

by Bethany M. Dunbar, July 28, 2011

My dog has figured out the significance of the sock drawer in his life.

Yesterday I was getting ready to take him for a walk and went upstairs to the bedroom to grab some socks, so I could put my sneakers on.  As soon as I put my hand on the drawer, Ullr, a 96-pound male yellow Lab, (two years old) began leaping around the room with joy.

I stood there with socks in hand wondering, what the heck has got into him?

Then it dawned on me (humans are slow sometimes) that I don’t wear my sneakers to work in the summer.  I wear sandals with no socks.  So if I’m reaching for socks, it means we are going for a walk.  Thus all that happiness and joy.

A walk in the morning is almost as joyful for me as it is for him.  I love seeing the young marsh hawks learning to fly, the deer tracks, and smelling new-mown hay.  The crickets have started chirping and the Orleans County Fair is only three weeks away.  Can’t believe it.

Tell everyone you know about the Cadillac parade at the fair August 17.  Bruce Springsteen is invited.  It’s going to be a hoot and a half.  If you are bringing a Cadillac, make sure to let Lorie Seadale at the Parson’s Corner restaurant know about it because she is trying to break a world record.  To see a You Tube video on it, look here:

This summer I have the best vegetable garden I’ve ever had.  The plants are bursting with life, and the garden is so full there’s barely room for me to get in between the veggie plants to weed them.

From my house I can hear one neighbor farmer mowing, and another one putting in hay.  These guys work all the time.  I saw a headline in Time magazine that caught my eye and generated a rather sharp reaction:

“Want to get rich?  Be a farmer.”

I have known one or two well-to-do farmers but haven’t known any who didn’t work their buttocks off to get there.  It’s true that there are corporate farms in other parts of the country that have milked the federal tax subsidies to the point to the point where they might just dry up.

The article talks about how food prices are rising and more of the world is buying food from the U.S.  True, but when did high food prices lead to more profits for farmers?  I have seen many times when high milk prices created high profits for processors of dairy products while the farmers still continued to struggle financially to pay the bills.

There are farmers making money, absolutely no question about it.  But to suggest farming in general as a way to get rich seems outrageous on its face.

Instead farming can be a way to be close to your land, family, and community and to be proud of the quality healthy food you are providing.  It can be rewarding in so many ways.

To illustrate my point I will post here a story I did about the milk prices, which are up, and Donna and Brad Gray.

We see Donna and Brad fairly often at the Chronicle because they come to the office to pick up our old newspapers.  They take them back to the farm and chop them up for bedding for the cows.

Really, truly, happy cows sleep comfortably on chopped up Chronicles. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

On another subject, if you get a chance, take a look at the Chronicle’s web site where I have posted an NEK Alumni Note about my former sister-in-law Heather Dunbar Kresser who has won yet another championship in Cowboy Action Shooting competitions.  A lot of people remember her as the first woman Game Warden in Vermont — just a few short years ago, right Heather?

Chickory catches the sun along the roadside in West Glover. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

Milk prices rise along with cost of production

by Bethany M. Dunbar, the Chronicle, June 22, 2011

Milk prices are higher than they have been for a long time, and one industry analyst says there’s a good chance they might remain on the high side.

It should be good news for dairy farmers who sell to the non-organic commercial market.

But their expenses have gone up drastically at the same time.  The average cost of production is still higher than the pay price.

And it has been a difficult spring as farmers struggled to get crops planted and make hay in the wet spring weather.

Economist Bob Wellington of Agri-Mark said in a telephone interview that a lot of the reason the milk price is higher is more exports.  About 15 percent of the dairy products made in the United States are being sold out of the country.  That’s higher than it has been for a long time, he said.  In 2007 the U.S. was exporting 13 to 14 percent, but exports dropped, and the milk price dropped too.

The milk price for non-organic dairy farmers is set by the federal government — the Milk Market Administrator.  It is established based on sales, and regional prices are adjusted around the country.  When the nation’s dairy farmers produce more than 2 percent over the amount consumed, the farm price often drops much more than 2 percent, Mr. Wellington said.

He said milk production in the United States in May was 1.5 percent higher than last year, based on indications from 23 major dairy states.  That increase is lower than the amount the population and market increases in general, which might mean the higher prices will hold.

According to a report from the Milk Market Administrator, the statistical uniform price of milk (an average price received by non-organic farmers in northern Vermont) was $19.94 for a hundred pounds, or $1.71 a gallon.  Organic Valley’s advertised average pay price for March 2011 was $27.80 for a hundred pounds or $2.39 a gallon.

According to the Economic Research Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average cost of milk production in Vermont is $24.57 a hundredweight or $2.11 a gallon.

“They need a profitable year,” said Mr. Wellington about the dairy farmers.  He said 2009 was farmers’ worst year ever.

In 2009 farmers got about 95 cents a gallon, about 50 cents less than the average cost of production.

Sometimes when the milk price goes up, farmers increase production too much too soon.

“Given feed prices and availability of feed, it’s going to be very difficult for that to happen,” Mr. Wellington said, especially with so much flooding in other parts of the country and around the world.

As of June 2011 Vermont has 993 cow dairies left, according to Kelly Loftus of the Agency of Agriculture.  Two years ago there were 1,100.

Demand from overseas is strong from several countries, Mr. Wellington said, including China, South America, New Zealand, Australia and even India, which is the largest milk producing country in the world but consumes more than it produces at this point.

“We need a way to manage it,” Mr. Wellington said.  There is a bill in front of Congress that would establish a supply management system of sorts — not exactly a Canadian quota plan, but a system that would discourage excess production with financial disincentives, so that it would not be worth making the surplus.

Organic farmers have a supply management system within their industry, and for a time the market required less production.  Existing farmers were restricted and new ones were not added.  But 2010 saw double-digit growth for the organic dairy market, according to Ed Maltby of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance.

At Gray’s Hilltop Farm in Charleston, Brad and Donna Gray are happy to be able to pay the bills this year, but they aren’t getting ahead or even caught back up from the devastating milk price situation of two years ago.

Some of their biggest expenses are grain and corn, which has gone up due to the use of ethanol for fuel, they said.

Mr. Maltby reported the price of feed corn is up by 36 percent.

Two of the Grays’ other main expenses are fuel for tractors and plastic for round hay bales.  Both are costing more, and prices are climbing.  Mr. Gray said he got a price locked in for $75 for one load of the plastic, which will wrap about 30 bales.  Since then the price has gone up to $90, which means it will cost $3 for plastic for each bale.

The Grays also make dry square bales.  They used to make all dry bales but found the food value was not as good and they had to buy feed.  Once they started making round bales and wrapping them they had plenty for their herd.

The Grays have 35 milkers, about 80 cows in all, and they ship milk to St. Albans Cooperative Creamery.  They were honored recently with an award for making exceptional quality milk, and their farm is a Dairy of Distinction, which means it’s been judged to be well-kept and beautiful.

Mr. Gray grew up on a farm.  When he went to Vietnam in 1972 for nine months he remembers calling home and telling his parents he wanted to come home and farm.

He did.  He married his high school sweetheart, Donna Limlaw, and the two raised two children there.  These days their 16-year-old grandson, Jordan, helps with the farm and thinks he might like to be a farmer.

“For a year he’s been milking with me,” said Mrs. Gray.  She said farming is not for everyone, but suits them.  Anyone thinking of going into it should think long and hard, she said.  They have never taken a vacation; they only leave the farm for day trips.

Donna and Brad Gray at their dairy farm, a Dairy of Distinction. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

NEK Alumni Notes is a feature about you



by Bethany M Dunbar, June 11, 2011

It’s summer time and the living is, well, hectic.  There’s something about the early sunrise and long gorgeous evenings that drives us to try to get even more done each day.

Although it’s not technically summer yet, it’s feeling a lot like it with close to 90 degree temperatures, wild hail and thunderstorms and lots of green leaves, bird songs, and fireflies at night.  My gosh things happen fast around here.

My vegetables garden is up.  I’ve planted lots of jalapeño pepper plants for my boyfriend Jim’s son Rob who built the terraces for us.  My daughter is all graduated from college and headed to San Francisco to research raptors.

It doesn’t seem very long ago that I was digging my mailbox out of what seemed an impossibly huge snowbank.

If you’re here you know what I’m talking about — the incredible speed at which spring has sprung and the world seems to be just bursting with life.  If you’re not, why not?  This is the time of year to come home or visit.

Whether you are here or not, I’m hoping you will take a look at a new feature on the Chronicle’s web site called NEK Alumni Notes.  It’s an idea I had some time ago and have just now put into place — a section of the site devoted to news and notes from all over by people who used to live here or visit often.  We already have posted a bunch and my hope is that it will do nothing but grow.

Where are you now?  What are you up to?  Do you have a good Kingdom story about your time here?  Are you looking for someone or wondering what ever happened to someone you knew here?  We can post notes from people just trying to reconnect too.  Post a note in the comment box on the site:  http://www.bartonchronicle.com, or post it here, or e-mail your note to me:  bethany@bartonchronicle.com.

You don’t have to graduate from anything, it’s just for fun.  For those who have sent me something already, thank you!  Some of it appeared in the newspaper this week.  The rest is on the site and I have a few others promised to me, coming soon.

Also on the site this week is an article about a new museum in town:  The Museum of Everyday Life.  Clare Dolan has started a museum in her barn in Glover.  Tena Starr wrote about it.  The first featured exhibit is matches, including a banjo made out of matches and glue, stained with coffee.  It’s completely amazing.

Joseph Gresser has started taking videos sometimes when he’s out covering the news.  He posted a video on the site this week of the North Country Union High School Pops Concert.  A row of boys singing in harmony about organic vegetables.  Priceless.

Take a look, let us know what you think.

Thanks again for all your contributions and feedback.

A penny for your thoughts….

We're listening....

by Bethany M. Dunbar, May 18, 2011

This was my first Wednesday of not delivering the Chronicle to stores in Orleans, Irasburg, Albany, Craftsbury, Hardwick and Greensboro.  Instead my plan is to spend part of the day each Wednesday — which is a down day for my editor job — working on getting more interest in the Chronicle’s web site www.bartonchronicle.com and selling some advertising there.

I’ve never sold much before, except for Labrador retriever puppies.  They are pretty easy to sell.  I kind of think this might be too.  People already love the Chronicle or maybe sometimes they hate it, but they definitely care about it.  I get a lot of feedback, and most recently a lot of it is from people online.

So my hope is that I can get people to care about the Chronicle’s web site too.  It can be a useful tool for us to connect with people in a different way — or at least we hope it will be.

We’ve started one part of this effort today.  We posted this week’s editorial about our in-depth, award-winning series on the abuse program called Safe Choices.  Included is a header we’re calling “a penny for your thoughts.”  This is to try to encourage people to give us feedback in the comment box.

If you haven’t looked at the Chronicle’s free web site for a while you might be surprised how much you will find there.  We post the week’s calendar events which includes ongoing information about galleries, libraries, museums, support groups and so on.

We put up all the obituaries and keep them there, so it’s a great resource for people looking into their family’s histories.

We have put up a pretty extended collection of archives, including the entire Safe Choices series and our coverage of the wind projects in the area, food venture feature stories, sports schedules, all our classifieds and everyone who bought a Who’s Who in business ad gets their few moments in the spotlight on the front page.

There are also lots of photos, a map of the Kingdom, Town Meeting reports, even recipes in the Chronicle Cupboard.

This is embarrassing, but I did not know until today that Jeannine Young’s recipe for Christmas Berry Mocha Fudge is on there!  Holy Cow!  Does that ever sound delicious.

I say “we” and I can just see Loudon Young with that look on his face, saying, okay, who’s we?  You and the mouse in your pocket?  That’s what he used to say to our founder and publisher Chris Braithwaite when he used the editorial “we.”

In this case it’s Joseph Gresser who put the web site together and adds stuff each week.  It’s pretty darn awesome already and pretty soon it’s going to be even cooler and more fun.

So how about it?  A penny for your thoughts?  Take a look and let us know what you think, or send us a recipe, or a story idea or tell us what you’d like to see on the site.  We just really want to hear from you.

Meanwhile, how about that green grass?  Now how about a little sunshine to go with it?  Is that too much to ask?

Make rash decisions when appropriate

Dan Breitmeyer (left) gives a tug on Furious Anger's pull start as fellow pilot Ron Dupcak looks on. The pull start, like the light bar on top, are purely decorative. The two men plan to drive the car from the Big Apple to the Big Easy — from New York to New Orleans — in the Baberally to raise money for the Glover Volunteer Fire Department. Photo by Richard Creaser

by Bethany M. Dunbar, May 3, 2011

This is a great time of year to make rash decisions.  So when I heard that two Glover firefighters had decided to drive from New York City to New Orleans in a $500 Ford car with no air conditioning, I thought, good for them.

It’s a fundraiser called Furious-Anger BABE rally.

Yes it’s a strange name.  When I got a Facebook request from the Glover librarian, Toni Eubanks, about this, I assumed she had been hacked.  Would I like to be friends with Furious-Anger BABE rally?  I don’t think so.

Then I ran into Toni and she explained it.  Okay, that’s a good story.  Intrepid Chronicle reporter Richard Creaser took it on and did a wonderful job (as usual) capturing the impulsive zeal of the two friends with spring fever getting ready to do something kind of crazy for a good cause.

Luckily, later in the week my horse Daisy did not decide to make a rash decision to walk over a non-existent fence and run away into the green grasses.  She is a good horse and she’s pretty used to her fence.

My neighbor moose came through in the night and the fence was down.  It’s only one strand of electric fence, which does a great job keeping the horse in but not such a great job keeping the moose out.

I wish the moose would just step or jump over it like the deer do.  But no.  They seem to feel obliged to drag a quarter of a mile of fence wire as far as they possibly can.  So there was Daisy, looking longingly at the delicious green grass from her muddy winter pasture while I frantically strung new wire.

About half way through I was pretty sure she had it figured out.  She looked at the place the fence had been and leaned forward and started running back and forth along the edge of it.  I began yelling and waving my arms.  This bought me a few minutes, and that turned out to be long enough to get the rest of the wire up.

Next week the grass in the summer pasture will be tall enough.  Over the weekend Jim and I fixed that fence, and this coming weekend I will let her in there.  She will run around like a crazy horse, and that will be fun to watch.  I will attempt to photograph the event.

But for now her spring fever is still living on dry old boring hay.

Visions of moose steak and stew are dancing in my head.  But I’ve never shot any living thing — and even though I’m slightly tempted to try for a moose permit, I’m more likely to make a less rash decision to just try to photograph them instead.

Here’s Richard’s story.  There’s lots more stories and photos etc. on the Chronicle’s web site when you get a chance.

Furious Anger is the 1992 Ford Festiva that Ron Dupcak (foreground) and Dan Breitmeyer plan to drive from New York City to New Orleans from June 6 to June 10. Photos by Richard Creaser

Big men in little car plan long trip to support Glover Fire Department, the Chronicle, April 20, 2011, by Richard Creaser

GLOVER —  Her name is Furious Anger but there is little that is overtly threatening about the 1992 Ford Festiva.  The name applies to the fire engine red color of her body.  This little car is expected to haul Ron Dupcak and Dan Breitmeyer at least 1,800 miles from Glover to Staten Island and onward to New Orleans starting on June 6.  Ideally it would run for twice that distance, getting the pair of Glover volunteer firefighters back home as well.

“I’m making sure I bring enough money for a plane ticket,” Mr. Breitmeyer admitted.

“We want the whole thing to come back, but at the very least we need to save the light bar and the stereo,” Mr. Dupcak added.

The men are participating in the Baberally rally car event.  The name notwithstanding, the rally has nothing to do with bikini carwashes.

“That’s been one of the hardest things to deal with,” Mr. Dupcak said.  “You tell people to check out the Baberally website and they’re like ‘Uh, no thanks.'”

Baberally is actually an acronym for Big Apple to Big Easy Rally.  It’s organized by Street Safari, an organization that operates road rallies in Europe.  This rally is not the usual get there as quick as you can race.  Rather it is a five-day photo scavenger hunt that carries the rally car teams across the country the short way.  Making it to the end is more important than making it there first.

Simply finishing a race doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment, no matter how many photos you take along the way.  Consider then that Furious Anger is one of the nicer looking cars in the race.  A condition of the race is that the cars must be 1996 or older, must be safe to operate and cannot have cost more than $500.

“I bought the car last August thinking I would just drive it around on my land,” Mr. Dupcak said.  “Then a friend of mine who was looking for a specific make and model of car saw baberally.com spray painted on the side of a car posted on e-Bay.  He decided to check out the website and then contacted me.”

What followed was a short conversation that led Mr. Dupcak to contact Mr. Breitmeyer.

“As soon as he said ‘car trip’ I said ‘shotgun,'” Mr. Breitmeyer recalls.  “I didn’t even really know what he was talking about.  I didn’t want this but….”

It seems that the phrase “I didn’t want this but…” frequently when Mr. Dupcak and Mr. Breitmeyer join forces.  The circumstances are often bizarre and difficult to explain, even though the outcomes are amusing, bordering on tragic.  Driving a $500 car to New Orleans and back is par for the course, Mr. Breitmeyer explained.

What makes this trip a little different from their norm is the fact that the men will be raising awareness of the service provided by firefighters and raising money for the Glover Volunteer Fire Department.  How that money is raised is entirely determined by whomever makes the pledge, Mr. Dupcak said.

“We’re open to pretty much anything,” he said.  “People can pledge by the number of miles we actually drive, by the number of stages we manage to complete, or whether or not we actually finish.  If people pledge money to have us drive with the heat on for three hours in Alabama, we’d be open to that too.”

In the event that Furious Anger does win a prize, her prize money will be donated back to the Glover Fire Department, Mr. Dupcak said.  The top prize for the race is $1,500, with a second prize of $350 and a third prize of $150.  All the funds raised through pledges will also go to the fire department, Mr. Dupcak said.  Though the men expect to incur expenses along the way for food and lodging as well as gas, they will bear those costs on their own.

“I think we have a good shot of winning,” Mr. Dupcak said.  “This car actually needed very little work to pass inspection.  Some work on the brakes and the E-brake and some bodywork and it’s good to go.”

Interestingly enough, inserting the stereo system appears to be the only concession to creature comfort in the car.  The stereo is of suitable vintage, though not factory equipment, Mr. Dupcak said.  Opening up the hatchback, he revealed that the speaker system takes up the entirety of the admittedly tiny cargo space.

“It’s loud and it’s probably excessive,” he said.  “But you need to have tunes.  When it’s going, the car doesn’t lose power, really, but the dashboard lights dim a little.”

Driving south in the heat of early summer is a complication the men have given some thought.  Though the 1992 Festiva comes factory equipped with air conditioning, Furious Anger’s AC is inoperable.

“We thought about fixing it, but decided it was probably against the spirit of the race,” Mr. Dupcak said.  “So our only rule is we must take showers.  I can just imagine crawling back in there every morning with the seats still soaked with sweat from the day before….”

“I might put something together to make a wind scoop to get air into the car,” Mr. Breitmeyer said.  “But it would probably slow us down.”

Given the length of the drive and the age of the car, roadside mechanic’s skills are expected to come in handy.  The car appears sound, Mr. Dupcak said.  If anything goes, it would be features such as the starter or alternator, he said.

“If we have duct tape, we’ll be fine,” Mr. Breitmeyer assured him.

Mr. Dupcak is the fountain of bubbling energy to Mr. Breitmeyer’s stony calm.  Their complementary demeanors will probably serve them well during the five days of the race, and likely five or six days back.

“I’m really glad to have Dan along for this,” Mr. Dupcak said.  “I wouldn’t want to do this with another me.”

Mr. Breitmeyer said that he would try to keep the folks back home updated about their progress south.  As the event is broken up into five stages, the men expect to have a nightly opportunity to post updates or pictures to Furious Anger’s Facebook profile, assuming they can find a wi-fi connection.

One thing the men do want to do is try to visit the local fire station in the town hosting the daily checkpoint.  Not only will it be their way to raise awareness of fire departments around the country, it will also be their chance to meet and bond with fellow firefighters.

“We might swap hats or T-shirts, and we’ll definitely try to get pictures for a scrapbook back here at the department,” Mr. Dupcak said.  “This rally is going to be a lot of fun and silliness for Dan and I, but we are also representing this department and firefighters everywhere, so we might need to tone own the hijinks.”

The hijinks might be toned down, but the image will remain of two tall men folding themselves like origami cranes into their tiny car.  Low to the ground and in close quarters, the men do not appear uncomfortable in spite of appearances.

“Yeah, it looks like a clown car and we probably would have a hard time picking up a fellow racer if they need a lift,” Mr. Dupcak conceded.  “But silliness is part of the attraction of the race to us and the people we’ve talked to.  I just hope people check out the website and decide to support the department however they want to.”

Donations or pledges to the Glover Volunteer Fire Department on behalf of Baberally can be made by contacting Mr. Dupcak or Mr. Breitmeyer via their Facebook page, by contacting the fire department directly, or via the Glover Town Clerk’s office.  For more information on the rally itself, check out http://www.baberally.com


Furious Anger crew

Furious Anger is the 1992 Ford Festiva that Ron Dupcak (foreground) and Dan Breitmeyer plan to drive from New York City to New Orleans from June 6 to June 10.  The men will compete in the Big Apple to Big Easy Baberally while raising money for the Glover Volunteer Fire Department.  Lacking in creature comforts such as a working air conditioner and even head room, Furious Anger comes equipped with a kickass stereo system that will help fuel the men to the Deep South and, hopefully, back again.  Photos by Richard Creaser

Furious Anger pullstart

Dan Breitmeyer (left) gives a tug on Furious Anger’s pull start as fellow pilot Ron Dupcak looks on.  The pull start, like the light bar on top, are purely decorative.  The two men plan to drive the car from the Big Apple to the Big Easy — from New York to New Orleans — in the Baberally to raise money for the Glover Volunteer Fire Department.  Photo by Richard Creaser

Chris Jacobs’ mirrors reflect an eye for natural things

by Bethany M. Dunbar, April 17, 2011

Chris Jacobs of Albany shows off one of his mirrors. The knot holes on the top each have a small mirror under them. Photos by Bethany M. Dunbar

Every so often I get a chance to interview an artist or craftsman with something really spectacular to offer.  They’re tucked away in so many corners of the Northeast Kingdom.  A fun part of my job is finding them to get a story for the paper.

In this case, I’ve known Chris Jacobs for quite some time as a school board member and selectman in Albany.  I was vaguely aware that he was a builder.  I didn’t know until recently (discovered through facebook) that he makes incredible, beautiful, one-of-a-kind framed mirrors out of wood with natural edges.  They aren’t exactly rough edges because they are polished and finished.  Maybe we can say the element of roughness around the edges is completely intact.

Posted here is my interview with Chris.  Let me know if you have a lead for me on a similar artist or craft person making something unusual out there.

The weather is acting like April.  My neighbor is boiling maple sap — I can see the steam from the window.  There is still snow but a LOT less than there was last week.  I heard the mating sound of the snipes, described in one bird book as huhuhuhuhuhu.  It’s when they go high into the air and spin downward, making this noise with their tails.  I’ve seen robins and snowdrop crocuses.

We’re getting there!  Spring in Vermont takes its time, but BOY do we appreciate it when it finally arrives.

Chris Jacobs creates eye-catching mirror frames, the Chronicle, March 16, 2011

by Bethany M. Dunbar

ALBANY — Chris Jacobs is a builder, and he likes to build structures that have an interesting look.  His house and shop are examples, and he has a photo album with more examples — homes built into a side hill, homes with angles, brackets, turrets, round windows and windows that look like collages of glass.

More recently he has turned his creative eye towards building mirror frames.  The result is striking —mirrors surrounded by wood in rich colors and shapes with rough edges created by the tree itself.  The types of wood include cherry, apple, spalted maple, and hop hornbeam — all hardwood.

He calls the rough edge a live edge.

It starts with a live tree.

“I’ll see a tree and say, wow, that looks interesting,” he said.  “I want a tree that isn’t straight.”

He said once he has found that crooked tree, he cuts it down and gets it sawn out into boards.  Then the boards must sit for two years to dry out.  Sometimes they warp slightly.  The warp and the shape determines how large a piece he can cut that will be flat.

“The wood starts off to a certain extent determining the size of it.”

Mr. Jacobs calls his mirror business Reflections in Wood.  He sells mirrors at a few craft shows including Antiques and Uniques in Craftsbury.  A couple of mirrors are up at the Art House in Craftsbury Common.  They are also for sale at the Grand Isle Craft Store.  There will also be some at the Miller’s Thumb in Greensboro.  He has a web site and a facebook page.

One of the first mirrors he built was for his son as a wedding present.  It was about 20 inches by five feet.  His son told him he ought to build more and sell them.

Mr. Jacobs was born near Boston, Massachusetts, and lived in Maryland for a time before going into the Army and serving in Korea.  He came home and lived in Boston again, then Connecticut, where he worked for Pratt and Whitney aircraft as a test technician.

He has always enjoying building and creating things and started a business in Connecticut called Antique Forgery.  It started with an old iron toaster he repaired in such a way it looked very much like the original antique piece.  He did a lot of making second andirons for people with old houses.  He got to know some of the dealers pretty well.  Once he was showing a dealer his work, and the dealer told Mr. Jacobs he scared him because he couldn’t tell the difference between the original real piece and the copy.

Mr. Jacobs told the dealer he always put a mark on his own work.

The area where he lived in Connecticut began to get developed much more, and he decided to move to Maine where he lived for eight years.

His wife’s, Sharon’s, parents lived in New Zealand.  With children it became difficult and cost-prohibitive to travel there for a short time, so the Jacobs family decided to pack up and move instead of making a short visit.

And even though they enjoyed their time in New Zealand very much, eventually they found their way back here.  Even Sharon Jacob’s parents moved back to the United States at the same time.

The Jacobs family has been in Albany for many years now.  Mr. Jacobs served his town for four years on the school board and seven or eight years as a selectman.

He enjoys serving the town despite the occasional controversy.

“My naive perspective on the thing is that you’re supposed to be working for the people,” he said.

He said he was glad to be helping on the town clerk’s office and fire station plans in order to make sure they were done right.

These are some more example of Mr. Jacobs mirrors.

Mr. Jacobs has an album showing some of the homes and projects he has built.

Snow and a raffle

by Bethany M. Dunbar, April 10, 2011

Hi folks.  The snow is still here, but it’s predicted to be 80 degrees tomorrow.  So guess what?  It can’t last. We are seeing robins and redwing blackbirds, snowdrop crocuses are out, and geese are heard honking their way back north to us.

First of all, sorry for not posting for so long.  I’ve been working on a book which is expected out here in Vermont in June.  It will be called Kingdom’s Bounty and those of you who have been reading Vermont Feature all along will recognize some of the people and places in this book.  It’s a guidebook about farmers and food in the Northeast Kingdom and I can’t wait.  It’s my first book and incredibly exciting.

I will keep you posted.  We plan a summer signing tour and photo show.  My publisher is Nan Richardson of Umbrage Editions, who lives in Brooklyn — and Barton part of the year.

Meanwhile I wanted to post something this week about a story I did for the Chronicle that should have an even wider audience if it possibly can.  So please, repost this, share it, tell your friends, whatever you have to do to get the word out about David Wieselmann.

His friend Julie Poulin and he are holding a raffle to raise money to get him to a therapy program and get him a piece of equipment that could help him walk again.  He was injured in a mountain bike accident last year.  If he was a wealthy man, he’d already have the equipment and therapy he needs.  Seems to me a story about yet another failure of our health care system thank you very much.

He doesn’t have time to wait for the politics to get straightened out so everyone gets the coverage they need.  He needs this right away because the first year of this particular type of injury is critical.

Julie sent me an e-mail after the story came out in the paper to say the story was really helpful, but they still have about 85 tickets to sell.  So if anyone out there is interested in taking a chance on a guy who could really use a little help here, please check it out: www.giveforward.com/helpdavidwalkagain

The drawing was supposed to happen this week, but it’s postponed for three weeks to try to sell the rest of the tickets.

Here’s the story, with updated information about the drawing:

Raffle benefit could help injured man walk again

David Wieselmann, hurt in a mountain bike accident in June, is determined to walk again. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

by Bethany M. Dunbar, the Chronicle, March 30, 2011

ST. JOHNSBURY — David Wieselmann is determined.  But time is short.

Mr. Wieselmann hurt himself in a mountain bike accident nine months ago, and his legs are paralyzed.  There’s a chance he could walk again if he can gain access to an $18,000 piece of equipment and physical therapy that has proven effective in helping people with spinal cord injuries walk again.

“The first year of this injury is pretty critical, and exercise is the key,” Mr. Wieselmann said.

The first year is up in June.  In order to try to raise enough money to buy the equipment, his friend Julie Poulin — an equally determined human being if not even more so — started a raffle with some major prizes.  Top prize is a $5,000 Visa card.  Other prizes include a season pass at Burke Mountain, a two-night ski and stay package at the Tram House Lodge at Jay Peak, individual and family passes from Kingdom Trails, and a long list of other smaller prizes.

The drawing for this raffle will be held at Trout River Brewing Co. in Lyndonville on April 29 at 7 p.m.  Tickets are $100 apiece or a split ticket is available for $50.  Only 300 will be sold.

The goal is to raise $30,000.  Of that, $18,000 will be for the functional electrical stimulation (FES) bicycle, and the remainder will be for therapy at a center called Journey Forward near Boston, Massachusetts.  The founder of the program was hurt in a swimming accident in the year 2000 and could not even breathe on his own, to say nothing of walking.  But after years of therapy he got to a point where he could not only breathe, he could also use his hands again and he can walk.

“He walked a mile to raise money for Journey Forward,” Mr. Wieselmann said.

A key to the therapy is making the muscles that are not getting any activity in a wheelchair active again so they don’t atrophy.  Weight-bearing exercises are used, and the legs of the paralyzed person are forced to move and stimulated with electricity.

Mr. Wieselmann got a chance to try out the equipment, called an FES bike, for one day at the facility in Boston and he knew immediately that it was extremely helpful.

“It was the first really good aerobic workout since my accident,” he said.  His heart rate got up, he worked up a sweat, and the blood got flowing even in his legs.  They felt warm; he felt good.

Even in cases where this therapy doesn’t get someone walking again, it is helpful for the person’s health in lots of ways.  There are lots of side effects of paralysis that can be minimized with this therapy.  Among them:  osteoporosis, muscle calcification, skin problems, and blood pressure problems.  Mr. Wieselmann has already had trouble with low blood pressure as his heart tries to pump blood into his inactive lower body.

Before he was hurt, Mr. Wieselmann lived to ski, mountain bike, and kayak.  Every Tuesday he used to ride his bike from St. Johnsbury to Morgan, kayak around Seymour Lake, and then back to St. Johnsbury.

“I just love exercise,” he said.  Now he gets physical therapy three days a week but the therapist is not set up with the FES bike.

“There’s none of these in Vermont,” he said.

He got a chance to get on his feet and bear some weight with help from a trainer at Total Fitness in Lyndonville, who rigged up a painter’s harness.

His family has a camp in Morgan, and Julie Poulin and her family were their neighbors.  They met at the Tamarack Grill at Burke Mountain where Mr. Wieselmann used to work as a waiter and have been friends ever since.

“It’s my favorite place on the planet,” said Mr. Wieselmann about Seymour Lake.

Mr. Wieselmann’s mother was born in Vermont and her family has been here since the late 1800s.  She went to the University of Vermont.

Mr. Wieselmann was born in Colorado and started skiing when he was three years old.  He went to college in San Francisco and lived there until six years ago and studied film and broadcasting.

All the time he was living other places he was thinking about skiing.  When he came to Vermont he realized if he lived here he could ski every day if he worked at Burke.

Once he broke his collarbone during the ski season, but even that didn’t stop him.

“I stopped for a week and snowshoed every day,” he said, but after the first week he skied with a sling.

The accident happened when he was mountain biking with friends and hit some soft ground.  His front wheel sunk into it, and he went over the top of the bike.  He was wearing a helmet.  His head hit the ground.  He remembers everything.  He got up and then collapsed.  The break was just below his shoulder blades.

Since then he has been researching possible therapies.  Christopher Reeve, who played Superman in a movie and hurt himself in a horseback riding incident, started a foundation that has made huge strides in spinal cord injury research, Mr. Wieselmann said.

“As cheesy ball as it sounds, he really was Superman for this cause,” Mr. Wieselmann said.

If he raises enough money to buy the FES bike, Mr. Wieselmann said he would be willing to let others in the area use it when he is not using it.  It’s useful for stroke victims as well as victims of spinal cord injuries, he said.

Ms. Poulin said there are still a lot of tickets left to sell to raise the money needed.  She has been running spots on the radio and planned to sell tickets at a beach party at Jay Peak.

“This is it.  It has to work,” said.  She said her pitch to the beach party will be:  “You could leave here today and know that you’ve changed someone’s life forever.”

Raffle tickets are available at Poulin Lumber in Derby, Rowe Designs and Custom Framing in Newport, Ben’s Bootcamp in Derby and Lyndonville, Trout River Brewing Company in Lyndonville, the Boxcar and Caboose Bookshop and Café in St. Johnsbury, and Eastern Main Market and Deli in St. Johnsbury.

The tickets are also available online with a credit card at http://www.giveforward.com under “Help David Walk Again.”

For more information about the therapy program, look at http://www.journey-forward.org.

Beside the top three prizes mentioned above, prizes are being donated by East Burke Sports, Village Sports Shop in Lyndonville, the River Garden Café in East Burke, Green Mountain Books and Prints in Lyndonville, Ben’s Bootcamp and Edgewater Creations jewelry in Newport.

RedHouse and the Long Trail

Chris Doncaster, Travis LeBlanc and Mark Fortin are RedHouse. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

by Bethany M. Dunbar, September 7, 2010

Happy Birthday to Mark Fortin of RedHouse, a band I just wrote about for the Chronicle. I will post the article here and just want to add that this is a young band with lots of potential.  They don’t play their own original music as much as they should — at least it didn’t seem that way at the Barton fair where I heard them recently.  These guys are loaded with talent.

Through the magic of facebook I realized today’s is Mark’s birthday and a good day to post this article.

I also wanted to mention today that I just rejoined the Green Mountain Club.  I’m not a joiner.  In most cases I stay out of things because I might need to write about these subjects and should at least try to remain neutral.

But there are a few subjects where I have given up all semblance of objectivity — mostly Vermont’s cows and mountains.  I love them too much to pretend I don’t.

I used to be a member of the Green Mountain Club and as it happens I had let that membership slip.  But hiking the Long Trail is just one of the purest joys that exists on the planet and I am always supportive in my heart even if some years my purse has been a bit empty to maintain the membership.

Recently we wrote about the fact that the Green Mountain Club has applied for party status in the Public Service Board’s case for wind towers on the Lowell Mountains.  I grew up underneath those mountains in Craftsbury and hiked around them when I went for a three-week short course at Sterling College back when I was in high school.  It’s a favorite part of the Long Trail for me just across from the Lowell Mountains simply because it’s so close by.

We all want better sources for electricity, but our options are just not this limited.  The fall quarterly publication of the Green Mountain Club has an article that puts the whole thing in perspective quite well.  You can check it out at https://www.greenmountainclub.org/news.php?id=146

Yes, I know.  It’s Tuesday, time to go make another Chronicle.  Hope you all had a wonderful Labor Day weekend.  The header shot of fall leaves this week is one I took on August 31.  Enjoy.  We all know what’s coming.

RedHouse rocks the fairgrounds

by Bethany M. Dunbar, the Chronicle, September 1, 2010

BARTON — For those who wish to rock, try RedHouse.

The band is young but plays music from their parents’ time as if it was their own.  In fact it is.  They grew up with it, play it well, and have created their own songs with the passion and energy of the bands created by people their age in decades long gone by.

RedHouse has produced a CD of original music called Midnight Train which features classic rock style songs, along with jazz and blues.

RedHouse rocked the Orleans County Fair this year.  The band played after the extreme tractor pulls on Saturday night, August 21, in the beer tent.  A well-known cover band at area bars, RedHouse is a dance band.  People started dancing in the damp grass under the tent about as soon as the band started and kept going well into the night.

Mark Fortin is the guitar player, Chris Doncaster plays bass, and Travis LeBlanc is the drummer.  Mr. Fortin and Mr. LeBlanc both sing.

The band started out with Bachman Turner Overdrive’s “Taking Care of Business” and went on to play Led Zeppelin, “Mustang Sally,” and “Old Time Rock and Roll” by Bob Seger, among many others.

RedHouse plays often at Jasper’s in Newport and has played at Higher Ground and Nectar’s in the Burlington area, Malarkey’s in Morrisville, private parties, and other venues.

In a telephone interview Monday morning Mark Fortin said the band has been together about a year and a half and gets about two or three gigs a week.

Chris Doncaster is the best bass player Mr. Fortin has ever played with, he said, including time he spent in Nashville when he was playing guitar for Wayne Warner’s band.  Mr. Doncaster has a degree from Johnson State College in jazz performance.

The band got its name from the little red house on Mr. Doncaster’s family farm where they started jamming together.  Mr. Doncaster is a dairy farmer when he’s not a bass player.

Mr. Fortin went to the Berklee College of Music in Boston  for two years.  He is a carpenter with his father when he’s not making music.  He drove trains for a time but that work took him away from home nights and weekends.  It was a job he liked and had great benefits.  He said he expects he will get back to it eventually for that reason.  But for now he has some flexibility to make music and is taking advantage of that.

Mr. Fortin had written most of the original songs when he got together with Mr. Doncaster and Mr. LeBlanc, who has also studied music at Johnson State College.  The three of them put the songs together and made them into what they are now.

The original music seems to go over well when they play it at bars and other events, Mr. Fortin said.  People keep dancing just as they do with cover songs.  The songs have also got some air time on Burlington radio stations WBKM and WIZN.

Mr. Fortin clearly loves playing the guitar and is good at it.  He started singing more recently and discovered that he enjoys that aspect of performing as well.

Travis LeBlanc does some of the singing for RedHouse, and sometimes the two sing in harmony.

RedHouse plays the songs they play because the band members find much of today’s popular music boring.

“It’s just all a mass-marketed flavor of the month,” said Mr. Fortin.  He said it has no spunk and no originality.

The rock musicians of the past were thinking less about marketing and more about the message, their passion and their music.

“They put a little more of their soul into it,” he said.

“Music is a gift.  We try to do some positive things with it.  Try to give back where you can,” he said.