monarch butterfly chrysalises
Two chrysalises housing monarch pupa

Vermont Woods Studios Prepares Monarchs for Take-off

On a beautiful day straddling the line between August and September, we huddled on the deck of Vermont Woods Studios at our Stonehurst property. Five adults and two children all gazing in mirrored excitement at the progress of our monarch caterpillars as they forge their ways into butterfly-hood.

“I’m going to name him Jeff!” One of the young boys informed the group as Peggy Farabaugh, the CEO of Vermont Woods Studios and head caterpillar-rearer, gently scooped up two prized caterpillars and secured them safely in a jar for the boys to bring to their grandmother’s.

It has been two weeks since the arrival of the caterpillar babies (or larva) and already they are well on their way to adulthood. However, their transformation is far more magical than that of any other aging process. They came to us as tiny creatures no bigger than a grain of rice and have rapidly transformed into vibrant, two inched beauties that scuttle about their mesh hamper confinement eating milkweed and maturing with natural grace.

It is marvelous to watch the caterpillars inch their way to the top of the hamper and methodically suspend themselves upside down in a J shape. This is a signal to the world that the caterpillars are ready to enter the pupa or chrysalis stage of life. The caterpillars work tirelessly in this J-shape to molt their skin and transform their outer appearance into the grass green, gold speckled chrysalis.

“I wonder what they’re doing in there all the time.” Peggy mused, affectionately grooming the caterpillar habitat. The allure of mystery gripped us all as we watched the beautiful chrysalises hang, cautiously enveloping the transforming caterpillar.

In about two weeks the chrysalises will have turned black and the monarch butterfly will be ready to emerge with damp, fledgling wings. In the short span of two hours, the monarch’s wings will dry and it will be lusting for flight. Thus our babies will leave us and safety of the Stonehurst deck.

However, it won’t be a sad day, for on this day we will have reached our goal. With the help of Orley R.  “Chip” Taylor, founder of the Monarch Watch program at the University of Kansas, we will have completed cycle one of the Monarch Restoration project. The Vermont Woods Studios company developed an objective: to help restore the monarch population. Success is heavily contingent on three pillars: milkweed restoration, healthy, migration-ready monarchs and continued research.

Last October and November, Peggy and the Vermont Woods Studios staff went out in search of milkweed. Pods gathered along route 142 were brought back to the studio where seeds were harvested and packaged for distribution.

Seeds were distributed to local gardeners and nature enthusiasts, clients and planted on the Stonehurst property. 1 in 100 milkweed seeds strewn across the earth will produce a plant. Because of these small odds, we chose to carefully plant 80 seeds on the Stonehurst property yielding 80 viable milkweed plants.

Along with learning the importance of carefully planting the milkweed seeds, the Vermont Woods Studios staff have also developed important information for rearing monarch caterpillars:

  • Whenever it is possible, raise the caterpillars in a terrarium
  • Do not allow direct sunlight to hit the terrarium
  • Monarch caterpillars grow quickly and this process can be messy, so cleaning the terrarium frequently is a must
monarch caterpillar on milkweed
One of our monarch caterpillars getting ready to transition into a chrysalis

Once our monarchs are ready for flight, we have one last piece of the puzzle to put in place before we can call the project a success. Chip founded Monarch Watch in 1992 and has been studying monarch migration since 2005. The eastern monarchs born at the end of the summer months have the innate task of migrating to Mexico. This migration will take four generations of monarchs.

Our Stonehurst monarchs will fly just a portion of the way and then stop to lay eggs and die as the new babies begin the growing process and mature to fly their portion of the trip. This process will repeat until the final generation sails over sunny Mexico and makes themselves comfortable for eight to nine months when the United States is again habitable for the return of the monarchs.

How did people come to have such intimate detail about the migration pattern of these tireless creatures? The answer to this is evolving through research, which brings us to the final stage of the project: tagging the monarchs.

Before our monarchs take flight, we will place a small, adhesive tag, provided by Chip and his team on the wings of our monarchs. These tags will signal researchers to know where the monarchs came from and provide other valuable research that will continue to help rehabilitate the monarch population.

As we stand on the deck, without a chill in the air and watch the chrysalises form, we know the journey our caterpillars have before them. We discuss tagging the butterflies with nervous laughter, none of us having ever done it before; but were willing to try because we know that it is one key step in encouraging the comeback of these magical creatures.

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Hubbardton Forge is lighting up our showroom at Vermont's newest fine furniture and home decor gallery.
Hubbardton Forge lamps are lighting up our showroom!  I snapped this photo today.  From left to right:  the floor lamp is the Almost Infinity, the Simple Lines Table Lamp is in the middle and on the right is the Metra Quad Table Lamp.  What is it in the design of these Vermont made lamps and furniture that ties them together?

Things That Go Together

  • Peanut butter & jelly
  • Macaroni & cheese
  • Peas & carrots
  • Hand & glove
  • Movies & popcorn
  • Christmas and snow
  • Beauty & the beast
  • Yin & yang
  • Bogie & Bacall
  • Thing One & Thing Two
  • and…

Vermont Style Furniture & Hubbardton Forge Lamps

The Hubbardton Forge Fullered Impressions Table Lamp
The Hubbardton Forge Fullered Impressions Table Lamp is paired here with our Natural Vermont Spindle Bed and a Bow Front night stand.

OK, maybe it’s not your classic go-to for perfect pairs but we think they’re a pretty natural combination.  Over the last 2 years we’ve been putting different home decor designs together at Stonehurst, our fine furniture showroom.  I think our best combination is the marriage of Vermont’s handmade wooden furniture and Hubbardton Forge’s hand-forged lamps.  Customers agree!  So we just added a wide selection of Hubbardton Forge table lamps, floor lamps and chandeliers to the home decor section of our website.  Here are some of the most popular lamps that customers are pairing with our Vermont made furniture:

Floor Lamps

Hubbardton Forge floor lamps

Table Lamps

Hubbardton Forge Table Lamps

Chandeliers

Chandeliers by Hubbardton Forge

 

Have a look at additional Vermont made furniture and Hubbardton Forge lighting combinations on our website and tell us which ones you like best on Facebook.

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

A monarch butterfly waystation in Vernon, VT.
Last Fall we harvested milkweed seeds on a property Vernon, VT.  Owner David Berrie (of David Berrie Real Estate) has been very kind and supportive of our work to help save the monarch butterfly and we extend our thanks!  We planted the milkweed seeds this Spring and many of the plants are now thriving in gardens around town.  Now it’s time to put them to work, hosting monarch caterpillars as they metamorphose into butterflies.

Vernon: A Gateway Into Vermont

The little village of Vernon, Vermont that houses Vermont Woods Studios is in the very southeastern corner of our state.  It’s an entry point for monarch butterflies migrating North from their wintering grounds in Mexico.  We’ve written earlier about the plight of the monarch and the fact that it’s on the brink of extinction due to the pervasive use of the herbicide RoundUp.  But residents of Vernon are not inclined to sit idly by and watch this iconic butterfly disappear.

Team Monarch

Monarch Butterfly Party | Vermont Woods Studios
Monarch Butterfly Party | Vermont Woods Studios

In June, a group of nature lovers got together on the back deck of Vermont Woods Studios and shared milkweed seeds and plants (milkweed is the monarch’s only food source and the use of RoundUp has nearly eliminated it from today’s landscape).  We are planting milkweed in our gardens and backyards with the goal of providing habitat that will bring monarchs back to Vermont.  If you’d like to join us please let me know.  I have plenty of milkweed seeds and plants for anyone who would like to plant them.

Foster A Monarch Caterpillar

A baby monarch caterpillar

I also have 20 tiny little monarch caterpillars who are looking for foster parents willing to rear them.  Would you like to be a foster parent for a monarch?  Many of you will remember Carol Richardson who introduced Vernon’s kindergarteners to monarch rearing every Fall for many years.  What a wonderful teacher she was!  In those days Monarchs were abundant and Carol would bring several caterpillars into the classroom in late August/early September.  The kids would watch them transform from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly over the span of a couple weeks.

Monarch Watch Waystations

That was only 15 years ago but now there are no caterpillars to be found.  What nature invested 50 million years of evolution into, man has nearly wiped out in less than 2 decades.  But there’s still hope!  At Vermont Woods Studios we connected with Dr. Chip Taylor at the University of Kansas.  Dr. Taylor has created MonarchWatch, an organization that’s dedicated to bringing the beautiful orange and black butterfly back from the brink of extinction.

Dr Taylor sent us a couple dozen tiny caterpillars to raise in our community.  Stop by the old Pine Top Ski area, now Stonehurst at Vermont Woods Studios at 538 Huckle Hill Rd to pick up a couple caterpillars if you’d like to help bring this species back.  Follow our work on Facebook, Twitter and email (peggy@VermontWoodsStudios.com).

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Shaker furniture is on sale today.  Learn about it's origins and see how it's made.
Our Shaker furniture sale is going on today!  Do you know where this timeless and enduring furniture comes from?  Take our quiz below and then come visit us at Stonehurst to appreciate Shaker style up close and personal.

In honor of our current Shaker furniture sale, I thought we should highlight a little history about the people who developed this beautiful, simple and elegant style.  Their creation is timeless and enduring & it continues to be one of the most popular fashions in the furniture market today.

I bet you already know a bit of history about the Shakers.  Test your knowledge by filling in the blanks below:

  1. The term Shakers is derived from the Shaking __________, a small, radical group from England who first came to America in 1774, led by the prophet Ann Lee.
  2. Today there is only one active Shaker community, with three members, who live on _______________ Lake in the state of _____________.
  3. ______________  was a part of Shaker orthodoxy, so Believers had no choice but to recruit people from the outside world to prevent their communities from dying out.
  4. Early Shaker furniture makers focused on simplicity in their designs because they believed that excessive ornamentation or decoration was a sin of _________.
  5. The Shakers were among the first in America to try mass production. Unlike the Amish, the Shakers embraced technology that increased ____________, believing that they were saving time that belonged to God.

How did you do?  Check your answers with the key below:

  1. Quakers
  2. Sabbathday Lake in Maine
  3. Celibacy
  4. Pride
  5. Efficiency

Of course this beautiful style can’t be fully appreciated in photos, so make plans to come visit us at Stonehurst and shop our Shaker furniture sale today!

 

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

huffington-post

 

Today’s Huffington Post features an article about Vermont Woods Studios by our favorite journalist and champion of women in business, Laura Dunn.  The article is part of a series spotlighting the contributions of a diverse spectrum of women leading commercial businesses, academic institutions, media outlets, governments and non-profits.  We are infinitely grateful to Laura for including me and Vermont Woods Studios in her line-up of famous and not so famous people who are working to change the world.

 

In addition to writing for the Huffington Post, Politico and The Daily Beast, Laura has her own successful blog, Political Style, which discusses politics, fashion and culture.  Although she hails from across the pond, Laura interned in the US House of Representatives for Rep. Patrick J Kennedy and has worked on many election campaigns.  She currently works for an Assembly Member at the National Assembly for Wales.  Her feature on Vermont Woods Studios explores why we started the company and highlights the green mission that holds us together through thick and thin.

I want to take this opportunity to shout out a word of thanks to our customers, employees and other partners who have made Vermont Woods Studios successful over our 10 year existence.  You are the real heroes — the ones who are fueling the movement and making our sustainable furniture business possible.  We are deeply grateful.

 

 

 

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.