She is a CEO who brakes for salamanders, has bottle-fed rescued squirrels and spent her vacation building furniture for a rural school in Costa Rica. She believes in the future and in the people who will build it. A former distance-learning professor at Tulane University with a master’s in environmental health & safety, she turned an interest in forest conservation and endangered species into a growing, local business. She delivers rainforest statistics at breakneck speed, but knows how to slow down and appreciate the beauty of a newly finished piece of heirloom furniture.
When customers asked us to start carrying outdoor furniture naturally we searched for a real wood product. However, while there are weather resistant species such as cedar, teak, eucalyptus and redwood that make fine outdoor furniture, we still worried about the longevity of the furniture, maintenance, and the environmental impact. Forest conservation is at the heart of our mission at Vermont Woods Studios and is a key factor in our decision making process. While researching high end outdoor wood furniture we discovered recycled plastic lumber (RPL) made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Also know as Poly-Wood, it looks like real wood & has the heavy weight of real wood plus it’s durable, versatile and environmentally friendly.
White, Black, Blue + Many Colors & NO Painting or Scraping
If you want colors, you’ll have to paint wood furniture and re-paint it over the years. But with Poly-Wood the color is evenly mixed throughout the RPL boards so when scratches occur, they rarely show. No painting, oiling or maintenance is required other than simply washing with water. Poly-Wood tolerates harsh weather such as rain, snow, ice, and salt water and unlike wood it’s insect, mold & mildew-proof.
I love the quality and style of POLYWOOD furniture and the fact that it’s American made. But I have to confess, the biggest reason we chose this recycled plastic outdoor furniture is the environmental aspect. We are a company that works to raise awareness about where your furniture comes from. So how cool is it that with POLYWOOD our customers are not just helping to save trees in the rainforest, they’re also taking waste out of the waste stream and keeping it out of our landfills?
Pine Top fans: Throwback Thursday TBT brings another treat to revive your memories of the good ol’ days in South Vernon, Vermont. Last Thursday we posted Part 1 of Sandy Stoddard’s memories and today we bring Part 2. Enjoy!
At Pine Top, Pelley Hill was a beginner/novice slope and the first to be opened with a rop tow
The second rope tow provided access later to Tobey Slope (intermediate) and then also to Stoddards’ Run, when it was added a few years later
Romey also designed and built a very unique portable “tiny tot” rope tow, possibly first of its kind. It was operated on the gentle grade below the “old” warming hut in the direction of the base of Pelley Hill. Romey also very generously took it into Brattleboro periodically, setting it up at Memorial Park on the west side of town for use by the children of Brattleboro
One summer, when I was working for the Racines at Stonehurst, I was responsible for tearing down the historic old barn on the property, slate by slate, board by board
Romey built the “new” warming hut above Pelley Hill to better accommodate the ski crowds. The “old” hut was still used occasionally to serve house guests bowls of fresh snow with heated Vermont maple syrup
Elsie had a large collection of bells, which were traditionally rung by house guests on the front and side porches to bid other guests farewell, as they drove down the hill
There was an old swimming hole, behind a small dam, which was reached by walking along a narrow dirt road that started next to the foot of Stoddard Run and the tow house for Tobey Slope
That same rough road lead to a small dump site. I learned to drive a 1947 pickup truck as a 14 year old and periodically made dump runs
Summer guests used to gather on the front lawn to play croquet and there was a cement shuffle board court close to the driveway entrance
Mr. Marsden, who was a farmer living up the road, used Stonehurst property in summertime for grazing his cows. I was responsible for their care and feeding
Romey supplemented their revenue from Pine Top/Stonehurst by being the Town Road Commissioner for Vernon
Elsie often helped out at the town library
Along with these notes was a reference to Rich Racine, Elsie and Romey’s nephew. I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to connect with Rich. Anybody know home I might reach him? Give us a call or join us on Facebook if you do. Thanks!
I haven’t had the time I’d like to understand all the history of Stonehurst (aka Pine Top), but every now and then something pops up to add another piece to the puzzle. Recently Dennis has been chatting back and forth with Jeremy Davis, author of “Lost Ski Areas of Southern Vermont“. In researching his book, Jeremy connected with a number of people who grew up skiing at Pine Top. One of those people was Sandy Stoddard who offered these fond memories:
I am writing to add information on a wonderful old ski area, Pine Top, which was located in South Vernon, VT, about ten miles south of Brattleboro, close to the tri-state corner (MA, NH & VT). Your great website was brought to my attention by a cousin, Jack Stoddard, who lives in Connecticut. I currently live in Santa Rosa, CA, but I was raised in the Northeast and have very strong family and emotional ties to Pine Top (and its summer/winter lodging name, Stonehurst.) The Stonehurst farm house was built in the 1700s, and it was purchased in the early 1940s by Oliver & Elsie Racine. Oliver (nicknamed Romey) was a business associate of my grandfather, Howard W. Stoddard, in Northern New Jersey. Romey and Elsie became tired of the Metropolitan New York area, and decided during WW II to move north to rural Vermont (Romey was originally French-Canadian and was born in Quebec, just across the border from Vermont). They were in their 40s, when they took possession of the old farmhouse, barn and about 100 acres of rolling countryside, which sat above the Connecticut River Valley.
Romey was a wonderfully ingenious handyman, who could do absolutely amazing things with his mind and hands. He renovated the house and the immediate surrounding property, with plans to open the place as a small inn. Elsie was the gracious hostess, who ran the house and the kitchen, with the help of several local gals (Marge Cotter and Barbara Moseley). They opened the lodging in the mid-40s, and among the first guests were my grandparents, Howard & Edna Stoddard, my parents, Don & Molly Stoddard, and my uncle and Aunt, Vinnie and Jane Stoddard.
Romey then began to clear the surrounding hills to create the future Pine Top’s ski slopes. He did much of the clearing of the trees and brush himself, with some local help, and with some summertime help from my dad and uncle. The first two slopes he created were Pelley Hill (beginner/intermediate) and Toby Slope (intermediate/advanced). Romey then designed and built two rope tows, using old Ford Model A engines as the power sources.
The area officially opened in the winter of 1946/47. Actually the first guests to the area came a year earlier, before the rope tows were in place. My grandparents, parents, older brother Donald-8 years old at the time and my aunt & uncle made their first winter visit to Stonehust, and I believe they were the first skiers to test the newly cleared slopes. A farmer up the road by the name of Marsden brought down a work horse to which he attached a “rope tow.” The horse towed a string of my relatives up the hill.
An aside: Romey also designed a fun way to get down the hill, attaching a seat to two parallel wooden skis. My grandfather scared the daylights out of my grandmother by schussing down Toby Slope in this uncontrollable device. My first year as a visiting skier was in 1947, as a six year old. Every year after that through my senior year in high school, I spent my mid-winter school vacation (over Washington’s Birthday) at Pine Top. Those were wonderful years, as I and my brothers (younger brother Jim followed Don and me) learned to ski from local ski patrol/instructors Ed Dunklee and Bud Bigelow. Romey opened a new trail off the top of Toby Hill and named it “Stoddard Run”. My mother had a shortcut at the bottom of Toby named for her, “Molly’s Alley,” and I had a nearby ski bridge named for me, “Sandy’s Trestle.” Romey and Elsie Racine were like second parents to me (they had no children of their own). I spent two summers in my high school years working on the property, doing chores and taking care of the dairy cattle that grazed on the ski slopes in the summer (from a local farm). They sold the property in the mid-1960s and moved to a newly built home down the hill (the new owners sadly closed the ski area). We outgrew Pine Top as our skiing improved, but it was a truly wonderful part of our family for many many years.
We’ve been in touch with the Stoddard family since receiving Sandy’s memories and are hoping they’ll come back for a visit some time this summer! If you have memories of Pine Top, give us a call, send us an email or join us on Facebook. We’d love to have you stop by when you’re in the area!
Saturday the Windham County Sheriff Came to My House & Served me a Copyright Infringement Lawsuit
Here’s why I’m being sued: In July, 2010 a student who was working with us wrote a blog post about the fact that we had just delivered a handmade cherry dining set to a customer in Hawaii. We were excited to see our company growing and placing Vermont made products so far away from home! A customer photo of the furniture was included in the post along with a small photo (not much bigger than a postage stamp) of Hawaii.
It turns out the Hawaii photo was taken by Vincent K Tylor VKT. It was obtained from one of hundreds of websites that advertise it as a free photo download. There was no copyright information on it but it was invisibly tagged (see ExtortionLetterInfo ELI blog, ELI discussion and VKT email chain) by VKT.
VKT Demand Letter #1 Arrives in May, 2012
On May 5, 2012 I received a letter from Carolyn Wright and Cindy Hsu at PhotoAttorney.com demanding $9500 for use of the photo. If I refused to pay up within 10 days, they said VKT might sue me for $150,000. I immediately took the photo down and called VKT. He refused to talk to me, insisting that all correspondence go through PhotoAttorney.com. I called and emailed PhotoAttorney.com several times trying to reach a fair settlement. We negotiated for months and eventually they went away.
VKT Demand Letter #2 Arrives in April, 2014
Next time I heard from VKT was several weeks ago April 25, 2014. I received a letter from Woolf Gafni & Fowler attorneys demanding $12,000 as their “final offer”. The letter contained inaccuracies. I responded via email the same day by telling the sender (Adam Gafni) I intended to file a complaint about him to Vermont’s Attorney General’s office. I then called Adam, discussed the facts and explained that we are a small company that cannot afford a $12,000 fee nor did I think it appropriate. I asked him to drop the lawsuit. He told me to make him an offer to settle and I said I’d been advised not to settle. At that point, he accused me of extortion, said “see you in court – have a nice day – click!” VKT filed a $150,000 lawsuit shortly thereafter. Now it appears he’s going for $600,000.
Incredibly, in the lawsuit VKT requests leave of court to amend the complaint so he can also sue unknown John Does who may have read the blog post and entered into a “conspiracy” to profit from the image. He filed the lawsuit in CA which is home to Typepad (the blog software we were using) citing that “critical evidence pertaining to who, when and in what quantity the image was viewed and downloaded is located” in CA. I guess that means he wants to subpoena Typepad for records identifying who has read this blog post. Then he wants to investigate them for conspiracy.
Weird huh? You’d think a photographer would try to shut down websites that offer his or her photos for free. Here’s a discussion about that on ExtortionLetterInfo ELI.
Aloha Plastic Surgery received a demand letter and they counter sued. Although the results of the lawsuit are confidential, word on the street is they were happy with the outcome.
What’s Next for Vermont Woods Studios?
Unfortunately I guess we’re going to court– the last thing on earth any small business can afford to do. But hopefully we won’t be battling it alone. An article by Timothy B Lee in the Washington Post, How Vermont could save the nation from patent trolls tells of how Vermont has emerged as a “hotbed of anti-troll activism”. It seems our Attorney General (William Sorrell) has teemed up with our governor, senators and legislators to enact legislation to protect our citizens and businesses from trolls who use extortion as a business model. I’ll be appealing to all of them for help in fighting trolls. I hope common sense will prevail but you never know. The whole situation is scary.
If it’s too late and you’ve already been unfairly accused of copyright infringement, don’t panic. It can happen to anyone and you are not alone. There is great camaraderie among victims and their advocates. Contact your senators, congresspeople and attorney general and ask for their help. Contact an attorney (asap) who specializes in fighting copyright trolls. I recommend Oscar Michelen. Also check out these grass roots communities for detailed news and information:
After locating our fine furniture and home decor store on a 100 acre wood in the foothills of Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest (see my last post), I found myself in the familiar position of trying to do something I knew little about. How would we properly manage this woodland for wildlife and sustainability? My friends Kathleen Wanner (Executive Director of the Vermont Wood Manufacturer’s Association VWMA) and Lynn Levine (a professional forester) suggested that Ken and I attend the Vermont Coverts:Woodlands for Wildlife Cooperator Training. What a great idea!
The program was last weekend at the Woods of Wikahowi in Northfield, VT. Ken had to cancel at the last minute but I attended along with a dozen or so like-minded landowners from all across Vermont. Because 80% of Vermont’s forestland is owned privately, the Coverts organization concluded that the key to sustaining our state’s forests & wildlife is education of private landowners. They provide a free 3-day training course every Spring and every Fall, focusing on classroom and field studies in forest and wildlife management.
The course was taught by Vermont’s foremost experts in forestry & wildlife including:
Lisa Sausville, Executive Director, Vermont Coverts
Mary Sisock, UVM Extension Forester
Kim Royar, VT Department of Fish and Wildlife
Dan Singleton, Washington County Forester
Steve Hagenbuch, Audubon VT
Kathy Decker, VT Forest, Parks and Recreation
Rich Chalmers, VP VT Coverts
VT Coverts is so committed to their mission that they offer the course for free, including food and lodging! Dedicated Coverts members work hard to meet expenses through grants and fundraising programs. If you own woodlands in Vermont or know someone who does, please refer them to the Coverts program. It’s an unforgettable weekend with fascinating people and thought-provoking discussion. The graduates of the program hold the future of Vermont’s forests in their hands.