About Peggy Farabaugh

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.
Best Wood for Outdoor Furniture?
I think the best wood to use for outdoor furniture isn’t wood at all. It’s POLYWOOD, made out of recycled milk jugs and guaranteed for a lifetime of outdoor use.  Shown here is the new Bayline Dining Furniture Collection.

Tis the season for buying outdoor furniture.  Even in Vermont we have a couple nice days each year when everyone wants to lounge in the sun with a cold drink and a good book.

Our customers often discover us when they’re searching for American made, eco-friendly furniture.  We’ve worked in collaboration with Vermont furniture makers for many years but have stuck to selling just sustainable indoor furniture for the dining room, bedroom and home office.

So when customers began to ask for outdoor porch, pool and patio furniture we were at a loss.  What type of wood could we make it out of?  The cherry, maple, walnut and oak woods we typically use for indoor furniture won’t hold up to outdoor conditions.  Plus, we offer a lifetime guarantee on our furniture.  How would we do this for an outdoor line?

Adirondack Chairs | Polywood | Recycled Plastic
This POLYWOOD Classic Adirondack chair is made in America of recycled plastic.  We guarantee it for a lifetime of use!

American Made Outdoor Furniture

We considered many options.  Teak and mahogany are about the only types of wood that would meet our standards for weather resistance and longevity but they are both rainforest woods that are often harvested illegally and unsustainably.  Not an option.

So after researching all the alternatives we selected an American made wood-alternative material for our first outdoor furniture line. It’s called poly wood and it’s made in Indiana of recycled plastic milk jugs.  It’s not real wood, but it has the look, thickness, weight, and feel of real wood plus it’s virtually indestructible and maintenance free.  No more scraping, painting, or weatherproofing needed.  POLYWOOD recycled plastic furniture can even be left outside year round eliminating the need for seasonal storage.

So that’s what we chose for our first outdoor furniture line.  We really do feel that POLYWOOD is the best “wood” to use for outdoor furniture.  With summer being so short up here in Vermont, we want to spend it enjoying our all-weather outdoor furniture rather than maintaining it!  How about you?  Check out the POLYWOOD furniture collections we offer.  It’s eco-friendly, Made in America outdoor furniture and it comes with free shipping and a lifetime guarantee.  Pretty tough to beat, I say.

Rec ycled Plastic Chaise Lounge
This POLYWOOD chaise lounge weighs over 50# so it won’t blow away when high winds come in off the ocean.  It’s available in 12 different colors including red, yellow, blue, orange, green, black and white.

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.

Vincent K Tylor Lawsuit | Copyright | Trolls

An Honest Mistake

Recently I was sued for $600,000 by Vincent K Tylor VKT, of Hawaiian Photo Tours, Kauai.  Four years ago a student working for me included one of VKT’s photos in this blog post.​  The photo was obtained from a free photo website.  I now know (and want you to know) that even if an image has a big “Free Download” button on it (VKT’s image was and still is on hundreds of free-download websites with no watermark or copyright identification on it), it may not be available for use without written permission.

The Sanctity of Copyright

The sanctity of copyright is of personal importance to me.  We’ve had people infringe on original work from our Vermont Woods Studios website.  A few years ago I blogged about someone who I believe is trying to trick people into buying his furniture by making his logo and website look like mine.   So I understand how it is to feel someone has stolen your work and I totally support a content creator’s right to protect and enforce his/her copyrights.  When I received notice from Vincent K Tylor & Hawaiian Photo Tours about the alleged infringement I immediately took down the photo and called him to apologize, explain and make restitution.  He would not talk to me.

$600,000 For A “Free” Photo The Size Of A Postage Stamp

Actually $600,000 was just the start.  In his lawsuit against me Vincent K Tylor/Hawaiian Photo Tours also sued unknown people (“John Does”) who allegedly entered into a “conspiracy” to “commit wrongful acts” related to his photo. That part of the lawsuit looks like it was copied and pasted from another case.  But regardless of the quality or legitimacy of the lawsuit, the accusations were serious.  They threatened the very survival of my small business and created a living nightmare for me. I was forced to retain attorneys and shift my attention from running a business to worrying about copyright litigation.

Copyright Trolling: A New Industry

Most copyright owners are legitimate and fair-minded, but there are a few who have learned to abuse the system.  Known as Copyright Trolls, they have shifted their business plans from creation to litigation.

Trolling refers to the way they install invisible digital tracking tags on their works and then cause or allow them to proliferate on hundreds of “free download” websites.  People use the photos (or poems, drawings, stories, etc.) thinking they’re free and then receive an extortion letter, demanding thousands of dollars and the threat of a lawsuit.  For a troll who does not visibly mark his/her work with copyright ID, the viral nature of the Internet insures a steady stream of innocent infringements for many years.  It’s like a perpetual annuity.

Innocent Infringement

I’m not a lawyer and I don’t claim to understand the details of our country’s complex copyright laws.  However, I do know that US copyright law addresses “innocent infringement” (17 U.S. Code § 405).  In many cases the courts have handed down $0 to $200 penalties for this, not $150,000 or $600,000 as threatened in the extortion letters I received from Vincent Tylor.  Furthermore, I personally have seen no cases where innocent infringement involved paying court costs for a copyright troll (another threat included in the extortion letters I received).

“Public Domain” & “Creative Commons” Confusion

Since initial publication of this post, a number of people have told me that photos like this Vincent K Tylor/Hawaiian Photo Tours image have proliferated so far and wide on the Internet without any type of visible ownership identification that they are now in the “public domain”.  Others say that VKT images can be found on numerous “creative commons” sites where they have no copyright restrictions.  So am I guilty of copyright infringement or not?  Share your opinion with me on Facebook or in the comments section below.

Could This Happen To You?

If you download anything from the Internet, publish online or even use social media (a blog, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook) you may look like fair game to a copyright troll.  Check out this article by Stefan Winkler, on Copypress.com (Nov 13, 2012), How to Avoid Falling Prey to Copyright Trolls for tips on copyright compliance.

What to Do if It’s Too Late

Nobody’s perfect so if you’ve made an honest mistake and you’ve received a threatening extortion letter from a copyright troll, don’t think you have to just write a big check (or as trolls are only too quick to suggest– have your insurance company write one).   The first thing to do is take the infringement down.  Do NOT reply to your troll or his/her attorney while you are still in shock.  Instead, take a deep breath and do some research on your troll.  Personally, I found ExtortionLetterInfo.com ELI to provide a wealth of useful information.  There are many imperfectly wonderful people at ELI who have deep respect for copyright but– trolls?  Not so much.  Intelligent discussion, great camaraderie, spirited debate and (occasionally irreverent) humor make the ELI forum a valuable resource for troll victims. Take a couple days to scour through the ELI postings and these related websites:

Defend Yourself

Once you’ve done your homework and read through the free resources available online, you’ll realize that you’re probably going to have to spend some money to defend yourself.  In my case, I started with a $60 consult with ELI founder Matthew Chan which was worth every penny.  Even so, I needed to hire a lawyer.  If you’re under attack, be sure to find an attorney whose specialty is copyright extortionist defense.  ELI attorney Oscar Michelen has an impressive track record in the area and there are a few other attorneys as well.  Try to find an attorney who’s working on cases against your troll so you’ll know the troll’s background, strategy and tactics from the start.

Check the Integrity of The Troll’s Attorney and Law Firm

Matthew Chan and other ELI members did some brilliant detective work on VKT and his attorney Adam Gafni of Woolf, Gafni & Fowler LLP.  After they posted on ELI that Gafni’s firm was not found as a legally registered US corporation, Gafni and VKT dismissed their lawsuit against me.  The firm took down their website and changed their name to Woolf, Gafni & Cirlin.

Now VKT/Hawaiian Photo Tours has hired a couple new attorneys (J. Stephen Street, aka James Stephen Street and Dane Kristofer Anderson) who have filed a new lawsuit against me in the federal district of Hawaii.

Judges and Trolls

Trolls have not been looked upon favorably by the courts (think: extortion, entrapment, shakedown, slander, defamation of character, harassment, etc). What judge is amused by frivolous lawsuits?  Trolls know this so their endgame is not, as they say to “see you in court”.  It’s a large settlement because they know you are probably in a much better position to make your case to a judge than they are!  ELI will help you to understand troll tactics and deal with your particular situation cost-effectively.

Join the Troll Patrol

In Vermont we’re winning a slightly different troll battle. An article by Timothy B Lee in the Washington Post (Aug 1, 2013), How Vermont Could Save the Nation from Patent Trolls tells of how Vermont has emerged as a “hotbed of anti-troll activism”.  Our Attorney General has teamed up with our governor, senators and legislators to enact legislation to protect us from patent trolls.  I’ve appealed to them to follow suit on copyright trolls as well.  I’ve also submitted formal complaints against VKT and his attorney Adam Gafni (Woolf, Gafni & Fowler LLP) to Attorneys General and state bar and professional associations. I’m asking other victims to do the same.  Get educated, join ELI and fight back on behalf of yourself, other victims and content creators who are fighting legitimate copyright battles.

Have you had experience with copyright trolls?  Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below or on Twitter .

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.

Recycled Plastic Outdoor Furniture | Polywood
If you’re shopping for wooden outdoor furniture this season, you’ve probably noticed there are a lot of new faux wood furniture sets, made from recycled plastic. Shown here is the POLYWOOD Euro dining set. It has the look and weight of wood but lasts longer and doesn’t require any maintenance.

Why Recycled Plastic Instead of Wood?

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.

Outdoor Chaise Lounge | Wood or Recycled Plastic
Polywood Chaises are heavy and sturdy like real wood furniture. Each of these South Beach Chaise Lounges weighs 53 pounds!

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.

Colorful Blue Adirondack Chairs | Recycled Plastic Polywood
POLYWOOD outdoor furniture comes in many different colors and styles.  In addition to the Pacific blue and Aruba colors shown, these Adirondack chairs are available in slate grey, blue, teak, tangerine, red, sand, mahogany, lime, lemon yellow, green, black and white.

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?

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.

Pine Top
Pine Top looks a little different today than it did as a vibrant ski area in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.  But it retains the natural beauty and welcoming charm that made it special to the Stoddards and many other families who vacationed here.  Have your own memories of skiing at Pine Top or vacationing at Stonehurst?  Stop by and visit or give us a call!

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!

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.

Stonehurst aka Pine Top
#TBT Some things haven’t changed since the 1940s at Stonehurst, aka Pine Top. Thanks to the stories of people who lived, worked and vacationed here, we’ve been able to preserve the property’s heritage.

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!

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.