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.
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.

Vermont Coverts Cohort:  Woodlands for Wildlife
These are the amazing people in my cohort at last week’s Vermont Coverts workshop: “Woodlands for Wildlife”.  The word “covert” (pronounced cuh-vert) is an old English term meaning a thicket, home or hiding place for animals.

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!

Mess is best when it comes to creating habitat for wildlife
One of the key points we learned about managing our woodlands is that “mess is best” when it comes to creating habitat for wildlife.  Forests need to be thinned with plenty of coarse woody debris remaining on the floor to provide cover for animals.

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.

Kim Royar, VT Department of Fish and Wildlife shows us bear claws on a beech tree.
Kim Royar, VT Department of Fish and Wildlife shows us bear claws on a beech tree.

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
Maple is Vermont's Most Important Hardwood Tree
The Maple is Vermont’s most important tree.  Here Rich Chalmers is showing us his newly built sugar house– made from timbers logged in the surrounding forest.

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.

Vermont Coverts | Reference Books | Sustainable Forestry
Some of the handouts from Vermont Coverts.  Click here to apply for the next Vermont Coverts Training workshop.  Did I mention the training is FREE?



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.

Sustainable Furniture Store

People often ask me why on earth we located our new sustainable furniture store in the middle of Vermont’s woodlands.  The truth is that I don’t see Vermont Woods Studios as a furniture store.  Yes we have IMHO a beautiful showcase of the best quality handmade furniture Vermont has to offer.  But our business was built first and foremost, out of my passion for wildlife & forest conservation.  I wanted to show people where their furniture comes from.  And I wanted to appeal to them to buy furniture and flooring that come from forests that are re-planted and professionally managed for wildlife & sustainability.

We located Stonehurst in the foothills of the Green Mountain National Forest…

  • so customers could enjoy the 100 acre woodland we’re on and experience the beauty of the forest
  • so we could raise awareness about forest conservation and the fact that much of the wood furniture and flooring in America is made from imported rainforest timber that’s being mowed down at the mind-boggling rate of over 1 acre/second
  • so we could persuade people to buy American made furniture and flooring– a healthier, more sustainable choice for both people & planet
  • so we could inspire people to change the world

For the first 7 years our Vermont Woods Studios was an online furniture store.  Our staff worked out of a spare bedroom in my house.  When customers wanted to visit us we would invite them to Ken’s tiny workshop in the back of the house.  But as business grew and more people wanted to visit, we figured maybe it was safe to set up shop in a more suitable location.  From the very beginning we knew it had to be in the woods.

Next post: Learning to manage our 100 acre woodland for wildlife conservation.

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.

nature-campLooking for something exciting for the kids to do this summer?  Vermont Woods Studios is offering three scholarships for local Vernon children to attend Nature Camp at the Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center BEEC this year.  Check out the different camps offered and contact Kelsey if you’d like to attend.  The application process is quick and easy (see below).

What Are BEEC Nature Camps?

BEEC’s Nature Explorers Camp is for the young person who enjoys the natural world. Our goal is to foster children’s love of nature in a safe, supportive environment. Campers spend most of each day outdoors, in small groups, exploring the forests, meadow and waters of our 60 open acres. Non-competitive games, stories, art projects, music and a cooling ride down our gentle water slide at the end of the day add to the Nature Explorers Summer Camp experience. Children return year after year, excited to visit special places such as Grandmother Tree and Frog Pond. They also return knowing that there is much fun to be had! Campers investigate the lives’ of their wild neighbors, learn naturalist skills, explore wildlife habitats, develop their sensory awareness skills, venture off-trail, and discover a sense of magic and wonder in the Great Outdoors!”

What Camps are Available, When and for What Ages?

BEEC offers 7 different nature camps for kids ranging in age from 4-11.  Camps are fun and educational with an emphasis on getting to know the natural world.  Here’s a list of this summer’s camps:

  • Finding Our Way ~ June 23 to 27, 9am – 3pm: ages 9-11
  • Cub Camp ~ June 30 to July 3, *9am – 1pm*: ages 4-5
  • Roots and Shoots ~ July 7 to 11, 9am – 3pm: ages 7-10
  • Wee Naturalists ~ July 14 to 18, 9am – 3pm: ages 5-7
  • Emerging Naturalists ~ July 21 to 25, 9am – 3pm: ages 6-8
  • Our Side of the Mountain ~ July 28 to August 1, 9am – 3pm: ages 8-11
  • Magical World of Nature ~ August 4 to 8, 9am – 3pm: ages 6-9

Where is BEEC?

BEEC is located on Bonnyvale Road in West Brattleboro, about a 25 minute drive from Vernon.  Here’s a map.

How to Apply for the Vermont Woods Studios Scholarship

Vermont Woods Studios is offering three $150 scholarships to local Vernon kids in need.  If you’re interested, just contact Kelsey (802-490-2189) (kelsey.eaton@vermontwoodsstudios.com) with a short paragraph about why you want to attend camp and which camp you prefer.

Deadlines and Award Checks

The sooner you apply the better, as these camps fill up quickly (they are almost at full enrollment for the last several weeks of camp, but the first 3 or 4 weeks still have plenty of space).  We’ll accept applications until all 3 scholarships are awarded.  Awards will be first-come, first-serve.  The award will be in the form of a check paid directly to BEEC on your behalf.  Have questions?  Stop by and see us at Stonehurst on Huckle Hill Road in Vernon or contact Kelsey by phone (802-490-2189) or email (kelsey.eaton@vermontwoodsstudios.com).  Thanks for applying!

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.