Monarch Butterfly on Milkweed
A Monarch butterfly on milkweed.  Photo by Elizabeth Howard, founder of Journey North.

The Mind-Boggling, Magical Journey of a Monarch

Monarch butterflies migrate from Vermont (and other northern regions) 2500 miles south to Mexico every year at this time.  In the spring and summer they return- that’s an annual journey of 5000 miles! The butterflies migrate to the exact same tree each and every year.  In order to make the trip without literally falling apart, they reproduce 4 times en-route so it’s actually the 4th generation that returns to Mexico every winter.

The Monarch Population is in Free Fall

Last month I wrote about monarchs and the 90% drop in their population over the last few years.  “In human-population terms it would be like losing every living person in the United States except those in Florida and Ohio” according to Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.  The free fall is largely due to recent decimation of the butterfly’s habitat and food source, milkweed.

Milkweed and Monarch Butterflies | Vernon, Vermont
I recruited (somewhat skeptical) staff members at Vermont Woods Studios to help collect milkweed seeds.  We gathered over 1000 seedpods and separated the seeds from their fuzzy parachutes.

A Milkweed SeedBank is Born in Vermont

After researching the Monarch’s plight, I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t at least try to do something to help.  So last weekend I spent much of my time wandering through an empty lot on Rt 142 in Vernon, collecting milkweed seeds.  I recruited Dennis, Kelsey and Nina to help me.  Realtor, David Berrie of Berrie Real Estate in Newfane, VT owns the lot and he was kind enough to allow us to “take all the milkweed you want!”  I think that ended up being about 1000 seedpods.  The Nature Institute estimates there are an average of 226 seeds in each milkweed pod so we probably harvested around a quarter of a million seeds.  We’ll keep them on hand for awhile in case anyone in the area would like to plant some.  Otherwise we’ll donate the seeds to Monarch Watch, an organization that maintains a free milkweed seed bank.

Milkweed Seed Bank at Stonehurst
Even Pepper pitched in as we worked well into the night hours separating seeds.

Sowing the Seeds:  A Trial Run

Sowing Milkweed Seeds at Malhana Farm
Annette and Fia helped me with a trial run at Malhana Farm.  It was a beautiful Fall day for planting milkweed!

Annette volunteered to sow milkweed seeds in a couple of her pastures at Malhana farm and I did the same in the meadows at Stonehurst.  Now we wait until the spring to see what comes up.

I hope you’ll think the monarch’s mind-boggling, magical phenomenon is worth conserving!  Please spread the word and join scientists, conservationists, teachers, road crews and nature lovers in planting milkweed in backyards, gardens, fields and highway medians. Need seeds?  Let me know on Facebook, or email me (Peggy@VermontWoodsStudios.com).

To learn more, visit the Journey North website, founded by Elizabeth Howard of Norwich, VT or any of these organizations that are working hard to keep the Monarch alive:

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.

Monarch Butterflies in Vermont

Click on the National Geographic video above to learn about the amazing 2000 mile annual migration of the Monarch butterfly. 

Vermonters over 10 years old will remember the colorful Monarch butterflies that used to grace our fields and backyards every summer and fall.  But unfortunately, many young children have never even seen a Monarch.  What a shame!  I remember when Kendall and Riley were in grammar school we used to bring their entire class to a field across from the school playground and every child would find a Monarch caterpillar to watch as it went through metamorphosis (the inset above shows Kendall with a Monarch that has just emerged from it’s chrysalis and is waiting for it’s wings to dry before it’s first flight).  That was only 10 years ago and now there’s nary a Monarch to be found in all of Vermont.

Could Vermont’s state butterfly be heading toward extinction?

Recently a legal petition was filed seeking Endangered Species Act protection for monarch butterflies.  “Monarchs are in a deadly free fall.  The 90 percent drop in the monarch’s population is a loss so staggering that in human-population terms it would be like losing every living person in the United States except those in Florida and Ohio” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Milkweed: The Monarch’s Elixir of Life

Plant Milkweed for the Monarchs
Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed and it is the only plant on which the butterflies will lay their eggs. But over the last several years, milkweed has been eradicated by the increased use of herbicides on genetically modified corn and soybean crops (GMO’s).  This is the only field of milkweed I could find in Vernon today.

“Fewer monarch butterflies are crossing North America to winter in Mexico, and the biggest culprit seems to be the disappearance of milkweed in the United States” according to Lindsay N Smith’s recent article in National Geographic.  “Although illegal deforestation and severe weather have contributed to the decline, research… suggests that the overwhelming concern is U.S. farms’ large-scale use of herbicides that destroy milkweed.”

It’s hard to believe that milkweed has nearly disappeared from Vermont’s landscape in just a few short years.   In the Green Mountain State, corn crops are everywhere and along the edges of those fields, we used to find lots of Monarch caterpillars feeding on milkweed.  Not anymore.  The Midwest has lost much of it’s milkweed too, as more land is being planted with (GMO) corn and soy to meet the world’s increasing demands for biofuels.

Monsanto and Round Up

The Monarch’s decline is being driven by the widespread use of genetically engineered crops that are made to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, a uniquely potent killer of milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s only food. The dramatic surge in Roundup use with Roundup Ready crops has virtually wiped out milkweed plants in corn and soybean fields.

Sean, Douglas, Loryn and Michelle are preparing milkweed seeds to be donated to the seedbank at Monarch Watch.
Sean, Douglas, Loryn and Michelle are preparing milkweed seeds to be donated to the seedbank at Monarch Watch.

Plant Milkweed

Those of us who eat corn or soy (or any of the foods that contain them) can’t very well blame the farmers for milkweed’s eradication. So scientists, conservationists, and butterfly enthusiasts are encouraging road crews and property owners to grow the plant in their own yards, gardens and along roadsides.  Are you up for that?  If you need seeds, visit us at Stonehurst and we’ll give you as many as you’d like.  You can also contact the Monarch Watch Seed Bank where you can donate or request seeds.  Directions for planting milkweed seed can be found at LiveMonarch.com.  Vermonters can support Elizabeth Howard and her Journey North organization by reporting their sightings online.  Together and with a little help from Mother Nature we can bring back the Monarchs!

Let us know your thoughts on Facebook or in the comments section below.

 

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.

Today’s post is part 3 of a series on Vermont Woods Studios written by Vermont author, Peggy McKay Shinn.  Peggy writes full-time and lives in Rutland, Vermont, with her husband, daughter, and one remaining cat. Visit her website and check out Peggy Shinn’s books, including Deluge: Tropical Storm Irene, Vermont’s Flash Floods, and How One Small State Saved Itself.  Read Part 1 & Part 2

Customer Service
Keeping our sales team small ensures exceptionally personal & friendly customer service. Loryn, Sean, Michelle, Douglas and Rebecca enjoy helping our customers find the perfect furniture for their homes!

One of the keys to the Vermont Woods Studios’ success, said Fletcher, has been personal customer service.

Everyone who works at Vermont Woods Studios is listed on the website with their full name, a photo, short bio, and amusing title (Fletcher is “office wizard,” Farabaugh is “founder and believer”) so customers know to whom they are talking. “We know purchasing furniture is a process, not just a transaction,” he said. Ann Thigpen of Canal Point, Florida, learned this shortly after she discovered Vermont Woods Studios while shopping for new bedroom furniture. She had searched for furniture made in America, and Vermont Woods Studios’ website jumped out at her. She liked the clean, informative design and was even more pleased once she called the company to enquire about a nightstand. She had never purchased furniture online and feared she was “buying a pig in a poke” (sight unseen). After the nightstand arrived via what’s called white-glove delivery (heavily padded and shipped by a company specializing in furniture delivery), Thigpen was so pleased that she decided to finish decorating her bedroom with furniture from Vermont Woods Studios. Each time, she called the company with questions, which the customer service staff patiently answered. “I think I’ve spoken with everyone who works there, even Farabaugh,” she said, laughing. When the bed arrived and wasn’t exactly what she hoped for, Vermont Woods Studios offered to replace the bed. “They’re that accommodating,” she said, still astounded.

Other customers are similarly impressed with the excellent customer service.

“It is not just about a sale,” commented Tina Buehler, a Vernon attorney who purchased a cherry computer desk and end table from Vermont Woods Studios. “They really want you to be thrilled with the product you purchase.” As for Farabaugh’s mission of selling eco-friendly furniture, it’s become a bonus. Most people now find Vermont Woods Studios because they are looking for a particular style of fine furniture. Like Clare Reid, who searched the Internet for contemporary hardwood furniture, then was pleased to learn that the furniture she found on VermontWoodsStudios.com is made from sustainable wood. But again, it was good customer service that sealed the deal. Her questions regarding different products, their construction, and delivery times were answered thoroughly, and when Reid’s builder fell behind on her new home, Vermont Woods Studios agreed to store the furniture. Brian Bell, a vice president at Lyndon Furniture, calls Farabaugh a pioneer in successfully marketing and selling furniture online. Despite its availability nationwide, Lyndon had struggled to connect with customers who want American-made furniture. Vermont Woods Studios is now one of Lyndon’s largest accounts, and Ball applauds the company for its customer service commitment.

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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.

Lyndon Furniture is Best Seller at Stonehurst
Douglas Fletcher & Dennis Shanoff of Vermont Woods Studios and Christine Drown & Brian Ball of Lyndon Furniture.  These guys work incredibly hard to promote Vermont’s sustainable furniture economy.  Today they’re taking a lunch break at Brattleboro’s favorite eatery: the Whetstone Station.

Lyndon Furniture was one of our very first partners when we started Vermont Woods Studios as an online fine furniture store.  That was nearly 9 years ago and since then we’ve created a close partnership with Brian Ball, Dave Allard, Christine Drown and the whole Lyndon Furniture crew.

Truth is, I started Vermont Woods Studios out of a passion for forest and wildlife conservation.  I really didn’t know anything about furniture.  But Dave Allard, who owned Lyndon Furniture at the time, took us under his wing.  He too, had grown up loving Vermont’s woodlands and like me, he chose a line of work built around forest conservation.

Lyndon’s sustainable, handcrafted wood furniture fills a special niche in our new fine furniture gallery at Stonehurst.  Lyndon’s bedroom, dining, living room and home office furniture is known for it’s simple elegance and classic American shaker style.  It pairs beautifully with other elements of Vermont home decor including Simon Pearce glassware, Hubbardton Forge lighting and JK Adams wooden tableware.

Today we celebrated our strong partnership with Lyndon Furniture over a handcrafted harvest table full of locally grown food at Brattleboro’s Whetstone Station.  We are looking forward to the next 9 years of collaboration and success with our friends from Lyndon, Vermont!

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 Institute of Natural Science VINS
Before your visit to VINS, check out their calendar of events so you can schedule a critter feeding or raptor show.

I’m not sure how summer slipped away so quickly, but there’s no getting around it… leaf peeping season is upon us!  Thousands of visitors will soon be motoring around the Green Mountain state enjoying the brilliant colors our maple trees are dressing up in.  If you’re one of those lucky leisure travelers be sure to add the Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences VINS in Quechee (near Woodstock) VT to your itinerary.

Vermont Institute of Natural Science VINS. Helping nature stay  in balance.
In addition to live raptor shows, raptor habitats, nature trails and playgrounds, you’ll find many interesting exhibits like this one on helping nature stay in balance.

I started volunteering at VINS when Kendall and Riley were in the Vernon Elementary School, so over 15 years ago.  They had a wonderful program called ELF (Environmental Learning for the Future) where parents would come into their childrens’ classrooms and give hands-on training using various wildlife artifacts we managed to come up with.

Vermont Institute of Natural Science VINS. Wendy runs the beautiful and interesting gift shop at Vermont Institute of Natural Science VINS.
Wendy runs the beautiful and interesting gift shop at Vermont Institute of Natural Science VINS.

Today the VINS mission is mainly focused on bird conservation: “motivating individuals and communities to care for the environment through education, research, and avian wildlife rehabilitation.”  It’s a “nonprofit, member-supported, environmental education, research and avian rehabilitation organization headquartered at the VINS Nature Center in Quechee, Vermont. Open year-round, the 47-acre campus, adjacent to Quechee State Park, features 17 state-of-the-art raptor enclosures, 4 exhibit spaces, 2 classrooms, and ¾ miles of interpretive nature trails. VINS places a priority on making high-quality, compelling, and fun environmental education programs and learning opportunities accessible to more people and communities.”

Vermont Institute of Natural Science VINS. Helping nature stay  in balance. How big is an eagle's nest?
Ken and I visited VINS last weekend. For Ken it was a good excuse to get out on his Harley but he also found some cool trails to hike, including this one with a life-size replica of an eagle’s nest.

At Vermont Woods Studios we support VINS through their Adopt a Raptor, citizen science and other environmental programs.  If you’re interested in learning more about VINS, becoming a member or visiting their beautiful Nature Center in Quechee, VT check out their website 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.