I guess word is getting around about our unique Vermont furniture store because we’re starting to get many visitors from New York, Boston and other metropolitan areas. Customers tell us they’re looking for something beautiful, sustainable and uniquely theirs. That’s why we’re here, of course but “here” isn’t necessarily easy to find.
Directions to Stonehurst, Our Fine Furniture Showroom
So Rebecca and I teamed up with next-door neighbor, Drew Amidon to make a video showing the route to Stonehurst, our Vermont Woods Studios furniture showroom. Drew made the scenic journey and filmed it from Interstate 91 (exit 28A, Northfield, Route 10), past the Inn at Crumpin Fox, left onto Bald Mountain Road, right onto Huckle Hill Road and 5 miles to Stonehurst. He used his GoPro and drone helicopter to show visitors just where we are and what to expect when they get here.
Most Furniture Stores Don’t Have to Make a Video on How to Get to Their Showroom
Who had the crazy idea of putting a fine furniture store in the middle of nowhere, anyway? OK that was me. Well… sustainability is important to me and it’s part of the mission of our company. Customers come to us because they want to feel good about their furniture. They want to know where their furniture comes from. They want to be sure it originates in a sustainable forest that provides recreation & habitat for wildlife, a forest that’s going to be around for future generations.
So when the Stonehurst property on 109 acres of pristine woodlands became available in 2012 I knew it was the perfect location for a Vermont Woods Studios showroom. We’re 3 1/2 hours from Manhattan and 2 hours from Boston. It’s a beautiful drive to get here and once you arrive, you’ll feel a relaxed Vermont vibe before you even get our of your car. Be sure to pack a picnic basket and a bottle of wine because fine furniture shopping should never be rushed.
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
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 is part two of a four part blog series on our Monarch Butterfly Restoration Project)
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
Every now and then at Stonehurst (now our Vermont furniture showroom) we’re treated to a blast from the past. Our property dates back to the 1860s when it was a farmhouse and since then it’s had many and varied identities. From the 1940s to the 1960s Stonehurst was a local ski area with 3 rope tows. It was called Pine Top and every now and then we get special visitors who stop by to see how it’s changed and share their memories of family vacations here. Recently we had the pleasure of meeting Sigrid Oscarson who stopped by with her husband Bill Wares. I wanted to share Sigrid’s memories with those of you who remember Pine Top. Did you know Sigrid and her family?
A Visit from Sigrid Oscarson Wares
My husband and I visited with Peggy and Ken last Friday. They were gracious to show us Vermont Woods Studios, formerly known as Pine Top. I grew up in Vermont and spent many days skiing as well as celebrating holidays there. My Godparents, Elsie and Romey Racine were the owners. My father helped to maintain the rope tows very often using a combination of his well-honed automotive skills, true grit with sheer determination, and lots of prayer! It was always a work in progress.
“I came across this picture of me skiing at Pine Top. From these humble beginnings I have maintained a life-long love affair with this sport and even became a ski instructor for a period of time. Growing up in Vermont was a wonderful experience of which Pine Top was a very integral part. Looking at the ski garb makes me wonder how any of us survived the cold! Any one who skied there will tell you that they went through several pairs of mittens in one season due to the friction of the rope tow. We would all cram into the “Warming Hut” as it was affectionately called, to toast our frozen fingers and toes near the pot belly stove while munching on hamburgers or hot dogs with hot chocolate and brownies (made by my mother). It was truly a family effort.
Thank you for showing us the beautiful renovations you have performed on this most wonderful “home” that holds so many memories for me. Your organization is truly an excellent steward of the property and that warms my heart.”