February 27th, 2012 by Peggy Farabaugh
Guest Blogger: Shannon Albritton
Customer Champion at Vermont Woods Studios
It’s certainly not a news flash that Vermont has received below average snowfall this winter. Who am I kidding? We’ve probably had less snow than Georgia (please don’t fact check this). On the heels of 2011’s over-the-top weather including abominable winter snow storms and hurricane-force floods it seems Mother Nature may be taking a time-out for bad behavior… or maybe she thinks we deserve a break?
So while ‘Mother’ is kicking back in her flip-flops [I picture her sipping a blood orange, ginger mimosa from a treehouse in Costa Rica] University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center is receiving calls from concerned maple syrup lovers with fears that this year’s easy-breezy winter could take the sweetness out of maple syrup production? We just want to know; will there be syrup for our honey-buckwheat blueberry pancakes?
Many Vermont maple syrup producers, known as sugarmakers, are beginning the season 2-3 weeks earlier this year and some long-time producers report this to be their earliest start ever. Sugarmakers are reaching out to one another seeking asking questions such as “When are you starting?” and “It is time?” One producer has decided not to tap his trees at all this year because he’s already seen signs of leaf buds. Once maple trees have begun to bud an off flower flavor occurs in the sap and brings a halt to the season.
What’s the general word from Vermont’s sugarmakers to all of us who love that sticky-sweet maple syrup, candy, taffy and it’s amber brown goodness? It looks like we’re all going to be OK. Turns out the weather while the sap is flowing is more critical than the weather leading up to the big event. Vermont sugarmakers are hoping for just the right balance of freezing and thawing temperatures during the six-week sap flow season to maintain just the right flow. For the moment they’re looking good though too many warm days and not enough freezing nights could still cause an impact. Overall sugarmakers seem encouraged that all is well in maple sugar land and our pancakes will surely be graced, once again, by our much loved liquid gold.
Although the fate of this year’s maple sugaring season may lie in the hands of a flip-flop wearing, mimosa sipping woman chilling on an exotic island, I have faith – faith that Vermont will do what Vermont always does – figure it out and make do with whatever Mother Nature blows our way.
A friend told me his young daughter has learned to read the maple trees and they tell her when the time is right to begin tapping. She hasn’t been wrong yet. I’m going to contact him and see what she’s predicting for the season. I’m guessing she’s got a hotline straight to our ‘Mother’. One thing’s for sure – Vermont’s sugarmakers aren’t ready to back down from this tap dance just yet — show us your moves Mother Nature.
Watch this delightful video of Henry Emmons, 67, of Red Rock Maple Farm in Starksboro VT and see the maple sugar flow as he started making maple syrup this week as day-time temperatures soar. (Produced my Emily McManamy, Burlington Free Press)
January 10th, 2012 by Peggy Farabaugh
We've only got Kendall for a few more days before he ditches us at Vermont Woods Studios and goes back to college after a nice long winter break. That's pretty sad because he's been cranking out the website work these last few weeks– stuff that none of the rest of us (except Manjula, of course) know how to do.
Anyway, Kendall's becoming a Facebook genie and he's set up a "Staff Picks" tab. This week he's featuring Shannon's favorite furniture, the Modern American Dining Set. It's a beautiful solid cherry table and benches– very simple but very elegant too.
Here it is all dressed up by our favorite set designer, Erica Ell. If you love it as much as Shannon does, fan us on Facebook and get an extra 5% off.
November 17th, 2011 by Peggy Farabaugh
We are delighted to introduce you to Shannon Albritton, our newest Green Team member here at Vermont Woods Studios Furniture. Shannon's official title is: Sales Ace and Customer Champion. She'll be here along with Rebecca to answer your phone calls, place/track orders and arrange shipping.
Shannon's from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Her background includes extensive experience in sales and marketing positions and she loves helping customers figure out how to get exactly what they're looking for. Shannon's husband is a talented woodworker so she brings a detailed knowledge of woodworking, furniture styles, joinery and finish options with her.
She's also a passionate environmentalist who walks the talk in every aspect of her life. She's been inspiring us to keep improving our sustainable practices at work and at home too. Today she got Manjula and me up from our computers in the middle of the afternoon to go outside for a "7th inning stretch". It felt so good that now we're trying to get her to lead an after hours yoga class
We are very lucky to have Shannon on board! When you're talking to her about your furniture order, maybe ask her about her hiking career (she hiked a portion of the Na Pali Coast in Kauai barefoot). I think that's probably only one of many good stories she has to tell.
September 7th, 2011 by Peggy Farabaugh
By Shannon Albritton
This is the second installment from our newest Vermont Woods Studios staff member, Shannon Albritton. She recently moved to Marlboro, Vermont from New Hope, PA and is sharing her adventures as she lives through the after-effects of Hurricane Irene.
On Thursday evening I attended my first Vermont town meeting. We arrived early and helped set up folding chairs in a semi-circle, “So we can all see each other”, suggested a volunteer.
More than 200 Marlboro residents filled the school gymnasium. We looked tired but seemed in generally positive spirits. We greeted each other and exchanged our tales of woes and Vermont-made miracles. We listened intently to our town leaders and emergency management officials as they laid out the next steps and protocols for moving forward in our little town, where 80% of our roads had been destroyed. A local farm brought pizza for all to share. The rate at which we devoured every last piece of this delicious, hot, homemade treat told me I wasn’t the only one who had forgotten to eat that day.
Following the meeting, I met Josh Stilts, reporter for the Brattleboro Reformer. He expressed his concern for the people still stranded down off Auger Hole Rd. I confirmed his concerns and told him my husband and I had hiked in earlier that day to check on friends. I offered to escort Josh down the mountain the next day via a logging road behind my home. Josh eagerly accepted my invitation and we parted ways.
Friday morning I waited on the grounds of Marlboro College to hear Governor Peter Shumlin speak about his plans to put us back together. As I walked into the auditorium I stopped, turned and there was the Governor right in front of me! We had just about run into each other. A bit star-struck and caught of guard I shook his hand and thanked him for doing a great job. “It’s the people of Vermont who are doing a great job” he said, as he squeezed my hand and moved forward toward the stage.
His speech told of the heroic acts of Vermonters and our resilience and tenacity. He shared that a reporter, who had covered Katrina and Joplin Missouri, had commented that he was inspired but the general positive attitude and community of the people of Vermont in the wake of that wicked-woman Irene.
Following the speech, I met Josh outside and we headed to the logging trail. I filled my backpack with frozen water bottles, granola bars and my solar shower for my friends “in the hole” and we set off to down the mountain. I’m not sure the actual distance, it feels like a one-mile on the way down and six on the way back up.
At the bottom I introduced Josh and passed my tour guide torch off to my friend Kim who led us further down into the Auger Hole. Kim informed Josh on how they were surviving and getting supplies. One man, thought to be in cardiac distress, had been carried out by several others the previous night and rushed to the hospital. They were not sure if he had survived but I was able to inform her he was in fact, OK and just severely dehydrated. “We couldn’t call for help so they carried him out”, she said. “We feel deserted down here, you’re the first people to come to check on us”. We continued our hike down the road turned riverbed once known as Auger Hole Rd. The very same road I drove every day to work when I first moved to Vermont. What now lies in its place is indescribable and pictures can barely do it justice. Picture an empty riverbed approximately 25’ deep and 30’ wide as a long as the eye can see.
A local man had grown tired of waiting for township approval and brought his equipment into the hole to construct a temporary road to free those trapped on the other side. His equipment appears like a tinker toy at the bottom of the pit. Josh snapped photos and took video interviews. “It would be pretty awesome if it wasn’t so tragic…” I said, as we stood staring awestruck down into the hole. We all nodded quietly and walked on.
Moments later Emergency Management arrived on the scene with cases of water and MREs (Meal, Ready to Eat). Will & Rory, stranded residents of the Auger Hole, loaded them on borrowed ATVs and stuffed them into backpacks. These guys were referred to, in Josh’s article the following morning, as the dynamic-duo as they buzzed over the rocky terrain to deliver supplies to the stranded homes.
Feeling better knowing that the people of Auger Hole were stocked with food, clean water and on the road to safety, Josh and I packed up and headed back up the mountain towards home. It was a long climb back up that logging trail and we had plenty of time and content for good conversation. I asked him if he had enough content for his article and he replied, “plenty!” We then walked silently for a while, reflecting on they day and absorbing it into our minds and our hearts. I disrupted our silence, “So what’s your angle going to be?” and he paused and then replied, “there are so many, but I think I will go with the survival angle, being isolated down there and how they’ve all been working together with the resources they have to help each other.” I nodded in confirmation and flashed back to Governor Shumlin’s opening comment during his speech earlier that morning, “First I just want to say, I’ve seen more acts of generosity, bravery and courage in the last four days than I’ve seen in my entire life”. Yep, I’d have to agree.
I read a quote recently from a Vermonter whose barn and porch were swept away by mean ol’ Irene, “That’s Mother Nature” he said, “And this is Vermont. We just roll with it.”
I may be a Flatlander, but if this is what Vermonters are made of, I am incredibly proud to be a Vermonter-in-Training
Josh Stilts’s article “Down in an Auger Hole” can be read online at The Brattleboro Reformer.