Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cow Power is Now Power - No Sh*t

Last night I attended a full-house World Premiere screening of Cow Power - a new documentary film about the  unique sustainable energy program in Vermont that turns cow manure into renewable energy resulting in saving farms and the environment.  Methane from the manure gets captured in a "digester" to run generators on the farm. Those generators support the farm's power needs plus make plenty of extra electric power that gets sold to Green Mountain Power for distribution to customers.

Less air pollution, less odor from farming, happy cows ... what more could you want? Well, there are even more benefits from using this system.

The liquid nutrients from the cow manure processed through the digester get used on crops to sustain the farm, and because they're liquids they go directly into the soil in a controlled application. Less problems with manure spreading over fields, so far less runoff and odor, more goodness for the land and our waterways, better crop production. Happy ending #2, right? Yes, but wait, there's even more goodness ...

The rest of the waste from this cow manure processing action gets dried out and turned into nice, fluffy bedding for the cows. They have a soft place to lie down, at far lower cost than buying tons of shavings or straw for the barn floors. And there's so much of that final byproduct stuff that the extra goes into making soil enrichment products for gardeners, sold from the farms or through various distributors (I buy Moo Doo, Moo Grow and Foster Brothers manure made with this stuff for my flower and veggie beds). Now that's an efficient use of cow poop.Vermont currently has 12 digesters online with more coming into production this year. They're huge investments for farmers, and for now require large farms to be cost effective. One way Vermonters-citizens and businesses-help to offset that capital outlay and make it more affordable is through a voluntary self-tax on electric power bills.

It's a closed loop system - cows eat hay and grains, and they make milk (good food) and poop (methane, fertilizer and bulky waste - unless it's turned into Cow Power). This hour-long movie is a first for Allison Gillette, director/producer and recent Emerson graduate.

Here's a trailer from the film:

Cow Power Trailer from Cow Power on Vimeo.

If you can't get to a local screening, Cow Power will be available for computer or streaming devices on August 13. Search “Cow Power: The Film” to view on Amazon Instant, Google Play, YouTube, VUDU, ILoveDocs, or iTunes.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Painting Gives You Time for Contemplation

When faced with a task I know will take many hours and as much patience, I have a tendency to procrastinate. Two years ago we added a big porch to the Vermont house. The 6x6 support posts and structural framework are built from  pressure treated lumber.

The rest of the porch is native wood: cedar railings, flooring and porch spindles with a pine beadboard (railroad siding) ceiling. The floor and ceiling and railing tops were all treated with lovely Australian oil before they were attached. That left the wet and weepy woods to the elements until they were aged enough/dry enough to take a coat of paint.

Well, folks, that time arrived this time last year and I started the process of filling all the knots and cracks in the now-dry pressure treated lumber. I got that nearly done by fall and then ignored the job for another winter.

This week our weather and my schedule meshed well enough for me to begin the sanding and priming. Here's how the project's progressed so far.

I'm glad I let the lumber dry avoided this task so long because even after 2 years of weathering the cedar wood is bleeding a bit through the BIN 1-2-3 primer (Zinsser 2004 "Bulls-eye" Primer Sealer and Stain Killer 1-2-3) . The spindles will need a second coat before I apply the finish coat of white latex house paint.

I'll be tackling two more sections this week if the weather cooperates, working a couple hours per session. That's more than enough time to spend on painting all those spindles with a brush. Any longer than that and my contemplation turns to aggravation; I start to get tired and a bit messy.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rain Is Berry Berry Good for the Blues

Exactly one year ago I was down in Dorset picking a second bucket of lovely high bush Vermont blueberries. Today, Bop, A and I ventured down to Wildwood Berry Farm once again, and this year I picked two buckets of the biggest blueberries I have ever seen in less than 2 hours. There was a report of a bear sighting in the berry fields but we didn't spot any critters that big on this trip.

I'm finally done getting them ready for their winter stay the freezer, but here's a peek at half the haul I picked today:

Just picked blueberries from Wildwood Berry Farm

The red colander was filled to the brim before I dumped the washed berries onto the towel to dry and freeze. The blueberries are nearly the size of grapes - no exaggeration - because of all the rainy weather in Vermont in June, followed by a week of hotter-n-heck days and warm nights. 

Time to make some blueberry buckle, my favorite cake made with fresh blues.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Another wet summer brings more garden challenges

Last year our vegetable garden was so wet we battled slugs from July through November. This year we moved most of the garden except beans, kale and garlic to 3 raised beds in the front yard where last year we removed all the lawn and made new rock-supported terraces and bark mulch base.  We built 3 big new 4ft x 8 ft garden boxes from rough-sawn local hemlock 2 x 10s , then filled them with MooDoo and local organic soil mix. After planting with tomatoes and peppers and 3 squash plants, we surrounded the boxes with deer netting to keep out the deer, woodchucks, rabbits and chipmunks. For the most part the gardens were doing well despite more than 10 inches of rain from mid May to the first week of July.

July 8, Bekah's Tomato Garden

We outwitted early hatching squash/cucumber bugs by keeping those plants covered with netting until last week when the flowers appeared on our squash, cuke and pumpkin plants. This week the cucumber beetles arrived. From where I have no idea, but they sure found our garden - just after the weird tortoise beetles camped out on the tomato plants. We're handpicking both and so far, so good. The mystery squashes (we think they're butternut but it's too early to tell yet) Anya planted at her library story hour are starting to climb out of the box and clamber onto the trellis I built last year.

Squash plants growing like crazy
I think by the end of the summer if the bugs or the 4-footed critters don't get them the squash plants will be cascading over the trellis and rambling down to the lower garden below/behind, near that red bee balm that's now 5 feet tall.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy Arrives in VT with Fancy Moves

With memories of Irene still whirling around this town, preparations for Sandy were serious but not panicked. There was not much going on all morning after a little bit of daybreak drizzle and the famed "red sky in the morning" but then just after noon time the sun peeked out, the wind kicked up a bit, and the sky flipped us a gift: a rainbow over West Rutland.

Hurricane Sandy precursor, West Rutland VT 29 Oct 2012
I snapped this rainbow photo from our front porch  at 12:15 Monday. (The rainbow was actually visible for more than 2 hours in nearby Castleton.)  After this little teaser, Sandy got more serious; the wind started gusting and blowing steadily, then a few hours later it started to rain, but not serious rain, just a shower type rain.

This is a huge contrast to the weather at our family home in Pennsylvania where rain and wind were relentless, water was everywhere and roads were flooding by 2pm. At 9pm the howling wind was dropping branches on the roof and the lights were blinking.

Last Halloween's freak snowstorm debris JUST got finally cleaned up last week in PA.  Please give us more of the rainbow attitude Sandy ... please?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Handmade Wood Toys - Simple Treasures for Tots and Collectors

Wooden Toy Truck - Hand made by KPTCO, Milford, NH USA
Back in the last century, a young dad decided to try his hand at making wooden toys. He designed  a fleet of sturdy trucks, cars, bulldozers and other toy vehicles that he made at home without paint, nails or screws. Wooden toy trucks and cars in the collection were originally designed to seat the popular "little people" (made by Fisher Price) that his own children loved.

Flash forward 40 years and that craftsman dad is now a grandpa and after more than three decades, the kids who loved those toys  have passed along their cherished trucks and cars to their own children or are buying these sturdy safe toys for their nephews, nieces, grand kids and neighbors.

And, happily, Bob Farrow is still making the durable and beloved wooden toys he designed in 1973. Each one is crafted by hand in his home workshop in Milford, New Hampshire. The only thing that's changed: the driver/passenger characters are simple one-piece people figures made from clear maple wood.

Wooden Toy Truck and Bulldozer
We can attest to the durability and playtime value of hand made wooden toys by Bob aka KPTCO (Kee Pon Truckin' Company) and to the love and attention he puts into each and every one of his creations. The toymaker works alone, on his own, cutting, sanding, assembling and finishing every single truck, car, "doodle" vehicle or custom toy by hand.

These hand made wooden  toys are built to last through years of creative play.

Designed, cut, sanded, glued and assembled by the toy maker himself,  KPTCO toys have been loved and tested by two generations of boys and girls (not to mention their parents and grandparents) since 1973. In fact, adults enjoy playing with these toys as much as children and many designs would make a perfect desktop or nostalgic home accessory.

Maple and Walnut Delivery Truck Toy by KPTCO, Etsy
Although KPTCO wooden toys don't wear a coat of paint they've got  plenty of fancy style.  Details derived from the way the pieces are cut and shaped and from the varieties of wood used to make them give these toys plenty of personality. The popular moving truck or box truck comes complete with a rear flap door, made from recycled denim or canvas. Log and utility trucks carry their own custom wooden freight pieces.

Most of the wood toy designs also come complete with a driver figure and many include a passenger, too - simple maple figures purchased from a reputable supplier.  These hand made wooden toys are true collectibles, built for years of imaginative play and memory making, from unique designs. You can't find these same toys anywhere else.

Check out all the cool crafted in New Hampshire wooden toys at the KPTCO Etsy shop. Your only problem will be deciding which truck, car or bulldozer to buy for your children, grandkids or ... yourself.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Be a Smashing Pumpkin for Halloween

So, you don't know what to wear for a Halloween costume this year?   Be Halloween. Be the pumpkin.

Whether you opt for comfort, simplicity, sexiness or the scare factor you can find a prize-winning costume to suit any man or woman in this collection of pumpkin costume and mask ideas.

From the office or classroom proper tee shirt to the skimpiest little pumpkin princess outfits or hideous pumpkin ghouls, there's a gourd outfit that's sure to be a smash for any adult.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Transforming an Old Building - Vermont Farmers Market

Another step in Rutland's Recovery and it's a major one. The Rutland Winter Farmer's Market will be housed in the new Vermont Farmers' Market building on West Street in Rutland, Vermont.
It's going to house a commercial kitchen, year round education resources, winter market vendors and so much more - and it's being transformed from an abandoned building on West Street, near the railroad tracks in Rutland. Lots of volunteers are making this dream into a reality - this video shows you the first steps taken.

The Rutland Winter Market is slated to open in the newly remodelled building in early November, 2012. Today the team is calling for volunteers to come down to scrape and prime the building to prep it for a new coat of paint next week.

Get more info here:

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Brain Image, Embarrassing Incident Memory Bank

I don't know about you, but this is how my brain works ... now why can't the synaptic videographers and librarians be so efficient when I'm trying to find my keys ???

Cartoon by Dave Walker.
Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Night Visitor Chose Late Checkout

Luna Moth
Every night a wonderful assortment of moths gather near the dim light of the front door. In the morning it's interesting to count the different colors and types of night fliers that spend the day on the shutters, flag, plants and screen door. They don't seem to mind our coming and going through the door and on the porch during the day. They snooze and wait for dark.

Last night this beautiful luna moth must have decided to rest in shelter when the sun came up. I found it sleeping on the potted hibiscus tree, right next to the door. I happened to spot this gorgeous visitor in mid-afternoon. Shortly after our impromptu photo session, this green and purple lovely flew into the forest, high into the pine trees. Maybe he or she will return tonight! 

Friday, June 01, 2012

And then there was mulch ...

Now that the front yard has 3 levels instead of a steep slope, and all the boulders have been placed to create wide spaces for gardening, wandering and stepping between levels from driveway to porch, the mulch is down.

All that's left for us to do is plant ... and we have plenty of perennials to move from our old gardens to these new beds.

Those little sticks in the front are markers for where we're planting two winter berry shrubs in one of the three rain gardens along the driveway.

Oh, and that bit of grass that remains in front will be left in place to filter any runoff until the plants are established, then I'm converting it to ground cover plants. No mowing!


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Front Yard Changes

Ready to start the rock walls

This is the before view of the front yard. You can get a sense of just how steep the slope is from the house to the woods area where I was standing when I snapped this photo. The contractor installed heavy-duty silt fence to protect the downhill property and the stream that's about 100 feet beyond.
View from the porch landing
This shows the front yard and woods beyond it before terracing or silt fence added. What you can't see is the rushing brook that's about 100 feet away and runs all along the front of our property near the road. Our driveway crosses the brook so we have a 5 foot culvert to maintain at the end of the driveway. The brook gets a bit wild during spring runoff, wild rainstorms and oh yeah,  hurricanes.