Categories
Musings Uncategorized

Recycling a tree, Saving a species

My latest contribution to the Charlotte News:

Vermont Tree Goods recycles largest elm in an effort to save species

Tai Dinnan | Contributor

Vermont Tree Goods supervised the taking down of The Vermont Elm, the largest elm tree in the Northeast on Nov. 1. This Bristol business will recycle the heirloom hardwood in their oversized sawmill and use the wood to build distinctive furniture. The 250 year old elm died from Dutch elm disease.Vermont Tree Goods will make a philanthropic gift to The Nature Conservancy based on how much product made from The Vermont Elm is sold. This will allow the conservancy to further their work to save the species by breeding and planting disease-resistant elms. Furniture made from The Vermont Elm will be on sale in the spring. Each purchase will honor the legacy of Charlotte’s remarkable tree and help establish new communities of resistant Elms for future generations to enjoy.

1tree-hugging-ceremony

Before tree work began, a crowd of local tree huggers gathered at the Garrett residence Tuesday morning to celebrate the lives of two elders: The Vermont Elm and Charlotte’s Tree Warden Larry Hamilton who recently passed away. The crisp sunny morning created the perfect atmosphere for a ceremony filled with reverence and celebration.

Heather Furman, Executive Director of the Vermont Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, spoke about her organization’s efforts to breed and plant disease resistant elms in Vermont and neighboring states. John Monks, owner of Vermont Tree Goods, announced his business’ plans to recycle the huge Vermont Elm, mill it into planks using their unique saw, kiln dry it, and bring to life once more as furniture.

img_1905Several local residents and friends of Larry including new Tree Warden Mark Dillenbeck, neighbor Vince Crockenberg, Vermont Tree Goods Sales and Marketing Director Tai Dinnan, and neighbor Erick Crockenberg then spoke of the inspiration they found in Larry’s life-long work in support of trees and forests. Larry spent the final chapter of his remarkable life in Charlotte where he served as tree warden, was active in a broad array of town activities, and started the Tree Fund that has enabled hundreds of trees to be planted along Charlotte roads.

4tree huggers.jpg

The crowd was then welcomed forward to give the tree one last group hug. Many adults were necessary to reach around the massive trunk that was nearly twenty feet around.

7dropping-limbs
14crane-strapped-limbs
Tree work began at 10 a.m. and finished at 5 p.m. Most of the wood was transported to Vermont Tree Goods’ sawmill by the end of the day. An additional crane and truck was necessary to pick up and transport the bottom 20-foot-long section of trunk, weighing in at about 25,000 lbs.

The red elm’s wood is in great shape and is beautiful, with many rosy tones. Vermont Tree Goods hopes to have coasters made from the elm available by the end of this year. Furniture is expected starting in the spring of 2017. Email info@vermonttreegoods.com to put your name on the waiting list! Visit VermontTreeGoods.com for more information and updates as product becomes available.

19beautiful-stump

Categories
Home Gardens School Gardens Uncategorized

Seed Season

It’s time to start thinking about seed starting and garden planning!  If you live near Charlotte, VT, consider coming to this Saturday’s Seed Swap to give away your extra seeds, get a few fun new varieties, and get your gardening questions answered by local experts:

seed-swap-2016

 

If you’re reading this from afar, here are some past blog posts that I love reviewing at this time of year.  Happy Spring!

Garden PlanningPlanning a Back-Yard Garden: This post includes information on several crucial components to planning a back-yard garden including soil testing, sunlight analysis, seed catalogue browsing, making a veggie wish list, and rough-draft garden planning.  Back yard gardening is an affordable way to access fresh veggies throughout the summer, will get you physically active outside, is rewarding, and can be a great way to bond with family members or roommates!
Basil

Seeds vs. Seedlings: Sometimes it’s best to buy vegetable seedlings from a nursery.  Sometimes it’s better to buy a packet of seeds to start yourself.  Check out this post  to decide whether to buy seeds or seedlings.  Now is the perfect time to buy seeds or attend a seed swap!  If you live in Somerville, check out Seed Sale and Seed Swap information.

ContainersConsider planning a Container Garden: If you live in an urban setting with questionable soil, rent or are planning to move, or have a nice sunny porch, you may want to consider a container garden!  Containers are a great way to try out vegetable growing on a small scale, and can help you determine if you’d like to do more the next season.  If you start gathering materials now, it can also be a very affordable option!  This Post lists all the things you should consider to grow a successful container garden.

Categories
Musings Personal Sustainability: How-To Uncategorized

Our House is “Best of the Best!”

Award-winners

We knew we liked our house, and we knew it was energy efficient, but it came as a happy surprise to learn that Efficiency Vermont gave Fiddlehead Construction the 2016 Merit Award in New Residential Construction for their accomplishments in building our house.  We really enjoyed working with Ken Ruddy and the Fiddlehead Construction crew and were impressed with his ability to build such a tight and functional house within our budget.  Coupled with the award winning efficiency results, we are even more excited to spread the word about this awesome home construction company.

Check out the poster displaying our house, from the Better Building by Design Conference:

best-of-best-poster

 

Read the rave review we posted on Front Porch Forum about Ken and Fiddlehead:

We would like to let our local community know how happy we are to have worked with Ken Ruddy of Fiddlehead Construction for the designing and building (within our budget!) of our new high-efficiency home in Charlotte. 

This is an unsolicited recommendation and our hope is that anyone considering building a new home in the area will consider getting a quote from Ken (425-7019 or rudk1@aol.com ). He’s based in North Ferrisburgh and we couldn’t be more pleased with the house-building process and quality of the end product.

We were interested in building a moderately-sized energy-efficient home and this matched up perfectly with what Ken is trying to do in this area. He’s impressively up-to-date on the latest technologies (heat pumps, air circulation, solar-ready roof, passive solar design, extremely thick walls with air gaps, triple-pane European windows, dry basement, sustainable materials, and more!). The result of his knowledge and efforts is an Efficiency Vermont Gold Tier house that we expect to be low-maintenance and inexpensive to heat/cool.

In addition to the structural and sustainable attributes above we were also blown away with Ken and his crew’s attention to detail and finish work. Ken is a former fine furniture maker so the custom-milled counters, sills, rails, etc. were gorgeously crafted and immaculately installed. We didn’t have to “check up on” the progress of the house to make sure anything was up to our standards – everything surpassed our expectations.

His crew was fantastic. Most importantly they all seemed to genuinely enjoy working on the house and working together. We enjoyed chatting with them and the resulting good vibes is undoubtedly a benefit to the house and made the process that much more enjoyable for us.

From some of the ways we’ve described our house it would be understandable to assume it was extremely expensive and financially out of reach for most people. We don’t think that’s the case at all.  We told Ken our budget, and he designed the house to fit within those constraints.  We don’t think we could have gotten a better value from anyone. There are some inherent material price increases (more insulation costs more money than less insulation) when building an efficient house. But when we considered the long-term costs and benefits it was a no brainer. We plan to be in this neighborhood for the next twenty+ years.  With that in mind, creating a home this way could not be cheaper.  Our entire house runs on electricity (heating/cooling, hot water, and stove), so when we save up enough money to put PV solar panels on our southern roof, we will be able to eliminate all utility costs.

Want to make your home more efficient or build a new energy efficient home?  Be sure to work with Efficiency Vermont.  They offered Ken, as the contractor, and us, as the homeowners, many free services and support to help make our house as efficient as possible  They are an amazing resource to Vermont residents!

Categories
Musings Uncategorized

Gratitude in the New Year

hawks-eye-view
A hawk’s eye view of the frigid sunset from our house

Mindfulness.  Gratitude.  Being present in the moment and looking wisely into the future.

There are many things to reflect on about 2015 and think forward to in the new year.  Getting married and settling into a new home were big events for me in 2015.  My new year’s reflections this year are centered in gratitude.  I feel incredibly lucky for so many things.  Most of all, in 2016 I hope to keep this spirit of gratefulness alive as we settle into our new home and establish new rhythms.

Today I walked up Mount Philo, a familiar place to many who grew up here.  Now that we live on its southern slope, I’ve found a new appreciation for the beautiful walk, opportunity to be outside in nature, and the spectacular view from the top Mt. Philo provides to so many.  Here are some photos that capture the new year from our little spot in the Champlain Valley.

charlotte-champlain-valley

wintery-picnic

our-valley

hugged-camels-hump(in order: View to the West, Wintery Picnic, Our Valley, and Tree Hugged Camel’s Hump)
Categories
Children and Nature School Gardens

Green Thumbs Camp: August 2015

When it comes to summer camp, pictures speak better than words.  The photos below illustrate our wonderful week in the Charlotte Central School gardens and an amazing field trip to Philo Ridge Farm right across the street from the school.  Thank you to my teaching partner Stacy Carter and our assistant Carter, Deirdre Holmes and Abby Foulk for their work in the CCS gardens and compost shed, Charlotte Recreation for administering the camp, Vera Simon-Nobes for welcoming us to Philo Ridge Farm, and all our awesome campers!

Making quick work of a big weeding chore (it helped that we had a "longest root" contest)
Making quick work of a big weeding chore (it helped that we had a “longest root” contest)
Collecting seeds for our Seed Savers envelopes
Collecting seeds for our Seed Savers envelopes
Garden journaling and herb pot painting
Garden journaling and herb pot painting
Our Rainbow Salad Bar - all grown in the school garden!!
Our Rainbow Salad Bar – all grown in the school garden!!
Digging for potatoes - our garden's buried treasure
Digging for potatoes – our garden’s buried treasure
Garden-grown, camper-harvested roasted root veggies: striped beets, rainbow carrots, and purple & white potatoes!
Garden-grown, camper-harvested roasted root veggies: striped beets, rainbow carrots, and purple & white potatoes!
A walking field trip.  Look: our school is right across the road from Philo Ridge Farm!
A walking field trip. Look: our school is right across the road from Philo Ridge Farm!
Observing Philo Ridge Farm Sheep
Observing Philo Ridge Farm Sheep
Meeting Stewart Little (the sheep)
Meeting Stewart Little (the sheep)
Collecting Philo Ridge Farm duck eggs
Collecting Philo Ridge Farm duck eggs
When at garden camp, never forget to water the campers
When at garden camp, never forget to keep the campers well watered
Journaling in the garden
Journaling in the garden
Categories
Children and Nature School Gardens

Green Thumbs Camp, June 2015

What a week!  Our small but sweet group did a lot of garden work, found plenty of time to play, and made detailed garden journal entires, seed bombs, beautiful painted pots, and delicious snacks along the way.  Check out some images from the week:

Many hands make light work when it comes to moving a big pile of compost.
Many hands make light work when it comes to moving a big pile of compost.
A lovely visit to Philo Ridge Farm.  How lucky to have our school so close to a farm (see it across the road?).
A lovely visit to Philo Ridge Farm. How lucky to have our school so close to a farm (see the school across the road?).
After calculating how much pig food we needed and weighing it out using a scale, we're off to feed the pigs!
After calculating how much pig food we needed and weighing it out using a scale, we’re off to feed the pigs!
Examining pig slop.
Examining pig slop.
It's good to water plants, but it's especially fun to water campers.
It’s good to water plants, but it’s especially fun to water campers.
"Green!"
“Green!”
"Thumbs!"
“Thumbs!”

Want to learn more about gardening with children?  Check out these Tips for Gardening with Kids and this post about the importance of spending time outside.

Categories
Musings

Moving In!

It’s April vacation week and we’re moving into our new house!  Luckily, rainy days have kept me inside, busily packing and carting over car-loads of boxes, bags, and crates.  One more load of the big stuff, including our bed, will mark tomorrow as our official move-in day!  We couldn’t be more excited about the craftsmanship, artistry, hand-me-downs, local food, house warming gifts, and cheers of support that contributed to the home-building and shelf-stocking process.  We hope you’ll come visit soon to see it all first hand!  In the meantime, some photos:

Home sweet home
Home sweet home
Finished kitchen lit up at night for the first time!
Finished kitchen lit up at night for the first time!
Our moving truck, with some pretty cool bumper stickers.
Our moving truck, with some pretty cool bumper stickers.
Have we mentioned that we love our sunny dining room table?  Awesome work Michael!
Have we mentioned that we love our sunny dining room table? Awesome work Michael!
Fiddlehead Construction sure pays attention to detail.  Check out their custom solution for our island.
Fiddlehead Construction sure pays attention to detail. Check out their custom solution for our island.
Mid-move, dad went home to make the kitchen a vintage porcelain and slate towel rod.
Mid-move, dad went home to make the kitchen a vintage porcelain and slate towel rod.
We still have some work to do in our bedroom.  And where should we put Evan's basketball card collection?
We still have some work to do in our bedroom. And we’re still pondering where to put Evan’s basketball card collection…
Dishes representing all the grandmothers and several great aunts!
Dishes representing all the grandmothers and several great aunts, and our fully functioning bathroom.
I think we dried enough tea last summer...
I think we dried enough tea last summer…
Our pantry is well stocked.  And our fridge is equipped with both of our favorite fermented foods.
Our pantry is well stocked. And our fridge is equipped with both of our favorite fermented foods.
I didn't think I could be this excited about basement shelves.
I didn’t think I could be this excited about basement shelves.
Some items still waiting for just the right place.
Some items still waiting for just the right place.
Categories
Children and Nature

No Child Left Inside

The following article was published in the most recent edition of the Charlotte News:

NO CHILD LEFT INSIDE

By: Tai Dinnan Contributor

April 09, 2015

IMG_2515 copyNature Deficit Disorder. Leave No Child Inside. De-natured Childhood. Free Range Kids. What is your reaction to these phrases and slogans?

Experts agree: children (and adults) are spending less time outside. Screen time is on the rise, after-school and weekend time is increasingly structured, and many families lack access to outdoor spaces that feel safe and fun. For me, and the children’s programs I run, the phrases above provide a framework to justify a focus on outdoor play. These new terms, and their emphasis on the importance of getting children out into nature, are backed up with rigorous research. It turns out children need to play, adventure, relax, work and learn in natural spaces to develop into healthy, whole adults.

IMG_9870Though physical health is one of the most obvious benefits of playing outdoors, the more subtle benefits add up into a very long list: improved cognitive functioning and development, increased self esteem, more motivation, improved problem solving, encouragement of inventiveness and creativity, cooperation, increased attention spans, and psychological well-being.

Luckily, Charlotters have access to remarkable outdoor spaces. Most have large yards where children can play safely within shouting range of the house. A garden, wetland, stream, field and forest border our school. Mt. Philo State Park offers family-friendly hiking and picnicking opportunities. The shores of Lake Champlain offer endless treasure hunting, exploring and swimming opportunities. And don’t forget public and backyard gardens and farms to tend and visit!

IMG_2914Gardens, in fact, provide children with a surprising multitude of opportunities to work, learn and play in nature. School gardens draw classrooms outside for hands-on learning and community service. Vegetable gardens at home give families an opportunity to work together to grow and share nourishing food. Gardens are beautiful, lush miniature ecosystems. They can be just the right scale for children to discover the magic of life cycles, ecosystems, patterns, colors, teamwork, artistry, engineering challenges, flavors and smells. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The school gardens at Charlotte Central School have been expanding. Nestled between the Pease Mountain trailhead and the lower parking lot, the CCS Kitchen Garden is home to raised beds, a perennial herb garden, pumpkin and potato patches, the school’s compost shed and an outdoor classroom. It is a truly lush, colorful, buzzing and delicious place to be—especially in the summer.

IMG_2499When planning summer vacation, families should remember to include plenty of free time outside. For parents who work, make sure to select summer programs that encourage free play, outdoor expeditions, opportunities to garden and plenty of running around. Consider where you get your food: visiting a local farm or signing up for a CSA can be a great way to get outside as a family and connect with the source of your food. The best part of committing to increased time outside for your children? You can join them and enjoy the benefits to your physical and emotional health as well!

Tai Dinnan lives in Charlotte and is the director of the Extended Day Programming and the Turtle Lane Art and Nature Camp at Lake Champlain Waldorf School in Shelburne. She also works with Stacy Carter to run the Charlotte Green Thumbs Summer Camp—a daytime gardening camp for kids in late-June and early-August. For more information about the camp, email CCSGreenThumbs@gmail.com. Tai blogs at growingstories.wordpress.com

Learn more about each of the camps I’m running this summer:

CCS-Garden-Camp-Poster-long-2015

TLCamp_Poster

Categories
Musings

House Photo Update: The Home Stretch

Once again, I’m devoting a blog post to photos of our house progress instead of a story of delicious cooking, home gardening, or great projects to do with kids.  Soon though, we’ll move into our new home.  It will serve as the new site for my gardening, cooking, and crafting adventures!

Regarding house construction, we’re heading down the “home” stretch!  Tile and wood flooring is in, work is finishing up on trim inside and out, cabinets are being hung, countertops are in the making, and appliances are being delivered.  Efficiency Vermont will be doing their blower door test this week to determine how tight our home actually is.  Based on the quality of the workmanship of Fiddlehead Construction, we think it will prove to be very tight indeed.  During the last sunny but cold week, heat was turned off in the house because it was getting too hot!

As each room develops its own identity, it is easy to start visualizing the house filled with furniture, plants, dishes, friends…   soon!

Views of the finished exterior.  Clockwise from the west, north, southeast and southwest.
Views of the finished exterior. Clockwise from top left: view from the west, north, southeast and southwest.
Slate countertop special delivery.
Slate countertop special delivery.
Sunny basement with a functional washing machine and the soapstone sink from Debbie's Brookline basement.
Sunny basement with a functional washing machine and the soapstone sink from Debbie’s Brookline basement.
First floor bathroom.
First floor bathroom.
Kitchen cabinet progress!
Kitchen cabinet progress!
Finishing touches.
Finishing touches
Categories
Children and Nature Musings

More Winter Fun

lake-iceThis winter has been a blast.  Lake Champlain froze across for the second year in a row, we’ve gotten plenty of snow without any mid-winter thaws, and sometimes sunshine even boosts temperatures into the twenties!

It’s usually not too hard for me to think of the subject of my weekly blog post – I think about the past week’s highlights: yummy meals, fun outdoor adventures, or successful projects with kids after school.   Sometimes I scan through my most recent photos.  Even though I already wrote a post this year about winter play, outdoor recreation was the clear highlight of my past week!  We hiked Camel’s Hump again, this time equipped with sleds for the ride down.  SO FUN.  The lake froze across, providing us with miles of black ice to explore.  We even enjoyed temperatures in the thirties on Mt. Philo along with crowds of happy sledders, skiers, jack-jumpers, walkers, and their dogs.  I love living in Vermont, surrounded by people who love having fun in the snow!

Enjoying a sunny warm day on Mt. Philo... soon to be our back yard!
Enjoying a sunny warm day on Mt. Philo… soon to be our back yard!
A ski up the river to the upper covered bridge.
A ski up the river to the upper covered bridge.
Enjoying the wintery river highway.
Enjoying the beautiful wintery river highway.
Hiking up and sledding down Camel's Hump and a winter bonfire.
Hiking up and sledding down Camel’s Hump and a winter bonfire.
Exploring miles of black ice off the shores of Shelburne Farms.  Western winds literally blew us home!
Exploring miles of black ice off the shores of Shelburne Farms. Western winds literally blew us home!