In girls basketball: Falcons defense key in win over Lyndon

NC girls block

Falcon Mariah LaDeau (right) forces Lyndon Institute’s Samantha Smith to the outside during Saturday’s girls varsity match at North Country. Photo by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 1-7-2014

NEWPORT — The North Country Falcons picked up their second win of the season against the visiting Lyndon Institute Vikings on Saturday afternoon 41-29.  It also marks the team’s second win against rival LI this season as North Country improves to 2-3 on the year.  Coach Christiane Brown credits a strong defensive presence for Saturday’s win.

“Everyone contributed in some way or another,” Coach Brown said after the game.  “My stats calculator can keep track of a lot of things but the intensity and drive of my girls isn’t something that shows up in the stat sheet.  That’s what really made the difference today.” Continue reading

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In boys basketball: Rangers edge out Vikings to remain undefeated

LR boys FG

Three-pointers accounted for 21 of the Rangers 64 points in Thursday night’s win over the visiting Lyndon Institute Vikings. Here, Ranger Matt Messier (right) fires the first of his two field goals as the Vikings Mason Lantz (center) and Harwant Sethi Jr. look on. Photos by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 12-23-2013

ORLEANS — The crowd’s reaction to every point scored in Thursday night’s game belied the fact that it was only the second game of the season for both Lake Region and Lyndon Institute.  There was a tension in the air that spoke of an intense rivalry or a high stakes playoff showdown.  Both teams played like it might be their last game of the season.  That makes for great basketball.

It’s entirely possible that the tone of the evening was set when the home team Rangers junior varsity squad edged the JV Vikings by a single point.  It could also be that neither team was willing to go home without putting on the best possible show for their fans.  Anyone who sat in the bleachers at the Don Harter Memorial Gymnasium certainly saw proof of that as the Rangers went on to win 64-54 to improve to 2-0 on the season. Continue reading

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Ice storm causes widespread power outages

A power line on Roaring Brook Road between West Glover and Barton.  Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

A power line on Roaring Brook Road between West Glover and Barton. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

by Bethany M. Dunbar

copyright the Chronicle 12-23-2013

An ice storm has knocked out power in northern Vermont and beyond.  Monday morning David Hallquist of Vermont Electric Cooperative said the storm is unprecedented in the amount of damage it’s done because it’s so widespread geographically.  About two-thirds of the cooperative’s coverage area lost power.

Mr. Hallquist said crews are working hard to restore power to everyone.

“We’ve got all the king’s horses and all the king’s men trying to put Humpty Dumpty together again,” he said.  Continue reading

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In girls hockey: Division champion Comets rough up Falcons

NC girls hockey pack

Falcons Jenna Moss (center) and Taylor Morley (third from right) battle through a pack of Comets during Wednesday’s 8-2 loss at the Ice Haus in Jay. BFA St. Albans Comets Marriah Metz (left), Jade Remillard (second from right) and Maddy Dean move to intercept the Falcons. Photo by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 12-20-2013

JAY — It has been a rough introduction to the Metro Division for the North Country Falcons (3-2) girls hockey team.  Having clawed their way to a much-deserved title match last season, both the Falcons and their Lake Division rival and division champion Harwood Highlanders bumped up to the Metro Division this season.  Wednesday night’s game, December 18, at the Ice Haus in Jay, an 8-2 loss, marked the Falcons’ fifth game of the season and third against a Metro Division opponent — the reigning Metro Division champion BFA St. Albans Comets (4-1). Continue reading

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In Nordic skiing: Local racers hit the podium in season opener

NC Nordic Ellis

North Country Falcon Avery Ellis digs deep as she races ahead of U-32′s Orli Schwartz during Tuesday’s varsity meet at the Craftsbury Outdoor center. Ellis would power her way to a third place finish in the opening Nordic meet of the season. Photos by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 12-18-201

CRAFTSBURY COMMON — Craftsbury Charger Anders Hanson captured a second place finish, and North Country Falcon Avery Ellis took third in the opening meet of the 2013-2014 Nordic varsity ski season on Tuesday.  The meet, held at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, was jointly hosted by Craftsbury Academy and Peoples Academy in Morrisville. Continue reading

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Opinion: Rock on, Lake Region

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The Lake Region Union High School Rangerettes.  Photo by Peter Cocoros

The Lake Region Union High School Rangerettes. Photo by Peter Cocoros

by Tena Starr

This year’s Lake Region Union High School Winter Concert was something I would have paid money to attend.  From first to last, it was spectacular.

There’s such pressure on academics, but arts matter as well, and it’s something to keep in mind as school budgets tighten and tests gain importance.

Hurrah to whoever decided that Lake Region’s budget should include money for the elegant clothes all those fine musicians and singers wore.  It was mightily impressive to see the young people decked out in gowns, white shirts, and black vests and bow ties.  The school should be commended for its commitment to its music program and providing an incentive for the kids to take it all seriously, which they did.

And Sara Doncaster should be commended for coming up with such an innovative program, which ranged from classics to Etta Brown, and included the funniest version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” that I’ve ever heard.  I saw it on the program and sighed, being a Scrooge, I guess, and considering “The Twelve Days of Christmas” one of the most tedious holiday songs ever written.

Not this version.  It was surprising and amusing, but it was also a complex song to sing — one that could have easily, and abominably, failed were it not for such a skilled group of singers.

Katie Lucas and the Rangerettes ought to go shopping for paid gigs.  The audience found itself whooping and whistling and, eventually, doing a standing ovation for that terrifically talented little group of young women.

And when was the last time you went to a school concert and heard a trio of young men croon a Frank Sinatra tune?

They all looked like they were having such fun, as were the people listening to them.

Then there’s the bands.  The Five Dollar Band, which backed up Katie and the Rangerettes, the Jazz Band, and the Orchestral Band.  They were challenged, and they rose to it.  What a fine, fine job those musicians did.

This is great stuff — for the kids, for those of us parents, for the future of music.  Thank you Lake Region, Sara Doncaster, and in particular, all you promising singers and musicians for providing such a rousing and excellent performance.  Rock on.

For more free articles like this one, visit our editorials and opinions page.

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Christmas trees growers turn to the Canaan fir

copyright the Chronicle 12-18-13

by Natalie Hormilla

christmas tree tester

Bill Tester stands with one of his balsam and Fraser fir hybrids at his choose and cut stand in Barton. Photo by Natalie Hormilla

“I will never plant another balsam again,” said Steve Moffatt.  “Between the frost and the disease and the insect issues, I won’t.”

Mr. Moffatt owns and operates Moffatt’s Tree Farm in Craftsbury with his wife, Sharon.

This year is about the tenth year that Mr. and Ms. Moffatt have run the family business, which has been operating in some capacity or another since the 1960s.  Mr. Moffatt’s dad, Jim, still works at the farm, where he was born. Continue reading

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In girls basketball: Yellow Jackets sting Rangers in home opener

copyright the Chronicle 12-18-2013

by Richard Creaser

LR girls basketball cut

Lake Region’s Katie Menard (right) pours on the speed as she slips around Windsor Yellow Jacket Ashleay Wilcox in varsity basketball action on Monday night. Menard would contribute six points on the night. Photos by Richard Creaser

ORLEANS — In a battle of two fairly evenly matched teams, the visiting Windsor Yellow Jackets spoiled the Lake Region Rangers’ home opener with a 67-59 win.  Despite the loss and despite falling to 0-2 on the season, the time has not yet come to despair, Coach Joe Houston said.

Continue reading

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In boys hockey: NC Falcons win big in home opener

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NCBHvME slap

North Country’s Ross DeLaBruere delivers a blistering shot during Friday night’s season opener at the Pat Burns Arena in Stanstead. Fellow Falcons Nathan Marsh (back left) and Tucker Corrow (back right) flank DeLaBruere on the play. DeLaBruere would record two goals on the night as the Falcons cruised to a 6-0 win over the visiting Greely High Rangers from Cumberland, Maine. Photo by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 12-8-2013

STANSTEAD, Quebec — It’s been two years since the North Country Falcons last played in Stanstead, but the team picked up where they left off with a decisive 6-0 win over the visiting Greely High Rangers on Friday night.  The game marked the opening of the regular season and a special four-team CanAm series featuring the Falcons, the South Burlington Rebels, the Rangers from Greely High in Cumberland, Maine, and Alexander Galt Regional High from Lennoxville, Quebec, played at the Pat Burns Arena in Stanstead. Continue reading

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Researchers extract sap from maple saplings

Smaller maple trees could be used to produce syrup with a new system being researched in Vermont. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

Smaller maple trees could be used to produce syrup with a new system being researched in Vermont. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

by Tena Starr

copyright the Chronicle 11-27-2013

Researchers at the Proctor Maple Research Center have stumbled onto a new way of sugaring that could revolutionize the most rapidly growing agricultural industry in Vermont.

Instead of getting 100 taps per acre, it would be possible to get 5,000 or more.  Instead of getting roughly 40 gallons of maple syrup per acre, it would be possible to get as much as 400 gallons per acre.

It would be possible, in other words, to have a prosperous sugaring operation on a single acre of farmland.

The idea is that saplings could be “tapped,” either in a regenerating sugarbush, or in a densely planted field.

Four years ago, Tim Perkins and Abby van den Berg at the Proctor Maple Research Center set out to study how sap flows in maple trees when a vacuum system is employed.  Vacuum sucks sap out of a tree rather than letting it flow at its natural, and much less predictable, rate.

Normally, in a thaw, sap flows downward through the tree.

“But if you’re on vacuum, you continue to get sap out of a tree after that process stops,” Mr. Perkins said.  “The only logical conclusion was that we were pulling sap up out of the ground.”

If that’s the case, then the top of the tree isn’t necessary to get a sap run, Mr. Perkins noted.  So, to test the theory, he and Ms. van den Berg lopped the top off a sapling, attached a plastic bag with a piece of tubing to the top of the stump, and sucked the sap out with vacuum.

It worked.  It worked so well, in fact, that, after four years of research, Mr. Perkins has concluded they discovered a whole new way of making syrup — one that could protect the industry from climate change and Asian longhorned beetles, allow new sugarmakers to get into the business despite prohibitively high land prices, and permit existing operations to expand.

A new sugarmaker could plant a closely spaced plantation of maple saplings.  A sugarmaker already in business could end up “tapping” the saplings that have grown up in his woods instead of clearing them out.

“There’s no question it works,” Mr. Perkins said.  “We generally don’t like to talk about things unless we know they’re going to work.  We spent four years looking at this before we began talking.  You can certainly make considerably more syrup per acre than with the standard method of sugaring.”

The only problem is it’s not yet possible to sugar such a plantation.  That’s because the device needed to get sap out of a sapling doesn’t exist — at least not on a large scale.

Mr. Perkins said the researchers made the equipment they used by hand, but no one would want to make enough for an entire plantation.  “It’s the same as if you had to whittle your own spouts,” he said.  “You wouldn’t want to make 5,000 or 6,000 of them.”

The device that’s missing is the plastic bag with the piece of tubing that would connect to the rest of the system.  “You need to get that sap out of the bag,” Mr. Perkins said.  “You can’t do it now because the devices to pull out the sap aren’t available commercially.”

Manufacturers have been approached and expressed interest, but at the moment no one is producing the piece needed for such a sugaring operation, Mr. Perkins said.

“We’ve spoken to manufacturers very briefly,” he said.  “Our next step is to start meeting with each manufacturer, describing it in more detail, and seeing if they want to start working with us.”

Among longtime sugarmakers, the procedure has generated good-natured cautiousness.

“When I saw it my immediate opinion was that’s crazy,” said Bucky Shelton of Glover, who has sugared for 35 years and is a sales and service man for Lapierre USA in Orleans.  “But if you put your mind into the future then it’s probably an interesting way to do this.  I’ll say one thing, you don’t have to worry about the wind blowing them down.  “It’s more secure as far as environmental problems go.”

Wind is a major threat to sugarmakers, and storms have been increasing, Mr. Shelton said.  He’s still cleaning up his own sugarbush, which was hit by a windstorm in May.

Jacques Couture, chairman of the Vermont Maple Sugarmakers Association, also a longtime sugarmaker, agrees that plantation sugaring could be a defense against increasing threats.  For instance, the hurricane of 1938 wiped out many mature sugarbushes, setting the business back years, he said.

“Some of the older sugarmakers talked about that.  All these beautiful sugarbushes got completely mowed down.”

“I don’t see myself doing it anytime soon, but it’s interesting,” Mr. Couture said.  “If we had some kind of major disaster, a lot of people would look at this seriously.”

That’s one of Mr. Perkins’ points.  Vermont’s sugaring industry, thriving right now, is whim to weather and pests, as is any agricultural venture.

The Asian longhorned beetle isn’t yet in Vermont, but it’s been found in neighboring states, and currently there are infestations in Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio.  It’s a serious threat to maples and other hardwood species, but it doesn’t like little trees, Mr. Perkins said.  They’re big beetles, and they like big trees to bore into, he said.  Saplings just don’t appeal to them.

And, 50 years down the road, as the temperature warms, smaller maples will be more likely to produce syrup.  Being smaller, they freeze and thaw quicker, allowing for more sap runs.

“In the projected environment we’re going to have 50 years from now, smaller trees will probably be better suited for sugaring,” Mr. Perkins said.

The ideal maple for plantation sugaring would actually look more like a bush than a stately 100-year-old maple.  Two-inch stems are optimum, Mr. Perkins said.  A single stem works fine — for a while.

The first year the top would be cut off to get the sap run.  Each year another six to 12 inches would be cut off the top of the stem to get the sap running.  But with a single stem, “eventually, you’re going to get to ground,” Mr. Perkins said.  A sapling with multiple stems, on the other hand, could last a very long time.

At the moment, the cost of production, for a variety of reasons, works out about the same as for a traditional sugarbush, Mr. Perkins said.

“Where this new method starts to get better is if you can plant saplings that have the genetics to be sweet trees,” he said.

And work has been done on developing particularly sweet varieties of maples, Mr. Perkins said.  Individual trees vary in sugar content, he said, and researchers were breeding for sweetness.  That work came to an end when reverse osmosis was introduced, he said.  Reverse osmosis removes some of the water from sap before it’s boiled, thus “sweetening” it and reducing boiling time.

“If we can increase the sugar content of sap to 3 percent, you’d go from 400 gallons an acre to 600 gallons,” Mr. Perkins said.

A plantation of particularly sweet trees would significantly cut the cost of production.  “If we could breed sweet trees and grow them fairly quickly,” the economics would be quite different, Mr. Perkins said.

The cost, and availability, of land is also a factor in sugaring today, he said.  “In Vermont right now about 50 percent of the optimal land for sugarbushes is being used for sugarbushes,” he said.  “The rest of it is mostly tied up.  There’s still land available, but it may not have the highest density, or people don’t want sugaring there.  This provides another option for people to continue to grow their operation.”

The idea of plantation sugaring, turning what is currently a semi-wild crop into a farm crop, causes some sugarmakers to raise an eyebrow — and laugh a little.

“It’s not too romantic,” Mr. Shelton said.  “One of my first thoughts was, boy, this is pretty far from tradition.”

“It does change the image if it becomes a cornfield type of thing, or sugarcane type of thing,” Mr. Couture said.

No, cutting the tops off saplings is not a traditional notion of sugaring, Mr. Perkins said.  “But, unfortunately, the traditional image doesn’t represent the reality of what’s out there.  We don’t have people walking around with horses anymore.”

He said he doesn’t see the new way of sugaring replacing the traditional methods anytime soon, although it could augment some operations and buffer the entire industry against disaster.

So far, the reaction from sugarmakers has been generally positive, Mr. Perkins said.

“I’m definitely open to seeing how it works,” Mr. Shelton said.  “They’re thinking out of the box, and I think we need to think out of the box for the future.  Everything old school is just getting uprooted.  It’s important to be thinking in these terms.”

Steve Wheeler at Jed’s Maple in Derby, which produces organic syrup and maple products, said he had not yet even heard about sugaring maple saplings.  “We’re set up so traditionally here that it’s kind of a shock,” he said.

He said he hasn’t formed an opinion, but sees no reason why sugaring in a whole new way wouldn’t work.  “I don’t see why you can’t approach it like traditional farming.”

Mr. Wheeler said he has great respect for the UVM researchers.  “Proctor has some really neat ideas,” he said.

contact Tena Starr at tenas@bartonchronicle.com.  For more free stories like this one, see our editor’s pick category on this site.  We hope these will interest you enough to make you want to subscribe to our online or print editions.

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