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copyright the Chronicle April 30, 2014
by Natalie Hormilla
Marie Turmel Kroeger opened a hair salon in a refurbished milk house in Craftsbury last month with confidence and enthusiasm.
“It’s called faith in oneself,” she said, just a couple of weeks into officially opening The Milk House Hair Studio on King Farm Road.
Ms. Kroeger’s business offers a range of services, including hair cutting, coloring, highlighting, and styling, and other treatments like relaxed permanent waves and facial waxing. She also does makeup for, and consults on, events like weddings or professional makeovers.
Everything happens in a 300-square-foot space, restored and relocated from across the street by her husband, Ben. The space is decorated with artwork mostly painted by Ms. Kroeger herself.
“It’s really, really quaint, and very personalized,” she said.
copyright the Chronicle May 7, 2014
by Natalie Hormilla
BARTON — The price of beef in most stores is at a record high, and the price of locally raised beef is getting higher, too.
The average price of a pound of ground beef in most U.S. states hit almost $3.70 for the month of March, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index (CPI).
That average price was up from $3.55 in February and $3.47 in January. In March of 2013, it was $3.33; four years ago, it was $2.24.
Just like in the rest of the country, shoppers at the C&C Supermarket in Barton have been wondering why the prices have been so high lately.
“We had a sign over the meat department for three months, stating why we had higher beef prices,” said Ray Sweeney, who works in the meat department at the C&C. “Just to kind of explain ourselves.”
“People were asking a lot,” he said.
copyright the Chronicle 12-18-13
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
copyright the Chronicle December 11, 2013
by Natalie Hormilla
Some years ago, when we got tired of too many Christmas gifts with too little meaning, we started to give away Christmas cookies.
The whole process is beautiful. We bake together, listen to Christmas tunes, talk about the people we’ll give them to, sip amaretto, and just hang out as a family.
The best part is giving them. The cookies we make for Christmas make their appearance just once a year. They have a way of inspiring talk about those past family members who carried the recipes into the present.
by Natalie Hormilla
“I wish that I could put a scrambler over my building that would not allow any airwaves to come in and out during the day,” said Lake Region Union High School Principal Andre Messier.
He made that comment during a phone interview Monday on the topic of cyber bullying.
Sometimes cyber bullying happens only online — as in a “comments fight,” or nasty e-mails — and sometimes there’s an instance of a real incident continuing to live online.
Such was the case recently when an argument between students at the Orleans Elementary School was posted online.
The incident occurred while students were on the way home from school and involved a group of middle schoolers and at least one younger student.
What most agree was basically an argument between kids generated much attention because videos of it were posted online, and it appeared to some that a young black girl was targeted by an older white boy.
Orleans Elementary School Principal Kim Hastings conducted an investigation into the argument, which took place off school grounds last month, she said in a phone interview Monday.
“It was a just a verbal fight amongst middle school kids,” Ms. Hastings said. “There were inappropriate things said all around by the kids, and what happens is that they all got mad.”
Social media has exacerbated bullying, Mr. Messier said.
He has been an educator for 22 years, so he’s been on the front line of handling social media issues with students as they have become more prevalent and more complex.
“Back in our day, it was passing notes and throwing them in people’s lockers…now everything is so immediate and so much out into the world,” Mr. Messier said. “You know, you post something and it’s not just that one person you’ve written this note to, it’s public.”
Because of the public nature of the Orleans incident, many people learned about the fight, which some did consider to be a case of bullying.
At least one of the students recorded two videos of the incident and posted them on Facebook. Then an account of the story appeared in a local newspaper. Continue reading
by Natalie Hormilla
“You have to look at the pumpkin, and see what it tells you,” said Lila Winstead of Glover, about one of her rules of pumpkin carving.
Ms. Winstead is usually a winner at the Chronicle’s annual jack-o’-lantern contest, and 2013 was no exception.
She was one of three winners in the adult category this year. She won with a smaller pumpkin that featured an intricately carved face.
“That’s my fallback,” she said. “Every year, I think, it should be a face.”
There was also the matter of practicality in coming up with her idea.
“I was tired, and I couldn’t think of a big project, and I do indeed have rules — I’m a classicist.”
The jack-o’-lantern face is meant to sit by the front door of a house to keep away gremlins this time of year, Ms. Winstead said.
“In my heart of hearts, that’s what I really believe, that the pumpkin is a face. Nice things should not be depicted on the face. Sweet things — that’s not Halloween.” Continue reading
by Natalie Hormilla
The price of a cord of green firewood is running about $185 this year, about the same as last year. It’s a price that’s mostly determined locally — at least compared to other home heating fuels, like oil or propane. It reflects the cost of pulpwood and fuel, and the weather, to name some of the factors that figure into the annual cost of cordwood.
And it’s a price that hasn’t fluctuated much for long stretches of time, although there was a dramatic leap around the turn of the millennium.
Back in 1970 or 1971, when he first started logging, David Poirier of Barton charged $50 a cord. Today he’s asking $185, but for years the price did little more than creep up.
Michael Moore of Brownington is selling firewood for $170 a cord this year, the same as last.
Mr. Moore said he’s been logging, or at least involved in it, since he was four years old. “I used to ride the horse, the skid horse,” he said.
While a number of factors affect the price of firewood, one in particular is weighty:
“The pulp wood market — it’s what the mills are paying for the wood,” Mr. Moore said. “The pulpwood market is what drives the price. You’re not going to buy firewood that’s cheaper than pulpwood. It can make a difference of $10 a cord on firewood, very easily.”
Mr. Poirier agrees.
Mr. Poirier logs with his son and partner, Jeff, and they cut about 600 cords of wood per year. He said mills can determine the price that they’re willing to pay, notify the loggers they work with through the mail, and therefore control the price of firewood through supply and demand.
“When the demand is there to make wood products, they’ll raise the price,” he said. “It might be for three months, but if it’s worth $150, and they decide they need a bunch of stuff, they’ll raise it to $175. They pretty much determine all that stuff.
“They’ll raise their prices so they can get more of it. It gives more incentive to the loggers to say the hell with the firewood.”
Mr. Poirier also pointed out that the pulpwood market is a year-round market for loggers, and therefore an important part of their business.
“Pulp is what you make toilet paper out of, writing paper, anything that you do that you write on, is all made of pulpwood, whether it’s hardwood or softwood,” Mr. Poirier said.
The pulpwood market can change quickly, too. “A big outfit might need 100 tractor-trailer loads of Scott paper towels, but then the market might change and they say they only need 20,” he said.
Those changes have an immediate effect on the price of firewood.
“Say your wood at the mill just drops like heck,” Mr. Poirier said. “Course that’s going to affect the price of your firewood. If you don’t drop the price of your firewood there’s people out there that will do it just to cut you out of the picture. Just like the stock market, you keep an eye on it very closely.”
The price of firewood is relatively stable, he said.
“It usually doesn’t fluctuate too much. Last year, we were selling for $190 and we actually went down to $185, because there are a lot of cutthroats out there. We should be getting $200 now, but there are so many people out there doing it for easy money, and people see that.”
“I’d say, it doesn’t usually fluctuate more than five bucks a year,” he said. “Sometimes ten, but that’s rare.”
Mr. Poirier and Mr. Moore both said that the price of gas and oil affect the price of firewood.
“Everything we run is fuel related, and fuel is $3.50 a gallon right now,” Mr. Poirier said. “The more you pay for fuel and repairs and all this, it all fluctuates like that. So the cost of fuel means it costs more money to produce the cord of wood.”
Mr. Poirier said that when he first started logging over four decades ago, fuel was only a quarter a gallon.
“So that makes a big difference,” he said. “Hydraulic oil over the last ten years has doubled in price.”
“It’s expensive, period,” he said, about the cost of producing a cord of wood. “All your expenses to get it out, whether it be fuel or whatever.”
Mr. Moore also cited the rising cost of fuel, and the equipment itself, as drivers of the cost of firewood.
In 1980 he sold green, cut and split wood, delivered, for between $50 and $55.
“In 1980, I could buy the best saw around for $200,” he said. “Now it’d be $2,000, or $1,500 anyway. We were buying chainsaw gas for 50 cents a gallon and diesel fuel for 40 cents a gallon,” he said.
He also pointed out that just about everything under the sun is more expensive over time.
He also said that delivery, and where the logger and customer are located, add to the cost. He said it’s hard to compete with people who are closer to their customers, so that makes a difference in price — by up to about $5 a cord, he said.
“Who’s near you and who ain’t?”
Mr. Moore also touched upon a bigger-picture factor that he believes affects the cost of firewood.
“Next big thing is probably the state of Vermont,” he said. He said the state owns hundreds of thousands of acres that don’t get cut. “The wood is going by because it’s not getting cut.”
Mr. Moore believes this has had a big effect on the cost of firewood.
“Because all the wood is in competition with the lack of wood. Because the more you shrink the supply, the more you drive the price up.”
“The supply is limited by the amount of wood the state isn’t cutting in certain areas,” he said.
“We had a dramatic change in the price here during and after the Champion Lands buyout,” he said. “Because it was a huge mark of land, and it went off the grid.”
The Champion lands buyout, completed in 1999, is Vermont’s largest conservation project in history, according to the Vermont Land Trust. The former Champion Lands consist of 132,000 acres of forestland, located mostly in Essex County. The land was owned by Champion International Paper Company before being transferred over to a mix of public and private entities including the Fish and Wildlife Department and the Agency of Natural Resources.
The firewood market is particularly important in the state of Vermont.
About 15 percent of Vermont homes use wood as their primary source of heat, said Matt Cota, executive director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association.
There are still more homes that use wood to supplement a heating system that mostly runs on other fuels, like oil or propane.
“If you look at the U.S. census data, wood is a minor player in every other state,” he said. “In Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, it’s in double digits. But everywhere else it’s in low single digits.”
Another factor in the price of firewood is that about 50 percent of homes in Vermont use oil as their primary source of heat, Mr. Cota said.
“When oil prices go up, there’s more demand for cut and split wood,” he said. “The higher the price of oil goes up, the higher the price of wood goes up. If the oil price is okay, people might not go out and buy that extra cord of wood. A lot of people in Vermont supplement with wood, even if they use oil.”
The use of oil as a primary source of heat is mostly unique to this area, Mr. Cota said.
“Of all the oil heat consumed in the United States, almost all of it is consumed in New England, New York and New Jersey. Over 80 percent of oil heat is used in the nine Northeastern states. It’s gas and electricity elsewhere.”
Mark Collette, alternative heating specialist with Blanchard Oil Company of Orleans, has seen the effect of the price of oil on the firewood market.
“In ’08 or ’07, when $4 oil was thrown in our faces, and people were looking at a $10,000 a year oil bill, it was a banner year for boilers,” he said, referring to wood-fired hot water heating systems.
Mr. Collette said that newer, more efficient wood stoves can also cut down on a person’s need for firewood. He said that if a person replaced a “non-EPA, old technology, pre-1985” stove with a more efficient model, they could use between 25 and 40 percent less wood to heat the same home.
Mr. Collette said that convenience factors in, when people decide whether to heat their homes with wood or other types of fuel.
“The convenience is what you pay for, and that’s the big deal with oil and propane — it’s convenience, and you pay for it,” he said. “The time it takes, the physical demands of cord wood are significant, depending on one’s potential.”
“People forget — short term memories — what it used to be like,” he said. “It’s like $3.50 or $3.60 for oil per gallon, and propane varies widely on consumption.”
Mr. Cota said the same thing.
“On a BTU basis, oil costs more than wood, but there’s also something nice about turning the thermostat and leaving it — the comfort and simplicity. With wood you got to wrestle either the bag of pellets or the chunk wood. It’s part of the Vermont tradition, but it’s hard work. It can be very satisfying, but it’s hard work.”
Weather also factors in to the price of firewood, Mr. Cota said.
“Wood prices go up or down according to weather. Is there a supply? Can they get out into the forest to get it cut and split and dried before it’s cold?”
“There could be a supply and demand issue if the weather is bad,” he said. He remembers a summer sometime in the last five years that was really wet, so the wood was hard to deal with.
“The amount of wood taken off land to cut for the winter was less. Then there’s great summers.”
Mr. Poirier said he couldn’t put away any seasoned wood this summer, due to the wet conditions.
Much like the loggers, Mr. Cota said that the wood market is driven more by what’s happening in the area, as opposed to the cost of other fuels.
“Oil price is determined on a global level. Wood is local,” he said. “The price of oil in, wherever, you name it, affects the price of oil in Vermont.”
Mr. Poirier pointed out that while wood is cheaper than oil, propane is cheap, too. “But the trouble with that is that’s not a real controllable market,” he said.
“Anything you have as far as gases, we don’t control that — government controls that stuff. Wood is controllable, but not the same way.”
“I think people get a lot more for their dollar from a cord of wood compared to oil,” said Gary Lyman of Glover.
Mr. Lyman cuts about 50 cords of wood a year from his property.
“Like eight cord will heat most homes,” he said.
He multiplied that number by the cost of a cord of his wood this year, which is $200, to show what it would cost to heat an average home with wood.
“I bet they would use more than that on fuel oil,” he said.
Mr. Lyman described himself as a farmer and a half-ass logger, who only cuts wood for firewood customers. Still, the pulpwood market affects his price, too.
“I go with what everyone else gets,” he said, on how he determines his price. “So of course it affects me.”
He said his price is maybe $10 higher than last year. He couldn’t remember how much he charged when he first started cutting wood about 45 years ago.
“I’m sure way back we gave it away, you know, it was really cheap. I can’t remember how cheap, but not much. Just in the last ten, 15 years, it’s got up to worth doing.”
When asked if he thought the price of wood is determined more locally than globally, he referred to recent conversation with family.
“A relative in the Burlington area said it’s $250 and higher, a relative in Connecticut says it’s the same as it is here. So you figure it out, because I can’t.”
contact Natalie Hormilla at email@example.com
by Bethany M. Dunbar
BARTON — A veteran reporter for the Chronicle had his car stolen from the office as he was working inside on Tuesday. But about three hours later, the vehicle was found in Orleans, and the person who took it was caught.
About 3:30 p.m., Assistant Editor Natalie Hormilla Gordon arrived for her evening shift job and noticed a young man in a hooded sweatshirt sitting in Paul Lefebvre’s car, holding the steering wheel.
She did not recognize him, thought it was odd, and when she went inside, she told Mr. Lefebvre, who went outside to take a look. By then the car was being driven from the scene, badly. It’s a Honda CRV with standard shift, and the driver was stalling as he made his getaway, down Water Street and north on Route 5, as Mr. Lefebvre watched.
Thinking he might be able to head it off on foot, Mr. Lefebvre cut through the schoolyard at a run to try to get his car back.
The attempt proved unfruitful, so he came back to the office where he called the State Police to report the theft. Chronicle staffers also decided to post the car’s theft on Facebook. Trooper Erika Liss came to the Chronicle office and interviewed Mr. Lefebvre and Ms. Gordon, who had got a good look at the robber. She described him as a white male in his twenties, average size, with blue eyes, wearing a Navy blue hoodie.
“He had his hands on the wheel, looking kind of intense,” she said. “He was just sitting there, and I thought, maybe he knows Paul.”
Mr. Lefebvre said his first thought was, “How am I going to get home tonight?”
His car had been in an accident about a week and a half before, and the back window was smashed out and covered with a green tarp and duct tape. It also had problems with the door, created in the accident.
Mr. Lefebvre said it has not been a very lucky car for him, as he has had to put in a new motor, water pump, and clutch.
“I think that car has a hex on it,” he said.
But Mr. Lefebvre’s luck was apparently turning a few hours later, when people started calling the office to say they had seen the car in Orleans Village. They were aware of the theft due to the Facebook post. Mr. Lefebvre called the police back to say the car had been spotted in Orleans, and Lieutenant Kirk Cooper went to the village, spotted the car and found out the driver was in the bathroom at the Sunoco station. The driver, who said he is from Enosburg and had no wallet with him, was cited after he came out of the bathroom.
Mr. Lefebvre had his car back, and nothing seemed to be missing from the vehicle.
contact Bethany M. Dunbar at firstname.lastname@example.org
by Natalie Hormilla
When Jan Caswell was growing up in Derby Line, she had no idea what sort of career lay in her future. Now, after 40 years of working with deaf people in a variety of ways, she’s created a book that introduces American Sign Language and deaf culture, entitled Hand Artists.
Ms. Caswell said she basically fell into working with deaf people.
“It’s given me a career for 40 years, and I have met some people who are just fascinating,” she said in an interview with the Chronicle.
After graduating from North Country Union High School’s second class, in 1969, Ms. Caswell went to the University of Connecticut. She said she thought she’d return to the Northeast Kingdom, but took a job at the Austine School for the Deaf in Brattleboro, on a lark.
“I needed a job and I wanted to be back in Vermont,” she said. The job was to be a dormitory counselor at the Austine school.
“I lived in a separate house with 25 girls between the ages of 16 and 21,” she said. All the girls were deaf students at Austine.
“I was like the big sister,” she said.
Ms. Caswell was 22 years old at the time, and had no previous experience in sign language. She was told she wouldn’t need to know sign for the job.
“That was too scary,” she said.
As luck would have it, Ms. Caswell knew a returning senior at Austine who lived in Newport. Ms. Caswell asked to borrow the girl’s yearbook, and taught herself how to letter spell each student’s name so she would at least have an entry point for conversation once she got to Austine.
Ms. Caswell picked up American Sign Language very quickly once she got to Austine.
“In six weeks, I was fluent,” she said.
“It was hands-on the minute I started.” Ms. Caswell said the girls would try to tell her dirty jokes in American Sign Language.
“I wouldn’t understand them. I’d sign, ‘slow,’ ‘again.’”
That job marked the beginning of a lifelong love for signing. Since then, Ms. Caswell has worked as the Vermont state coordinator of services for the deaf, as an educational interpreter in California, as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the deaf in Massachusetts, and she even worked as the interpreter on Madeline Kunin’s gubernatorial campaign, among other things.
“I’ve done everything you can do — I think.”
She said that she is sometimes mistaken as being a deaf person, rather than a hearing person.
Ms. Caswell said that her kids really encouraged her to publish a book after learning that she had written some stories, just for fun.
After she wrote the book, she used the online funding platform Kickstarter to gather money for publishing expenses.
Kickstarter allows for people from just about anywhere to donate to a project, whether because they know the project creator or they just think it’s a cool idea.
Ms. Caswell said that she raised most of the $6,600 she needed through Kickstarter. Donations ranged from $5 to $500.
“People donated from all over: Alaska, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, California, Oregon, Arizona, Vermont, Connecticut, Florida,” she said.
She said some people who weren’t at all connected to her or even the deaf community donated money.
The donations were helpful because, as Ms. Caswell put it, “I’m not going to make millions. It’s really a work of love.”
Ms. Caswell brought on a late-deafened woman, Stephanie Labrie, to be the illustrator.
“Steph had never done anything professionally before,” she said.
Ms. Labrie used watercolor pencils, which allow for colors that are deep and bold.
“When you take a 3-D language and put it on a 2-D page, it’s extremely difficult,” Ms. Caswell said.
Hand Artists is a very colorful book that tells the story of Kyleigh, a deaf girl, and Erin, a hearing girl, who are best friends. American Sign Language is interspersed throughout the pages. The discerning reader will learn the signs for different letters, numbers, and even words like “story” and “goal.” The illustrator used curved arrows to indicate the hand motions needed for more complicated signs.
“It’s an opportunity to learn a little bit about sign, but it’s not something to ‘teach’ sign with,” Ms. Caswell said. “It’s meant to introduce it.” The book is also meant to be an introduction to deaf culture.
“My friends who are educators said it’s most likely for five-to-ten-year-olds, but older kids can benefit, too,” she said. “It’s meant for whomever, or for hearing people who want to learn a little more about sign.”
Ms. Caswell said that about a dozen teachers, from Ontario, Canada, to western Massachusetts, have ordered the book for their classrooms.
Ms. Caswell lives in western Massachusetts, but she said she still considers Vermont her home, and visits her parents in Derby Line often.
Hand Artists is available at Wider Than the Sky in Newport, the Woodknot Bookshop in Newport, Barnes and Noble, and amazon.com.
contact Natalie Hormilla at email@example.com