Backus brothers bring business to Westfield

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From left to right are Merlin Backus, Rebecca Velazquez, and Luke Backus of Westfield along with some of Merlin and Rebecca’s goats. Luke plans to turn this old barn into a distillery. Photo by Tena Starr

From left to right are Merlin Backus, Rebecca Velazquez, and Luke Backus of Westfield along with some of Merlin and Rebecca’s goats. Luke plans to turn this old barn into a distillery. Photo by Tena Starr

copyright the Chronicle February 10, 2016

by Tena Starr   

WESTFIELD — Not long ago Rebecca Velazquez, who grew up in New Jersey, found herself in this very rural small town near tears, struggling to milk an uncooperative goat.

She was an urban woman, never even had a dog, she said.  And there she was in Westfield, population about 400, with two nanny goats that had to be milked and a partner who was out of state visiting his grandfather.

Ms. Velazquez’s partner is Merlin Backus, who grew up on a homestead farm in Westfield.  As a youngster, he hadn’t envisioned himself still living in that small town as a grownup.

But after college in New York City where he studied writing, and some years living there with Rebecca — a couple of those years traveling back and forth between New York and Vermont to care for his sick mother — he’s returned home.

So has his brother Luke, who also left… To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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Dogs keep up the spirit at the Bel-Aire

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Resident Evelyn Jenne enjoys some lap time with Shadow, a tiny three-year-old shih tzu.  Photo by Elizabeth Trail

Resident Evelyn Jenne enjoys some lap time with Shadow, a tiny three-year-old shih tzu. Photo by Elizabeth Trail

copyright the Chronicle January 6, 2016

by Elizabeth Trail

NEWPORT — When tiny Shadow, a three-year-old shih tzu, can’t be found, everyone at the Bel-Aire Quality Care Center in Newport knows where to look for him.

Shadow has a favorite person among the residents and can usually be found on her bed. In fact, he’s a little bit protective of her.

Dogs are everywhere at the Bel-Aire. Or at least it seems that way. Dogs are carrying their toys through the halls, greeting visitors, and getting hugs from seniors in wheelchairs.

The four dogs that are there during the day — dogs who belong to Bel-Aire employees — are an integral part of everyday life.

“I love the dogs. We always had dogs at home,” resident Evelyn Jenne said. Ms. Jenne is legally blind, so she can’t see the dogs clearly, but she enjoys petting and holding them.

Many people are familiar with the idea of therapy dogs coming to visit at hospitals and nursing homes.

Official therapy dogs have to… To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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Holiday food

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Haitian Independence Day soup.  Photo by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

Haitian Independence Day soup. Photo by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

copyright the Chronicle January 6, 2016

by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

Eating is a huge part of the holidays. People get together to be merry around a heavily laden table.

And every year, people stuff their faces before adopting New Year’s resolutions to shed pounds.

The holidays are about traditions, too, and there are many. In my family, turkey is reserved for Thanksgiving, so we have lamb or ham at our Christmas meal.

For me, Christmas is also about lack of sleep, and running on adrenaline. I do as much cooking as I can on Christmas Eve, then drive to my cousin’s house, where my Haitian family meets to start the holiday season by celebrating my little cousin’s birthday.

I leave early to sing at church for midnight Mass, then race home to finish cooking… To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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Westfield residents carol on the common

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Mabel Belisle and other children met Santa. He gave the children bags of candy. Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

Mabel Belisle and other children met Santa. He gave the children bags of candy. Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

copyright the Chronicle December 22, 2015

by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

WESTFIELD — The common here was the scene of much merry-making on Friday night. Every year the town organizes a caroling event for residents to meet up, mingle, and get to know each other better.

“It’s good to get together at Christmas,” Selectman Yves Daigle said.

He put the event together for the first time about five years ago.

“Christmas is a time to celebrate and give,” he said.

In that spirit, there were free doughnuts, spiced cider, and coffee provided by the town. People lined up to get a snack and crowded around the bonfire before the singing started.

“I’ll leave that to my daughter Marylee,” Mr. Daigle said about leading the crowd in… To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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An eclectic new bookstore comes to Newport

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Local poet Larry Bradley adjusts part of his window decor in the new Nevermore Bookstore in Newport. The store is named for the famous poem “The Raven,” by Edgar Allen Poe. Photo by Elizabeth Trail

Local poet Larry Bradley adjusts part of his window decor in the new Nevermore Bookstore in Newport. The store is named for the famous poem “The Raven,” by Edgar Allen Poe. Photo by Elizabeth Trail

copyright the Chronicle December 22, 2015

by Elizabeth Trail

NEWPORT — If the secret to business success is location, location, location, the Nevermore Bookstore in Newport has a tough road ahead. It’s out of sight on East Main Street, behind Buzzy’s Beverage and Redemption Store. It’s not going to get foot traffic, and not many people are going to just accidentally stumble on the place.

But proprietor Larry Bradley hopes that book lovers in Newport will be willing to go the extra mile to find his shop.

In spirit, the Nevermore Bookstore is a lot like Rivendell books in Montpelier used to be, or the Crow Bookstore in Burlington — an eclectic mix of new and used books, arranged to invite browsing and discovery.

Offerings range from poetry and fiction through biography, travel, spiritual, nonfiction, and memoir. In fact, there’s something for just about everyone, including children… To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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A week in Haiti: On sports, treasure hunting, and life

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The door of one of the many artisan shops in Port-au-Prince.  Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

The door of one of the many artisan shops in Port-au-Prince. Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

copyright the Chronicle December 22, 2015

This article is Part III in a series about Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph’s recent trip to Haiti where she visited family and worked as a translator at an international conference aimed at building up the nursing profession in Haiti. She interpreted the presentations in French and Creole to English for the Anglophones, and the English presentations to French for the Francophones.

by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

Sports

When the conference in Port-au-Prince is over, I stay with my godfather near Croix-des-Bouquets, a village that seems to melt into Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

That area is located on a plain, so it’s much hotter than where the conference hotel was located. I got there after dark and my godfather and his wife welcomed me with fresh watermelon juice and dinner.

I spent the next day relaxing, and in the evening, I switched on the television to intermittently watch the soccer game while I read my book.

Soccer is a very popular sport in Haiti. I chose not to watch the game too closely, knowing that I would get invested quickly if I did.

I felt a twinge of regret knowing… To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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Oh my, it’s fruitcake weather

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WEB Ruminatioins fruitcake

Three kinds of fruitcake were once the centerpiece of our holiday dessert table. Photo by Elizabeth Trail

copyright the Chronicle December 22, 2015

by Elizabeth Trail

There is a persistent rumor that there’s only one fruitcake in the world. It just keeps getting rewrapped and passed along.

Generally speaking, people either love fruitcake or they hate it. And after a lifetime of trying to talk people around on the subject of fruitcake, my research suggests that there are more people in the hate it than love it camp.

Blame it on the Claxtons. They’ve been making fruitcake since 1910. Selling Claxton fruitcakes used to be a popular fund-raiser for bands and churches around Christmas time, and they’re still available at Walmart and other outlets.

A Claxton fruitcake is the size and consistency of a doorstop, and devoid of flavor.

I suspect that people buy Claxton… To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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Lake Region is state winner of Solve for Tomorrow Contest

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Lake Region Union High School is the state winner in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest.  Teacher Connie MacFarlane won technology for the school with her idea for making a website to link businesses and organizations that have excess food with people who are in need.  Photo by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

Lake Region Union High School is the state winner in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest. Teacher Connie MacFarlane won technology for the school with her idea for making a website to link businesses and organizations that have excess food with people who are in need. Photo by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

copyright the Chronicle December 16, 2015

by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

When teacher Connie MacFarlane received an e-mail with instructions to “answer a few questions for a chance to win technology for your school,” she did.

Now Lake Region Union High School (LRUHS) is the Vermont state winner of the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest.

“I answered the questions and submitted them then forgot about it,” she said. “Next thing I know, I find two tablets sent to me with a notification that I was a state finalist and I need to submit a proposal.”

The goal of the competition is for high schools around the country to come up with an idea to solve a problem in their communities using what they’ve learned in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Ms. MacFarlane teamed up with her colleague Betsy Calhoun to submit the proposal… To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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Barton beauty shop closes after 36 years

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Ione Armstrong’s beauty shop in Barton will close on December 23.  She opened the shop on a shoestring 36 years ago, building the stations in her shop herself out of old kitchen cabinets. Photo by Elizabeth Trail

Ione Armstrong’s beauty shop in Barton will close on December 23. She opened the shop on a shoestring 36 years ago, building the stations in her shop herself out of old kitchen cabinets. Photo by Elizabeth Trail

copyright the Chronicle December 16, 2015

by Elizabeth Trail

BARTON — A Barton landmark will close for good on December 23.

Ione’s Beauty Shop has been a fixture on Church Street, between the library and what is now Ming’s restaurant, for 36 years. But 75-year-old Ione Armstrong is making plans to retire just before Christmas.

Ms. Armstrong is looking forward to having more time to spend with her longtime partner, Douglas Bowen. The two have lived together for 26 years. And for most of those years she was running not just the shop in Barton, but also a second shop in Albany.

“He wanted me to get done so we’d have more time together. All this time, he’s never complained.”

Born near Ausable Forks, New York,… To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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A week in Haiti: From nightlife to history

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WEB Haiti vertiere cmyk

People partied on the seminary beach in Montrouis during a day off on November 18, for the commemoration of the battle of Vertière, the final battle before Haiti declared its independence. Photo by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

copyright the Chronicle December 16, 2015

This article is Part II in a series about Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph’s recent trip to Haiti where she visited family and worked as a translator at an international conference aimed at building up the nursing profession in Haiti. She interpreted the presentations in French and Creole to English for the Anglophones, and the English presentations to French for the Francophones.

by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

Nightlife

After an exhausting conference, and steadily becoming antsier from staying in the relative seclusion of the hotel, a few of us decided to go out on the town.

Partying on Sunday night in Port-au-Prince is a challenge. People have to go to work on Monday, so the conference organizer wasn’t sure what we would find.

Apparently, the best night for partying in Haiti is Friday. People go to church on Sunday morning, so staying out late on Saturday night isn’t an option.

The conference organizer’s friend managed… To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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