Fire destroys landmark barn in Barton

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copyright the Chronicle October 11, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

BARTON — State Police are looking for information about the Monday afternoon fire that burned the landmark barn known as The Pines to the ground. Firefighters poured a steady stream of water on the farmhouse, which suffered only minor damage, but the barn burned in a hurry.

In a press release issued shortly before midnight on Monday, Detective Sergeant Michael LaCourse said the cause of the fire is undetermined, but remains under investigation.

“Investigators are aware that numerous people took photographs of the fire in its incipient stage and would like to speak with anyone that may have witnessed the fire,” the release says.

A young woman at the neighbor’s house called in the fire after noticing flames shooting out the upper story where hay was stored.

Michael and Kim Riendeau of Brownington own the Kinsey Road property. They said there were no animals in the barn at the time; they were still out to pasture because of the good weather.

The Riendeaus have owned the place for about a year and a half. Before that, Jim Young and Raymond Leblanc owned it, and it was frequently used for livestock and equipment auctions under the name of Northeast Kingdom Sales.

Mr. Riendeau said on Tuesday that he was on his way home from Poulin Grain in Newport Monday afternoon when he ran into his son John in Orleans, who stopped him and told him the barn was on fire.

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Vermont fights for a voice in the farm bill

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copyright the Chronicle October 11, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

Federal farm legislation is due to be passed next year, and Vermont wants to have its voice heard in the writing of a bill that could mean life or death for the state’s dairy industry.

The Vermont Milk Commission has been revived after six years of inaction to give voice to the state’s farmers and processors. The nine-member group met in Montpelier on September 26 to collect information in order to make recommendations to the state’s congressional delegation for items that should be included in the 2018 farm bill.

According to Secretary Anson Tebbetts of the state Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets, the commission, was raised from the dead for that purpose.

“Vermont needs to have a strong voice,” Mr. Tebbetts said about the meeting. He said the plan is to gather as much input from the state’s farmers as possible in order to offer the best advice to federal legislators.

The Chronicle was not present at the meeting, but spoke with Secretary Tebbetts and reviewed a tape of the gathering and draft minutes.

Members of the state’s agricultural community are especially concerned about the dairy provisions of the bill, in view of the unusually long stretch of low milk prices.

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An old gardening practice acquires new life

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copyright the Chronicle October 11, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

Dense forests of bright green parsley. Waist-high kale, green-black and curly. Vegetables growing in profusion in soil so rich and light that a hand thrust among their roots travels downward a foot or more before reaching any impediment.

It’s the impediment, the thing that finally stops the hand, that’s the surprise — logs and branches, layered one on top of the other in a loose mass. Topped with organic waste and then soil, it’s all decomposing slowly under the surface, providing an almost endless source of nutrients for the roots above.

The practice is called hügelkultur, an old German invention that’s seeing a resurgence in popularity in this country. “Hügel” is the German word for “hill,” since the logs and brush and dirt are usually piled up to form a mound.

On Saturday afternoon, two of the area’s garden experts, Rebecca Beidler and Jeff Ellis of Peace of Earth Farm in Albany, held a workshop to teach one variation on the hügelkultur idea — hügel terracing.

The couple farms a steep hillside, so terraces are a logical adaptation.

Their soil is sand with some gravel mixed in, left by a major road washout 50-some-odd years ago.

“On its own, it barely grows grass,” Mr. Ellis said.

But thanks to hügelkultur and other practices collectively known as permaculture, the couple has turned wasteland into a thriving small farm.

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Barton Senior Center closes abruptly

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copyright the Chronicle October 4, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

BARTON — The Barton Senior Center served its last meal on September 27.

On Tuesday night, about 30 people, including two Barton Village Trustees and two representatives from the Northeast Kingdom Council on Aging, met in the Barton Municipal Building to talk about starting up a new program to provide meals and activities to seniors in the area.

“This is too important to shut down,” said 82-year-old Beverley Winslow before the meeting started. “I have a lot of my life ahead of me, and I really enjoy going somewhere, playing cards, being around other people. I need this place.”

When the new senior center opens its doors, she will be the first one through them, she said.

By the end of the evening, the trustees had collected a pile of surveys that they hope will point a new senior center in the right direction. And six or seven people had volunteered to sit on a new board, which the trustees hope will eventually number at least 11.

But many questions remain unanswered.

Former senior center Director Brenda Lowther gave the village only about a week’s notice of the closing, said Trustee Cathy Swain.

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Where have all the colors gone?

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copyright the Chronicle October 4, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

State officials and others are still hoping for good fall foliage color, but at the moment Vermont’s famous fall color isn’t too colorful. In many places, it’s still largely green, and some trees have simply dropped their leaves after they turned crispy brown.

We’re not just talking about pretty scenery here. According to Phil Tortura, communications director for the state’s Department of Tourism and Marketing, upwards of 3 million people show up in Vermont in the fall, presumably to look at the leaves. That’s a real boost to the economy, as well as the state’s tax base.

“Peak foliage season often has some of the busiest, if not the busiest, tourism weeks of the year,” Mr. Tortura said.

Early October of 2015, the last year for which there is data, was, in fact, the busiest tourist time of that year, he said.

“If we define fall as September, October and November, Vermont had approximately 3.2 million out-of-state visitors in 2015,” he said.

Those visitors spent $600-million in food, lodging, travel, and other retail sales and second home expenses, Mr. Tortura said. They spent $109-million on overnight accommodations alone.

And the state received more than $37-million in meals and other tax money from activities in those three months, he said.

October 10-12 was the busiest tourist three days of the entire year in 2015, Mr. Tortura said.

So, foliage is clearly a big part of Vermont’s tourism economy, but visitors this year might end up being disappointed. Or not coming at all.

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An update from Puerto Rico

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copyright the Chronicle October 4, 2017

 

by Stephan Cantor

 

Early Tuesday morning I was checking my Facebook feed, as I have done every morning since Hurricane Maria crashed into Puerto Rico. Every morning I have searched for news of friends and loved ones, looking for any mention of people and places that are important to me. By Tuesday, two full weeks after the storm left thousands of people in Puerto Rico homeless and nearly all of them unable to communicate by phone, I still had heard nothing about several friends who live in southwest Puerto Rico, far from the capital San Juan.

And then, there it was, tucked among the baby pictures and political diatribes, a random Facebook post from another Puerto Rican friend, saying that our friends in the Southwest were safe and sound. “Están bién,” she posted. They are well. I breathed a deep sigh of relief.

Of course, “they are well” is a relative statement.

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State seeks ways to boost rural economy

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copyright the Chronicle October 4, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

BARTON — Bleak as the picture for dairy so often is in Vermont, it’s the decline of the state’s forestry industry that people wanted to talk about Tuesday at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on farming, forestry, and the rural economy. The Barton meeting drew about a dozen people.

The commissioners of agriculture and forests, parks, and recreation were present, as was the deputy commissioner of forests, parks and recreation.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Bobby Starr of North Troy said the committee is traveling around Vermont listening to ideas about how to improve the rural economy.

“It’s important for us to hear what you folks would like us to do,” he said. “Believe it or not, we work for you.”

“We are going to take all the comments and ideas and try to come up with a few pieces of legislation that will help rural Vermont and outlying areas,” Mr. Starr said.

The meeting also provided information about what is already being done.

Agriculture Commissioner Anson Tebbetts said he actually had some good news to report.

Many Vermonters who work in agriculture attend the annual Big E fair in Massachusetts in the hope of acquiring new and bigger markets, Ms. Tebbetts said.

Visitors to exhibits on Vermont Day were at an all time high, he said. He said there were 171,897 visitors on just the one day. Put that in perspective, he said, and that’s like one-fifth of Vermont was there.

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Predicting the future of milk and maple

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copyright the Chronicle September 27, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

CRAFTSBURY — The future is not looking good for Vermont sugarmakers 50 years down the road. But opportunities will open up for dairy farmers — if they can stay in business until then.

That was the takeaway from a gathering last week at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center that took a hard look at what climate change is going to mean for the milk and maple industries in northern Vermont.

Travis Reynolds teaches environmental policy at Colby College in Maine. His parents, John and Carol Reynolds, raise organic beef and tap 7,000 maple trees in Stannard.

He called his talk on the future of sugaring “Looking ahead and learning from the past.”

“The forecast is not an optimistic one,” he said. “It’s entirely possible that my son will see the end of maple syrup production in Vermont.”

First, the climate change piece.

Compared to 50 years ago, Mr. Reynolds said, the sugaring season is already three days shorter than it was. Sugaring now begins about seven days earlier and ends ten days earlier. If that trend continues, there will be years by 2067 when there is no regular sugaring season.

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Officer killed in 1917 is remembered

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copyright the Chronicle September 27, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — On September 26, 1917, Newport’s first uniformed police officer, Joseph P. Manogue, was called to the Newport House to help immigration officers deal with a recalcitrant suspect.

Patrolman Manogue went to the hotel, which was on the site occupied today by People’s United Bank.

Things went badly wrong.

There was gunplay, and in its aftermath Patrolman Manogue lay dying and another officer was hit by two bullets.

Patrolman Manogue was the first and, thankfully, the only Newport officer to die in the line of duty.

Exactly 100 years later, Newport City’s present Police Chief Seth DiSanto welcomed two of Patrolman Manogue’s great-grandchildren to Newport at a ceremony that commemorated their forebear’s sacrifice.

Governor Phil Scott and representatives of the U.S. Border Patrol, Vermont State Police, and Orleans County Sheriff’s Department also paid tribute to the fallen officer.

The proceedings got off to a solemn start as the Border Patrol honor squad brought the American flag and that of their agency to the stage as a piper played “The Minstrel Boy.”

Two North Country Union High School students, Luke Treadwell and Briar LaRose, then performed an a cappella version of the “Star Spangled Banner.”

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Man sent to prison for seventh DUI conviction

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copyright the Chronicle September 27, 2017

 

by Paul Lefebvre

 

NEWPORT — As he sifted through the records of a 49-year-old alcoholic who had recently been convicted of driving while under the influence for the seventh time (DUI-7), Judge Robert Bent appeared to be looking for a sentencing option other than the six to 11 years recommended by the plea agreement.

All the evidence of a contested sentencing here Tuesday in the Criminal Division of Orleans County Superior was in.

But as the judge shuffled records around, he couldn’t find one. What he found instead was a stiffer recommendation from the Department of Corrections that four more years be added to the minimum or bottom line of Desmond Durivage’s pending sentence. And he didn’t want to go there.

He noted that efforts had been made to help Mr. Durivage go straight, but added that alcoholism is a disease marked by exacerbation, or what he recalled the comic Robin Williams characterized as “the elephant in the room.”

The judge said he felt saddened by what he was going to impose as a sentence — “like to see a better way” — but he went along with the plea agreement and sentenced Mr. Durivage to serve an underlying sentence of six to 11 years.

While the defense was seeking a lighter sentence with more emphasis on probation, Judge Bent sided with the prosecution’s call for an incarcerated sentence.

State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett argued that, despite opportunities, Mr. Durivage still had not learned to separate his drinking from his driving. He still remains a risk to public safety, she said.

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