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October 28, 2008

A Foundation and Lights

Relaxing

We enjoy the infinitely rich variety of our lives, but a few daily routines help maintain the direction of flow. On most days we rise with the sun. I make my way to the stove and ignite the flame under the teapot, then flip on the radio to listen to morning news and commentary while waiting for the water to boil. Marion and I discuss the headlines as we sip the first cup of coffee and decide on breakfast. During the previous summer months, the daily commute was either by pedal or sail. Then, on most weekends, our routine included the journey to the land in Tunbridge where we continued the work on Gypsy Rose in preparation for the coming of winter.

splitting wood

There will be no shortage of wood for our winter heat. Above, I split up a maple that had blown down in a storm the previous year. It will be plenty to keep us warm until spring.

foundation

We wanted to put Gypsy on firmer footing – a foundation that will remain stable through freeze and thaw. Six columns at four feet deep and 8 inches in diameter required 1,200 pounds of bagged concrete mix to fill.

foundation

I was very happy that no rocks lay waiting as we dug the holes to set the tubes. The soil was dark and rich to the bottom of the four-foot depth. We look forward to turning the soil for a garden next year.

lighting 

We’ve received many requests for photos of Gypsy’s interior. I’ve been reluctant however, as much of the finish work is yet to be completed. We take on the projects as time allows. This summer the lighting took a big step forward after we found a solution that was not limited to products found at either yachting or RV suppliers.

lighting

We knew that we wanted to use LED technology but our choices had been limited to either small brass fixtures suitable for a boat’s cabin (at typically expensive “marine” prices), or boxy-looking plastic light housings designed to be recessed into an RV’s interior (plastic) ceilings and walls.

Another LED characteristic that we didn’t like was the tendency for the light to be glaringly white. We wanted illumination with a warm glow, closer to that of an incandescent bulb. After persistent research I finally found a source for LED bulbs with a “warm white” color temperature with the added advantage of being set in a diffusing globe attached to an Edison screw-type base (the same base as a traditional incandescent bulb).

lighting

With that find, the range of lighting fixtures extended to home lighting suppliers everywhere. We purchased swing-out lights for the walls above the couch and a dual light fixture to illuminate the kitchen sink. Drawing less than two and a half watts per bulb, our entire house is lighted with a fraction of the energy required by even a single compact florescent bulb.

lighting

The biggest use of electric power in both Gypsy Rose and Raven is for running our laptop computers. In the photo above, the headlines from the New York Times are delivered to the table to be read while enjoying a cup of morning coffee. (The table is temporary, as I remind Marion, to be replaced by the dining table and booths that are part of the final design.)

lighting

Brass yacht-style cabin lights do have their place in Gypsy. We installed reading lights at either end of the sleeping loft. Each LED bulb draws about one tenth of an amp of electrical energy per hour – 10% of that required by the older fixtures we use (and hope to replace soon) aboard Raven.

 

October 22, 2008

The Tunbridge World's Fair

Tunbridge Fair

As a kid growing up in small-town Vermont, the annual fair was one of summer’s most anticipated events. From the moment that school let out I’d begin saving my pennies for a three day splurge on cotton candy, greasy onion rings, and twister rides.

It’s been decades since I’ve attended the Connecticut Valley Exposition (the fair that comes to my hometown of Bradford each summer), but for the last three years I’ve attended another small-town Vermont tradition known since 1867 as the Tunbridge World’s Fair.

Tunbridge Fair

These days, rather than licking candy coating off sticky fingers while standing in line for the next stomach-wrenching ride, I go mostly to people-watch and enjoy the nostalgia that the fairgrounds evoke.

Contemporary fairgoers include an interesting mix. There are the small town residents from the surrounding communities that seem little changed from the population I’d known decades ago. (While rural Vermont has not been without the growth mantra that has rapidly transformed so many communities over time, the pace in Tunbridge is still much the same as it was when the first fair came to town.) There are also the many that come to the fair seeking an experience that they might not have enjoyed during their own upbringing. For them, the Tunbridge World’s Fair has become an iconic relic of small-town summer fun – a chance to put on a flannel shirt or John Deere cap and take a break from their otherwise more urbanized lives.

Tunbridge Fair

Thirty miles up the road from Tunbridge, my family’s Bradford home had been surrounded by dairy farms when I was a kid. Many of my childhood friends were from farm families. They proudly wore their Future Farmers of America jackets or 4-H T-shirts and rose early to do the morning chores before boarding the bus for school. Many of those kids brought their prize animals to show at the annual summer fair.

Today, more than three quarters of those family farms no longer exist. The Stockman farm that bordered our land to the north has disappeared, the barns taken down and the land subdivided for homes that look woefully out of place in the orchard where I’d picked apples in my youth. The Hatch farm to the south met a similar fate. Not a trace of the old red barn stands today. A plastic-sided over-sized “residence” stands awkwardly in the former hay pasture I’d known as a child.

Tunbridge Fair

I still go to Bradford often for family visits. I walk the old roads and note all that has changed since I was a boy. I note, too, all that has remained unchanged, finding much comfort in the familiar. While our contemporary throw-away cultures leave us little opportunity to show our children anything more than photographs of that which once was, I like the fact that places remain where I can tell the stories and still touch the spot.

Tunbridge Fair

After 141 years, the Tunbridge World’s Fair still draws a crowd. Old-timers and youth alike continue the rural Vermont traditions while I take an annual pause to celebrate the landscapes and people that define the world in which I was raised.

Tunbridge Fair

 

 

October 21, 2008

The Fullness of Vermont Summers

sunrise 

The days have grown short and our decks are covered with ice as the morning sun rises over Shelburne Bay. For the past five months we’ve been greeted with the sunrise over water as our daily routine begins.

Our “neighborhood” consists of about 60 boats moored around us at the Shelburne Bay town moorings. Doug lives aboard Kite, a 36-footer three boats to the north. Cal and Nancy arrive on most weekends to sail Inida Wind II. Ken and Fran are getting to know their newly purchased Islander 36, Release, but were gone for much of the season delivering a sister ship to our own, Raven (Pacific Seacraft 34), to the Caribbean.

Stan and Elizabeth’s boat (above) stands silhouetted in the early morning light.

Riding two up

In April I took a position with Local Motion, a Burlington-based bicycling and pedestrian advocacy non-profit. In the photo above, Marion and I arrive at the member soiree at the Snow Farm winery in South Hero. We rode to the event in style on a stretched out recumbent tandem.

Riding two up

The photographer for the local newspaper Seven Days had us hold that pose for many, many shots as he collected images for a story featuring Local Motion. Clockwise from top left, Charlene, Brian, yours truly, Leanna, Chapin, and Todd.

garden

Marion spent many of her days growing a large portion of our summer’s food in our garden space at the Burlington Community Gardens in the Intervale along the Winooski River.

garden

I don’t know why brussel sprouts have taken such a bad rap. We love them and enjoy them on the plate often.

garden

Marion planted a flower and herb garden at the center of the vegetables. Marigolds bloomed in abundance.

garden

By the time I’d make it to the garden after a long day’s work, I was usually too tired for much more than simply watching Marion contentedly go about the work of nurturing our plants. With fingers and toes deep in the soil, she works with ease and contentment to bring food to the table.

rowing

In addition to my work at Local Motion, I kept busy on the water as well. Once or twice a week I loaded a 32-foot wooden Cornish pilot gig with youth rowers and helped them learn to pull together. In June, July, and August, I rowed with kids from Spectrum Youth Services and the King Street Youth Center. In September I formed a rowing club at Burlington High School. On October 11th their practice and teamwork paid off when the crew won their division at the James Wakefield Regatta. The event drew 120 youth rowers to the Burlington waterfront for a series of races in the harbor.