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How to Survive the Recession - A Vermont Perspective

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11 Sep 2010
Megapickles Vermont Photo Blog

I've written previously about how much I enjoy Megapickles, a daily photo blog by John Hughes, a professor at Saint Michael's. The Vermont landscapes and architectural photographs are well done and fortunately they make up the bulk of John's work. If you want to see what Vermont look like to a superb photographer, this is where you can find what you're looking for. The photo shown in the screen capture above is a good example. The reduced size here takes much away from how striking this photo is so please click the link and see the original. In fact, I suggest you go to the Megapickles website and see especially the photos posted between Sept 4 and Sept 11.

When I visit John's photo blog I'm reminded that there are many beautiful places all around the world and I'm fortunate to live in one of them.

Jeff Connor Grunberg Haus
Advice , Nature , Unusual
posted by  grunhaus at  20:43 | permalink

2 Sep 2010
Book Review: "How To Survive the Recession, A Vermont Perspective"

"How to Survive the Recession - A Vermont Perspective" by Bob Stannard:

A fun read by Manchester Vermont resident Bob Stannard made up from some newspaper columns he wrote in recent years plus new material especially for this book. Bob figured he could help his country in this time of trial and tribulation by explaining how Vermonters get up every morning (well, most mornings), pull on their boots, and go about the task of wrestling with the bear (i.e., living).

Bob sketches the characters (and I mean characters in every sense of the word) he has met and events he has witnessed or instigated, and uses these vignettes to show how Vermonters deal with the challenges and rewards of life.

The book in written in a conversational voice thankfully lacking in pretense. If you stopped by Bob's house, sat down with him in front of his fireplace and asked him what it's like to live in Vermont, this book would be his response. It's a very easy and quick read.

For the most part he does not stray too far into being preachy. He often just presents people and events and then lets you draw the conclusion. For instance, he enthusiastically veers into talking about playing serious blues harmonica ("harp") with the likes of B.B. King. He relates the stories King tells of losing a profitable gig to another blues performer and how his early manager cheated him. Yet King remains non bitter, even grateful for the experience and cherishes what these men did for him rather than what they did to him. That's how to live a full and happy life.

The book available directly from the author: Bob Stannard

Jeff Connor Grunberg Haus Inn
Advice , Shopping , VT Books
posted by  grunhaus at  18:20 | permalink

22 Aug 2010
Vermont Waterfalls Website

www.vtfalls.com website

I don't know why we all love waterfalls. Perhaps we've never seen a bad one. We've seen other bodies of water look bad such as muddy streams, filthy rivers, scummy ponds, and polluted lakes. But not a waterfall. If somebody did something to pollute one, it would get flushed out quickly.

Perhaps it's "The Sound and The Fury" as Faulkner would describe a big waterfall. Or the speed. Some of them are like roller coasters after all and many of us would like the exhilaration of riding one like that. Waterfalls look like fun!

Whatever the reason, it's always to thrill to see one, especially a big one. Vermont has many waterfalls due to our steep terrain and frequent precipitation year around. A good source of information on waterfalls is www.vtfalls.com, a website run by photographer Chris Hungerford.

Chris is a full time science teacher and part time photographer living in St. Albans VT who specializes in outdoor photography. He has photographed and filmed many Vermont "waterfalls, cascades, glens, rapids, gorges, and many other natural wonders" as he says on his waterfalls website. He also has a website for his other photography that you can see here and on Facebook and Twitter.

The listing of waterfalls by name, height and nearby town is helpful but the VTfalls website does not tell you exactly where the falls are. You could end up spending a lot of time looking for them. While that can be fun in itself. it would be more enjoyable if you knew you were at least on the right track.

One solution is to stop in the nearby towns mentioned in the list and simply ask someone there. All the locals will know where their nearby waterfall is. Another solution is to purchase the book, "New England Waterfalls" by Greg Parsons and Kate B. Watson. It's an excellent guide and has driving directions.

If you are visiting in summer and are interested in swimming holes, you could combine it with your waterfall search because some of the falls end up in a pool suitable for swimming. The best source for swimming hole information is SwimmingHoles.info/VT and see my August 7, 2007 Vermont Travel Notes blog entry and the August 18, 2008 Waymark.com blog entry.

NOTE: the usual cautions about venturing outdoors apply. If you are walking, hiking, swimming or just messin' around near rock cliffs, deep pools of water, and fast moving rivers, there can be some danger involved. Don't assume that if the locals are doing something goofy that it must be safe. It's not - it is both goofy AND dangerous. Decide for yourself how much of a chance you are willing to take. For years there was a sign at Moss Glen Falls, between Warren and Granville, recording the dates and details of the deaths and paralyzing injuries of daredevils that took place there. The falls are beautiful but they are like a lot in nature: lack of sense can get you knocked even more senseless.

Jeff Connor Grunberg Haus
Advice , Nature
posted by  grunhaus at  20:31 | permalink

19 Aug 2010
Slate: "The Only Luggage You'll Ever Need"

Starting a positive review with a criticism is probably the wrong way to go about it, but I'll do it anyway because I won't be able to continue writing unless I get it off my chest.

A recent Slate magazine headline, "The Only Luggage You'll Ever Need" is wrong. The article is about the Patagonia Maximum Legal Carry-on (MLC), which looks like a great travel product and has many positive user reviews on Patagonia's website. It's sized to fit in airline overhead bins or under the seat in front of you.

How that qualifies as the only luggage you will ever need, I don't know. There may be times when you need to travel with a suit or dress for instance. They won't fit in this bag and even if you managed to fold them up enough to get in, they wouldn't look too good at the other end of your journey.

I will admit this bag would probably be my go-to bag most of the time. I'm a big fan of Patagonia products and have owned a few including a great fly-fishing rain jacket I'm still using after more than a decade of use. I don't own this travel bag but if I still flew on business I most likely would. These days, I only fly once or twice a year (thankfully) and I'm in no rush. If I have to wait a few minutes at a baggage carousel, I don't mind.

I look back and chuckle about years of hustling through airports, choosing the best seat assignments, closest car rental lots, etc. But I was in the consulting bidness so we were always conscious of our hours. Either we were billing the time or we were losing revenue. There was no neutral time. If that's the way you fly, and you prefer carry-on luggage, this is probably what you want. It looks like it would be a good one for car trips as well.

I remember looking for a bag like this years ago. I tried several somewhat like it over the years but nothing ever really served well. This one looks like it would have been a home run. It also converts into a back pack and is made of water proof 1200 denier polyester - as tough as polyester gets.

I'm a big fan of Slate too so if they like it, I'm sure it's top notch.

Jeff Connor Grunberg Haus
Advice , Shopping
posted by  grunhaus at  21:59 | permalink

31 Jul 2010
Hardwick VT Featured in Yankee Magazine

Once the site of a thriving granite mine, Hardwick VT became a pleasant but hardscrabble looking town after the mine closed. Then it got hit by a major fire five years ago which destroyed several important old buildings in the middle of town. But it has made an admirable comeback in recent years. Most of that is due to the local food movement. Several articles have appeared with headlines along the lines of : "The Town That Food Saved."

The current issue of Yankee Magazine now describes Hardwick as "The Center for an Agricultural Economy." It was written by Bill McKibben, a Vermont resident famous for his work on global warming. Mr. McKibben writes about some of the key people involved with the local food movement including the local investor funded restaurant, Claire's, and organic seed producer, High Mowing Seeds. It's an interesting read and provides insight into many of the related types of activities going on in Vermont today.

Jeff Connor Grunberg Haus, located about half an hour from Hardwick
Advice , Food , VT Products
posted by  grunhaus at  13:30 | permalink

21 Jul 2010
Moose Watch

Photo credit: www.central-vt.com/moose "Montpelier, Vermont, the nation's smallest capital city had an unexpected visitor Monday, July 19th as a moose wandered leisurely during the lunch hour. This picture was taken by an administrative assistant at Vermont State Housing Authority on 1 Prospect in the city. A co-worker, Lindsay White, remarked that she loves the ruralness of Vermont, and this was the exclamation point of the day! "

I think the most frequent question we get from guests is "Where's a good place for dinner?" A close second is "Where can we go to see moose?"

Answering the first question is easy because we have dozens of good restaurants in the immediate area.

Answering the second question is tougher because we don't have dozens of moose hanging around nearby. We have one (perhaps more) around the inn that must come through about once a week judging by the fresh tracks we see that often. In fact a guest and his family last week pulled into our driveway one evening to find a moose standing right in front of them just a few yards off Route 100.

Moose are most frequently in remote, rural areas but they are located all over the state and, as seen in the photo above, they can even wander into a city This one was spotted in downtown Montpelier, the state capital. Once in a while deer are seen feeding on the state capitol lawn in the evenings but moose are a very rare sight in the city.

We have more moose road signs I think than actual moose. The last time I saw a statistic, the VT Fish & Wildlife Division estimated our herd between 4,000 and 5,000. In fact, the last two moose hunting seasons, F&W increased the number of permits to help reduce the size of the herd. This year, they reduced the number of permits back to 700 something. About 200 moose are killed by automobiles each year in Vermont. Moose have little or no fear and they will usually not hesitate to step in front of a car.

When I'm asked about where to see a moose, I tell people that you need a lot of luck to see one. For instance, the photo at the top of this blog was taken by a guest a few years ago through the windshield of his car. By the time he got the car pulled over and stopped to get out and take a better quality photo, the moose had already walked across the road (Route 100 between Warren and Granville) and was headed up into the woods. The point is that if he had left from our inn a minute earlier or a minute later, he would have missed the moose entirely.

But having explained that, we suggest the area around Island Pond, VT for good moose watching. Island Pond is a good central location for exploring the most remote part of Vermont known as the Northeast Kingdom (NEK).

The Appalachian Mountain Club website has a little primer on moose watching you might like to read. Note especially the warnings about getting close to these animals. They're not known for being aggressive but they are wild animals and you can never be sure whether they will attack. A mother moose (cow) will almost certainly be aggressive if she is with a calf.

An even better article is on the Island Pond, VT town website .

Route 105 is Vermont's "Moose Alley" but other roads such as 114, 111, 5 and 16 are worth driving as well. The back roads are also worth exploring but make sure you have enough gas in the tank before heading into backcountry.

But I would not go to the NEK just to see moose. I'd go to see the countryside with the idea that seeing a moose would be a special bonus.

Here is an enjoyable double (!) moose sighting video shot in the NEK by jenawesome

Good luck on your moose hunt! And drive carefully, especially at night.

Jeff Connor Grunberg Haus
Advice , General , Nature , Unusual
posted by  grunhaus at  16:02 | permalink

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