Saturday, May 15, 2021

Loon Pair in Residence

 Gretchen Farnsworth let me know today that the loons have come back to the nesting platform. This is excellent news, and if all goes well, we should have an announcement of a chick or two by around Father's Day, according to Gretchen. She will keep us posted. In the meantime, she and Jim put out the caution signs to help people remember to stay clear of the nesting area. 

Jamie Dimick was out setting up the remaining markers and buoys this morning and reports there was a loon couple in the middle pond, as well. We should have good loon watching this summer. Please remember to give the loons (and other wildlife) plenty of room when you are boating - keep a sharp eye out for them, especially when they have chicks in tow. We will also remind everyone, please, do not feed the ducks. We know it is tempting and they are fun to watch up close, but wildlife experts tell us it is not good to feed them so they begin to trust humans. Then, come hunting season, they have no fear; and also, they are inclined to hang out too long in the fall and sometimes can become frozen in place, literally, unable to free themselves from the ice and they perish. Let them find natural food and then join others in their seasonal migration.

Such beautiful weather today - marred only by black flies and ticks. We hope the black fly season is a short one, although it seemed to me it lasted all summer last year! I think ticks hang out here all year. They are both irritating pests, but some of the ticks carry serious diseases and we need to be especially careful to examine pets, children and ourselves after we have been outdoors. They will be wherever there is wildlife, and that includes small creatures such as squirrels, chipmunks and rodents. The larvae may be found on birds, but also, birds are one of nature's "controls" as they will find and eat the ticks, either when grooming or on the ground and vegetation as they forage for food. It seems like only a few years ago ticks were relatively uncommon here; now they are a real bothersome pest.

Enjoy the nice weather we have in store for the next few days! We will see trees popping with color, either leaves or blossoms, and everything will be spring to life again after the long winter.  It is a lovely season.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Dorothy Ayer Larrabee

 Once again I am having to gather my composure to write about a very personal loss. Dorothy Ayer Larrabee passed away on April 10th. Dorothy was a dear friend and a valued member of the team charged with writing the history of West Danville. Dot is the second member of our team to die - Jane Larrabee was the first, leaving us on March 28, 2020.

Like Jane, Dot grew up in West Danville and knew it well. She has been our fact checker and thoughtful counsel in writing this book from the beginning of the project, and Patty Conly and I are reeling from her sudden passing. Not only was Dot a wonderful writer who remained calm and thoughtful as we tackled a project none of us ever anticipated would become so involved and difficult, she was a steadying influence throughout, and we counted on her sage advice and always positive attitude to keep us on course. Our deepest regret is that she will not be with us when the book is published. She worked tirelessly, as she did with anything she tackled. I often marveled at her energy, enthusiasm and dedication.

I first knew Dot in the 1930s when we were both students at the West Danville grade school. Getting to know her again on the history book project was a joy and privilege.  One couldn't ask for a more cooperative, willing or talented collaborator.

We will miss her, but Patty and I agree that she would want us to move ahead and get this project done. I hope she knew how valued she was and how much we will miss her - a good person whose life was cut way too short.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Message From Eric Hanson

I received the following message from Eric Hanson, loon specialist with the Vermont Loon Conservation Project. Eric is well known by many of our Joe's Pond residents. He has worked to establish and preserve the loons here for many years, working closely with Kevin Johnson and later Evelyn and Ray Richer to perfect the loon nesting platform. He has been our "go to" resource person whenever one of our loons got into trouble, and has always given great assistance and advice. I contacted him on several occasions when I was secretary of JPA, so I have passed this message on to our present secretary, Jamie Stewart.

Eric wrote:

Dear Loon Contacts                              Spring/Summer 2021                                 


I am writing to touch base and let you know about some Vermont Center for Ecostudies opportunities, loon information, etc. I currently have you listed as a contact for your lake….at some point in the past you have either volunteered actively, own land near a nest site, or reported some information about loons. I do not have you currently listed as a volunteer, although I might contact you if we had a loon reported in distress to check on.


I want to let you know that VCE still has plenty of volunteer opportunities (loon monitoring, management help, insect monitoring, songbird monitoring) as well as educational forums from monthly e-news to zoom outreach and suds ‘n science programs. Let me know if you’d like to receive any information about these programs or visit the VCE website

If you’d like to receive the Loon Caller newsletter and VCE Field Notes, please consider becoming an active volunteer and/or supporting VCE loon conservation efforts. I have over 1600 people on my contact list with about 300 active volunteers…it’s one reason loons are so successful in VT.


I am excited for the 2021 loon season….back on the water, cherishing quiet moments as pairs look for nest sites or take care of chicks, being ready to step back and be amazed by a territorial chase or an eagle swooping in. And life will hopefully be a bit more normal by mid-summer.  Spending time on the water can be a way to escape the big crazy world and enjoy the moment. 


And lastly, I want to let you know that we are offering LOON T-SHIRTS AND HOODIES

   bonfire: loon t-shirts and hoodies       


We have a colorful selection of short-sleeve, long-sleeve, kids shirts, and hoodies for sale. You can place orders through the Bonfire website. We have placed not one, but TWO beautiful prints on the shirt/hoodie by Katama Murray and AnnaLisa Mayer. You’ll be supporting VCE and loon conservation, and you’ll expand awareness about loons as people ask you about the program and you become the ambassador. Thank you!  


Place orders this week for the first batch of printing; orders can be placed at any time but they tend to do them in occasional batches.  Women’s slim fit tees – they run really small so if you usually wear a small, order a large.  Unisex Tees run true to size.


Have a good summer season on the water.


Eric Hanson,

VLCP Coordinator and VCE Conservation Biologist                                        

PO Box 22, Craftsbury, VT 05826              (802) 586-8065    


Major funding of the VLCP comes from individual donations.

Donations to support loon conservation in Vermont can be sent to VT Center for Ecostudies.

VCE, PO Box 420, Norwich, VT 05055.


This project funded in part by the VFWD Nongame Wildlife Program

Eric Hanson 
Vermont Loon Conservation Project  
Vermont Center for Ecostudies

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

How Many Years Does It Take To Build a Screened Porch?

This would be a really long story, so I won't go into great detail; however, I've wanted to add a screened porch to the end of my house almost since we first moved here. When we came to this house, the house my parents built in the early 1960s,  we added two rooms and did extensive remodeling. Then, we purchased a super-efficient boiler to replace the old hot air furnace. We added a small deck on the front of the house and at the time, I thought that was all I'd need. Turned out that the black fly/mosquito season is worse and longer here that it was at camp where we lived year around for 18 years. That was when the screened porch idea became my dream. Screening in the deck didn't seem like a good option, but the end of the house might work. 

There was, of course, one problem. The boiler was direct-vented through the basement wall that would be directly under the porch. The emissions were supposedly non-toxic, but nonetheless, the smell was awful. Because it also heated our hot water for the house, it ran from time to time, day or night, all seasons. I had to keep windows closed on that side of the house. The obvious solution was to put the vent into an unused chimney flue right beside it. However, every time I asked the men servicing the boiler about it, they either said they didn't know, would see what they could find out (but I never heard back), or flat out said it wasn't a good idea and shouldn't be done. For years I more or less accepted that - but every now and then, when someone new and seemingly knowledgeable came to service the beastly boiler, I'd explore the options. Instead of options opening up over time, the German company that manufactured the boiler went out of business and nobody knew where to get parts. The probability of ever changing the vent seemed to be diminishing.

This spring, probably because I felt the need for a project to work on to keep my mind occupied and off other things, I began thinking about a screened porch again. I really wanted to find a way to enjoy being "outside" without having to be dripping with bug spray. First I had to find a building contractor. Larry Rossi was busy, but Bill, my oldest son, knew a guy. He contacted Randy Chamberlin who had done some work at camp and worked regularly for Bill in St. Johnsbury. Randy grew up in Danville, so he knows about weather changes in these parts and as soon as the snow was almost gone, he came to look at the situation and decided the only option for a porch would be the end of the house, exactly where I'd always wanted it, but - over the vent. 

I knew the vent was likely an obstacle. After a new round of getting "nobody makes the parts," or "the boiler may not operate if the vent is changed," and "you can't build anything over it," I contacted John Hammer who had installed the boiler for us and was now a state inspector. John got back to me quickly and made some suggestions - and also said he saw no reason it couldn't be vented into the existing flue. 

I contacted the folks who service my boiler and they promised to look into it. However, they said nobody was making the kit that would be needed and they weren't even sure the boiler would operate properly - according to the manuals they checked, there were all sorts of reasons it shouldn't be done. I was hoping they would come up with something, but called Randy to tell him the project would need to be postponed or maybe abandoned. He listened to my story and then said, "I know a guy. I'll get back to you."

Next thing I knew, Randy showed up with Rob Lawson (who grew up on the farm across from Molly's Pond!). Rob had installed and serviced boilers like mine and after looking at my setup said he was sure he could work something out. They left and within a day I had a call from Rob saying he had located everything he needed and would be up to take measurements. 

From there, everything has moved ahead pretty quickly. Randy contacted Ben Ackerman, who is a skilled heavy equipment operator and grew up just down the road from us, and as of yesterday, I have a gaping hole with a slanting wall of ledge at the end of my house. Ben made short work of digging out a failing stone wall and clearing everything so forms can be installed and cement poured. Finally, after all these years, I'm going to have a screened porch. No black flies or mosquitoes allowed! Ben even saved a good-sized maple tree for me!

I was hoping for a heavy rain to wash down the ledge - I'm going to leave it exposed, sort of as a tribute to my parents who had to change the positioning of this house when they dug the foundation  and ran into that same ridge of ledge. I think they would be pleased - I know my mother would love it. And I'm sure Fred would be very happy that I will finally have the porch we had planned together, tried to get done so often, but never were able to get things to come together.

Top photo is taking out the wall; middle is the ledges exposed, and last one is the little maple tree replanted on my back lawn - like it had always been there!

That ledge is unusual, being rounded like it is and in two tiers. I know there is probably a reason, but they aren't what I would have expected to find in this locale. No need to worry about keeping the weeds controlled under the porch!. It will be open on one side so my basement entrance will be undisturbed.

Sunday, May 09, 2021




       Board of Directors Announcement for Summer Activities

      I am pleased to announce that the JPA Board of Directors met on Saturday May 8th and decided to proceed with re-instituting our normal summer schedule of events. We will do so  in compliance with  The Vermont Forward Reopening Roadmap, as outlined by Governor Scott. Per the present recommendations, this means that at our spring meeting on May 29th universal guidance rules will apply, meaning face masks and social distancing are required.  Any [pavilion] rentals between now and July will also need to abide by those requirements. After July, universal guidance is recommended but not required. It is our sincere hope that the Vermont opening will continue as outlined. We hope to have normal attendance at our social events but realize that changes may need to be implemented depending on then current circumstances.

    Please feel free to contact me or any board member if you have any questions or comments.

     Joe Hebert

    President, JPA        



Saturday, May 08, 2021

Mothers Day Thoughts

 I've been seeing a lot of tributes to mothers, of course, but one that a friend posted on her Facebook page really struck me. I won't quote all of it, but the title was something like, "The Things Your Mother Would Never Tell You." It was a list that included things like that you made her cry - a lot; that she was always afraid for you; and that she sometimes watched you as you slept - and loved you even when you gave her a hard time. There was more, but I was thinking how true it is that we often don't realize how much love, time and effort goes into being a mother until we become one ourselves. Being a mom is without a doubt the hardest and the most important task anyone ever undertook, and most of us didn't have a clue. Talk about learning on the job - I remember being thoroughly traumatized when my first child was born and a nurse rattled off instructions of when to feed what, showing me how to fold and put on a diaper (we used cloth ones that had to be laundered), what to do for a rash, how to burp the baby after feeding, about supporting the infant's head, going through everything so quickly, my head spun. It was routine for her, but entirely foreign to me. I probably would have known at least some of those things if I'd had younger siblings or had baby sat as a teenager. But I knew absolutely nothing about tiny babies. I remember wondering why anyone would entrust an infant to someone like me.

I did learn on the job, and now know that being a mom was the most frustrating, frightening, enjoyable, rewarding and fulfilling job I ever had. I'm so very glad I had that experience - and have three great sons, three wonderful daughters-in-law and two super special granddaughters to show for all the tears, drama, and effort. 

Moms - you are important. Let your offspring shower you with gifts, compliments, beautiful cards and heartfelt words. It's your day, you deserve it, so enjoy it!

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

 Wet weather here - more like April than May, but it's all good. We need the rain. I found out that the black flies are here already - I had hoped for a bit longer reprieve, but I guess I'll need to get out the bug spray now every time I want to work outside. The rule of thumb (at least what old timers like myself have gone by) is that black flies arrive at about the same time cherry trees bloom. I'm talking choke cherry trees, not the ornamental type like we see in Washington, D.C.  I haven't seen any cherry blossoms here yet, but I do have lots of those trees and shrubs around my yard. The bees and butterflies like the blossoms, and they are quite fragrant, although not as pleasant as apple blossoms. Later, when the fruit is ripe, it attracts a variety of birds. 

When I was a kid, I liked to eat chokecherries. They are "puckery" when eaten raw, and I remember being cautioned to be sure to spit out the seeds - they are toxic. That was great sport, to see how far one could propel a seed - usually at one another. These slightly bitter, strange tasting little berries are not on high on my list these days, but years ago they were great sport.

What I enjoyed even more than spitting cherry seeds was picking the wild hazelnuts in the fall. Those bushes lined the road between my house and the schoolhouse, and at recess, my classmates and I would often fill our pockets with these tasty little nuts. We had to be careful peeling back the prickly covering - it was tough on fingers. The shell covering the edible meat, or seed, was hard to crack open without mashing the little morsel inside, but we all knew how to do it by putting the nut on a flat rock and hitting it with another rock with just the right amount of force so it would open and not damage the inner seed. Hazelnuts are a staple for squirrels. Partridges will also feed on them, but squirrels are the biggest hoarders of hazelnuts, and seem to know exactly the time they are ripe and ready. They are not only excellent food for squirrels because of their vitamin content, they are also a good way to keep their worn down, as they have to gnaw their way to the tender meat inside the hard shell. Squirrel teeth continue to grow and gnawing is nature's way of keeping them trimmed to size. I have a few hazelnut bushes, but the squirrels always beat me to harvesting any of the nuts. Crafty critters!

Loon Pair in Residence

 Gretchen Farnsworth let me know today that the loons have come back to the nesting platform. This is excellent news, and if all goes well, ...