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Vermont’s A-Grade

Vermont has just been ranked the fifth best state, nationwide for K-12 Education.  The national data aggregator SmartAsset gave Vermont an A- for its educational achievements.  While it is true that the state does spend more money per child than any other state, this is still great news for Vermont students and as such has a ratio of less than 10 students per teacher (with 22.8 to 1 in Utah).

Furthermore, the state is teaching the importance of taking care of the environment, being at the top of the country’s implementation of the Universal Recycling law.  They are engaging in practical food education, putting an emphasis on local resources to reduce food waste, with which they are succeeding, simultaneously managing recyclable materials and creating food scrap diversion programs.

As children get older things still look good in Vermont.  It was found that the four-year high school graduation rate was 88 percent (although college attendance rate was relatively low at 54 percent).  and, this remains true for the environment as well.  The University of Vermont was recently recognized by the US Environmental Protection Agency as being a “conference champion” of the 2016-17 College & University Green Power Challenge.  This was in recognition of the fact that it has used more green power than any other school in the America East athletic conference.

Still No Winners for the Hardwick Gazette

Photo courtesy of The Hardwick Gazette.

Photo courtesy of The Hardwick Gazette.

Ross Connelly is looking for someone to take over the operation of the Hardwick Gazette, the 127-year-old community newspaper that he has been in charge of for over 30 years. Last June he came up with a unique method to find the perfect person to hand over the keys to: an essay contest with an entrance fee of $175.

Connelly is 71, and until his wife died in 2011, ran the paper with her assistance. He was hoping to have already picked a winner by now, but instead is extending the deadline for a second time, until October 10th. His hope is to receive 700 essays for a total of $122,500. He has even received many donations of $175 which stated that they did not want to win the paper, only to help Connelly out.

To help meet his goal Connelly launched a crowd-sourcing campaign on Kickstarter as well.

The winner will need to have written a 700-word essay convincing Connelly that he/she believes in the “importance of a free press and believes that community journalism is key and necessary to democracy.”

The winner will receive ownership of the newspaper and the building it is in, equipment, website and all the materials needed to run the business. The newspaper is printed offsite at a press not owned by the Gazette.

“Rather than walking out the door and saying goodbye … I want the Gazette to continue,” said Connelly.

Falcons Call Nuclear Power Plant Home


Unidentified (probably hybrid) Falcon Falco. Shot at Eagle Heights Wildlife Park, Kent, England. Photo by Kevin Law.

In New Hampshire the peregrine falcon is considered state-threatened, and in Vermont there are only 40 pairs. How lucky then for employees at the Yankee Nuclear Power Station that a rare couple of falcons have chosen the smokestack of the power plant as their home.

The falcons were first sited by the workers at the plant in 2009 when they were phoned by a New Hampshire Audubon biologist. The workers then swung into action and received permission from their management to build and install a nesting box on the smokestack. The box was built by veteran employee Steve Skibniowski, who is now a consultant at the plant. Skibniowski received intstructions for the nest’s construction from Audubon experts on peregrines. The box boasts an open front and a unique perch for the birds.

“I’m surprised it’s held up as well as it has, because it’s very severe weather up there,” he said.

The nest also has a camera which allows them to watch the younger birds as they grow up. Observers learn about the daily lives of falcons from the camera feed, which is not available to the public at large.

Sometimes the employees do more than merely watch the birds. At least one time they were able to help them when a young falcon fell from the nest and broke one of its wings.  Skibniowski acquired gizzards and giblets to feed the wounded bird, and then drove him to the Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences, where they staff a bird rehabilitation center in Quechee. When the bird subsequently healed at the center he was released back into nature.

Falling Leaves Big Industry in Vermont

Tourists flocking to Vermont to revel in the autumn colors

Tourists flocking to Vermont to revel in the autumn colors

It is true that I mostly love to point out to my readers some of the more charming and worthwhile activities here in my home state of Vermont. Every once in a while, however, I like to also point out that I am not the only one, along with my readers, who take an interest in this most beautiful of states.

Business Insider ran a fascinating piece recently about the way New England has brought a literal interpretation to the (usually untrue) expression that “money grows on trees.” As I pointed out in my last post, the changing colors of the fall leaves is wonderful site to behold, and therefore many tourists make it point to visit Vermont and the other 5 New England states to catch more than just a glimpse of this astounding beautiful natural phenomenon. According to Business Insider visitors are leaving behind upwards of $3 billion to enjoy the site of autumn leaves bursting with color from yellow to orange to burnt sienna and everything in between.

Each of the New England states are discussed in the article, but I will just share the paragraph about Vermont here:

Vermont had 3.6 million fall tourists and $460 million in spending in 2011, the last year for which comprehensive figures were available, up from $331 million in 2009 with roughly the same number of people visiting. Visits to state parks in the Green Mountain State will surpass 950,000 this year, an increase of 8 percent and the highest visit count since 1989, tourism officials said.

Business Insider adds that the autumn tourist season is responsible for about 25 percent of the entire amount of tourist spending in a year in Vermont. And due to this year’s lingering warm weather, more people have been visiting, which, also do to the past year’s weather, has provided an exceptionally gorgeous display of leaves.
If you were planning on visiting Vermont any time soon, now would be a great time to see the sites.

Terra Cotta Pottery with Garry Childs

I recently read an interesting interview with artist Garry Childs who works in terra cotta. His work is beautiful and it’s always fun to get some insights from an artist about his process.

Here is one interesting thing that he said, “They’ve gotten considerably more complex in terms of the carved patterns. I’ve evolved my own technique over the years. Most potters are glazing pots in a process where you throw the pot, dry them, fire them, bisque fire them then glaze them. I always try to get them as close to finished coming off the wheel as I can. I glaze them when they are in a state called “leather hard,” when the clay has dried enough to handle, but not completely dried. By putting the glaze on, I can carve out of the glaze and develop the various patterns that you see.”

Read his whole interview here.

Phish Saving the Day…Again

Anyone who lives here in Vermont knows how we were slammed by Hurricane Irene.  Vermont has been devastated by the hurricane that stormed through here two weeks ago.  Now, Phish is coming to the rescue, like they always seem to.

If you haven’t been to a Phish concert, you’ve definitely got to go at some point to enjoy the experience.  Phish started at the University of Vermont in 1983 and the band played together for 20 years until they split in August of 2004.  Happily, they reunited in March of 2009 and have since started to play on a regular basis.  They are most often compared to the Grateful Dead but I think they are even more innovative and impressive.

They just started a ticket sale on Saturday for their upcoming concert that aims to raise money for the flood victims here. The concert will be on Wednesday at the Champlain Valley Exposition at Essex Junction.  They are actually limiting tickets to two to make sure that the tickets actually go out to locals.  I love those Phish.

They’ve created a “Friend of WaterWheel” package as well that includes parking, a reserved box seat, a poster and access to a Vermont craft beer tent.  And even better, WaterWheel is a foundation that Phish created to make contributions to charities that they support. Let’s hope that Phish can come through in helping those of us hit by the latest natural disaster!

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