August 26, 2016

Board aims to get tech-savvy

Sept. 29, 2011

By Adam White

Observer staff

Information technology took center stage at the Williston Selectboard’s meeting on Monday, as Board members and town staff examined the present impact of computers on town functions and examined a path to more effective usage in the future.

Town manager Rick McGuire presented the Board with some ideas for incorporating cloud functions into the town’s computers, to create a safer and more reliable backup system. McGuire said that even external drive or other recorded backups would have limited value if the original software used to create documents or records was lost.

Cloud computing involves having data backed up remotely by a contracted company, on its own hardware systems. McGuire said it creates a more stable backup system that is also easier to organize and access.

“Every day, there are many, many documents that come across my desk,” McGuire said on Tuesday. “The amount of paper can be overwhelming, and everyone has a different concept of categories when it comes to filing. With electronic filing, you can use search engines to find key words or dates within a document.”

McGuire recently returned from the International City Managers Association conference in Milwaukee, where he attended a seminar on cloud computing. He said the topic was of interest to him prior to that, as he had begun exploring its implementation to back up documents and records within the town manager’s office.

McGuire asked the Board how it intends to address a goal outlined at the last Selectboard retreat in April — utilizing “different forms of communication in order to increase or facilitate greater public input/information.”

Board member Chris Roy suggested offering internship opportunities to interested Champlain Valley Union High School students, in order to put “less of a burden on staff” and tap into a younger perspective on things like social media.

Fellow Board member Jeff Fehrs admitted that students might be better suited for working with sites like Facebook and Twitter.

“The way the world communicates is changing,” Fehrs said. “I’m just not a good resource for those tools. (But) there could be some very exciting opportunities there.”

Board member Jay Michaud asked McGuire whether the town’s website was built around proprietary or open architecture, saying that the latter would allow volunteers from local schools and colleges to get involved with the project.

“These kids just eat this stuff up. They go for it, and make things happen,” Michaud said, adding that he has experience working with such technologically inclined students and could assist with finding some to help the town. “I would like to … help facilitate that.”

Fehrs asked McGuire if the town employs a dedicated IT technician to oversee its computer systems. McGuire said Williston is trying to move in the opposite direction, and become less reliant on outside assistance by training its personnel on more manageable software and systems.

“We’ve been able to get by without having dedicated IT people,” McGuire said, adding that he maintains the town’s website largely on his own.

The Selectboard is scheduled to meet again on Oct. 3.

Stern Center move hits bump in road

DRB hearing raises decades-old construction issue

Sept. 29, 2011

By Adam White

Observer staff

The Stern Center is committed to remaining in Williston, but needs to relocate to do so. The town wants a long-planned street connection completed, and sees a potential opportunity to get it done.

Those two separate interests were at the forefront of a pre-application review before the Development Review Board on Tuesday. John Hausner, the developer behind the current Seven Gables Condominiums location on Talcott Rd. that would serve as the new location for the Stern Center, proposed a reconfiguration of the site aimed at increasing its parking capacity from 62 spaces to 77.

But senior planner Matt Boulanger’s staff report revealed that several existing spaces are situated within a setback area along the site’s westerly edge, and that some proposed additional spaces would be as well.

That issue was later dwarfed by discussions about a private drive — running along the property’s northern boundary — that has been deeded as a right of way for development into a dedicated public road connecting Talcott Rd. to the street network within the Finney Crossing project.

“Who builds the road?” DRB chairman Scott Rieley asked. “It’s got to be built sometime; somebody’s going to have to do it.”

The construction of that road was previously set in 1987 as a condition of approval for development within the Taft Farms subdivision. DRB member Brian Jennings acknowledged that until its construction is resolved, the road will continue to be a roadblock for any future applications for development within Taft Farms.

“At what point do we start saying no to everyone?” Jennings asked.

John Connell, chief operating officer for the Stern Center, said that his company — which operates as a non-profit organization — simply could not take on the financial commitment required to build the road. Previous estimates for that project have been upward of $150,000, according to comments made at the meeting.

“I just have to say, we can’t afford it,” Connell said.

Hausner said he has had conversations with neighboring landowner Chris Snyder about the setback issue, and that both are confident a resolution can be reached. One potential idea discussed by the two was a fence between the properties.

“I understand that good buffers make good neighbors,” Hausner said.

But Boulanger said that while the existing spaces within the setback pre-date corresponding by-laws that prohibit them, the construction of additional spaces there would constitute an intensification of non-conformity and thus could not be recommended for approval by the DRB.

Town planner Ken Belliveau then suggested that another 12 to 14 spaces would be available on either side of the completed connecting road. But Hausner reiterated that a reconfiguration of the parking capacity on the site itself was “the only practical solution, given the financial implications” of building the road.

The DRB ultimately approved the pre-application for the project, after adding further conditions to those suggested by staff. One of those conditions was for the client to at least examine possible completion of the connecting road, according to Boulanger.

TARGET chooses Williston

Retail giant eyes former Williston driving range for first Vermont store

Sept. 29, 2011

By Adam White

Observer staff

This house adjacent to the former Williston Driving Range was demolished by the Omega Corporation last week. The lot on which the house sat is part of a combined 17.2-acre site that is reportedly being examined as the potential location for Target’s first retail department store in Vermont. (Observer photo by Adam White)

As the last state in the country without a Target department store, Vermont has long been in the corporation’s big, red bulls-eye. Last week, the Minneapolis-based retailer moved closer to bagging a prime location in Williston.

Representatives from Target Corporation met with town officials on Sept. 23 and presented plans for a retail store at the former driving range property at 6180 Williston Rd.

“They showed us three or four site plan ideas, looking down from a bird’s eye view,” town planner Ken Belliveau said.

Belliveau confirmed that the meeting also involved town manager Rick McGuire and public works director Bruce Hoar. Target was reportedly represented by Regional Real Estate Manager Tom Carrico and Senior Development Manager Katie Rivard, while representatives from Vanasse Hangen Brustlin — a consulting firm with an office in North Ferrisburgh — also attended.

Belliveau also confirmed that a meeting took place last month involving town officials, Carrico and Rivard and Al and Nicole Senecal, representatives from Omega Real Estate — which owns the parcel of land being targeted for the project. Belliveau said that at last week’s meeting, Carrico indicated that some negotiations regarding the property had taken place between Target and Omega.

“Tom said something along the lines of, ‘we think we’ve reached a deal with the Senecals,’” Belliveau said.

Target spokesperson Eddie Baeb declined to discuss any specifics of the land negotiations or proposed store project. He cited the company’s policy of waiting to comment on any new store development until nine to 12 months before that store’s opening date.

“Target has long been interested in having a store in Vermont,” Baeb said. “However, at this time, we have no additional information to share.”

Nicole Senecal of Omega Real Estate confirmed that her company has been in contact with Target concerning the property, but declined to discuss negotiations. Repeated calls to Jeff Nelson at Vanasse Hangen Brustlin were not returned.

The project would need to clear a number of planning hurdles before progressing into even the first stages of construction. The site being examined is currently zoned as mixed-use residential, requiring developers to bring the project through Williston’s specific plan process.

Changes to a parcel’s zoning typically require that five of a possible nine criteria for public benefit, as outlined in Chapter 9 of the town’s by-laws, be met. Some of those criteria are job creation/retention, preservation of open spaces and the creation of affordable housing.

“The Planning Commission has to be able to determine that their specific plan has the potential to meet enough of those criteria,” Belliveau said. “They have already started to think about how they would meet that five of nine.”

One way is apparently through the creation of affordable housing. Belliveau said at least one of the proposed site plan ideas included the construction of apartments along the western side of the property, parallel to the existing Maple Tree housing buildings. The site — which comprises two parcels of land totaling 17.2 acres — previously received approval for an approximately 120-unit housing development referred to as Cottonwood.

Belliveau also foresees traffic issues and public perception as being potential challenges. Indications are that a formal traffic study has yet to be conducted in connection with the project, but even loose estimates of trip numbers discussed at the two meetings raised concerns, according to Belliveau.

“It’s a good distance from Exit 12 (off Interstate 89) to the former driving range property,” Belliveau said. “A lot of trips would be coming from there.”

Belliveau also said “initial public perception (of the project) will be key.” He made reference to public opposition to Walmart in Williston in the early 1990s, when a group called Citizens for Responsible Growth took its battle against the retail giant into the courtroom.

A survey of customers shopping at the Williston Walmart on a recent afternoon revealed differing views of the two retailers. Sierra Ouellette of South Burlington said Target “isn’t really any different than Walmart, other than the name.” Sarah Hamilton of Bristol disagreed, saying that she would “happily” choose Target if given a choice.

“They have a better selection, and much better quality,” Hamilton said. “I only shop (at Walmart) because I have to.”

Gordon Cameron of Burlington said he has “never set foot in a Target,” but welcomes the idea of another big-box retailer leveling the playing field for shoppers.

“It would create competition, which would hopefully drive prices down,” Cameron said. “The customer usually wins in situations like that.”

Belliveau said Target’s representatives have been receptive to holding “more meetings at the staff level, before anything gets filed.” He added that while no time frame has been determined for any portion of the project, he would not expect construction to begin for “several years.”

“It’s going to be a lot of work for everyone involved, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out,” Belliveau said.

Power to the people

Sun providing clean – and green – energy in Williston

Sept. 29, 2011

By Adam White

Observer staff

Lisa Dwyer points to a kilowatt readout on the solar energy inverter in the basement of her Ledgewood home. The Dwyers’ rooftop system generates 8.41 kilowatts of electricity per month, enough to power their home and surrounding neighborhood. (Observer photos by Adam White)

Most people dread opening their electricity bills. But for Lisa Dwyer, envelopes from Green Mountain Power contain nothing but good news.

One of 20 town residents to have taken advantage of special incentives under the Solar Williston program, Dwyer’s Ledgewood home is now powered exclusively by the sun. A total of 44 German-made, photovoltaic panels were installed on the building’s roof earlier this spring, and the resulting solar energy system produces three times the amount of electricity needed to power the home.

“This is my latest electric bill,” Dwyer said, holding up a statement showing mostly negative numbers. “As of right now, Green Mountain Power owes me 529 dollars and 89 cents.”

Dwyer and her husband, Peter, wanted to tap into the potential of their home — which enjoys clear, southerly exposure — shortly after moving in two years ago. They saw an advertisement for Williston Solar in the local newspaper, and decided to explore the concept further.

Solar Williston is a campaign launched by the Vermont Public Interest Research Group aimed at bringing interested customers together in order to promote and encourage the implementation of solar energy systems. By creating a collective of customers, VPIRG has also been able to negotiate discounts with solar contractors like Alteris Renewables, allowing Willistonians to purchase systems at significant savings — even as they take advantage of other rebates and tax credits offered for switching to solar.

Similar cooperatives have been set up in Vermont towns such as Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne and Waterbury.

“The response has been fantastic,” said Dan Conant, VPIRG’s Solar Community Coordinator. “It’s been really exciting to see how much enthusiasm and interest there has been for the whole program. Between all the towns involved, we’ve got close to 100 families who have been able to participate.”

Dwyer said the process couldn’t have been easier. Solar Williston set up a site evaluation that confirmed the Ledgewood’s home’s enormous energy potential, and the Dwyers were pleasantly surprised at how streamlined — and affordable — it was to set up even a large-scale system such as theirs.

“They take care of everything, from the site assessment, to permitting, to the actual installation. We didn’t have to put any of the pieces together,” Lisa Dwyer said. “And the discounts are what really made it doable. Between the VPIRG discount, the rebate from the state and the 30 percent tax credit, it basically cut the cost in half.”

Since having 44 solar panels installed on the roof of their Ledgewood home, Williston’s Lisa and Peter Dwyer have been able to generate three times the electricity they typically use per month — and sell the excess energy back to Green Mountain Power.

Dwyer’s system became operational in April, at which time “their meter starting running backwards,” in the words of Conant. The energy gathered by the panels enters the home as direct current, and is changed to alternating current by a wall-mounted inverter in the basement.

And while the meter spins fastest on bright, sunny days, cloudy skies do not equate to power outages for the solar-powered home.

“Any light at all, you’re producing something,” Dwyer said. “As soon as day breaks, we’re producing kilowatts — even if it’s overcast.”

Dwyer said the system generates approximately three times the electricity the home requires — even with central air conditioning — and the excess is bought back by Green Mountain Power and distributed to other homes in the neighborhood.

“Green Mountain pays six cents for every kilowatt we produce, and 14 cents for every kilowatt we give back,” she said. “We figure that at this rate, the system will pay for itself in nine or 10 years — maybe sooner.”

But Dwyer said the decision to go solar was never about money; it was about supporting and promoting alternative energy sourcing. She and her husband hosted a Solar Williston open house on Sept. 22, during which anyone interested was allowed to view the system — and the family’s latest electricity bill — in order to better understand how to put solar power to use for themselves.

“We had a wonderful turnout,” Dwyer said. “Twenty people came, and a lot of them were pleased with the money part of it and how affordable it’s been made by the program.”

The Dwyers’ electric meter has been ‘running backward’ since April.

Conant said the deadline for applying for Solar Williston is Dec. 1, and that special, low-cost solar loans are also available to qualified customers.

“It has never been easier to go solar, and it’s bringing a lot of people out of the woodwork who have always been interested in this,” he said.

On the web: www.SolarWilliston.org

Lending more than money

Jeannie Lynch helps women succeed in business

Sept. 29, 2011

By Steven Frank

Observer staff

NBT Bank Williston branch manager Jeannie Lynch, 48, is a local advocate for female business owners. She is co-founder of the Williston chapter of the Women Business Owners Network, a nationwide organization that helps its members develop business management skills and professional contacts. (Observer photos by Steven Frank)

Jeannie Lynch has been in the banking industry for more than two decades, devoting much of that time to helping prospective female business owners get their companies off the ground.

The backbone of that effort comes from above, in the spirit of another female who — if alive today — would have been just a teenager. Lynch managed KeyBank’s Williston branch when her 8-year-old daughter, Ila, was killed in a car accident in 2005. At the time, Lynch was about to help launch the bank’s Key 4 Women program, which helps women start or expand their businesses with tools including education and networking.

“I was home grieving but I went into work one day and at the time I only planned to stop in to let my team know I was coming back,” said Lynch, 48. “I really only saw one e-mail and it had to do with this (Key 4 Women) program. They were going to try to find someone else to do it. I felt my daughter’s presence and felt my hands (move towards the keyboard). I responded: ‘Stop the insanity. There is no one else who is better suited for this job than me. This gives me a sense of hope.’”

Today, Lynch is the manager of NBT Bank’s Williston branch on U.S. 2 and spreads hope to others — particularly women. She is co-founder and coordinator of the Williston chapter of the Women’s Business Owners Network. The organization, which exists nationwide, allows members to develop business management skills and professional contacts. It meets the first Wednesday morning of each month at the Williston firehouse.

One of the businesses Lynch helped establish is none other than Girlington Garage in South Burlington, a female-owned auto repair shop with female mechanics that opened two years ago.

“(Lynch) was my cheerleader from the beginning to the end,” said Demeny Pollitt, Girlington Garage Owner. “She helped put me in contact with other business people, gave me homework. One of them was contacting SCORE (a small business counseling service). Another one was to call a business broker and ask what I need to start a business … Every time I felt discouraged, she stood behind me and gave me advice.”

Lynch believes she and female business owners like Pollitt represent a shattering of the so-called “glass ceiling” that has limited business growth by women in traditionally male-dominated industries.

But she thinks women haven’t reached equal status.

“Demeny is a woman tech working on cars. In banking, managers were typically not women. They were men. So we have come so far in that,” Lynch said, “but where we still see the glass ceiling is in the pay scales … There is a statistic out there that women will get the job and get the promotion based on what they’ve done and that men get the job and the promotion based on potential. So when you say ‘the glass ceiling,’ I say, ‘until employers start looking at those two things equally … we won’t even it up.’ I think we’re still 20, 30, 40, 50 years away.”

In Lynch’s case, her contacts — there are six boxes of business cards underneath her office desk at NBT — have helped her get ahead.

“I’m known in the community as the connector,” Lynch said.

That reputation attracted the interest of NBT last year when the upstate New York-based bank looked to open its second Vermont branch in Williston.

“It’s the skills Jeannie brings to the marketplace in terms of small business, especially with women. And her enthusiasm,” NBT Bank vice president and regional manager Dan Johnson said of why he hired Lynch.

Johnson, whose bank is set to open its third Vermont branch in Essex next week, added that Lynch and the bank have been “proactive for all business owners, including men.”

“Things have been working out well and (Lynch) has done a good job,” Johnson said.

When asked what advice she can give to a young woman who wants to own a business someday, Lynch stressed the importance of hard work, believing in themselves and education — especially finance classes. She also thinks young women need to find mentors and conduct informational interviews with current business owners.

And speaking of young women, the one that first inspired Lynch to travel down this path remains a vital part of the journey.

“I think (my daughter) is still with me. I think she is very proud of my work,” Lynch said. “And I honor her every day with my work.”

At NBT Bank’s Williston branch, which opened in January, manager Jeannie Lynch (center) refers to herself as the ‘past’ with assistant manager Jessica Gooden (right) representing the ‘present’ and teller Linda Goodell (left) being the ‘future.’

Forever young

The Young@Heart Chorus comes to CVU

Sept. 29, 2011

By Luke Baynes

Observer correspondent

Young@Heart chorus director Bob Cilman (center) performs The Jackson 5’s ‘I Want You Back’ with his group and Champlain Valley Union High School choral students. Young@Heart, a group of singers aged 73 or older, visited CVU on Sept. 23 as part of its first visit to Vermont. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

Their bones may be brittle and their hair gray, but in their hearts they’re as fresh and spry as spring chickens.

The Young@Heart Chorus, a group of rock ‘n’ rollers with a minimum age of 73, performed at Champlain Valley Union High School on Sept. 23. Although they have toured everywhere from Japan to New Zealand, the CVU concert marked their Green Mountain State debut.

“This is our first ever concert in Vermont,” said Young@Heart director Bob Cilman. “It’s strange, because we’re only about 45 minutes from Brattleboro.”

To be precise, Cilman’s well-seasoned choir hails from Northampton, Mass. Cilman and Judith Sharpe began the project in 1982 as a fun activity for seniors living at the Walter Salvo House in Northampton. The group has since expanded to include seniors living within a 40-mile radius of the city. Although none of the original members are still alive, the current crop of venerable vocalists has maintained the wildly eclectic musical tastes of their predecessors.

“I listen to all kinds of music, because understand, I have 15 children,” said 89-year-old Dora Morrow. “I had seven daughters and eight sons, and you know those sons listen to everything that come through. They had all kind of rock ‘n’ roll. They had blues. They had jazz. So I just listen to everything.”

Pretty much everything was just what the Young@Heart Chorus performed and ate lunch with CVU choral students. Highlights included a “Dancing in the Dark” medley — containing both the 1984 Bruce Springsteen rock composition and the 1931 Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz pop standard — and two Phish songs: “Free” and “Chalk Dust Torture.” The latter Phish tune featured guest lead vocals by a different kind of senior — CVU upperclassman Garrett Brown.

But the biggest response was for 82-year-old Louise Canady’s moving solo version of “Love Has No Pride,” which was a hit for both Bonnie Raitt and Linda Ronstadt.

“I’m just enjoying myself as an old great-great-grandma,” Canady said. “You’d never know it from my singing today, but I was trained strictly as a soprano. When I came to Bob, he tricked me. I lowered my voice for him because they were doing the drug music, you know.”

The CVU concert was made possible by the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington. It served as a warm-up for the Young@Heart Chorus’ gala show at the Flynn the following night.

“We have a long and wonderful relationship with the Flynn,” said CVU choral director Carl Recchia. “Mary, my wife, made me aware that the Young@Heart were coming. We made contact with our friends at the Flynn and that’s how this came about.”

Recchia screened the 2007 documentary “Young@Heart” — which chronicles preparations for a 2006 concert at the Academy of Music Theatre in Northampton — for his students prior to the visit by the film’s stars.

“I was bawling,” said CVU senior Alicia Phelps, referring to the fact that two of the chorus members passed away during the making of the movie.

But the film’s message is that life goes on and the show must go on, because singing is what keeps these elder musical statesmen forever young.

“I feel good,” said 81-year-old Helen Boston, quoting the James Brown classic that her friend Dora Morrow memorably covered at the Academy Theatre concert, “because God has been good to me, and I am so grateful for that.”

Fittingly, the Young@Heart Chorus ended the CVU show with a version of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.”

 

For more information on Young@Heart Chorus, visit www.YoungAtHeartChorus.com

RED merger hits pause button

Vote delayed as committee examines central issues

Sept. 29, 2011

By Adam White

Observer staff

A vote on the proposed merger of all Chittenden South Supervisory Union school districts, such as Williston, into one Regional Educational District was delayed on Sept. 22. (File photo)

Merging is best accomplished at a safe speed — especially when this many moving parts are involved.

The Chittenden South Supervisory Union’s Consolidation Study Committee was scheduled to vote on the proposed Regional Educational District merger on Sept. 22, but chose to delay its decision until the issue can be more closely examined.

A motion was made by committee member and Champlain Valley Union High School Board chair Jeanne Jensen that “the committee acknowledges the support of the formation of a RED and has further decided to investigate several elements of a RED prior to taking final action as a committee.” The motion passed unanimously.

“We just weren’t ready,” said committee member Colleen MacKinnon. “It wasn’t political or divisive — we just needed more time.”

The committee will hold further discussions about the merger at its next meeting on Oct. 12, but is not expected to vote at that time, according to Jensen.

“We put that meeting in place in order to have more discussions about it,” Jensen said in a subsequent telephone interview. “It’s still very fuzzy. It’s hard for us to come up with hard facts, and say whether (the merger) is good or bad.”

The primary issues delaying a vote are uncertainty over the structure of local governance councils following the merger, and the degree of improvement that would result in the area of student outcomes.

“If you don’t have compelling reasons to make changes to improve our educational system, why do it?” MacKinnon asked.

Jensen said the potential makeup of local councils has not been defined in any concrete manner, and that using other consolidated districts as examples is difficult due to variations in the number and sizes of towns involved.

“Our research has been a little murky, because most of the places that have multiple districts are single towns,” Jensen said. “Comparing (CSSU) to other districts in Vermont that have multiple schools in them doesn’t really help.”

Previous committee discussions about the RED merger highlighted potential student outcome benefits, including “opportunity for strategic K-12 plans for solving problems” with issues like school climate and substance abuse. The merger might also assist with creating a stronger K-12 focus for the district as a whole, and make the assessment process easier.

But committee members aren’t comfortable enough with the certainty of those benefits to give thumbs-up or down to the RED yet, according to Jensen.

“Probably the biggest question we have is whether the consolidation is going to result in better student outcomes,” Jensen said. “At this point, we need to be able to crisply answer that question before we can come to a decision.”

Attendance also played at least some role in the delayed vote. Committee members Charlie Magill, Russ Caffry and Rich Lowrey were absent from the meeting, while Lisa Falcone and Sue Thibault departed early.

“We had a significant number of committee members missing from the conversation,” MacKinnon said.

Minutes from the meeting indicate that the committee deemed the potential of the RED to be “phenomenal,” with “great possibilities by taking a leap of faith.” It was also suggested that a public vote on the merger could produce a definitive split, in which “people with no kids in school will vote their pocketbooks.”

Jensen said committee members would spend the next few weeks studying research materials and case studies of previous educational mergers, including a report formulated from a study at Ohio University that was released by the National Education Policy Center in February.

Everyday Gourmet

Gleaning the garden

Sept. 29, 2011

By Kim Dannies

 

I push back the ache of summer’s end by rooting around the garden. Seeds are scattered for next year’s blossoms and remaining herbs are snipped to create compound butters. My green-thumbed neighbor delivers a rocket-sized zucchini — a bittersweet gift I am grateful for because nothing goes to waste. Like summer memories, the precious dregs of Vermont’s abbreviated harvest are bound for the freezer to be savored in deep winter.

Giant vegetables mandate that the soup season begin in earnest. I’m lucky to have grown up with the soup goddess. My mom, Pat Myette, is more than a little celebrated for her heavenly concoctions served up each Monday at Williston’s Vermont Respite House. Although she never works from a recipe, mom has graciously documented her zucchini soup. She’ll tell you that instinct, love, and lots of practice are the essentials for a great soup. I’d say that goes double for gardening and motherhood.

 

PAT MYETTE’S ZUCCHINI TOMATO SOUP

In a large pot combine 2 overgrown unpeeled zucchini, cut and seeded into medium chunks, with 1 quart of chicken stock. Simmer until the zucchini softens, approximately 20 minutes. Reserve.

In a large soup pot heat 1 T canola oil and 1 T butter. Add 2 cups of diced onion,

1 cup diced celery, and 2 cups diced carrots. Cover and simmer 10 minutes over medium heat until tender. Add 3 T of tomato paste, stir well, and cook 2 additional minutes.

 

Add reserved zucchini and stock to the pot. Simmer 25 minutes on medium heat. Cool slightly. To puree mixture, use a stick blender right in the pot. If you don’t have one, transfer soup to a food blender and puree to desired texture. To taste, season with salt and pepper. To serve, top with freshly chopped chives (optional). Serves 8.

 

Compound butters: Mix best quality butter with any combination of chopped herbs, garlic, lemon and orange zest, olives, capers, or Parmesan cheese. Roll butter into golf ball-sized rounds and wrap tightly in plastic. Freeze individually. Then store the like-flavored balls in labeled quart sized ziplock bags. Use the butter to flavor soups, stews, and crostini.

 

 

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three 20-something daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.

Places I’ve Played

Harvest time

Sept. 29, 2011

By Bill Skiff

 

September and October are my favorite Vermont months. The bugs are gone, the air is crisp and harvest time is just around the corner.

I enjoyed fall on the farm. It was a time of harvesting and preparing for winter. Even now I look forward to gathering apples and helping with the honey harvest. I like putting up my kayak and bringing down my skis. My leather jacket is beginning to look good again. There is something comforting about preparing for winter.

For my Aunt Lucy, fall meant canning. She fed her family and two hired men, so she needed a lot of food ”put by.” I remember helping Aunt Lucy shuck peas. She would be sitting in her rocking chair — surrounded by five bushels of peas. That’s a lot of shucking!

Going down into Aunt Lucy’s cellar and seeing the row upon row of canned goods was a sight to behold. All the colors of the rainbow adorned those shelves: red beets, yellow corn, green peas, blueberries and more kinds of pickles than you could imagine. I miss her pickled pears, and bread and butter pickles.

The dirtiest job at harvest time was thrashing oats. The trashing machine would be set up and powered by my dad’s tractor. A belt ran from the tractor’s flywheel to the trashing machine. The belt was once twisted to help keep it from flying off.

The men would throw the oats into the thrasher; my job was tending the basket where the oats came out. When the basket filled, I would pull it out, place another under the flowing oats, empty the full basket into a grain bag and do it all over again. All this time the air was blue with dust, chafe, and pieces of oat stocks. At the end of the day it was hard to tell me from a bundle of oats. Sometimes I would pray the thrasher would break down so I could get a rest. To make matters worse, the noise from the machinery was deafening. We never wore hearing protectors, so at the end of the day I was lucky if I could hear my mother’s call to dinner.

One fall, I attended a corn “husking bee,” which was when a pile of corn ears needed to have all its husks stripped off. Everyone participated and at the end of the evening most of the corn was husked. A prize was awarded to anyone who found a red ear. The prize was you got to kiss the girl of your choice. In my youngest years, I always thought trying for the prize was a waste of time because … who would want to kiss a girl?  That changed in junior high.

Another exciting fall day was when the men with the traveling “drag saw” arrived. They set up their temporary sawmill and cut up dad’s logs into chunks. The men rolled the logs on to a carrier that moved them up toward the large saw blade; it “dragged” back and forth over the log cutting it into “chunks.” The chunks were as long as dad requested, usually between 12 and 14 inches.

My job was to help split the chunks into slabs, then split the slabs into pieces that would fit into mother’s cook stove. Maple and beech were fun to split — oak was not. Sometimes I would get a chunk with a knot that was impossible for me to split. I would yell, “furnace.” This meant it would be burned in the furnace. Dad made a box that was the size of the furnace door’s opening. For these larger, tougher chunks, all I had to do was chop enough wood around the edge until the box fit over it.

After finishing, we threw the chunks into the cellar and stacked mother’s kitchen wood in the shed. They say wood warms you four times: once when you cut it, once when you split it, again when you stack it, and finally when you burn it.

Harvesting is always dangerous. One day, I almost injured my friend. When the chopper cut up a bundle of corn and blew it up into the silo, I was the one who aimed the pipe to spread the corn around the silo so it piled evenly. For fun, I would sometimes try to bury my friend in the spray of chopped corn.

One day, when a bundle of corn went into the chopper, a steel knife fell in with it. When it all arrived at the end of my pipe, the corn and knife were in small pieces. I decided to spray the side of the silo — it left a row of steel pieces embedded in the silo wall. We never played the burying game again.

An old timer told me he loved living in Vermont because three times a year he changed what he wore, what he ate, and how he “recreated.” I think I’ll check to see if my leather jacket needs a little oil, cook up some new potatoes with salt pork gravy, and look for partridge. Fall has arrived.

 

Bill Skiff grew up on a farm between Cambridge and Jeffersonville. After a career in education, he now lives in Williston, where he is a justice of the peace and Fourth of July frog-jumping official. In “Places I’ve Played,” he shares his experiences of growing up in Vermont. Comments are welcome at vtcowcal@yahoo.com.

Obituaries

Sept. 29, 2011

 

HELENA ANDERSON BLAIR

Helena Anderson Blair (Courtesy photo)

Helena Anderson Blair, 89, died peacefully on Friday, Sept. 23, 2011, in Fletcher Allen Health Care surrounded in spirit and person by her loving family. She has left us with a profound sense of love and her presence here will never leave the hearts of those she touched. She was born in West Glover in 1921, to Ellen Josephine Comer and Fern Augustine Anderson. Raised on a hilltop farm at a time of horse drawn wagons and without electricity or plumbing, she began her trek in life. She attended school in West Glover, graduated high school from Craftsbury Academy in 1939 and the University of Vermont in 1943. At UVM, Helena was involved with many student groups and organizations and was president of the Newman Club. She was a member of the Women’s Honorary Society, known as Mortar Board, comprised of women who were recognized for outstanding service, scholarship, leadership, character and executive ability. She helped recruit Eleanor Roosevelt to speak at UVM and was inducted into “Who’s Who” among students in American universities and colleges. After graduation, Helena became a teacher and taught chemistry, biology and home economics at Hartford High School in White River Junction. After marriage, she taught children in the same one-room grade school she attended as a child, the Beach School in West Glover. Little did she know at that time that with the birth of her eight children she would have a one-room classroom of her own! In 1945 she married Paul Emile Blair, a farmer, and together they owned farms in W. Glover, Panton and Williston at Taft’s Corner. This is where they settled to raise their children, to teach them the value of hard work, and the importance of religion with Catechism every Saturday. As a family, they attended the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Williston. In 1960, a devastating barn fire occurred. This catastrophe was extremely difficult to recover from. Since Paul and Helena both loved dairy farming and the farm family life for their children, they built a new loose-housing barn, and started anew. They became active members of the National Farmers Organization, whose goal was to bring fair pricing to all farmers. To help with the effort, they would pick up the calves and beef from local NFO farmers, transport them to a holding area at their farm, where they would subsequently be sold to the buyer with the highest bid. In addition, Helena became co-editor of the Vermont NFO News. She was a woman of action! Years later, in 1978, Paul and Helena stopped farming and auctioned the equipment and herd. Soon thereafter, Helena was the driving force in the land development of the family farm. She attended countless local and state planning meetings to acquire the permits so the lots could be sold. The project came to be called Blair Park, the first major commercial development in Williston. It was during those years that Helena also became a landlady and enjoyed the work right up until her death. She worked tirelessly with joy as she felt fortunate to be able to provide folks a very nice and clean place to live — one that she herself would live in. One of her favorite mottos was, “I shall pass through this world but once. Any good that I can do, or any kindness that I can show another human being, let me do it now and not defer it. For I shall not pass this way again.” The same perseverance and indomitable character that propelled her though life as a teacher, wife, mother, dairy farmer, landlady, political activist, Blair Park developer, and human rights activist led to her involvement in the passage of Vermont’s historical Civil Union legislation. Beginning in the 1970s, Helena was a grass roots advocate of gay and lesbian rights. She mailed several letters to state legislators urging them to support the first of its kind, the proposed civil union law. Sen. James Leddy chose one of them and read it on the Senate floor, which then became a news item that spread all across the country. It had an historical, emotional and political impact and led to the passage of H.847, Vermont’s Civil Union Law. Within this same pursuit, she worked with Vermont Freedom to Marry. Helena is survived by her children, Francis, Ronald and wife, Janet, Carol, Rose and husband, Daniel, Mark, Lawrence, Michael and wife, Kathy; seven grandchildren, Scott, Lisa, Dalys, Becky, Meghan, Matthew, and Christy; five great-grandchildren, Alex and Ellie, Tyler, Benjamin, and Marina; brothers, Bill, Kenneth, and John; sister, Lenore; and several nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her husband, Paul; daughter, Corena; brothers, Irvin and Dean; sister, Ardell; and nephew, Stephen. Helena was someone that many could identify with, always with a quiet strength, generous heart and dignity. She will always be remembered as being kind to the core, wise, generous, devoted to her beliefs and children, and with relentless humility and modesty. Visiting hours were Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the LaVigne Funeral Home, 132 Main St. in Winooski. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011, at 11 a.m. at Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Winooski. Interment followed at East End Cemetery in Williston, the second cemetery on the left. Should friends desire, memorial contributions may be made to Helena’s propitious church, Saint Francis Xavier Church, 3 St. Peter Street, Winooski, Vt. 05404, (802) 655-2290; Committee on Temporary Shelter, 179 S. Winooski Ave., Burlington, Vt. 05401, (802) 540-3084; Gay and Lesbian Advocacy Defenders, 30 Winter St., Boston, MA 02108, (617) 426-1350; or to a charity of one’s choice. In lieu of flowers, Helena would want you to buy flowers for a friend, fill out an organ donor card, or simply do a good deed for someone. So very many caring people have helped our Mother with her health challenges over the years. At the end of her life, special loving care was provided by Palliative Care at Fletcher Allen Health Care.

BEATRICE A. “MIMI” PROVOST

Beatrice A. “Mimi” Provost, 86, of Williston, died peacefully Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011, at home with family by her side. She was born in Burlington on May 30, 1925, the daughter of Lucien and Ella (Belair) Boisvert. Beatrice graduated from Burlington High School, class of 1942. On Apr. 22, 1946, she married Daniel “Duke” Provost in St. Anthony’s Catholic Church. Duke predeceased her on Jan. 17, 2003. She was a lifetime member of St. Anthony’s Parish and was an active member of Catholic Daughters of America. Mimi is survived by her children, Jean Provost of Williston, Bob Provost of South Burlington, Michael and Carrie Provost of South Burlington, Dave and Debbi Provost of Williston, Shirley and James Beecher of Milton, Judy Barron of Richmond, John and Lisa Provost of Essex Junction, Jim and Vicki Provost of Williston and Gary and Diane Provost of South Burlington; 20 grandchildren, Lara, Anna, Lynsey, Aimee, Daniel, Miranda, Katie, Adam, Nicole, Jennifer, Jessica, Jason, Emilee, Shaun, Eric, Timothy, Rebecca, Tyler, Christopher and Kyle; nine great-grandchildren, Kierstin, Brady, Charlie, Cameron, Jacob, Caleb, Mia, Montgomery and Cooper; one brother, Roland (Charlene) Boisvert of Barre, two sisters-in-law, Marion (William) Blanchette and Marie Boisvert and many nieces and nephews. She was also predeceased by two brothers and two sisters. Mimi’s family would like to give special thanks to Dr. Zail Berry and the PACE Staff, Dr. Joseph Haddock and Nurse Margaret Pratt. An exceptional thank you to Jean Provost, who gave up her own daily life to give our mother the best final days of her life. We are forever indebted and grateful to you. Visiting hours were held on Friday, Sept. 23, 2011, in the Ready Funeral Home, South Chapel, 261 Shelburne Road, Burlington. For those who wish, donations in her memory may be made to the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl, PO Box 820, Lebanon, N.H. 03766-0800. A mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011, at 10 a.m. in St. Anthony Catholic Church and burial followed in Resurrection Park Cemetery, South Burlington. To send online condolences to her family, please visit www.readyfuneral.com.