Even at my age, I attempt to learn or experience something new each day. Well, if I’ve missed a few days along the way, I made up for it on Monday, May 23.
Leaving all of the excitement of my son Mathew and Nicole’s wedding celebration behind us, Bill and I headed for Vermont – Bill’s “happy place” – for a few days before joining family members at Susquehanna University for grandson Adam’s graduation.
How very peaceful it is to sleep with windows open and to hear nothing but silence or the sweet sounds of birds! How scenic to drive through canopied country roads flanked by local creeks or lakes. And let’s remember why Vermont is called the “Green Mountain State” – lush blooming greenness surrounding us everywhere, sprinkled with the sight and smell of one of my favorite flowers – lilacs!
So against this scene, Monday morning we stopped for breakfast at The Hatchery in downtown Ludlow, then traveled north to the town of Woodstock, known as one of the most scenic towns in the state. Having been there before, we walked the main street, visiting several stores and sharing with each other which historic homes we would love to live in!
While there, one of my high school classmates who lives in Vermont, happened to call, and based on our location, he recommended we visit Quechee Gorge and the Vermont Institute of Natural Science, or VINS. Taking his advice, we first stopped at Farmhouse Pottery, where our education began.
The Farmhouse Pottery location in Woodstock is home to one of America’s largest studio pottery workshops as well as a retail store. Not only could we view all of the finished products, but we had a direct view of the potters at work, and we met Will, the potter whose assignment for that day was to mind the retail store.
We had a lengthy conversation with Will as he explained that there are 24 potters of all ages and backgrounds working at this site. They rotate through various stages of production including preparing and throwing the clay, firing, glazing and so on. Will has a degree from UNC Charlotte in Fine Arts and Ceramics, and he truly enjoys what he does. The smiles and chatter evident in the other artists as they worked seemed to underscore this enjoyment. I couldn’t help but wish that everyone in the working world shared that delight!
After a quick stop to view Quechee Gorge from a bridge that sits above it, our next stop was the Vermont Institute of Natural Science – a 47-acre tract of land including forest, meadow, and rolling hills that houses 17 raptor enclosures that contain hawks, eagles, owls, and other birds of prey that have been injured and sent there for rehabilitation. There are indoor and outdoor classrooms, several hiking trails, and a highlight for us – a Forest Canopy Walk – a structure that educates as you walk 56 feet above the tree line and soak in your surroundings – an extremely cool experience!
Throughout the grounds there are also beautiful sculptures by various artists, some of which blend naturally into the landforms. We were also lucky enough to catch the afternoon presentation that included more information about the institute, the work and research that they perform, and the education that they provide to schools and organizations throughout the state. We also met three “ambassadors” as they call them – a red-shouldered hawk, a kestral, and a broad-shouldered hawk. These three birds were signicficantly injured to the point where they will never be able to be released back into the wild, so they are now part of the educational program provided by VINS.
Among the things we learned at VINS are these fun and interesting facts…
- Syrup makers must boil 40 gallons of sap to produce a single gallon of syrup.
- Red pines need more sunlight than most other New Englsnd tree species.
- Black cherry is the 2nd most expensive type of lumber native to North America.
- The 5-needled clusters on White Pine trees contain a higher concentration of Vitamin C than most citrus trees and can be steeped in boiling water to make a tasty and healthy tea!
- Hemlocks are the longest living trees in New England forests; some exceed 550 years old.
- Silk is known as the toughest naturally occurring material – stronger than steel! (Look at the basket made of silk rope – able to hold 2 large elephants!)
And who knew there were so many different species of spiders…our education continued…
- Nursey Web Spiders do not build a web to catch food but instead use it as a crib for their young.
- Crab Spiders change color to look like the flower they are hiding on.
- Harevestmen, also known as Daddy Long Legs, are not true spiders but are related to spiders, ticks, and scorpions.
- Spider moms make protective egg cases to carry and guard their eggs.
- Fishing Spiders can breather under water.
- Male Jumping Spiders dance to impress females, especially because females are the bigger of the two. They have to try something unique to catch their eye!
Our educational Monday was followed by a round of golf on Tuesday at Crown Point Country Club. It was a gorgeous day and a very different golf experience…hills! Almost every shot we took was executed from a hillside lie!! That situation, coupled with several elevated tee boxes, made for a fun – and sometimes frustrating – 18 holes of golf!
Stay Calm and Travel On…