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Archive for April, 2010


19.Apr.2010 by Matt Briggs

Somebody email Chelsea.  She has an out-of-office-i’m-on-vacation-auto-reply email thing going on.  It actually says “vacation”.  I didn’t know that we could technically call anything a vacation, given what we do every day.  Pepa can take a vacation, sure.  But us?  Not sure.  But maybe.

But let’s say that we can take vacations, and this is it.  In the month of April, we spread out all over New England or the west (Tim) or Europe(Pepa) doing a bunch of different things with a bunch of different people.  I think I speak for everyone when I say its nice and it was needed.

I’ve spent the time at home in Concord, Mass.

I’ve been catching up with one of my good buddies who’s spent the year at home waiting to deploy to China for PeaceCorps.  He’s also spent that time training for an MMA fight on May 28th at Mohegan Sun.  Gives me a different outlook on what I do and how intense racing really is.  At least in skiing everyone ends up conscious.

I’ve been running, biking, and lifting at all my old spots, which has been great.  It turns out that some of the best trails I’ve ever run are right here in Eastern Mass.  Who knew?

All that’s been nice, but mostly I’ve been working on my golf game.  I get into golf so fast its crazy.  I come home and play one round and all of a sudden I’m watching non-major golf tournaments with no big names.  I’m hitting the driving range and putting green every day.  Today I even went out and played 9 holes by myself, playing two separate balls so I could play twice as much.  I’m not sure what it is about golf I like so much.  I’m definitely not good, so that’s not it.  Golf isn’t similar to skiing, so that’s not it either.  I like playing with my family, but I like playing alone too, so that’s not it either.  I think it’s because golf is so different from skiing it give me a break.  I like how every time you play, you know exactly how good you are and you can compare that to the best.  That’s like racing at nationals every day (but never having to fly to Alaska).  I like that it’s always the same, day in and day out.  Ski training changes so much day to day it’s sometimes hard to know what to do that day.  But with golf, you just play.  It’s so simple.  I like how you can have some shots in every round that feel so good you just wish you could do that a few more times and then you could play on the tour.  I also like how the guy who finishes last at a crappy event on the PGA tour still gets $11,000.  That’s unbelievable.

Mostly though, I just like outdriving my brother.

Honeysuckle and Ticks

16.Apr.2010 by Lauren Jacobs

I came to Maine for the month of April with the intention of helping my Dad move. Packing up boxes and going through old stuff has kept me occupied, but I also got a temporary job working for the Kennebec Land Trust. The KLT has many conservation properties all over Kennebec County and my task for the month of April is to pull invasive honeysuckle at a property in Vassalboro. Apparently pulling invasive species is my calling in life…

For those not in the know, pulling invasive plants is really hard work. Yesterday I actually counted how many individual plants I pulled and it came to over 400 in a 6 1/2 hour work day. I’m getting so good at spotting honeysuckle that I can pick out little 2 inch high seedlings tucked among the fallen leaves. I’ve been looking for honeysuckle so much that when I close my eyes I still see it. Seriously. Some honeysuckle plants are little ones like this:

Just a little guy

Just a little guy

And then there are huge patches:

Before pulling

Before pulling

After pulling

After pulling

Some of the plants are way over my head and have a really solid root system. If I can’t get it out by myself using a shovel, I mark it with surveying tape so that I can come back next week and attack it with some help. After pulling the plants I hang them over the branch of a tree so the roots will dry out and die. I try to hang them away from the trail so no one can see them but it’s really hard to find enough trees with branches low enough for me to reach, so now the property looks like some weird fungal growth has attacked a lot of the trees. I like to think that I hang the dead plants up as a warning to potential honeysuckle seedlings. “Stop! Do not grow anymore or you’ll end up like these poor souls!”

One reason this property is a high priority for invasive work is that it is home to an extremely rare hybrid of white oak and swamp oak. Apparently it is the only place in the entire state of Maine that this hybrid has been found. I’m not much of a botanist, but the special oaks do look pretty cool. They are kind of creepy without leaves on them.

scary oak tree

scary oak tree

As I said above, my record so far is 400 individual plants in one day and each plant requires you to bend down a minimum of one time. But about 1 in 3 plants require you to bend down 2 or 3 times because inevitably a root breaks off and you have to go fish around for it in the dirt. For the bigger plants it’s necessary to really squat down and pull with all your might. Needless to say, I’m really tired by the end of the day!

Despite the hard work, it’s great to be outside in the woods all day. The only real downside to this job is ticks. Ticks are disgusting, foul, disease-carrying insects and I am pretty sure they serve no useful or necessary purpose in the ecosystem. I’m also pretty sure they are the only living things that would survive a nuclear attack. My tick evasion methods are extensive. First, I tuck my Carhartts into knee-high boots and then I put duct tape around the top of the boots. My shirts get tucked into my Carhartts. Then I put a bandanna around my hair and a bug spray covered hat on top of that. You might say that this is ridiculous, and you would be correct. But I’d rather look ridiculous than have ticks crawling on me. I really hate ticks. However, my interest in country music has increased dramatically lately and Brad Paisley came to the rescue with this lovely song. I’ve had it stuck in my head for days. It’s great.

So my primary thoughts these days are about honeysuckle and ticks, but I have also managed to have some more vacation-like fun. I had a great trip to Boston last weekend to visit some family and friends. And I’ve been out riding my bike in the nice spring weather. It’s lots of fun here but I’m looking forward to getting back to Craftsbury soon and getting to work in the garden!

Easter at home

4.Apr.2010 by Chelsea Little

Easter eggs

My family doesn’t have much of an Easter tradition. When I was younger we would have an Easter egg hunt, with beautiful hand-painted wooden eggs that my mother made. She painted a few more every year and now we have quite a collection. I’m an only child, though, so in the last few years, unless my younger cousins are visiting, we don’t do much. This year my father hid a few of the eggs for me and my mother to find, which turned out to be pretty difficult, since he literally buried a few under dead leaves in the garden.

I remembered Pepa talking about the bread her mother made for Easter. While Pepa is a very talented lady and I’m sure would be great at cooking if she tried, she mostly isn’t interested, and was shaking her head about how long her mother spent making this bread. I think she said something like, “I can go to the store and buy it and it looks exactly the same!” Her only concession towards the benefits of home-made was that the baking bread made the whole house smell good.

With this in mind, I set out to try to make some Bulgarian Easter bread. I really had no idea what kind of bread Pepa’s mother made, so I settled on Cozonac. The dough had so much butter, egg, and sugar in it that it almost felt like cookie dough! After the initial rise, I divided it into thirds and rolled each third into a rectangle with a rolling pin. I then spread cinnamon, coconut flakes (not very European, I know), flax, sesame, black caraway,  sunflower, poppy, and anise seeds on the dough and rolled it up. Each of these rolled up pieces became one strand of a braid. I let the braided dough sit in the refrigerator overnight, and in the morning my mother brushed it with egg whites, sprinkled some more seeds on the top, and stuck in the oven. Voila, our Bulgarian Easter breakfast! It was pretty tasty, so it might have to become a tradition.

easter bread

Last Ski of the Year (probably)

1.Apr.2010 by Lauren Jacobs

On my way to Maine yesterday I stopped at Great Glen Trails for what will most likely be my last ski of the year. It was raining the entire way there, with not a patch of snow in sight, so I wasn’t holding my breath for amazing skiing. However the scenery started to change after turning off Rte 2 and heading up 16. Suddenly there was snow in the woods, which boded well for the trails. It was still drizzling and the trails hadn’t been groomed for a couple days (Great Glen closed on Sunday) but the skiing was surprisingly good! Sorry for the lack of photos, I didn’t want to take out my camera in the soggy conditions. It was a fun ski and I was happy to end my on-snow season with something other than that brutal hill climb in Fort Kent.

Speaking of Fort Kent, our adventure in the County deserves a mention. We were there for 10 days and I did 5 races, including a mass-start US Nationals biathlon race, which was quite an experience. My goal going in was to hit at least one target at each stage and I managed to hit two at each, so I was very pleased. Actually, that’s an understatement. I had a great time in the race and was totally psyched! Probably my favorite part of the race was in the middle of my second stage of prone shooting hearing Ida happily exclaim from a balcony overlooking the range, “Look! She hit two!!” I hope that as I do more biathlon I never lose that feeling of surprise and satisfaction at hitting a target. After Sunday we had a couple days off before heading into the cross-country races. Between Wednesday and the next Sunday we had a 30 km skate, 7.5 km mass-start classic, classic sprint, and 5 km skate hill climb. I was happily surprised with how well I recovered after the 30 km and I was particularly pleased with the distance classic race. It was a super fast, fun course and with such a stacked field there were plenty of people to try to keep up with. Pepa worked super hard all week to give us awesome skis (thank you Pepa!) and Ida kicked butt, getting 2nd in both the mass-start and sprint classic races.

On the Thursday in between races Hannah, Chelsea, Ida, and I headed over to Madawaska to volunteer at a Fast and Female event. It was a great day and I think we were all excited to take part. Fast and Female is a really cool organization and it’s always fun to be surrounded by such enthusiasm and energy. We played games on skis and ate lunch with local elementary and middle school-aged girls and I got a kick out of how psyched they were to have a no-boys-allowed day. There were multiple exclamations of “It is SO cool that we don’t have to see any boys ALL day!” Check out the NENSA report here.

Finally…if you haven’t seen a stork yet, today is April 1st, so don’t forget to hang your Bulgarian Independence Day bracelet on a tree.