Monday, March 31, 2008

Maple syrup prices rising: report

The price of Vermont maple syrup is rising this year, thanks to increased fuel costs, according to a Times-Argus report.
"We used to use four to five gallons of oil for one gallon of syrup," said Ed Davis of Davis Family Farm, which produces about 2,500 gallons of syrup a year. "Now we're down to less than a half gallon of oil for one gallon of syrup. If we didn't have all this equipment, we couldn't do it."

The family switched from firewood to oil to boil its sap four years ago, but now is looking at switching back, Davis said.

Teachers from CHINA are visiting Ripton Elementary School!

From April 8th to the 17th Ripton will be hosting a group of teachers from China. The community is welcome to join them for the following events:

Thursday, April 10th @ 6:30pm: Potluck at Ripton Elementary School
Monday, April 14th @ 6:30 pm: Potluck at Ripton Elementary School
Wednesday, April 16th 8:30am-12noon: Chinese Extravaganza, Ripton Elementary School

Please spread the word to others who might be interested!

We are also looking for community members to take the China Teachers on excursions on the weekend while they are here. For example:
  • Hike the Robert Frost trails
  • Collect sap or see a maple sugaring operation
  • Attend an athletic event or tour the Museum of Art at Middlebury College
  • Tour the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury
  • Visit the Sheldon Museum, Vermont Folklife Center, or Shelburne Museum
  • or some other uniquely Vermont experience or outing
Please contact Wendy Leeds at Ripton Elementary 388-2208 or write to make arrangements.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter week, and it's still winter

Winter retains its chilly grasp on Ripton. While spring ripples across the rest of the United States, summoned up by the spring equinox, our temperatures remain at and below freezing. Snow continues to lie upon our lands, sometimes covered with a thin layer of refrozen ice.

(picture: a quietly running creek under snow, ice, and more snow. Pearl Lee Road, just above the Lincoln Road. Full size here.)

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Owl of Wimett Lane

This owl came to visit a dead tree on Wimett Lane, off Maiden Lane, last week. The photo was snapped by Brad Mathews, who says the bird was impressively big!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Far (Far) Out

Maiden Lane's Seth Dickinson, now a student at the University of Chicago, has won first runner-up in a nationwide collegiate science-fiction writing contest sponsored by Dell Magazine.

Dickinson won an honorable mention in last year's contest, which was originally named to honor sci-fi great Isaac Asimov.

His prize-winning story, 'Hypocrite,' concerns the crew of a space ship, Mishanni. "One of the ship's combat teams ends up in a dangerous situation -- trapped on a station near the active star DX Cancri during a solar flare," said Dickinson, adding " look it up on your starcharts, it's real. Their only chance of survival is to upload brainscan backups to a computer substrate. But the only available computer is already running a program: three simulated human infants, grown in sensory deprivation as a philosophical experiment by a rogue thinker."

The team members have to decide whether to destroy the infants in order to to save themselves, he said. "The story explores themes regarding the humanity of artificial intelligences and uploaded human intelligences."

The story was one of seven he submitted to the contest. His prize includes the chance to attend this year's International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, "which will be packed full of editors and agents," he said, adding "I plan to network!"

Obama Sweeps Ripton

Ripton voters gave overwhelming support to Illinois Senator Barack Obama in his race for the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday.

Obama took 175 votes to Hillary Clinton's 68, with a single vote for Dennis Kucinich and one blank vote--a 71-28 percent edge which eclipsed by several points his margin in the rest of the state.

On the GOP side of the ballot Arizona Senator John McCain took 15 votes, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee 4, and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney 2.

Turnout in the election was very high, reflecting the unusual fact that the presidential nomination was still undecided by the time voting reached Vermont. Sixty three percent of the town's voters cast a ballot--compared with less than half of registered voters in the two previous spring primaries.

Town offices were uncontested.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Efficient Light Cast on Town Politics

Residents attending Monday night's town meeting and voting in Tuesday's election experienced the warm and efficient glow of new energy-efficient compact fluorescent lightbulbs installed in recent months.

Warren King, one of the leaders of the town's Alternative Energy committee which undertook the project, said that between the community house and the town offices, the electric load for lighting had decreased from 5200 watts to just 2500 watts with the new bulbs, a decrease of 52 percent.

"It took a while to get them up," he said. "I had to use a long pole, and twist out the old bulbs and then put up the new ones. But the light is lovely." The first few electric bills were lovely too, he said--estimated payback time for the investment was well under 5 years.

In fact, the savings may come even faster. A similar efficiency project was just completed at the elementary school, where 598 bulbs were replaced with high efficiency ballasts and tubes. The $12,650 cost looks as if it will yield annual savings on electric bills of more than $3,000 said school board member Mike Hussey.

More than $10,000 remains in the school energy efficiency fund voted at town meeting last year, and Hussey said a variety of projects were being considered, including improvements to hot water heaters and air handlers. Win Colwell, speaking from the floor, urged the board to consider solar hot water heating, arguing that solar panels on the roof of the school would spark interest in the technology among passersby.

Town Meeting Well-Attended, Uncontroversial

Ripton residents passed school and town budgets on unanimous voice votes Monday night, at a meeting that saw no real controversy.

Lured in part by a pre-meeting dessert social, a crowd filled the community house, and eleven students from the North Branch School watched from the balcony. Five students from the elementary school, led by Nola Kevra, opened the meeting with a rendition of "Swinging on a Star."

The school meeting was first this year, and besides the regular budget, which increased 2.56 percent, residents approved $2,700 from the capital projects fund to help pay for regrading and improving the athletic field adjoining the school. Private donations and contributions from the Friends of the Ripton School will help cover the balance of the $11,000 cost.

When the meeting turned to the town budget, residents approved the $409,000 spending plan without serious debate. A few meeting-goers voted no on a proposal to create an as-yet unfunded reserve fund--the selectboard promised more details next year before money is actually allocated, saying such a fund could come in handy for unforeseen expenses.

The fire budget was passed unanimously, and fire chief Erik Eriksen reported a dramatic decrease in the number of fire and ambulance calls in the past year.

State Rep. Willem Jewett offered a few words on debate so far in the State Legislature, describing a session dominated by the difficulty of dealing with flat revenues and rapidly rising costs. In particular, he said, twenty percent annual increases in the cost of road construction was constraining the state's ability to complete projects.