Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ripton Community Coffee House Marks Its 13th Anniversary in May

A concert of the Canadian folk-pop band, The Dust Poets, marks the 13th anniversary of the Ripton Community Coffee House, a monthly series of concerts held at the Ripton Community House.

The coffee house began at a house-warming party/jam session at Richard Ruane's and Andrea Chesman's house in November 1994. Some of the people gathered around the table included Sallie Mack, Ian Pounds, Tim Price, Su White, Mark Mulqueen, and Beth Duquette. Tim started a conversation about how great it used to be in Ripton. Life was better in the old days, he said, when there were community gatherings at the Ripton Community House. He fondly recalled spaghetti dinners hosted by the fire department and occasional contra dances. In 1994, however, the Community House only was used for the annual town meeting and the occasional wedding.

Wouldn't it be great, we all agreed, to have a regular community gathering to give people a chance to see their neighbors and hear some good music? The Community House seemed to be the perfect place for it.

Over the course of the following winter, several of us continued to discuss the idea and came up with a format of an open mike followed by a featured performer. We would charge only a small amount at the door to cover expenses and still make it accessible to the entire community. We would sell refreshments to help pay our expenses as well. We approached the town Select Board and they were very supportive of the idea of a once a month coffeehouse at the Community House.

The coffeehouse officially started on May 6, 1995. The first coffeehouse had an open mike with Andrew Marks, Nelda Clemens and Tim Price, Rodger Hamilton, Hannah Cohen (step dancing to a boom box) and Jonathan McDonough. The featured act was Rick Klein, Sallie Mack and Richard Ruane. It was a benefit for the coffeehouse. More than one hundred people showed up and (at $3.00 for adults and $1.50 for children and seniors as well as all the money for the baked goods and beverages), it managed to raise $473 to get the Ripton Community Coffee House going.

Although there was an expectation that we would have sixty or seventy people showing up for the first few concerts and then the novelty of it would wear off, we were proven wrong as attendance grew. One of the great things about the audience is that it includes a total mix of ages, from babes in arms to the over-eighty crowd. Whole families come with all their children and students show up from Middlebury College. There was one coffeehouse where the upstairs balcony resembled a nursery, with six babies less than two months old in attendance.

Soon we decided to have the refreshment sales be fundraisers for area non-profit organizations. A local non-profit organization would bring in their own bakers, run the kitchen for the night and keep the money they made. We did this for a few reasons: first, we have a strong community focus and want to support the local non-profits; second, it keeps our volunteer muffin makers from burning out too quickly; third, it brings in different people who might not have come to the coffeehouse otherwise, thus continuing to build our audience.

These days the price of admission has gone up a bit (it's $7.00 for adults and $3.00 for children and seniors, but we are happy to accept less if need be). We average about one hundred people at every show. Many of our regulars bring their own cushions to sit on to soften the uncomfortable folding chairs. The format is the same as when we started, with five open mike slots and a featured performer.

Although initially the select board allowed us to hold winter concerts in the Community House, since 2006 we have had to relocate to the Ripton Elementary for the January and February concerts. We have had to cancel our shows due to weather only four times in thirteen years (not bad for Ripton).

Whatever the weather conditions, or location, the coffeehouse has been helped by a willing band of volunteers who have set up and taken down chairs, helped with parking and postering, taken money at the door, hauled equipment and swept the floors.

There have been a number of highlights over the last thirteen years. Joanna Colwell is our regular MC and presents a very welcoming face to our group of volunteers. The open mike is always unpredictable, though it never fails to be entertaining. The audience is always impressed whenever local kids take to the stage; highlights have included Amelia Schumacher's heartfelt original songs, Sam Chesman on flute, Max Mojcik on drums, and Miles Zwicky on piano. Then there was the time Lincoln octogenarian fiddler Dot Brown played with "Fireball" Bob Manny, Bud Leeds gave an outstanding jazz performance, and we were entertained by the a capella ensemble, Ripton Rhapsody. After the 9/11 tragedy, some Native American steel workers who had been working at Ground Zero came up to Vermont to relax. They stopped in at the coffeehouse and performed songs and poetry at the open mike. Anais Mitchell, who recently signed with the Righteous Babe recording label did her first open mike performance on our stage.

The baked good have been a treat, so to speak. A number of local bakers have a following, and the word quickly gets passed around if they show up with a signature dish. Some of these have included Pete and Deb Karpak's cheese Danish squares and anything baked by Nancy Breiden, especially a memorable death by chocolate torte. We have used our bake sales profits to provide the community with full-size mugs in 1999 and some twenty folding chairs. For the last several years the Vermont Coffee Company has been donating their delicious free-trade organic coffee to the Ripton Community Coffee House.

Over the years, we have presented 115 concerts, featured 800 open mike performances and provided a place for nonprofit organizations' bake sales 70 times. Throughout this time, we have been generously supported by a continually evolving audience of music lovers, willing to brave the drive up the mountain in the winter and the blood-sucking mosquitoes in the summer. It has been a great thirteen years, and we thank everyone who has helped make it so.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Way to Go!, supporting sustainable transportation in Addison County

A chance to support public transit in Addison County is coming up fast. The Way to Go week
Addison County will launch its own Way to Go! Commuter Challenge the week of May 5th to May 9th. Commuters are asked to spend the week biking, walking, carpooling, telecommuting or taking the bus, to reduce air pollution from motor vehicles, save money, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
For Riptonites, the Snow Bowl commuter shuttle will only be running on two days for that week: Thursday, May 8th, and Friday, May 9th. Let's ride!

Pictures of the Way to Go week can be found on their Flickr stream.

(thanks to Warren King)

Update on The Forest Service’s Natural Turnpike Project : Warren King reports

The Forest Service’s Natural Turnpike Project

An area of the Green Mountain National Forest in Ripton north and west of the Natural Turnpike is presently the subject of a management plan called the Natural Turnpike Project, calling for treatment of about 1200 U.S. Forest Service (USFS) acres in Ripton and South Lincoln. At the heart of the USFS interest in developing a plan for this area is concern about the safety of simultaneous wintertime use of the Natural Turnpike, or Forest Road (FR) 54, by vehicles, snowmobiles and cross-country skiers.

The USFS must follow a procedure prescribed by law for planning management activities. First comes a scoping letter, then a draft Environmental Assessment, and finally a Letter of Decision and a final Environmental Assessment, or, with regionally significant projects, an Environmental Impact Statement. In this case the project is relatively large but not regional; it has a number of objectives and parts, and the planning has taken 18 months. At each step in the planning process the public may provide its views. More than 100 Riptonites have done so at various stages. The actions spelled out in the plan will take place over 5-7 years.

The draft Environmental Assessment offers four alternative courses of action, one of which is, by law, a no-action alternative. Although the USFS indicated up front which was their preferred alternative, they strongly encouraged public participation at multiple hearings, workshops, open houses, meetings and site visits over the past year and a half.

Late in March they issued their Notice of Decision and final Environmental Assessment. Rather than selecting the preferred alternative of the draft Environmental Assessment, they chose a modified version of the alternative favored by most Riptonites. They chose to construct a new 1.9-mile trail parallel to FR 54 for snowmobiles and skiers. The alternative they initially favored but rejected in the final Environmental Assessment would have had a new permanent snowmobile and ski trail corridor running 2.1 miles from Spruce Lodge in South Lincoln over the Cobb Hill ridge and through mature, remote, unfragmented forest to join the Alphonse Quesnel snowmobile trail at Chip Stokes Road (FR 233).

Removing snowmobilers and skiers from FR 54 allows for safe winter vehicular access on FR 54 for one year-round resident and 8 seasonal camp owners by USFS permit on a case by case basis. Plowing and its costs would be borne by permit holders. Multiple use travel would continue on 0.3 miles of FR 54 from Spruce Lodge in South Lincoln to Eagles Nest Road and across a private inholding.

The selected alternative also calls for commercial timber harvest of 926 acres, rather than the 1219 acres proposed for treatment in the draft Environmental Assessment. An additional 231 acres will be treated noncommercially for timber stand improvement, aspen regeneration, and apple tree release to benefit wildlife. Early successional habitat amounting to 286 acres will be created through new permanent upland openings or through treatment of existing openings to enhance habitat diversity for wildlife like deer and chestnut-sided warblers that favor shrubby growth. Openings will be limited to 10 acres or less.

The decision takes into account the wishes of Riptonites to protect a swath of unfragmented forest, important for aesthetics and for production of migratory songbirds. The decision also takes into account the need to protect a threatened plant species that grows in several places along FR 54. The USFS’ encouragement of public participation and the choice of an alternative other than the preferred alternative indicates a willingness by the USFS to listen to and act on public opinion that is rare indeed these days.

Warren King

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Green Up Day

Saturday, May 3rd is Green Up Day this year. Here’s your chance to enlist your kids or your parents or your grandparents or your neighbors to help remove the trash from the roadside where some thoughtless individual chucked it.

In Vermont we pick up trash throughout the year, but once each year WE PICK UP TRASH, the big stuff, the small stuff, even the gross stuff (wearing gloves isn’t a bad idea). It goes into green up bags, available at the Ripton Country Store, the Elementary School, the North Branch School, the Ripton Town Office and, on Saturday, the Ripton Town Shed.

You bring the filled bags to the town shed. We’ll take green up bags until Friday, May 9th. The transfer station on Route 7 takes them from us at no cost to you or Ripton. If you have a carful or a trailerful, get a letter from the green up coordinators, the Town Clerk, or the recycling volunteer, giving consent to take your load directly to the transfer station at no charge. But those folks are trash savvy. No good passing off garage junk for genuine green up stuff. They can tell.

Remember: that driver who thinks he owns the road may not see you. You and those you’re with need to take extreme care. Wear bright clothes.

Don’t forget that Saturday, May 3rd is also a recycling day. Bring your recycling to the shed as usual, $3 a load, best deal in town other than green up bags.

Warren King (388-4082) and Steve Zwicky (388-2301)
Green Up Coordinators

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ripton Springing Forth

As spring comes leaping into Ripton, there are more signs than raked gardens, bicycle helmets and sunburns on winter-white skin. It’s a wonderful time to enjoy the return of birds and the emergence of wildflowers. We (Becky Purdum, Tom Moran and Warren and Barry King ) have been keeping track of the birds as they arrive in Ripton as well as the date of the first time we see a particular wildflower in bloom. Other spring signs are also noted.

Here’s our list from the past few weeks:

February 16 – First robins of the year.

April 3 – The male woodcock at our neighbor’s is back, making it’s elaborate, joyful mating display each evening and early morning.

April 7 – Juncos are back.

April 9 – Fox sparrows (just passing through as usual,) song sparrows, female red-wing blackbird (males have been here for a few weeks.) First phoebe!

April 10 – Yellow-bellied sapsucker has returned and is making his staccato drumming on resonant trees to attract a mate.

April 11 – Cowbird, tufted titmouse.

April 15 – Beaked hazel – the tiniest tree flower out there – is in bloom. Winter wrens have returned and are singing their amazing arias.

April 16 – White-throated sparrow, purple finch.

April 17 – Yellow-shafted flicker, evening grosbeak, woodfrogs “singing” (quacking, really) in ponds. The last of the redpolls left last night to head north after eating at our feeders all winter. Evening grosbeaks have returned to take their place as pillagers. We’ve taken in one feeder that is reachable by black bears but will keep the others going for a few more weeks. Trout lily leaves are up but the flowers stalks haven’t pushed through yet.

April 18 – Chipping sparrows today. The ruby-crowned kinglet is back, trying to rival the winter wren’s song with his own impressive vocal ability (the golden-crowned stays all winter.) And this evening, a hermit thrush signaled his return with his beautiful haunting melody from the woods.

April 19 – Tree swallows are back soaring in the skies. Coltsfoot is in bloom along the roadsides. (It looks like a dandelion but there are no leaves on it. They come out much later, after blooming has finished.) Pine siskins. Male goldfinches have appeared in yellowing breeding plumage. They aren’t yet as brilliant as they will be in mid-summer. We watched our first red-tailed hawk of the season circle over our yard. They are not winter residents of Ripton but you can find them in the Champlain Valley. Although not a sign of spring, we’ve had turkeys in our yard the past two days as well as an adult and one-year old moose.

April 20 – Broadwing hawks are back. Listen for their high-pitched whistle as they soar overhead.

April 21 – Saw and heard a red-eyed vireo. Was I hallucinating? This bird is really early – they normally don’t show up until the first or second week of May. The red maples are in full flower and the big-toothed aspen are starting to leaf out. The spring peepers have started to sing in ponds and vernal pools.

April 22 – Elderberries have leaves and big bud clusters already. Wild leeks are up and ready for harvesting. A few blackflies made an appearance today. Perhaps not coincidentally, a couple of brave yellow-rumped warblers showed up also; they are always the first warblers to return to Ripton in the spring.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ripton Fire Station offering First Aid Course, coming up fast!

A First Aid Course will be hosted by the Ripton Fire station. It's the American Heart Association Certification Course. The course is open to the entire community, for folks ages 14 and up.

Entrance fee: $15 for materials and certification.

Advance registration is requested by April 26.

Please contact Ceredwyn Alexander by phone (388-7850) or email (

'The Enemy Within' Smash Success at Halfway Mark of Two-Night Run

The North Branch School's annual production was on the boards at the Community House last night, before a packed audience, and it was met with waves of laughter, deep reflection, and a long standing ovation as it drew to a close.

The play--largely a comedy set in the town of Justiceville and peopled with out-of-work superheroes, doughnut-munching cops (and scandal-mongering bloggers!)--offered understated commentary on everything from the Frost cabin vandalism to the global war on terror, as well as lots of laughs.

The run lasts one more night--tonight, Saturday April 12, 7:30. Only $6.

Friday, April 11, 2008

On communities and neighbors: a new Bill McKibben article

A new Bill McKibben article explores how Americans used to be closer to neighbors than we are now, and how that might change.

There's a nod to Ripton's fire department, perhaps:
Think, in the course of an ordinary day, how often you rely on the people who live near you for anything of practical value. Perhaps carpooling your kids to school or soccer. If you live in a rural community, there may be a volunteer fire department, which keeps your insurance affordable.

Some fascinating discussion follows on that site.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Wind Power conference coming up

A local wind power conference is being held later this month. Is anyone from Ripton attending?

This may present some opportunities for our community, given our movement towards sustainable enery.

(thanks to Warren King)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


To celebrate the last days of snow, this wonderful image from Riptonite Jeff Sampson.

Jeff writes:

I have many favorite places within Ripton that I visit frequently to observe and photograph. Sometimes I will go to the same place more than once in a given day to see what changes time, weather, the movement of water, gravity, and light have imparted on the space. Others I visit seasonally. If you see a person awkwardly scrambling around the slippery banks and ice stacks of local waterways at sunset, there is a good chance that it is me.

You can click on the graphic to see a larger image.