Thursday, July 09, 2020

Enjoying Vermont

Well, if you can't travel to exotic places, you can enjoy your own state. And Vermont is a beautiful one. After months of not straying more than 5 miles away from home, we're starting to explore our local area. And after months of eating my own cooking, we're beginning to eat out, and literally as we are not ready to dine inside.
This last week was a busy one. We picked a piled-up flat of strawberries over at Breezy Hill Berry Farm in Castleton. Happily, it was overcast with a slight drizzle - much better than the sun beating down. They were just going by so lots of overripe ones but we managed to find a good selection. But by the time we got home, many were looking soft. The answer came quickly - strawberry jam! We pulled out our canning equipment and got to work. After a big pot of mashed strawberries were bubbling away on the stove, we sliced up and froze the rest (more than a few went into our mouths).
Our next adventure came on the Fourth of July itself. It was a gorgeous morning and promised to be a hot one. So we left early for the Taconic Ramble State Park, also in Castleton and close to the Hubbardton Battle Site (the only Revolutionary battle fought entirely in what would become Vermont). The Taconic Ramble State park was donated to our state by Carson "Kit" Davidson, documentary filmmaker and author and his wife Mickie, a children's book writer. He invested his heart and soul into the land for over 46 years, blazing trails, preserving wildflower meadows, and building a Japanese garden. He encouraged conservation, public access, and community involvement by opening his land to any who wished to enjoy it. At his death in 2016, the 204 acres became Vermont's newest State Park.
We enjoyed the Japanese Garden and expanse of wildflower meadows first and then climbed to the top of Mt. Zion for expansive views. The trail up from the rock garden had switchbacks but the trail down, clearly marked "difficult" went straight down through the cliffs. It was rather fun for us but not for anyone that feared heights. The trails were all well marked and easy to follow. A trail map is located in the parking lot.
After months of not eating anything but my cooking (not that it's bad!), we are now enjoying eating out. Recently we've been to Tozier's for fried seafood, Sugar & Spice for breakfast, and the Rustic Rooster for lunch. All were outside with well-spaced tables and the staff all wore masks.

Part of the assembly line

We added only lemon juice and sugar to
the mixture

Scott sterilizes the canning jars and lids
While we're in the kitchen, let me introduce
our new Vermont Castings stove, just
installed. Our old one had literally fallen
apart and we wanted to take advantage of
all the rebates available. 
There are lots of chairs scattered around where you can
contemplate the view.
The wildflower meadows are extensive and additional trails that we didn't have time to explore wait for us at another time.
We skipped the ladder just visible on the left and took the
Garden trail more to the right. That led to the Cave trail,
Spring trail, and then the Jan trail to the top of Mt. Zion.
It took a lot of work to design and build this beautiful
combination of rock and water features. 
There is a different view every time you turn your head.
Another time I'd like to just sit awhile and take it quietly in.
We only saw one other group during our stay and that was
briefly on top of the mountain.
You can see the cliffs here in the background.
There is a long ridge on top of Mt. Zion with several views and a well placed picnic table. Next time we'll bring lunch.
Lunch at the Rustic Rooster here in Cuttingsville. We've
been lucky with beautiful weather allowing us to eat
out - literally. 

Monday, May 04, 2020

Foraging For Ramps

In the early spring when the deciduous trees are still bare, in special hidden places, wild ramps grow in profusion. I say
hidden because some people find them and harvest the lot for big bucks. They are very popular in high-end restaurants. So
locals keep their locations private. We are lucky to have friends that clued us in and this is our second year harvesting
enough for our own personal use. There are thousands in our location and we only take a few from one spot.

It's a lovely hike as well and we picked a beautiful day.

We carefully dig around a clump of them and
take only a few.

The forest floor here is covered with them.

We enjoy the first wildflowers as well - here, gold thread

Tiny yellow violets

Lovely pink striped on white Spring Beauties

We then walked around Spring Lake on our way back to the
 car. This pristine lake is 1 mile up the road from us and is
reachable only by a narrow rutted dirt track.

There are only a couple of summer camps on the lake and
this one is owned by friends of our's.

Looking down Spring Lake towards Killington Peak

Before heading home we visited the new piglets at
Spring Lake Ranch.

Some were still having lunch

And here are the ramps all washed and ready to cook. I grilled most of them but made an amazing compound butter with
some. One pound of butter, blanched ramps, lemon juice and zest, salt & pepper. Most went in the freezer in cylinders for future meals, but some melted over our salmon for dinner that night.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Sheltering in Place

Our first 14 days after returning to Vermont were stressful but almost a month later nothing has really changed in our living arrangements. We no longer worry every time we cough or sneeze, because we are not being exposed to the virus anymore. Our son Sean and son-in-law Will are living with us here and that makes life a lot more fun! Scott and I are both at high risk due to our age but I'm not only 75 but I had lung cancer (9 years ago and still no problem). Sean has serious asthma problems so he's high risk as well.
This is a great place to get stuck in! We live on 100 acres surrounded by back roads and trails to walk in. Our country store, Pierce's, is pretty famous - check out Utube ( about its history and conversion into a Coop. For many years I have volunteered there running the store for one or two sessions a week and I love it. They were open 7 days a week from 7 to 7 but now they take orders by email/phone, package them up and leave the groceries for customers at a designated time on the porch. Most of our groceries come from there. But once in a while we need to get things from the big supermarket in Rutland, the Hardware Store or the pharmacy. The Vermont Council on Aging assigned us a volunteer to do our shopping for us. Is that great or what? We're on the receiving end of the volunteering for the first time and we're very grateful.
We have no idea how long this will last. I try not to worry about the future as there is nothing I can do about it. Scott is still involved in politics in constant Zoom and telephone meetings. We have set up a number of regular Zoom video meetings with family and friends, including many in our cruising community.  We exercise, cook and eat (all too well) and keep in touch with email.
This last week was non stop celebrations: Easter Sunday, our 41st wedding anniversary, Sean's Birthday and then my Birthday. Scott gave me a treadmill so we can exercise even if it rains (or snows)! So now I'm back on a diet...
Sean & Will relaxing after a long day working online.

Scott, just relaxing

I generally do all the cooking during the week but Sean and
Will love to make a great dinner on the weekends.

There has been altogether oo much snow and it's been cold
all the time. We had a high one day of 58!

These flowers are all over my yard and the first ones to
come up.

Next were flocks of gold thread.

My daffodils finally bloomed on April 20th. Here they decorate our kitchen table with my painting of Tortugal Marina
in Guatemala (where Scott Free sits waiting for us to return) on the wall overlooking it. 

We try to hike and walk every day. A few days ago we took
some woods roads and ran into a quagmire of recent logging
activity. I was lucky to keep these boats on my feet, the mud
was so deep.

Sean (on right) and Will cooking duck breasts
My birthday cake.
And for dessert Carrot Cake with Cream
Cheese frosting and toasted coconut
numbers spelling 75. 

Sean had his birthday on the 15th (mine was the 17th). I
made leg of lamb with broccoli slaw and coconut cupcakes.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Looking Back at Our Belize Adventures - Part II

Scott and I had talked about bringing the boat back to the U.S. at the end of the cruising season in Belize in 2021.  We'd probably sail up to the Chesapeake and leave it there for the summer. We might put it up for sale at that time. This was our 17th year sailing her and she is now 30 years old. Scott rather enjoyed fixing things the first time and there was a satisfaction the second time, knowing what to do. But now the third and fourth times are cropping up and he's getting tired of it. And of course, we are now in our middle 70's and not as spry as we used to be.
So we were looking forward to an easy cruise in Belize this year, hopefully, back out to the atolls for some time. But the season was unexpectedly cut short due to the Covid 19 virus, as several of my previous blog posts testify. And during the two months, we were there, we had both more than usually predicted blustery weather and a number of "exciting misadventures" that all, thank goodness, turned out safely. It puts a lot of stress in our lives, particularly Scott's, as he usually heads up the rescue procedures.
The weather as I mentioned, was more predicted than experienced. At this point, when a cold front is expected we anchor in one of two safe locations: Placencia or Sapadilla Lagoon. Both provide secure anchoring and protection from wave action.  But we never got a long enough weather window to enjoy more than a couple of days out on the barrier reef islands.
Our first accident occurred on our way out of the Pelican Cays. We often visit one of these islands where Dustin, Kim and their 7-year-old daughter Ama run the tiny resort, Hideaway Caye. We were in a narrow passage between the islands heading for the shallow passage over the reef to the deepwater when the engine quit. Scott went into the engine room to diagnose while I watched us drift towards the shallow sandy bar off the island (thank God it wasn't coral). We went aground, rather softly.  I got on the radio to Dustin as we were only about 500 yards from them and he raced out in his launcha and pulled us off. Meanwhile, Scott had figured out the problem and was solving it. Really the whole incident only took about 15 minutes. And we were in no danger.
The next one was a longer process. We followed Emerald Seas, motor sailing in stiff wind and seas, over from Sapadilla to Blue Ground Range. It was rather exciting sailing but somewhat upwind. That's called tacking and we don't do it well. The engine was necessary to keep us in a reasonable direction. We were bashing into the waves nicely when again, the engine quit. It wasn't the same problem, we know that, but assumed it was a fuel problem exasperated by the wave action. He changed filters but no help. We called Emerald Seas and considered turning the boat south which would comfortably allow us to sail to Placencia (anchoring with sail alone is something we hardly ever do but we can do it).  But after a half-hour in the hot smelly engine room Scott found the problem - a loose wire on the fuel pump. Great job Scott! And we resumed our trip up to anchoring with Emerald Seas. We invited them over for dinner to celebrate and then spent several lovely days at South Water Caye snorkeling, swimming and enjoying happy hours at the newly renovated IZE bar.
The third incident occurred a week later in basically the same place and again we were joining Emerald Seas. This time the engine alarm went off (very scary sound) and we had to turn it off. This time there was almost no wind so the sails wouldn't be much help. It was very hard for Scott to figure this one out and it took a while. Meanwhile we were well away from land so in no immediate danger. It was a low coolant error and after filling the coolant up we were able to slowly motor up to Blue Ground Range and through the narrow gap in the reef. Jim came over to help Scott and they found the leak.
The last incident happened again just off Hideaway Caye! Dustin has 3 buoys deployed off his bar as the anchorage is very deep for many boats - 65 feet. Jim & Renate and ourselves usually anchor as it isn't a problem for us. Every year some huge catamaran drags one of the buoys and breaks the line. Jim gets his scuba equipment and tries to find it. He's always successful but this year it took over 10 dives in murky water where you can't see more than 5 feet ahead! We watched the process from our boat and cheered when he finally located it. The next day we went to lift our anchor and found that the buoy line had tangled around our anchor chain. It was a mess! Our anchor and the buoy anchor together weighed 175 lbs, with another 75 pounds of chain. Dustin in his launch and Jim and Kevin from My Jo in a dinghy and Scott up on the bow, wrestled with the problem. There were two immediate dangers - someone could lose a finger or worse with this heavy mess and our boat was drifting towards the reef in the wind. Finally Jim put his dinghy up against the side of our boat and tried pushing us - it slowed the drift, but Dustin's launcha was necessary to pull us further off.  When we were finally far enough away, they managed to untangle the lines and free us. Whew!
This gives you an idea of why we are starting to feel that maybe we should think about the ending of our wonderful time cruising. By the time we sell (assuming it doesn't take a LONG time), we'll have 20 years under our belt, so that will be enough. And when we sail the boat up from Belize to Florida, we'll have some crew with us (hopefully someone who knows diesel engines! That's the one thing we haven't replaced.)

Hideaway Cay is one of our favorite places in Belize. Dustin, Kim and Ama run a wonderful tiny bar and restaurant. Dave
from Cordelia is a singer/songwriter and sometimes we can prevail upon him to entertain us here or at Yoli's in Placencia.
Fragments of Hope, an NGO dedicated to saving the coral
reefs of Belize is growing this coral in the Pelican Cayes.
Scott after a successful diagnosis of our engines' problems.
Jim pointing and Kevin driving diagnose the problem
Lifting up the anchor chain and buoy lines
Notice how much further the other sailboat is
 from our boat as the process unfolds. I start to
panic as we approach the reef.,
We've been pulled into safer waters and
the lines are finally untangled. Yeh!
We enjoyed several lobster dinners before the end of the
season mid February. One great one was at Hideaway.
Sunset at the newly renovated IZE bar.
Here's a professional shot of the IZE dock and bar

One of the two charming bartenders at IZE

Monday, April 13, 2020

Looking Back at Our Belize Adventures - Part 1

Emerald Seas left Tortugal a few days ahead of
us to spend time in Texan Bay. We joined them for
one night before checking out of Guatemala and
crossing the bar at the Rio Dulce.

For the first time we anchored off Punta Gorda, the
southernmost town in Belize to check into the country. 

It was an easy and pleasant check-in as all three of the
agencies were in one building. We had time to tour the
small town as well.

The clocktower in the small central plaza is the town's

Next we motored up to the quiet harbor of New Haven for
several days. There is nothing there but the wildlife. Jim
and Renate practiced on their new paddle boards. 

The weather was so fine for several days that we decided to sail over to the Sapadilla Cayes, the southernmost islands
on the barrier reef. We had only been there one other time with Walt & Honoree many years ago. On the way we stopped at the beautiful Seal Cay to snorkel. Our first anchorage was Lime Cay. It's definitely a settled weather spot only but we had a quiet night with the dramatic sunset you see above.

The next day we got a tour of nearby Hunting Cay by a
charming Coast Guard official. 

There is a customs/immigration office there along with the
Coast Guard but they aren't always open.

A view of Emerald Seas and Scott Free from a beach at Lime Cay 

Sanny Garbutt cooks up some wonderful meals we're told
but didn't have a chance to try one this time. We'll be back!

The Garbutt resort on the island is rustic but very comfortable
with ensuite bathrooms in the cottages. The graffiti has
been collecting for many years. 

The next day we sailed up to Tom Owens Cay to meet our
friends Woody & Judy on Lapis. The "Shell House" is a
charming rental built on the smaller of the two islands
around the harbor. 

We had a tour of this lovely spot, all built by hand from
conch shells and concrete over the last 4 years. 

Jim, Renate, and Scott at the dock

Another view of the house - you can see the
conch shells form the exteriors. The two rental
units inside are very elegant.

We had drinks aboard Emerald Seas at Tom Owens with
Woody & Judy and Pauline & Alan on Kristiania. 

After two nights we headed to Placencia and much
to our surprise, this amazing Tall Ship, the Frederick
Chopin, came sailing into the harbor at night all lit
up as you see here. What a sight!

The next morning we followed Cordelia out during "visiting"

Unfortunately, it was really crowded at the landing spot and
it was necessary to climb a rope ladder. We passed, but
got a great look at the ship and heard some of the live

Jim "hams" it up at the Barefoot Bar!

I had no idea my dress was fluorescent!

We caught up with our friends on Lianda at the Reserve
Marina.As before, we came for drinks and stayed for dinner.
Marc's son Hadrien and his girlfriend Albina were visiting
. Marc's wife Morgan was still in Belgium. They sailed
 over to Roatan a few days later
and are still there as of April due to the Covid 19 virus
closing the borders.

Marc looks like he's about to break into
an aria!

We organized an excursion up to the Maya Beach Bistro for
lunch and a swim. Cordelia, Wahoo and Canel joined us.
That meant two golf carts - Jim & Renate joined us on the
smaller one. Great meal as always. It's one of our favorite