Today I found unexpectedly good reading in Middlebury’s new 2012 Town Plan. The document is really well done and its quality highlights the vigorous engagement between the town, its citizenry, and businesses that makes this a fabulous place to live.
While all 226 pages are worthwhile, I found Section 2.13 “Land Use – Conservation and Development Plan” to be especially moving. I mean “moving” in a totally serious, non-ironic way. Coming from a town (Carlisle, PA) with rampant “Miracle Mile” commercial development and suburban sprawl, this forward-looking vision of how the town should be developed and improved in coming decades reassures me that 30 years from now Middlebury will be an even better place to live than it is today.
My favorite quote is from Section 2.13, page 151:
A fundamental objective of this Town Plan is to maintain Middlebury as a traditional Vermont town and to prevent incremental change to “anywhere USA”. This is not merely an aesthetic notion, it is a recognized economic development strategy for Middlebury and Vermont. This Plan supports architecture that is designed to fit its context in Middlebury and does not support standardized trade-marked or corporate prototypes.
In 2005 James Howard Kunstler (author of The Geography of Nowhere among other titles) gave a great talk at Middlebury College on human-scale urban development and the lack thereof in much of American urban planning. In his talk he justly derided our own little “Miracle [1/2] mile” by the Hannaford Shopping center. As an avid bicycle commuter who lived south of the village for many years I felt the effects of this poor zoning and development planning on a daily basis as I tried to safely navigate the no-shoulder/no-sidewalk turning-lane and fore-court infested section of road without getting killed. I am very pleased to see that slowly remedying these past lapses is part of the town’s plan for the future.
In addition to spending several hours reading the 2012 Middlebury Town Plan, I heartily recommend taking another hour to watch William H. Whyte’s The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces – The Street Corner. My favorite part is at 12:00: “People tend to sit where there are places to sit.”
In 2005 I took a 3-week trip around Turkey with my parents and brother. Mid-way through this fabulous trip we met the affable Roland Pfitzenmaier, a German man touring the middle east on a Triumph motorcycle. While I am someone who usually travels with a full load of gear — bicycles, kayaks, and all the rest — the minimalism of Roland’s trek was intriguing. This summer my father was kind enough to lend me the use of his motorcycle (a 1993 BMW R100R) and I figured that there was no time like the present to try a long-distance motorcycle tour. Now, I’m well aware that for serious iron butts a 2,000 mile round-trip isn’t all that far — but for someone who is just getting into riding and has only done day-trips, four straight days on the road each way would be a significant journey.
My family has a small cabin on a lake in northern Michigan where I every summer growing up. Since moving to Vermont 14 years ago my attendance has slipped somewhat as the trip lengthened to a driving time of 15-17 mind-numbing hours along the flats of the New York Throughway and various mid-western highways. That said, I still try to make it to the lake at least once every few years. Since I took the full month of July off from work I figured I’d make the trip via motorcycle this time and learn if this sort of travel was for me.
To keep things interesting I planned a route out that would avoid expressways as much as possible and give me a chance to see the landscape of central Ontario — a region I haven’t seen before.
Total distance: 1077
Total moving time: 23 hours, 17 minutes
Average speed: 46 mph
One of the joys of participating in a CSA is exploring new vegetables and foods that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about or thought to eat. Last year we received husk cherries, red carrots, bok choy, several types of kale, purple potatoes, and at least 4 varieties of beets in addition to many more standard vegetable varieties. I don’t consider myself sheltered in terms of food, but many of these were simply things I never would have thought to look for even if they are available in a grocery store.
For the past two weeks our CSA share from the Gildrien Farm has included several cups of dried black beans, a food I’ve eaten many times but never really cooked with. In their weekly letter Jeremy and Caitlin helpfully included a recipe for Puerto Rican Black Beans, a tasty-sounding launching pad for the evening’s dinner.
Since I didn’t have any bacon grease on hand I figured I would just fry up several large pieces of bacon and use both the meat and the grease. I had planned to make a fritata as the main course for the evening, but after sampling the beans, decided to add some more veggies and put them on bread as our main course. Unfortunately, the result was so delicious that the crostini never made it out of the kitchen for a photo shoot.
Black Bean Crostini
1 cup dry black beans, soaked overnight
1 large onion, diced as small as possible
1/2 a red pepper, diced
1/4 lb of bacon (4-5 pieces)
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, quartered
Soak the beans overnight to soften, then simmer over medium heat for 45 minutes until tender.
While the beans are cooking, fry the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until it is crispy and most of the fat has melted off. Pull the bacon strips out of the pan and let cool, trying to keep as much of the grease in the skillet as possible.
Turn down the heat on the skillet to low. Add the diced onion and some salt to the bacon grease in the skillet and cook for 15 minutes, slowly letting the onion turn clear and caramelize.
Drain the majority of the water from the beans (leaving about a half cup) and add the beans and their water to the skillet with the onion and bacon grease. Stir together with the red pepper. Raise the heat to medium and stew for another 15 minutes or so, until the beans begin to fall apart.
Mash the beans in the skillet with a utensil of some sort until you have chunky bean paste interspersed with red-pepper and bean husks. Crumble the bacon and stir it into the beans. Salt to taste.
Cut the baguette into thin slices. Pile a large dollop of beans on each slice and top with diced cherry tomatoes.
My current woodworking project is a Mission-style bookshelf that I designed to match the sofa table that I built last year. The bookshelf will sit below a window to the kitchen, so it is low and extra wide to fit that space. To support the weight of the books without sagging, sets of stiles transfers weight from the middle shelf to the frame above and below.
I am building the bookshelf out of cherry. Like the sofa table, all joinery is mortise and tenon. This time I am squaring out the mortises with a new set of mortising chisels rather than rounding off the tenons with a knife as I did on the sofa table — which is making the process go much faster.
If you like the design and wish to build one for yourself, you can download my SketchUp model as a starting point.
A hundred yards from the aptly-named Bittersweet Falls Road, the Beaver Brook cascades over a formation of marble and dolomite to create a beautiful 18 foot cascade.
Above Bittersweet Falls, the Beaver Brook cuts a deep ravine through layers of black slate. The gorge can be difficult to traverse without getting one’s feet wet, but is filled with cascades and mossy bottoms ringed by ferns and overshadowed by hemlocks.
I headed out the door today planing to swing by Bittersweet Falls for a few quick shots before driving out to the Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area where stargazer05756 has been following the migration of snow geese. I never made it to Dead Creek. After taking a few shots below the falls I climbed up above and noticed an impressive gorge winding upstream. Ever since I was a child I have always loved exploring up cascading streams. There is just something magical above clambering around a rock to find another waterfall or quiet pool surrounded by moss, ferns, hemlocks — and in the south, rhododendrons.
The Beaver Brook didn’t disappoint and while its steep slate side posed a challenge, I hiked about a third of a mile upstream along the stream bed before scaling the hillside and quickly walking back to the car from above.
Over the course of the past year I built this cherry sofa table based on a design by Scott Gibson in Fine Woodworking’s "Furniture" book.
All frame joinery is mortise and tenon, while the drawers use doweled rabbit joints. The finish is boiled linseed oil topped with 3 coats of Minwax wiping varnish.
Building this table was quite a learning experience as just about every part required techniques that I hadn’t used before. Mortise and tenon joinery, biscuits to align the table top during glue-up, doweled joints fort the drawers, quartersawn veneers for the legs, breadboard-ends, and varnish; all of these were new to me and required a bit of trial and error to get right.
This project certainly had its share of "oops" moments, but nothing that couldn’t be repaired or worked-around. I cut the bottom shelf stretcher one inch too short, but was able to cut it in half and splice in a section with a small mortise and tenon in the middle. Later, I made the hipped-tenons on which the breadboard-ends of the top sit too thin. This was repaired with the addition of some 5-minute epoxy to thicken the tenon.
All that remains now is to choose and install drawer-pull hardware.
Sarah announced today that she was going to do a “365 project” this year: taking a photo every day of the year, both as a journal and to force one’s self to get out and take some pictures. This sounded like a fun idea and one that would be easier to stick to if we were both doing it, so I’m going to give it a whirl as well. You can follow along with this feed or check the photo-set for updates.