Hello Friend

Wednesday, October 19

Not that this is any different than normal timing

Hey everyone,

I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for being a part of my life here at Sterling through the readings posted here. It means a lot and feels really great to hear from you in response to postings, especially the support and kind, motivational words.

That said, I also wanted to just shoot a line letting you know that the proverbial $#!% has hit the fan so I'm taking a minimum of a 2 week hiatus (I'm so fried right now, I didn't remember how to spell "FAN," no jokes).

School demands have finally caught up to me. Mostly it boils down to a HUGE time demand which leaves, well, no time for anything else (figure out how to get homework done when there's literally no time left in your life for 2 solid weeks, please, I welcome advice)!

So much love to you all, hope things are riding gorgeously in all of your pretty pieces of the planet and I'll catch you on the other side--of school work that is.


Thursday, October 13

Beautiful community

I am so blessed to be a part of this amazing school, this beautiful community, and surrounded by so many impactful and aware people!

As you'll read in the blurb below, a group of Sterling students are heading down to NYC to lend their support and voices to the causes being fought currently on Wall Street (I wanted to go but actually have a class all day Saturday that I can't miss... timing. I'm sure there will be another opportunity for me though, I've already heard other students who also aren't able to make the journey this weekend talking about putting together another group). These students, in just 4 short days, have acquired food, warmth, and hope to hand out on the streets of New York--there are currently 3 rubbermaid storage buckets overflowing with warm clothes and blankets that they'll bring; they'll be picking up the food donations originally set out by a local farmer for the VT food bank but they have graciously agreed to send it with the students, again for the protesters; and finally, they've also been donated over 100 seed packets from another local farmer and with them, they'll be handing out the following Manifesto put together by us, the students of Sterling along with faculty and staff (several of the lines are actually mine too)!

This is our perspective of our life and community here. This is what we hope to inspire into others and future generations.

This is Sterling.

A Sterling College Manifesto

Tomorrow, a group of Sterling College students plans to travel to New York City to join the Occupy Wall Street protest. Eliza Mutino, ‘12, (pictured above right) produced the following ‘Manifesto’ of Sterling culture to distribute among the protesters. The Manifesto consists of statements offered up by the Sterling community of students, faculty, and staff.
Sterling College brings you a mini-manifesto of our culture,
with hopes it will inspire the one you are building.    
o    We strive for health, nourishment, and justice.
o    We make eye-contact, and greet people
      using their names
o    We know there is value in that which others may
      deem valueless.
o    We learn that truly knowing one another allows
      us to trust one another.
o    We know the people near us.
o    We teach by example.
o    We learn by reading, discussing, doing and reflecting,
      so we can apply our reasoned thinking to our lives.
o    We share. Share work, share food, share respect.
o    We are intentional in our planting and harvesting, for learning purposes and for sharing with others.
o    We appreciate the simple things.
o    We fight apathy!
o    We recognize we are all part of nature!
o    We practice what we preach and we teach what we are taught.
o    We give nature a voice.
o    We try to be honest and kind and to take care
      of the land, water and air around us.
o    We are resilient through the energizing synergy
      of youth, wisdom, and “plain hard work”.
o    We are willing to be wrong, to correct ourselves,
      to take risks, to speak out and to learn from others.
o    We accept that perfection is inherently imperfect.
o    We look out for each other. 
o    We choose to spend our money locally, supporting our neighbors instead of      far-away corporations. 
o    We return to our grassroots to once again
      appreciate and respect the earth
o    We live and practice responsible consumerism.
o    We seek to understand the world as a whole, to accept its gifts and give our    own back to it
o    We practice voluntary simplicity
o    We are conscious of how our choices/actions
affect the world. 
o    We cultivate personal responsibility and accountability
o    We pay attention to how we grow our food, how we prepare it and how we   distribute it
o    We are learning to break away from what has
      become the typical American lifestyle
o    We learn how to live, work, play, learn
      and evolve together.
o    We know that there is safety without policemen.
o    We work together as part of one big community.
o    We work hard on building this community.
o    We are change, opportunity, love, wisdom
      and strength, embodied.
o    We are preparing to educate and inspire the world!
     We stand in solidarity with you all.
Brought to you by: the Sterling College Community,
Craftsbury Common, Vermont.


Wednesday, October 12

'Nuff said...

No, I'm not getting any sort of kick back for this, I just want to share with you a wonderful company that I absolutely love and whole heartedly support and believe in.

I always feel great about making purchases from them because I know they're responsible in every aspect of the word and that my money is being very well spent.

I love what they stand for, what they're working for, and how they go about conducting the business of everything in between.

Check it out--optimistically, this will become the first place you look to make all your future literary purchases (and hopefully, it will also be the last).

"Fund literacy. Care for the environment. And get a fair price."

Better World Books

Mission and Core Values

Better World Books is a global bookstore that harnesses the power of capitalism to bring literacy and opportunity to people around the world.

Core Values

Respect the book: read often and help others to do the same.

Seek out opportunities to make a difference with value, service & selection.

Choose wisely; consider the return on your efforts & the impact in your actions. Reuse, reuse, reuse….then reduce & recycle.

Take a stand; share your enthusiasm and build momentum through human connections.

Put your ideas to work
; play to win but never fear failure.

Wear your heart on your sleeve; stand up for what you believe.

Challenge yourself; make a point to try new things.

Keep it real; be honest 
with others and true to your quirktastic self.

Adapt to circumstances; help others find ways to succeed in our evolving world.

Be humble; welcome diversity and recognize that shared success is the only kind that matters.

Triple Bottom Line: Social Enterprise

Better World Books is among a unique and growing group of triple bottom line companies who understand thatprofit is not the only way to measure business success. People also matter. And so does the planet on which we all live.

For Better World Books, the triple bottom line comes in lots of forms. From helping to build a nursing library in Somaliland to offering customers carbon neutral shipping on every book they buy, doing good is not just a part of Better World Books’ business—it is the business.

Social: power to the people

We've been thinking about some people we're proud to know. People like John Wood, the founder of Room to Read. John quit Microsoft in 1998. Eight years later, he’s building libraries in rural villages in Nepal with the "scalability of Starbucks and the compassion of Mother Theresa." John has written a book about his journey called Leaving Microsoft to Change the World.

We love literacy programs like Room to ReadBooks for AfricaWorldfundNational Center for Family Literacy,Invisible Children, and our 80 other literacy partners. They provide the building blocks for children and families to learn, grow, and share in the vast collection of human knowledge committed to paper. It just makes sense that a bookstore ought to generate funding for these programs, and we do it with every book we sell. 

Environmental: love your mother

One book that really got us thinking was The Ecology of Commerce, by Paul Hawken. Paul argues that a true economy mimics ecology in its circular no-waste systems and healthy fecundity of niches. In a perfect world, we'd package your books in edible bamboo pouches and load them into Willie Nelson's biodiesel bus, where he'd hand deliver them with a song. We’re not quite there, but we've got some things we think you'll like.

We've gone from a carbon offset program that covered emissions generated when books were shipped to our customers, to one that covers emissions associated both with shipping and our company's other operations and activities. Thanks to a careful audit of our emissions, we now know our total carbon footprint and are taking steps towards balancing out the carbon emissions generated from all of our organization's activities. Giddy up! 
We worked with Sustainable Business Consulting and followed the World Resources Institute Greenhouse Gas Protocol to develop the methodology used to calculate our carbon inventory. Then we partnered with 3Degrees, a leading green power and carbon balancing services provider, to purchase the appropriate number of Renewable Energy Certificates and verified carbon offsets (namely, wind) to get Better World Books carbon balanced. A few cents collected from every customer at checkout helps fight global warming by providing support to wind projects that help avoid carbon dioxide emissions. 

Couple that with the National Postal Service. They use the lowest energy per package of any carrier, thereby generating the least amount of carbon in the first place. We use local post offices whenever we can – so be sure to choose eco-shipping on checkout.

Of course, our greatest contribution of all is finding homes for books. We've even heard horror stories about librarians dumping unwanted tomes down a well at midnight because they couldn't find a good home for them. We gladly accept these orphan books and work hard to find new readers for them. So far, we've kept over 8,000 tons of books out of landfills. 

2009 WasteWise Gold Award for Paper Reduction

2010 WasteWise Gold Award for Climate Change

Economic: true accounting

As this is the end of the page, it's a good time to talk about our last bottom line.

We understand the importance of running a profitable enterprise. But while most businesses answer only to their shareholders, we answer equally to all of our key stakeholders: our employees, our customers, our literacy partners, our investors and the environment.

By accounting for and supporting the long-term viability of those who have a stake in our success, profit takes on a much broader and richer meaning, To prove our commitment, we’ve signed on as a founding B-Corporation joining a growing international network of purpose-driven businesses dedicated to setting a new standard for social and environmental performance.

We hope you'll visit our parent site Better World Books, to learn how to get involved. Together, we truly can build a Better World.


Tuesday, October 11

"People travel hundreds of miles to see this, and we get to just wake up and walk outside"

I am utterly exhausted. Today, Alexis and I took the second largest tree down of everyone in Tools class.

Here is a quick photo montage of my weekend and the past 2 days in school:

This is the view from a neighbors backyard at their "summer home" in New Hampshire (I crossed two more states off my "I've been there" list for the US--the whole purpose of this overnight trip was to go to a state fair in Maine on Saturday for FIBER)!! I spent Friday evening at the parental home of a classmate of mine named Julia. Her parents are awesome to say the least.
They live way out in a gorgeous and secluded area of New Hampshire and these are a few shots I took from their neighbors land which Julia took us too just for the views.

I love and hate this situation--the land here is PERFECT for my future dreams to come true and these people own it, mow it, and are rarely here (according to Julia). It's truly a shame
A PORCUPINE!!! I saw one in real
life! It's running away because I was
so loud with my excitement for having
seen a real live porcupine in the wild!

The living or sitting room
 So Julia lives in this wildly gorgeous house, but it's been built on to this amazingly quaint and lovely little cottage from the 1700's.
I didn't take pictures of the main house, it's beautiful, but it's a typical American "cottage on steroids" addition.

I want to live in a home like the little one.

Reclaimed and painted crazy uneven wide plank wood floors.

A fireplace or wood stove in every room (all 2 of them).

And breathtaking classic and elegant woodwork.
A close-up of those gorgeous bowls on the mantel--
I definitely want to make these someday. It looks as
though they were glazed with a shino which I'm finding
that I love more than any other glaze I've worked with
yet. I love the color borrowing qualities of the shino.

The living or sitting room--just look at that light!

One of the 2 upstairs bedrooms--I want that bed frame!

What once was the kitchen and eating space in this tiny home.
In the far left corner you can't see is the floor markings of
a different paint color indicating where cabinets and a counter
space once stood. That tiny wood stove has cooking capabilities
on top as well as general heating for the entire house.
The door to the left leads to what was the front door and up the
stairs directly in front of the entrance.
Views of New Hampshire

 My Fiber Arts homework: spin and ounce and a half of the fiber we prepped into 3 different thicknesses of yarn; as thin as possible, as thick as possible, and somewhere happily in between.

Then wrap it onto our Nostepinne (Nist-pin) to create in inner and outer pull ball of yarn--no more "granny balls" as my zany, unmanageable yarn balls are termed. I learned that on Monday.
My very first ball/skein of hand-spun, hand-wound yarn!

 Monday in Agricultural Techniques class we pressed apples in preparation for making cider--hard cider that is!

And we'll also be making some apple cider vinegar. This semester in Ag Tech, it's all about the fermentation of farm fruits and veggies!

And yes, we get to partake in the fruits of our labors! I'm wicked excited about that!
More delicious than you would ever imagine. Just look at that!

This apple press was hand built by Eric there (in
the blue) from one tree he fell in our nearby forest.

This is Dave, he's super cool--and "quality" testing the cider
straight out of the bucket.

Another cider prep contraption made by Eric. Clayton peddles
his heart out while Kendra feeds a consistent flow of apples
into the chomper.

The chomper--yeah, scary!

"People travel hundreds of miles to see this, and we get to just
wake up and walk outside--and we get to go to school here."
 And on to today's Tool class
THIS is the tree we're going to take down.
 The story of this tree is actually quite funny. Alexis was the one to pick it out, with all her balls and "I can do it better than any of these guys" qualities (we get along nicely I might add).

Half way through, I thought I was going to throw up--eating a healthy lunch then taking a tree this size down almost immediately afterwards, it just doesn't mix well in the guts.

But Alexis is a great cheerleader and we made it happen... Well, actually the tree decided on it's own it was going down.

As the two of us, with our instructor Allison, were discussing whether to place the felling wedges in and where to place them--chit chatting and laughing as women usually do--we hear a quiet creek. Then a snap. Then Allison says "does it look like... I think it might be going...."


And again, in typical female fashion, we all jump up and run our designated escape routes, completely forgetting about the massive cross-cut saw we've left in the tree truck (for explanation, if the tree were to jump off it's base and do even a slight kick-back, this saw could take limbs off--and I'm not talking about tree limbs) so I run back, snatch the saw and toss it aside as I jump up and give my usual "WOOO HOOOOOOO!" personal victory cheer (it's my thing in tools class because everything we do in this class makes me feel more and more... invisible but with mortal understanding and complete and honorable respect for my tools and the Earth).
THIS is the massive stump left and THESE
are two exhausted but proud women!

That's right, we chopped and sawed this massive White Pine.
I saved a slice as commemorative of the first massive tree I felled.

Alexis proudly mounted upon our felled tree.

This is Matt and Dylan, their tree was the only other tree in
class that was bigger than ours, and we were the only double
female team.


Tuesday, October 4

I chopped a tree down today!

 A couple shots taken by one of my small group members during our night hike a few weeks ago.

Moose tracks! But no actual moose sightings (fortunately and unfortunately--it's a strange desire to want to run into an animal like that, like I want to see an alligator in real life in Florida so I'm constantly looking but that doesn't make it a wise action by any means...)
The fogs and breath as we hiked through the woods.

It was a brisk night as we started off--of course it just got colder but we were trekking so we continually stripped our top layers off. Only when we stopped for our celebratory "we're half way/great job from Sterling" chocolate chip cookies did anybody put their layers back on.

Oh, and last week Wednesday was my first day/training day at my work program job at the coffee shop.

I decided I want to try to figure out those coolio coffee leaves and hearts that those "fancy" baristas do at those "fancy" boutique coffee shops:

Okay, so maybe it's a Cedar tree instead of a leaf.

Still cool though!

And I just wanted to share these beautiful colors outside my bedroom window.

Sunset on my way to Plattsburgh to pick up Mom

Last weekend was "Parent's Weekend" up here and my mom came to visit me! After a day's worth of struggling to get on any airplane that would get her up here, we had nothing but crazy constant rain. It was quite a drag considering the awesome weekend I had planned filled with fun and beautiful outdoorsy events for us but...

I think the best part is that Mom came for parent's weekend and we did none of the scheduled events Sterling put together. Except felted soap making which was, interesting to say the least. But fun! Look at mine!

These are some fantastic and easy gift ideas!

In Fiber Arts class, I've successfully cleaned and carded my very first batch of super knarly dirty wool.

I decided last minute that I wanted to blend the two batches that I started with and I'm wicked in love with the outcome.
I keep forgetting to get some photos taken but yesterday I learned how to spin with a drop spindle. Photos to come tomorrow maybe.

And the best part; I chopped a tree down all by myself! And it wasn't some wussy little girl "this is my first time" tree. Hell no, I took this one down! With nothing but my very own axe!!!

 No, the official call isn't "TIMBERRRRRR" (yes, I was disappointed about this).

But pushing my tree over, watching it land as gracefully as it did was...

Thank you tree for giving your life.


Thursday, September 29

The beginning

I'm finding this blog harder to keep up with than I initially anticipated....

A quick recap of the first two weeks of my time at Sterling. The first two weeks of every semester is what is called the "intensive;" for first year students it's required and called 'A Sense of Place' (ASOP). And intensive is truly intense; my schedule was jam packed every day starting immediately after the move-in day. Our first two days started at 6:30am, honestly I think the only reason behind this is to shock us into the life here (6:30am days are not typical; there is only 1 week each semester that each student is responsible to be on the farm for farm chores and there are 1 or 2 summer courses that begin that early, otherwise it's breakfast at 7:30am if you want, but no classes begin before 8:30am). Anyway, we spent these very early morning hours doing team building activities with our assigned small groups. I will say that the 7 other members of my small group were very important for my integration into this community. In a nutshell, I was completely freaking out, questioning this choice, and sporradically bursting into full blown tears for the first two days. Like summer camp homesickness on sterioids. And I'm 27.

We spent our first two weeks taking field trips, getting introduced to the community, and learning about the different offerings and opportunities here on campus as well as in the surrounding areas. One of the field trips we took was to a lovely little mans home, Dave Brown. A former Sterling student who built his house with his wife, and now makes a beautiful living working his craft, living mostly off the land that he and his wife has gorgeously built into an inviting permaculture garden (they still have raspberries fruiting, I wanted to eat all of them). I also want to call Dave someday and just hang out with him and his wife, Dave regularly bakes in their wood fire oven that they built together in the back yard; his specialty is sourdough bread, my favorite!

Another eventful day was the Garden Harvest we all partook in last Wednesday. I don't have much to say about it other than the fruits and veggies harvested from our very own grounds were simply astounding. The size of the carrots and beets were enormous! I chose to be on the potato harvest team; I wanted nothing more than to dig into the dirt, feel the earth between my fingers and truly connect. It was so satisfying! Although potato boogers (rotten potatoes still buried) are probably the grossest thing I've ever unknowingly stuck my finger into yet.

The highlight of the first two week intensive was the night hike. Each group had one full afternoon of Map and Compass class before being sent off into the woods, 8 o'clock at night (and it's pitch up here when the sun goes down, no city light pollution which also makes for some stellar start gazing...catch that?) with nothing more than a few compass bearings and a point A and point B marked on our maps. Bushwhack through the forest, up and over a mountain range in the middle of the night. Yes, everyone had a teacher with the group but the unspoken rule is that they don't provide any sort of instruction, clues, or help until 5am--that's a minimum of 8 hours already spent in the woods, potentially very, very lost. Group B hit the "trail" at about 9pm; I was showered and in bed at 12:30am. We matched the annual record of hitting our end point no later than 11:45pm! Epic. Life-changing. Empowering. Breathtaking.

My favorite part of the night was the fact that even though we were seemingly booking it (yes, booking it but we never once decided that we were going to be racing any of the other groups. The coolest thing is that I knew in my bones that with my group, we were going to rock it just as we did, I had no doubt in the awesome connections and communications of my small group. They are some beautiful people), every time we stopped, we made sure to take some time to just be. We turned out our headlamps, stood quietly, and just became part of wherever we were in those moments of stillness. It was beautiful.

Needless to say, Sterling has been rocking my world since day one.

So because time is such a lacking commodity here, I am providing a collection of pics I took at the end of my first two weeks here and of my first day of "real school" or long block as we call it here (I have to hit the books pretty hard tonight):

These are photos of the path along which our Botony final was performed. Yes, our tests even happen OUTSIDE. This place is, at the risk of killing it, AMAZING!

Here you will see Red Maples, White or Paper Birches, Sugar Maples, a small Spruce, and part of a Cedar tree. This particular area is called an Edge Forest because, well, it's the edge of the forest. Significant because of the wide variety of flora the grow in these types of areas. The forest trees thin out and allow for hardwoods (trees that thrive in the sun) and the ground vegetation is allowed the space and sun to grow as well, blanketing these edges with thick and diverse plant life.

Here are more Cedars, Maples (obviously) and several Tamarack trees--they're one of my favorites because they truly are Dr. Seuss trees. Their needles grow in crazy bunches (like Pines almost but not as orderly, nor are the actual needles nearly as long) clumped onto the branches rather than organized like Spruces or Firs.

Towards the end of ASOP, it quickly begins to wear on you--it's too long, too slow and too fast, too boring and too involved, it's everything but in overdrive.
And yet, the "final" was the most exciting and fun assignment (at least for a craftsy freak like myself)!

We were to build a map that told the story of where we came from and what motivated us to come to Sterling and the pieces and parts of ASOP that were most impactful for us.

I built Denver with curved buildings closing in on me and trash everywhere; the red symbolizes stress and that's me, with stress lightning bolts over the recycling, trash, and general anger of the city.

Then I made Sterling--complete with fluffy white clouds in the piercing blue sky with a brightly painted sun; sparkling stars and the brightest moon that casts shadows light the noonday sun; the greenest and softest grass for lying and frolicking; my favorite new (not new, recognizable though) trees--Tamarack, Yellow Birch, Red Maple, Balsam Fir, Moose or Striped Maple, and Sugar Maple--fluffy little tufts of sheep and of course, my SUPER TEAM B!

The night sky represents the magic of our Night Hike; the Trees represent my newly discovered fascination and enjoyment of Botony; the Sun represents my thankfullness for a place like this--on sunny days, I am outside, barefoot, lying in the grass and doing homework, or just being--and the sheep represent, well, the sheep! Early last week, my mom had a Burlington layover so she surprised me and came to visit for an evening! While showing her around campus, we made sure to stop and see the sheep. For the first time in my life, I pet the sheep and they loved me and I was giddier than I've ever felt over something seemingly so simple!

 Anyway, so the long block schedule began on Monday. I must say, I am probably the luckiest that not only did my entire semester kick off with, but each and every dreaded Monday begins my weeks with nearly 4 hours of Fiber Arts class! What a treat, we've already washed some wool (I did both white and black--these are my before and after photos of each) and today we learned the next phases of prep. I believe the eventual goal with these is to work on the final project being, make yarn with it, dye it if desired, and we're to knit a hat by the end of the term! Believe me, I am whole heartedly all over this class!

Monday afternoons I have a class called Agricultural Techniques. Let me just say, I did read through A LOT of class descriptions online before meeting with my advisor. And I did get each and every class I requested for this semester. But I didn't quite remember which class description went with which class title. So, I was very pleasantly surprised when I discovered the Ag Tech isn't just being outside and checking out the farm, in fact, it's not a lot of that at all--Ag Tech teaches us how to produce "value added products." Meaning, learning skills like fermenting.

Class, this semester we're going to focus on fermented foods; like beer, hard apple cider, pickles, and sauerkraut!
This is John, Kendra, and Dave admiring our
final batch of spicy sauerkraut that we made
in our Agricultural Techniques class.

Kendra "sealing" the crocks of our first few batches of kraut
with water.
I am also enrolled in Environmental Science which pretty much sent me into a panic attack midway through the first class. This one will be interesting I'm sure.

And unfortunately, because I was having WAY too much fun just ripping it up, the other MOST EPIC class I am in is Tools and their Application--for this class we were required to purchase an axe. And not just any wussy little camp hatchet--full on, real tree-chopping, don't #&@% with me axe.

I haven't named mine yet, she hasn't told me but we've only just met and I've only just proved myself to her.

We spent Tuesday hiking through the woods, chopping felled tress in half--my teacher three times now (twice on site, and today getting my grade) questioned the truth in my sharing "I've never held or weilded an axe before, I'm quite nervous." Apparently, according to the mountainest of mountain women I've met up here thus far, I am "a Natural"! I love it--talk about pure empowerment!

It truly is fall here. And I love it when the sun hits the trees just right. This is the huge tree in my neighbors front yard at late afternoon. The photo doesn't do great justice to the golden flame of the leaves.

Front door, "entertainment" desk and "kitchen" on the right

As some of you know, there have been...issues with the roommate. All have been resolved and the resolution is that now I have my very own, huge sanctuary of a room!

Here is the new set up.
"Living Room"

My homework desk (although I find myself doing homework
on the "couch" most of the time, typical)
And I have a "gear closet" now. Nothing is
crammed under my bed anymore, everything
is very accessible! I love it!
I know, it's a closet. But I'm just showing you
how UNcrammed it is, there is room to move
so it should never get messy in my room!
And... my princess bed, complete with comforter and gorgeous
duvet handmade by my mom!

Speaking of sanctuary (and yarn) check out the sweater progress!
This one's for my Mom: First Day of School 2011!