Episode 1 Show Notes

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In this episode, you will hear from landowners, resource professionals, wood product producers, and members of our podcasting team as we explore our connections to Vermont's woodlands.

Theme music written and performed by Joanne Garton.

Music featured in this episode:

  • Approaching the Beach by Chad Crouch
  • The Marsh by Chad Crouch
  • Pacific Wrens by Chad Crouch
  • The Big Oak by Chad Crouch

Featured guests (in order of appearance):

Episdoe Transcript

Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcription. They may contain errors, so please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Kate Forrer: Hi, this is Kate Forrer's voicemail. For the next few weeks, my voicemail is being used to capture stories, words, and reflections on our connection to Vermont's forest. Everyone has a connection to our forests. We look forward to hearing from you.

Evan Litsios: Hi, my name is Evan Litzios, I live in Richmond, but my story actually goes back to my childhood in New Hampshire. My family moved to a rural town when I was about three years old and my sister and I would go out and play in the fields and in the woods around the house, there was a small mound in the middle of the pasture that was covered in some sumac, trees as a kid, you'd climb up in there and it would just become this little environment that closed you off from the rest of the world. So we call it the Magic Forest. And where we went in there, it just became this platform like a stage or something for these elaborate, imaginative playtimes. My earliest memories of trees come from that. I very much think that my experience playing and imagining in that magic forest set the foundation for my whole mentality around trees, which are these wonderful nourishing and enriching beings that live around us, and we have so much to gain from them and so much to give back to them, that's what I now bring to my own land here in Vermont, the Magic Forest.

Vincent Curtis Hunter: My name is Vincent Curtis Hunter and our family owns the Blackbarn farm on the Bolton Access Road, our property fronts a long stretch of Joiner Brook. The drama of Joyner Brook's Gorge, its waterfalls, and its potholes have historically brought solace to generations of Vermonters since the Hunter family has come here. It's been our intention to be stewards of these wonders. We continue to have folks visit and envelop themselves in so restorative experiences along the brook. On any given day, folks come by and ask to climb the trails. When they come back down by the barn, it's clear they've changed. They've they have stirred up their contemplative embers. I hope that this will continue. Thank you.” 

Kate Forrer: Welcome to Heartwood, a new podcast that connects Vermonters to our forested landscape through stories. And answers your questions about our forests, forest management, and the forest economy. 

Lisa Sausville: We began this journey at the start of the pandemic asking people to call in with their connection to the woods.  Over the past year, we’ve explored deeper into our forests, the people who care for it, work in it, and the many benefits, values, and products it provides.

Kate Forrer: I’m Kate Forrer.

Lisa Sausville: And I’m Lisa Sausville.  

Kate Forrer: Lisa is the Executive Director of Vermont Coverts.  

Lisa Sausville: And Kate is a community forestry specialist with UVM Extension. Together, we’ll be your hosts as we explore our woods.

Kate Forrer: It has been a year since Governor Phil Scott issued Vermont’s “stay home, stay safe” order that halted all in-person business operations -- requiring that Vermonters stay home except for essential activities like buying groceries and getting exercise.  Although there is light at the end of the tunnel, we are still wearing our masks, and social distancing as we await the full distribution of vaccines. We are definitely not out of the woods yet!

Lisa Sausville: The uncertainty, anxiety, and new normal that accompany the COVID-19 pandemic unite us in this trying time. Trees and woodlands are important for many reasons -- they offer us materials that keep us safe and warm and a deep connection to the world outside our windows. Forests provide solace -- a place to escape from the chaos of our current world.

Kate Forrer: In this episode, you will hear many different voices from landowners, resource professionals, and wood product producers, as we dive into the heart of why Vermont’s forests matter. Here are a few of the stories we heard…..

Peggy Farabaugh: I grew up in a family that cherishes the outdoors, that's sort of our family history on my mother's side, my family was were forest dwellers and loggers. So this would be one hundred years ago in Pennsylvania. And my dad's family were farmers, so I sort of come from the land and I grew up outside a lot. The forest means everything to me. I go to the forest. When I need to recharge or work, when I need to settle down or when I need to clear my head, or when I need to get some energy. You know, you walk into a forest and it's like going into a cathedral, you know, a natural cathedral. You can just close your eyes and hear the birds and hear the babbling brook and hear the wind, flowing through the leaves. You open your eyes and you can see all those things. You can see busy squirrels running around getting their cash ready for the winter. Occasionally we'll see deer. If we're lucky, we'll see a fox, or at least we'll see footprints in the snow. It's just to me, it's a place to relax and recharge and rejuvenate. It's a place of calm and inspiration, really.

Ken Gagnon: The forest is our breadbasket. It's what keeps us going. I feel pretty confident that, you know, as we go forward that the trees are we are going to be growing good quality trees here. This spring. I just learned about leaks, ramps, whatever you want to call them, so there are some interesting things that I'm learning and enjoying. I grew up here on a  family farm that had its own forest. Even as, you know, a teenager I was one to be outside - that was part of the part of the gig. Going up to help my dad get wood, load his truck, and move it to the mills that he supplied. And I loved hunting when I was a kid. And now I love the opportunity to go hiking and not necessarily on the beaten path. 

Brian Lafoe: I just love the outdoors - I love the woods. I mean, you see all kinds of animals in the woods. I enjoy that.  I was looking tonight on my way out where we just got done cutting and I just got done picking up the wood. You know, I turned around, looked out the window of my forwarder and it looks so good. It looks like a park, you know, I mean, it isn't a runway for an airplane.

Kate Forrer: That was Peggy Farabaugh, Ken Gagnon, and  Brian Lafoe.  Lisa, tell me about your connection to our woods.

Lisa Sausville: I think I really understood my connection when someone asked me to go out and find a tree that I connected with. I searched through the woods and there were a number of different trees and I found a cherry tree.  And I loved looking at the bark- it's like potato chips, they describe it as. I was looking at that and I was thinking I am a lot like that cherry tree because they need to draw up the nutrients, they need to nourish themselves and then they provide this wonderful food source for all the wildlife. And so I saw it for myself as learning to nourish myself so that I could be things for others. So I had this connection and understanding how this tree in the forest needed to survive and give back. There was just this sudden deep connection to this one tree that existed in the forest and understanding its part in the community of the forest.

Kate Forrer: That's really beautiful, Lisa.

Lisa Sausville: Well, what's your connection?

Kate Forrer: I grew up playing down by a stream and spending a lot of time as a kid out wandering and exploring the woods. And then as a young professional, learning about the woods and trying to understand the complexities of the forest ecosystem and everything that makes it up from the soils to the plants, to the animals that use it for habitat. And now as a mom, my connection to the woods has really deeped through being able to spend time hiking, walking, and exploring our woods with my kids.

Lisa Sausville: I had more time with one of my sons, we were home, we weren't running around to basketball games, we were running around to everything that is occupying our lives, so we had more time to hike. We saw a barred owl and he saw a, what was it, a scarlet tanager for the first time. 

Andrea Shortsleeve: This past year, I think one of my favorite sightings was the Indigo Bunting. I had never seen one out in the wild, and I was walking around a forest-field area in Jericho and I saw one and it was just so bright and blue and beautiful. This past year, you know, with the kind of limited social activities, I've spent a lot of time in my off time kind of walking around the woods in times of year that I probably wouldn't normally be hiking around a lot. The trees that are here and the different components of our forest just seem normal and home to me. That provides such a connection to me. It's not really a describable feeling or experience. One thing that I really enjoy when it's snowy and you come upon a vernal pool in the middle of the woods and all you can hear is frog calls. That's one of the coolest things I think you can experience in the woods here. 

Alan Calfee: When you go out in the woods in the wintertime in Vermont and it just seems like it's, you know, it's quiet and there's nothing going on. Obviously, the more you pay attention, the more you see what's going on. But the miracle of springtime, if you live in the northeast, it's just mind-blowing to me. One of my favorite experiences going out into the woods very early in the morning, right around daybreak in May, when all the neotropical songbirds are coming back and it's just like this, you can feel life flooding back into this system. And, you know, as the sun comes up, there's a there's even a smell. You can smell things growing. And that bursting of life is almost overwhelming. My love of the forest came definitely from dramatic influence from my mother. The value of stewardship that my mother ingrained in me, the love of exploration and adventure and learning in the forests. The closer you look it up for us, the more you see.

Steve Hagenbuch:   And I'll relate a kind of a personal reflection of that that happened this spring when the pandemic was really just getting underway. It was during sugaring season. I was boiling sap in the sugarhouse and we often invite guests in to be part of that. Neighbors would stop by on a daily basis, and I finally had to shut that all down because it just wasn't safe to be in that tight quarter that way. My sugarbush is not at my home where I boil the sap, it's in Moretown. I live in Waterbury Center, so it's a 20-minute drive there and a 20-minute drive back. And I went one day to collect sap, and I was pumping it from the tank on the land into the tank in my truck, I just had 15 minutes to wait. It just made me pause for a moment and say, this is still right, this is still the way things should be, the sap was still running, the stream was breaking up, the ice was breaking up and was making it sound. There wasn't a lot of birdsong out at that time, of course, but things just seemed OK. And there aren't many places where I can go on a daily basis where I feel that way, where I feel like I'm free from all these external influences that tell me all the things that are happening in the world that aren't necessarily good or desirable right now. But the forest is a place where I can go no matter what. The pandemic helped me to understand that to be kind of at peace with things.

Kate Forrer: That was Andrea Shortsleeve,  Alan Calfee, Steve Hagenbuch.  All of these voices really spoke to me.  I can feel my own connections to our woods in their stories.

Sabina Ernst: Somehow I always end up under a hemlock tree and I find it to be one of the most serene places just standing under the branches of the hemlock tree. I don't know why, but I think it's just magical. And I've been out there on several different occasions and in my mind have been thinking, oh, that'll be a really good place to kind of just sit and hang out. And when I kind of take a step back and see what I'm the see what the larger picture is, it usually always involves a hemlock tree. So something about them I find really cool and magical. I don't know how to put it into words, but it's comforting. And you just somehow feel like you're protected.

Skip Abelson: I've always seen fishers out of the corner of my eye as they kind of darted up a cliff and, you know, deer once in a while and obviously porcupine and raccoons. You can almost picture in your mind the animal making tracks an hour, or two hours or maybe even just minutes ahead of you getting there. Most of the trails are forty-five minutes at least around our property. I try to make the point, even if I am sitting at the computer all day, to go out and spend an hour walking on it somewhere. I think, I just walked here two days ago it's boring and about a minute or two after you kind of step off onto the path, it's not exactly the same as it was yesterday. There's something else to look at. And if there's not something else to look at, more importantly, there's something else you start thinking about. So just being out in the woods or in the field or walking through some trees or near some trees, you start to think.

Lisa Sausville: That was Sabina Ernst and Skip Abelson.  As we move forward, we will be exploring the journey of owning and caring for the land and hear from landowners, foresters, loggers, and wood crafters. We hope you will join us.

Victoria Blewer:  Hi, my name is Victoria Blewer, I live in Weybridge Vermont and this is my take on our woods. When my husband and I moved to a house on 45 acres in 2017, I had no idea how much we would fall in love with our 30 acres of woodlands. We've seen amazing wildlife and birds. I feel very in tune with the seasons. When I'm out walking and I see a grouping of stones, I can't help but wonder who put them there and why. The effect of being in the woods on our moods, especially during this pandemic, has been very important to our mental well-being. One can't help but feel the stress leave our bodies as we enter the woods. I feel a great amount of responsibility to keep our woods healthy for animals that reside there and for future generations, and for the overall health of the planet.

Kate Forrer: This has been Kate.

Lisa Sausville: and Lisa.

Kate Forrer: and you’ve been listening to Heartwood- hosted by Vermont Coverts, UVM Extension, and UVM's Center for Research on Vermont.

Lisa Sausville: This podcast was produced by Leah Kelleher and made possible by funding from Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, and the Working Lands Enterprise Board.

 Do you have a question or story to share about your connection to Vermont's woods, or want to participate in a future episode? Please email us!


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