We’re still here enjoying Smokeshire Road. Last week I had a “Smokeshire Road” adventure, which has sparked my interest in sharing more about life here in the wilds of Vermont.

Every morning I take the dogs out for a very short stroll while Brian makes coffee. Last Sunday morning I took them out at about 6:30, which is typical. We walked west on the road.  They weren’t leashed, so they skirted off along the side of the road and the edge of the river following smells and chomping on grasses. They got a bit ahead of me around a curve with Woody in the lead. I could see them, but not beyond the edge of the road.

Suddenly Woody, our yellow Lab, barked and I heard a pretty loud crashing in the woods just off to the north side of the road. As I rushed to get closer, Bailey, our black Lab, also started barking and both dogs ran out of sight up the steep hill. I rounded the curve, all the while calling for the dogs to “come.” Woody came back to the road and stood staring up the hill, his tail wagging happily, as I continued calling Bailey.

And then, here comes Bailey, running full tilt down that hill with a black bear hot on her heals!

Though exciting, this was not a welcome sight. Luckily she didn’t run to me for safety, but when she reached the road, joined Woody on the road facing the bear.

The bear promptly assessed the situation, climbed a little ways up the nearest tree, and peered around at the three of us. Even if I’d had a camera, I don’t know if I’d have had the presence of mind to take a picture of him, but I can tell you he was a beautiful animal, with his wide paws wrapped around that tree, his furry coat a deep black, his ears perfect half rounds, and his dark brown eyes watching us. He looked a lot like this:


Photo of a black bear borrowed from the Nevada Department of Wildlife site.

The dogs then reluctantly came to me as I backed away toward home. I kept backing up well after the bear was out of sight, just in case he got his nerve back and decided to follow us.

It was a glorious experience, though not one I hope to repeat. By the time we got home, my hands were shaking and our many long walks are no longer quite so carefree—now I’m sure to make enough noise to give wildlife a chance to avoid us.

Welcome back to Smokeshire Road. Much has happened here in the years since we kept the blog. I plan catch you up a bit, and share what we’re up to now. We welcome comments; it’s always nice to know someone is following our blog.


Becoming a Vermonter

Of course, everyone knows that a “real” Vermonter is one whose family traces its roots in Vermont back at least 5 generations. We have found such generosity of spirit, though, among our welcoming Vermont neighbors that we feel we have been granted “Honorary Vermonter” status.

Little by little we are becoming Vermonters. This last week I put in my very first garden. I was late starting and when I finally did, the constant rains delayed me further. But I finally got it planted on June 16.

To my surprise only 2 days later I spotted this little clump of buds on one of the transplanted tomatoes.

And today, the 19th, I transplanted onions and low and behold see sprouts from the lettuce and the radishes! Guess things have to grow fast in Vermont.

Extreme Coathooks

In Los Angeles, any old coat rack or a few hooks by the door would do. Most of us would just toss a jacket in the back of the car in the winter months. But here in Vermont we need a little more. Many of the vernacular farm houses I visit have about a half dozen hooks per person lined up in their mud rooms. Leanne and I each will have several different coats, jackets and vests in play all winter long. Add to that assorted scarves, hats and gloves, several of each for both of us, and your average coat rack doesn’t stand a chance. The bench by our door spent the whole winter covered in coats hats and gloves with the overflow often spreading to the back of the sofa in the living room.

Extreme Coathooks

Before we moved in I’d hoped to acquire a half dozen of the many well aged rural mailboxes I’d admired on our frequent trips between North Adams and Ludlow. I’d thought I might be able to convince a few of the owners to trade a brand new mailbox for their thoroughly seasoned and character laden older ones. Unfortunately when I compared the size of our entry with the depth of a mailbox it really was not a good fit. Then I came across these never been used 1 gallon paint cans at a local hardware store.

With Bonus Functionality

At less than a foot deep they they are the perfect size. They’re deep enough to hold several hats or pairs of gloves without encroaching on our entryway. Their generous diameter is easy on scarves and sweaters and anything delicate. Even the wire handle serves as extra storage space for scarves, leashes, umbrellas etc.

…and Lots of Storage

We also have doors now on the guest room and downstairs bathroom. It’s good we live deep in the woods because up ’till now, you could sit on the john, lean forward a little, and see who’s at the front door! My parents visit finally forced the issue and I got these up just in time for their visit but not soon enough to get them polyurethaned. Then Elizabeth and Sandy LaPrelle were visiting for a house concert in my living room. I thought I had time to get them coated but the temperature dropped and it started raining for a week straight. With the help of 2 electric heaters I finally managed to coax a single coat to dry. Now, if the weather ever improves I’ll remove them again for 2 more coats and reinstall them a third and hopefully final time.

I’ll post more on our house concert after I get the video sorted out. In the mean time, feel free to schedule a visit of your own and help force the completion of even more projects! ;-)

Charlie and the new bathroom door.

Charlie, ever vigilant, stands at the ready just in case I should put down this camera and try to sneak out the door without him. ;-)

Flowers for Elizabeth & Sandy

One of my custom designed bathroom counters formed from 1/8 hot rolled steel. The wild daffodils and forsythia make it look so civilized you might think my parents lived here. ;-p

Charlie is our new foster dog. He’s smart and curious and, like all dogs, loves Brian. He’s going to live with us until the rescue organization finds him a permanent home. He loves the country and is off exploring whenever he gets the chance, but he doesn’t stray too far yet–probably because what he loves best is being the center of attention.

Bear Sign

Bear Maybe Sign


…and right in our front yard to boot!

Our woods are full of creatures but we rarely see them. We did have a bear run out in front of the truck on the way back from town a few days ago but from signs like this we KNOW they’re on our land. I finally ordered the game trail camera Leanne got me for my Birthday. Maybe we’ll get a better inventory of our woodland neighbors soon.


Now that we’re starting out transition to VT we’ve been thinking about getting a dog or two again. When I started looking at Pet Finders online for rescue dogs I noticed a shelter group in our area, Northern New England Dog Rescue (www.nnedr.org), that doesn’t use a central facility but places dogs in foster homes until they can be placed in a permanent home. This interested us since it would give us a chance to have different breeds and ages of dogs and I’m sure we’d eventually end up keeping 1 or 2. While we’d be open to any full sized dog, what we were secretly hoping was to eventually end up with a Lab puppy. However, since Labs are incredibly popular in VT, even more than Subarus, I figured that would probably take a while. I went ahead and applied to be a foster home reasoning that I’d probably get an older, at least somewhat trained dog that shouldn’t be too much trouble while we moved.

Well… the next thing we knew we got a call from Lisa at NNEDR saying there were THREE lab puppies arriving from a high kill shelter in kentucky. They were only 5 weeks at that point and had already been separated from their mother. She went on to say how nice it would be if they could stay together at least for a while to help with learning socialization skills etc. I must have been soft in the head but for some reason we told her the next day we’d take all 3! Fortunately, one of them was placed before even getting here but we ended up with the other two.

We soon realized we had a very poorly designed home for puppies. The only place we could really corral them was also our only entrance to the house. We also had no fencing so had to supervise them constantly. They were also having the runs so even leaving them in their crate was an extremely hazardous situation. Twice we either woke up or returned late at night to two poop covered puppies. This took about 2 hours to wash the dogs, crate, bedding, toys, floors and anything else in the vicinity. I’d forgotten that puppies spend all their time eating, pooping peeing and tearing things up. Then they might sleep for an hour if lucky and we’d grab a quick meal or a shower but for 5 days we barely managed to keep ourselves fed, bathed and squeeze in about 4 or 5 hours sleep. We had to retreat back to the loft where they were a little easier to deal with but then the vet was a 2 hour drive. Eventually we had to give them back after 5 sleep deprived days.

You’d think we’d hate the destructive little poop monsters but it’s just not possible. After just over a week to recover, we delivered some food and toys that had been left at the house and had a chance to see the little guys again. After all we’d been through, it was still all we could do to resist taking them back again. When we got back in the truck and left, it was at least 15 or 20 minutes before either one of us could even talk.

I guess it will always be one of life’s great mysteries how you can form such a strong bond, in such a short time, with something that gives you so much grief!

Rob on the left, and Jim on the right.

No painting happened with these guys around!

Very sweet, but they don’t spend enough time like this!

The Studio

Brian’s Studio, North PolyGal Wall

This is the north wall with the stairwell and skylight on the other side. It’s the same clear polygal sheets we used in our loft buildout ( http://eclipseloftforsale.wordpress.com ) but this time over wood studs. For some reason the wood studs just didn’t look as good as the steel stud walls in the loft so we painted everything white inside the walls and it looks much better.

Brian’s Studio, East Wall

The flue pipe makes it’s way right through the east side

Brian’s Studio, South Wall

The south wall is full of windows and faces the yard, road and with a little thinning, the river. Between the skylight and these windows, I may never turn on the electric lights before sundown.

Brian’s Studio, West Wall

On the east side Leanne’s office sits over the dining room and you can see the heat/AC unit on the wall.

We have a new state-of-the-art air to air heat pump with the efficiency of a geothermal unit but without having the significant expense of drilling or burying all the heat transfer pipes. The other unique feature is that the refrigerant is piped out to each room and the temperature can then be controlled independently in each room. We think our annual heating costs at 70° will be about $600 +/- a hundred or two. older Vermont homes seem to cost from 3 to 6 thousand dollars or 3 to 8 cords of wood to heat depending on the amount of insulation if any. They also us usually keep temps at 50 to 65 degrees and close off several rooms if they can depending on how old or hearty they are.