Tag Archives: Random Thoughts

Rikert Ski Touring

I believe one of the greatest secrets at Middlebury College is the Rikert Ski Touring Center, located at Breadloaf Campus up in Ripton. Home to the Middlebury Nordic teams, as well as my daughter’s Middlebury High School team, this gem of a ski area has very well groomed trails, wonderful staff, and, this year, plenty of snow.

This coming weekend is the Bill Koch Ski Festival, so in honor of the weekend I’ve made something for the kids to play with, if yours are anything like mine. I’ve converted some Arc GIS files to a Google Earth File, so now you can fly around Rikert in Google Earth and see where you went skiing for the day. Chester Harvey in the Geography department has made a new trail map for Rikert based on this shapefile, and I’ve taken the trail names both off of that new map, as well as the older traditional map.  So the Google Earth file is still a rough draft, and some of the trail names may be a little off, but it’s still fun.

Right click here, and choose Save As, then don’t forget where that is. Clicking on that file should open it in the right program. Naturally, you will need Google Earth installed on your computer. I’ve been having bad blog luck, and just clicking on the file itself will probably lead to a page of gobbledigook.

The Vermont Flower Show

Much like the Shameless Commerce division of Car Talk, I’m veering slightly from the ‘educational institution’ blog to plug one of the finest things you should be doing this winter, which is attending the Vermont Flower Show at the Champlain Valley Fairgrounds in Essex Junction, on March 4-6.

It’s been my pleasure to help set up this show for many, many years (10, 15?) I was the central display designer twice-a herculean task that was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I look at set up for the show much like baseball players going to spring training, the smell of soil and green plants, the movement of mulch fork and shovel getting your muscles in shape for the upcoming year.

I’ll tell you what goes into the display, but you won’t believe me. More than 150 yards of mulch ( a yard of mulch fits in the back of a small pickup truck), an entire commercial greenhouse of forced bulbs, hundreds of perennials, and trees and shrubs forced for blooms as well. Yes, entire trees. We’re a little crazy, admittably. And that’s just the plant material. Read about more of the design for more of the scoop, including a sketch of the design.

What makes the construction of the flower show all the more remarkable, though, is the hardest to explain. At most flower shows, individual landscapers and garden centers construct their own booths, miniature landscapes amongst a green mall for a week or weekend. In Vermont, though, the green industry is a little smaller, and not many firms have the resources to pull off a booth of forced plant material. So, many years ago, the Vermont Nursery and Landscape Association teamed up to hold a flower show, then at the Sheraton, where everybody got together and built one central display, for the betterment of the industry on the whole. Competitors the rest of the year, everybody teams up and shares tasks, and creates a spring world inside on a snowy weekend.

There are many other things to do at the show as well, not just walking through the central display. The admission price alone is a steal for all the talks and hands-on seminars that are possible to attend, and kids have their own room to ‘craft’ in as well. There are even cooking demostrations, along with vendors selling gardening merchandise, and plants. I dare you to walk out of there without some forced flowers in your hand.

Middlebury Landscape History

Over on the Turf Battle Atwater Landscape Contest Blog, I just posted a short new piece readers of this blog might find interesting. I was fooling around in ArcGIS one day, when I came across some historical aerial photographs of the town of Middlebury, including areas of the campus. I exported 3 pictures from the map of the Atwater section of campus, from 2006, 1974, and 1942. I like seeing the differences in canopy cover from year to year, and am amazed how young some “old” trees we have on the north end of campus actually are. Expect more pictures like this soon-this is really cool stuff.

Not exactly Gardening News

In the spirit of Tim Spear’s blog post “Not Exactly Administrative News: 10 great albums of 2010“, I thought I’d write about what’s been captivating me sonically for the last year.

Maybe a brief explanation would be in order first. I don’t listen to music much, mainly All Things Considered (and some of them even talked about) on the way back and forth from work. I do run, though, with an iPod Nano (read a great explanation of the system at the Middlebury Trailrunner), so to distract myself from the fact that I’m running I play loud obnoxious Alt-Rock. It’s probably a midlife crisis thing. Most of my inspiration comes from WEQX out of Manchester, one of many good radio stations near us (also see WMUD and WRMC). I’ll listen to music once in a while when working, or when the news isn’t on. (Like the Old Chapel Road annual planting? Brought to you by the last album I bought: The Pierces- 13 Tales of Love and Revenge) I hear a song I like, I download it from iTunes, and presto. So the list won’t be best albums, as I mostly buy songs. And I have no idea if they came out in 2010 or not, but that’s when I bought ‘em.

99 Problems-Hugo. Banjo is like bluegrass in general; a little bit goes a long ways. This remake of a hiphop song has the perfect amount of bluegrass funk. One of my kids likes the song cause she’s got one of those Middlebury Quidditch shirts that says “I’ve got 99 problems and a snitch ain’t one”.

Percussion Gun-White Rabbits. It’s all about the drums sometimes, and this one is much better than the other song I’ve been hearing a lot, Kick Drum Heart.

Crystallized- The xx. I’m not sure if this is a love song or not. It’s a heck of a duet, though, with almost contrasting harmony miraculously sounding good, almost great together.

Blue Blood Blues-The Dead Weather. I’m a sucker for Jack White-he’s good in everything he does. Dirty, nasty, old fashioned rock here.

The Ghost Inside-Broken Bells. Most listeners would probably recognize their first popular song, The High Road, but this one’s better. Half of this group was in The Shins, so that’ s probably why I subconsciously liked it.

Oh My God-Mark Ronson featuring Lily Allen. iTunes says this came out in 2007, but I’m including it on my 2010 list because I still run to it quite a bit. Take a good song, add some killer brass riffs, and presto, instant classic.

Dog Days are Over-Florence and the Machine. This song was starting to get WAY overplayed, until I saw a YouTube video of a baby in a car seat loving it. Now I can almost hear it constantly.

Cobrastyle-Robyn. This one came out in 2005, but I just heard it this year. I had been running to the origninal, by the Teddybears, and that’s good too, but this is a great cover.

Latest Heartbreak-22-20′s. Remember above about the drums? Same comments here.

Ruby-Kaiser Chiefs. This is the first song on one of my running mixes-it’s swift kick in the keister when you’re not in the mood to run. The Kaiser Chiefs also did the original to the Lily Allen song above, but she did it better.

You Got Me-The Crash Kings. Grungy.

Dominos-The Big Pink. Another good starting song.

Help I’m Alive-Metric. Unfortunatly, much of my running takes place at 5 in the morning, and this song is great in a super-creepy-in-the-dark sort of way. The first time my kids heard this song they thought she was singing”Help I’m alive, my heart keeps beating like a hamburger”

Kids-MGMT. I bought this one for my kids, ironically. Good beat.

Battleflag-Lo Fidelity Allstars. This is an older song, I think late 90′s. More electronica dance than anything else, but good running pace.

Handlebars-Flobots. Rap is definitely where my mid-life crisis shows through, but this is a rap song with plucked violin and trombone, so there.

Cupid’s Chokehold/ Breakfast in America-Gym Class Heroes. I’m really showing my age when I admit I’m a sucker for a good Supertramp remix, aren’t I?

Airstream Driver-Gomez. I’ve saved one of the best for last. Well done.

That’s enough I guess. What am I missing?

Middland all a-twitter

I seem to be on Twitter. I’d been resisting for days, weeks, even months. Readers of this blog probably have picked up on the fact that I don’t even sneeze in less than a half a paragraph. However, a recent re-reading of Strunk and White, rule number 13, Omit Needless Words, got me thinking that maybe I should challenge myself. 160 characters in a tweet is plenty to make a fool of yourself, but more challenging to be useful and informative. And Patio Furniture Day, the day the landscape department puts out all the outdoor furniture for the summer just begged to be tweeted to the students.

The final revelation was the ability to tweet pictures from my cell phone, via TwitPic. One of my reasons for starting this blog was the sharing of plant pictures, as I see much more of the campus than most of you, and there are some beautiful things on this campus you really ought to see, and maybe even walk to at lunch. Putting pictures on a blog, though, is a process, one I’m readily willing to go through most of the time, just not in the growing season. See the dilemma? Heck, I’ve still got pictures of every type of crabapple blossom on campus on my desktop computer, from May 2009.  Today’s twitter picture was a Catalpa blossom, on a tree across from Emma Willard. Took a quick picture, sat down at lunch and sent it as a text/picture message to twitpic, and presto.

My cell phone isn’t too fancy, and I don’t text with the dexterity of my 13 year old, so don’t expect much. But come on over, if you’re a fellow twit (wait, that’s not what i meant…), twitter, oh, whatever.  http://twitter.com/middland.

Teaching with Technology Fair

It’s Commencement (literally, it’s about 9:30 Sunday morning, we’ve been at it since 5 Am, but now us landscapers are hiding around campus working where you can’t see us), hence the lack of any posts the last week or so. I’ve got a lot to write, but being a landscaper in spring has it’s disadvantages, time management being a one of them.  I just wanted to mention I’ll be at the Teaching with Technology Fair on Wednesday, in the Great Hall at Bicentennial Hall from 10-12, showing off the Campus Tree Map. If you’re curious as to the ArcGIS underpinnings of the map, or just want to drop by to talk plants, come on over.