Stepping Back In Time

Pittsfield, Vermont is a small New England town where folks can enjoy the best of all seasons. Hiking, biking, tubing, skiing, or even weddings.  Both Riverside Farm and Amee Farm Lodge offer great wedding venues and lodging. Another of the gems in this quaint town is the Original General Store of Rt.100, Pittsfield, VT. Step inside and you will feel like you have stepped back in time. To a time when General Stores were it. There were no big grocery stores like Stop & Shop. You went to the General Store for everything from penny candy to groceries, from a t-shirt to a warm to pair of gloves, from a cookbook to a hot cooked meal. And folks were friendly…always had a smile for you, because time wasn’t rushed. A trip to the General Store was a big day out and you might only go once a week.

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Pittsfield’s Original General Store has that same feeling. You’ll find all kinds of wonderful products there – many from Vermont. You’ll also find a huge wine selection, books, soaps, syrups, clothing, and more. But a stop by the Original General Store isn’t complete without  ordering up breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Truly a great all around experience! We enjoyed a robust breakfast after photographing for 2 hours at sunrise in 6 degree weather. After filling our bellies, we filled our shopping basket with Vermont made goodies for Christmas presents for friends and family.

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From a stay at Amee Farm Lodge to a visit to Riverside Farm, to breakfast & shopping at the Original General Store, Joe & Courtney Desena have created something wonderful in the little gem of a town of Pittsfield, VT   When thinking of places that truly embody the idea of “New England”, this is at the top of the list.  Whether you stay in Pittsfield or just stop by the Original General Store for a hearty meal, I can’t imagine that you would be disappointed. Happy trails and safe travels!

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Winter Storm Alfred….as in Hitchcock

Storm Alfred……as in Hitchcock. And what a fright this October Halloween weekend storm was. It started out as a beautiful fall day on Saturday. By noon, snowflakes were falling hard and fast. A couple of hours later and the ground was already coated with a good three to four inches of the white stuff. With the leaves still on the trees here in New England, this storm couldn’t have come at a worse time.

And so it begins . . . .an early, heavy start to Alfred..
This October 2011 snowstorm: Beautiful but destructive by the time it ended.

By 5 p.m., towns were already loosing power due to downed trees and tree limbs so heavily weighted by the wet falling snow that they just snapped. Five hours later, most of the state was in complete darkness as the storm continued through the night.

We had cranked up our furnace thermostat earlier in the evening preparing for the worst. Even though we lost our power at 7 p.m., the house stayed fairly warm that night. We laid in bed listening to the creaking, snapping and popping of trees as limbs gave in to the weight of the snow. It was a might bit scary wondering if one of those cracks would result in a tree coming through the roof or bedroom window.

At dawn’s light, our backyard looked like a war zone. Later, as we walked around town, we would realize that our war zone was comparatively minor in the scheme of things.

The morning light revealed the damage despite the heavy snow coverage.

Mother Nature wields a double edged sword. For all the beauty she gives us, there is her dark side, too. Sunday morning’s views around town were vividly exquisite…the snowy scenes: outstanding. The damage, however, was widespread and disruptive to everyone’s everyday lives.

As the sun rose, we were almost the only ones out and about. The quiet stillness of our little town was somewhat eerie. The beauty left us filed with wonder and awe from the majestic row of pines edged with snow, to the shimmering river…..from the snow lined power lines, to the line of pigeons and the single white dove sitting on them.

Small trees struggled to survive the bending of Mother Nature's forceful hand.
These Majestic Pines stand their ground through Storm Alfred.
This stately tree beside the church wasn't so fortunate.
The Farmington River dressed in October white.
A single white dove (far left) hangs out with the pigeons as the sun comes up.
Snow covered traffic lights no longer signaling safety for motorists.
Looking down a snowy Route 44 at the junction of Route 219 in New Hartford, CT

We headed back up our street dodging tree limbs and dangling power lines. Checking on our neighbor’s house, we were amazed at the number of tree limbs blocking their driveways. We picked our way through with care. A snow covered limb in their pond was beautiful in a Chinese woodblock sort of way. Finding a clear view of their home revealed that two trees had fallen on either side of it…one actually on their garage. We were relieved that our neighbors and their home had survived the worst.

Our neighbor's driveway...a wonderland of snow covered trees draped like winter curtains.
Like a Chinese woodblock print, this snow covered limb arched in the pond evoked a certain stillness to this winter scene.
Storm Alfred dropped trees everywhere but our neighbors were very fortunate not to suffer substantial damage here.
Un-naturally Bent.

The rest of the day was spent readying ourselves for what we optimistically thought would be at least a couple of days without power. We had already filled the bathtub with water the night before. Now we packed up our refrigerated items in a cooler that we filled will snowballs to keep our food from spoiling.  The frozen foods, ice creams and frozen fruits, went into a hole we dug in the snow. The cover was taken off the outdoor gas grill and the single burner camp stove was readied as well. Blankets, pillows and a sleeping bag were pulled out, and firewood was brought over to the porch to stoke our fireplace. The mess of fallen trees in the backyard could wait.

That first day without power, we managed to scramble up some eggs for breakfast, had sandwiches for lunch, and Boboli goat cheese pizza on the grilled for dinner by candlelight, of course.  Then we hunkered down for what would be the coldest night with temperatures in our area predicted to plunge to 18 degrees!  It was a wicked cold night! Brrr!

Monday morning dawned and hard boiled eggs were on the breakfast menu. Next up? Tackling the trees in the yard. For those of you who don’t know, we were married in May and one of our wedding gifts was a chain saw.  🙂  Out it came and Steve put it to great use. After several hours of cutting, dragging, stacking, and piling we called it a day. Lunch was grilled cheese sandwiches. Dinner: soup.

Tuesday was more tree limb cutting, moving and stacking after a breakfast of pancakes. My first road trip was to a nearby grocery store I had heard was open. I had to drive over a huge power line and dodge tree limbs to get there only to find out that all they were selling were canned and pre packaged goods….no meats.

I had heard a story about another grocery store in the other direction…..that they had fought the town’s zoning regulations several years ago when rebuilding to be able to install a huge generator. The store had eventually won its fight. This store had remained open throughout the storm, with tractor trailer trucks lined up off loading their goods everyday.  So off to that store we went in search of pork chops for that night’s diner. We were able to get the chops and pick up some deli meats for future lunches.  While out, we stopped at Cosi’s for a warm lunch…..warm food in a warm environment. It was like heaven. Truth be told, I wasn’t anxious to leave!

Grilled Porch Chops by Candlelight

Through all of this, we have been fortunate that I purchased a Xoom Motorola tablet a few months back that has 3G service. With a full tank of gas in my jeep, I am able to recharge my cell phone and the tablet, so I am always able to access the web via one or the other.  That  is how we learned that New Hartford is one of the hardest hit towns in the state and that we may not get our power restored until Sunday night….a full 8 days after losing it. The internet has been useful in other ways, too. Facebook allows people not to feel so all alone and everyone shares info about open gas stations, open grocery stores, and roads that are impassable among other useful hints like keeping your faucets dripping so the pipes don’t freeze.  Tablets and phones are also good for playing games, writing blogs, and checking emails.

Murphy has a leg up on Lily as they stay cozy and warm by the roaring fire.

Day four without power: Camping in the living room is getting a bit old. The cats constantly want to be in our laps when they are not parked right in front of the fireplace for warmth. It’s comforting to know that food is readily available from a number of sources, if needed. If we are careful, our wood supply will make it another four days and our power will be restored before we run out. Our pipes haven’t frozen yet which gives us hope that they won’t. Steve had to return to work today so I held down the fort on my own…stoking the fireplace, etc. He was bold enough to take a sponge bath in cold water. I readily admit….I would rather die first than do that!

We dined by candlelight once again.  Three cheese ravioli was on the menu. All this candlelight would be romantic if it was just 40 degrees warmer inside. In the meantime, we’ll throw another log on the fire and play another round of Angry Birds.

About 9 p.m. last night, power was restored to the center of town. Our house is a stone’s throw away but we remain in the dark. Another night of stoking the fireplace every couple of hours. We look forward to a night of uninterrupted sleep; of not having to sleep with one eye open watching the embers in the fireplace, of icy, cold water face washings, and cold fingers and toes. A friend of ours posed a really good question of Facebook just last night: How did those cowboys ever stay warm while huddled around an open fireplace when the heat dissipates into thin air so quickly? Food for thought. We’ve come along long way since those pioneer days and yet there are still cowboys doing just that out on the range for a living.

Our 24/7 heat source for the last five days. Hoping we don't need it a sixth night.

Day Five:  After dragging tree limbs and debris into piles in the backyard, I huddled by the fire as a chill set into my bones.  Lighting companies from various states have been seen working on our road. I am slightly encouraged. My neighbor was told we would get power back by 3 p.m. but here it is several hours past that and no power yet. I am sitting at Blue Sky Foods in New Hartford charging my laptop and typing this in a nice warm building.  Their power was restored last night, too, although their home is still without, and even worse, the road to their house is littered with downed trees and wires, still. We are each hoping each other gets power to our homes quickly.  Whoever does, the door is open for the other to shower in.

Three views of our backyard from Oct. 29 and Nov. 3

I’m sorry to have missed an episode of Dexter on television, would like to be able to use my desktop computer for work, and would LOVE a hot shower, but all in all, things could be much worse, and so, I am grateful.

I do have a request for the state of Connecticut. Please spend the money to create jobs and boost our economy by replacing all above ground wiring with underground conduits. Although it may cost a fortune to do so, in the long run the state will save millions of dollars in repairs from storms and its residents will no longer have to suffer through 8 days without power ever again. Even one day without power in this electronic world is one day too many.

A snow capped fence....just another Storm Alfred scene.
Leaves still on the trees makes for dangerous storm conditions.

Hope springs eternal. We will hope for our power to be restored daily until it is. Until then, I know we are not alone. Stay warm and stay safe.

-Susan

Post script to story:  Power was restored that Thursday night. After one hot shower, our hot water tank broke from the reconnect strain of the power surge and we find our selves without hot water for another 5 days until the replacement tank arrives.  A cruel twist of fate, but at least we have heat in the house now.

All photos copyright GeminEye Images 2011

The Ruse

Ok . .so it’s been in the works for many months now . . . . this whole “come to Connecticut and we’ll treat you like you’re in Europe” bit.  Since October 2008, for those who need to know.  It was the perfect plan. . .  invite the niece out here with promises of trips to NYC, Boston, etc.  Visions of a great trip to New England danced in her head.  Even after she arrived “the ruse” continued.  That is, until tonight, when we dropped the Europe bomb right in her lap before our “Italian” dinner.   You see . . .just this afternoon while I was photographing Bree and her saxophone, I asked her how she would feel if I told her we were leaving for Europe today. . . just to illicit a particular emotion.  (Her face lit up.) So, tonight, when I sat down beside her on the sofa where she lounged reading the last installment of the Harry Potter series, I posed the question, “Remember earlier today when I asked you about going to Europe and how you would feel if we were leaving today?”  Y-e–e-e–s .?? ..  .she replied, questioningly.  “Well, how do you feel about leaving tomorrow for England?”  After the initial, “you’re kidding, right?” response . . .I pulled out her passport, sent to me weeks ago by her dad on the Q.T.  Not believing it could be hers, she thumbed through the pages until she saw her own photo staring back at her.   And so, you see, The Ruse is up.  We leave tomorrow for England and just for good measure, we’re throwing in another country, France.  Having never been on the Chunnel, I figured it was about time.  The three of us, Bree, me and my significant other, will visit the Eiffel Tower, and finally, I will have the pleasure of  strolling the Champs Elysees not only with one of my awesome nieces, but also with the man who holds my heart  . .  the light of my life, Steve.   Au revoir for now.  :

SURPRISE!!
SURPRISE!!
England? No Way!!!
England? No Way!!!

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