October 30, 2014

The Long Trail to Styles Peak

Hello, late fall! With the last nice days of autumn winding down into sustained rain, chilliness, and threats of snow, AGP and I have been taking full advantage of the sunshine. Not too long ago we took a short walk to Styles Peak in Peru, Vermont, which happens to be on an infamous stretch of wilderness belonging to the Long Trail.

There is an easy to access trail head that begins at Mad Tom Road and climbs a moderately steep 1.4 miles to the summit for awesome views to the south and northeast at 3,394 feet above sea level. The visibility that day was so great, we could see all the way into New Hampshire (I think)! It took us about 40 minutes to get up and twenty minutes to get down. Not bad for a mid-afternoon jaunt.

Did you know that the Long Trail was established in 1910 by the Green Mountain Club? That makes the trail the oldest long distance hiking trail in the country. In fact, it runs the entire length of Vermont, from the Massachusetts border to Canada! That's 272 miles in total and for 100 miles in southern Vermont, the Long Trail is also the Appalachian Trail.

As always, I was thoroughly impressed by the National Forest Wilderness we were hiking through. Even though the trees in the predominately beech forest we explored have (mostly) lost their leaves, it made for a perfect opportunity to focus on the vibrant greens that still abound. And you know how I love the forest floor

Do you know about club moss? It was everywhere! Like a shaggy, green carpet. And like their namesake mosses, they are spore-bearing plants, often considered to be allies of the fern (which were also in abundance along the trail). What I found was mostly Shining Club Moss, Huperzia lucidula, a trailing, evergreen. I was oddly thrilled to find these specimens complete with sporangia (spore cases), which are the yellow, kidney shaped pods in the top portion of the plant.

We also found Angel Wing mushrooms, Pleurocybella porrigens, in abundance as we neared the summit. While these are largely regarded as edible mushrooms and even though I have eaten them on occasion, we usually leave them alone when we are out on a casual hike without our expert identification resources. 

Despite the fact they are delicious and delicate tasting, they have been implicated in a few deaths involving people with preexisting liver ailments in Japan. And due to these concerns, although minimal, I am fine to just perk when I see these snowy beauts gracing decaying conifer logs.

The trails on this portion of the hike were well maintained, if not a bit muddy, even at the top! Neat boardwalks spare you most of the muck, but definitely not all. We weren't worried about going off trail either, because the paths were well defined and marked with a humble white blaze. Although, with all the rusty beech leaves everywhere on the ground, we did have to stop and double check our steps a few times!

Thanks for reading!

October 29, 2014


Social media and I have had an on-again-off-again relationship through the years. Currently, we are on again. Why don't you follow me on Instagram? I am all about cats and nature, if you can tell.

I am also trying to figure out Twitter, but so far, no go. What is the deal with that anyway?

October 28, 2014

We Are Tiny House Builders

I mentioned earlier that we are in the business of building tiny houses on trailers so I want to give a little insight to the process and the journey to where we are today. We have actually just completed our fourth model, The Sherwood, and it is currently on sale! You can check out the full album of Sherwood photos here! This is the first year we've been able to build two in a season. Go us!

Actually, it's more like 'Go AGP!' This is his brain child and born of his blood, sweat, and raw determination. And barely out of college too. I work the books, hold boards for the nailing, and play number one fan.

What exactly are tiny houses? For the uninitiated to this rapidly growing trend in affordable housing, they are simply houses under 400 square feet. We take this notion to the next level by shrinking them so they fit on a tow-behind trailer, so what you get is a miniature sized house that you can move anywhere. What separates this from an RV or mobile home is that it is made from a traditional wooden stick frame and looks just like a shrunken house or cabin that you can live inside of full time (or part-time, whatever floats your boat). It has a bathroom, kitchen, superb heating, and all the comforts of home in an affordable, efficient, and stylish space. Except that unlike most buildings of its size and permanence, it rarely needs building permits since it is technically mobile, which makes it a perfect addition to undeveloped or lightly developed land. Think: insta-home.

How did we get here? Though he majored in environmental studies and international affairs, AGP 's heart was always first with carpentry and working with his hands. So, with the approval of his in-through-the-out-door adviser, he decided to produce an eco-friendly tiny house built on top of an old, used lobster trailer for his thesis. Fast forward through the obvious confusion about the major-to-thesis relationship and you will find AGP and I posting up semi-permanent style in a warehouse just outside of Worcester, Massachusetts in January of last year.

This was a thrilling time for us. Fresh from our humungous road trip cross country, I was ready to continue with my break from the corporate grind and AGP was ready to build. Over the next four months, we slogged away in a chilly and bare-bones workshop environment that we also (secretly) lived in, dividing our time - mostly - between weekdays at the warehouse and weekends in Boston with friends.

Yes, you read that right - AGP and I inhabited a warehouse for four brutally cold months in 2013. It was an interesting change of pace from my previous city-dwelling-cum-road-trip lifestyle, to say the least. We set up a small "living room" and "kitchen" in the lofted space over the bathroom and from there attempted to carve out a little normalcy in our concrete cave surrounded by the sounds of miter saws and nail guns. 
I chipped in here and there with my brute strength, blogging-steez, painting skills, and research acumen. And with a little extra help from his buddies, but mostly his own ingenuity and determination, the house was completed at the end of April, his thesis paper was submitted, and AGP graduated from college.

We were also the focus of a tiny house documentary called "Living Small" by student filmmaker Stephen Hewitt, which you can watch if you are interested in what us know-nothing idiots look like fumbling around with hammers and dreams. Although, I recommend sticking with it because it ends rather triumphantly, if I do say so myself. 

From there we thought - why the hell not?! - and proceeded to rent an enormous Ford F-350 diesel dually and drag the house to Oacoma, South Dakota (after which we fondly named the first model). This is when we learned not to build a tiny house on a used trailer. While we were trying to make it to the other side of Indiana, we lost two wheels and ended up stranded in a very anxious way while a blessedly local tractor trailer repair shop tried to track down replacement wheel bearings for our ancient wagon. Though we did eventually make it to South Dakota, even through a snow storm, and back home with no further issues. And we were even plus one feline companion.


Once the house was sold, building went on a summer hiatus until our long awaited move to Vermont in the fall whereupon a commissioned shell was completed before winter came. Cue winter and some odd jobs in between until it is gloriously spring and a chance to put these tiny house skills to use again.

This summer has really been the heyday of tiny house buildings and as the ever-present observer, I can vouch that the quality of the houses has improved incredibly from his freshman build. Streamlined and ready to customize, AGP's tiny homes include a full bathroom with a shower and a super reliable hot water heater, a full kitchen with a stove and refrigerator, and a sleeping loft connected by a staircase with hideaway storage. And don't worry about those cold winters, because these units have a propane heating system that will keep your small space toasty and efficient.

But I'm not here to sell you these houses, I just want to chronicle the adventure from warehouse dwellers to small business owners. It has been an awesome journey that I am super proud to be a part of.  We really have our dreams and desires on the line with these projects and we are constantly scheming on  how we can improve and expand our vision with a little bit of elbow grease and determination. Right now building is headed into another wintery hiatus, but we have major plans to hit the ground running again once the ground thaws in spring. I will keep you in the loop as our business continues to grow!

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