Monday, October 8, 2012

Smear and Fear

This letter was written to a very dear family member and former fellow conservation activist in the Florida Keys. The topic is Obama Care. I know you "don't want to talk about it," but I am reminded of 1997, when you and I and a handful of volunteers worked to support the FKNMS. Don't stop reading this!! If you love me and respect me at all, please read this entire message. Remember all the lies people were saying, just because they were afraid of government and losing their rights to fish and dive? I am afraid that you are falling victim to the same type of smear campaign. That campaign was based on ignorance and unfounded fear. You need to take the time to learn the truth, just as we did in the Keys. I haven't done all of the research that I am going to do. But, so far, I haven't found any -- not a single website -- that had concrete facts that would justify fear of the PPACA. I read several sites and blogs that indicated 80% - 90% of physicians were thinking of quitting because of Obama Care. I read further and I discovered that most of the doctors' concerns were based on expected increases in the amount of paperwork required by the act and mandatory eventual transition to electronic medical record keeping. I know that government wastes a lot of paper and bureaucracy is inefficient. But, far worse than those inefficiencies would be the lack of bureaucracy and regulation. Take the Keys, for example. If there were no regs, no bureaucrats, no government involvement, you know as well as I do that every single piece of coral would have been taken for a coffee table decoration. There would be fewer fish than there are now and no lobster, no conch (almost gone, anyway), no seagrass flats ... the list goes on and on. Only we few Reef Bitch -types care about the environment and the betterment of the world because it's the right thing to do. The large majority of people are oblivious that need regulations to guide their actions. The other end of the spectrum is a handful of people who are not oblivious and do know better, but are selfish and short-sighted and truly do not care about the future for their children nor their impact on our planet. Open your mind and your heart, and, while you're at it, open your ears and your mouth! Ask the people who tell you Obama Care is going to put them out of business what specifics in the act they are worried about, are those specifics in the actual health care act, and ask them where they got their information. Then, check it out from a reliable source, NOT from a blog that is supported by big oil and selfish right wing types. If you find the source, you will probably get down to the basic answer that I believe is causing the uproar: Proposed income taxes for the wealthy. Obama wants to raise taxes on people who make a net taxable income (after deductions and write-offs) of more than $250,000 per year. And, most of the tax increase is proposed to affect people who make more than $1,000,000. $1,000,000 PER YEAR! Of course those wealthy people don't want to pay more taxes. I get that. They'd rather spend their money on second and third homes, big boats, fast cars, and fancy jewelry. But, the income tax issue IS NOT RELATED to Obama Care. The PPACA is a convenient scapegoat that allows the wealthy to avoid saying, "I don't want to pay more taxes to support the middle class and to reduce the federal deficit." Not coincidentally, that higher income tax bracket includes most physicians who are complaining about Obama Care. Here are the facts about the presidential election the way they relate to you, personally, in my view: Obama Care won't affect you at all. Your practice doesn't even take insurance. Your boss will have to provide health care to his employees, but he will get related tax credits to offset his additional expense. If Romney gets elected, he will approve the fracking shale oil pipeline from Canada to Texas which will ruin hundreds of thousands of acres of natural habitat on the North American continent and pollute the watershed all along the way. Romney says he doesn't believe in global warming and he will do everything in his power to increase domestic fossil fuel production. EVERYTHING IN HIS POWER. Romney will end tax credits for renewable energy (which will put your dad and me out of business and we'll have to move in with you and Jeff! I guess we're selfish after all, too, but at least we're trying to save the planet. If Romney is elected: NPR and PBS and Planned Parenthood will go away. Upcoming vacancies on the Supreme Court will be filled by right-wing conservatives, which means ... Roe vs. Wade will be overturned Stem cell research will end Here's a link that can start your personal awareness campaign: Please seek the truth. Be careful where you look for the truth and whose words you believe. Consider who is voting for Obama -- Jim and I are. Do you trust us? I think you should. Love you, Reef Bitches Forever!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Condominium Living -- Really???

April 5, 2012

Traci Mulligan
Animal Control Officer
P.O. Box 304
Arlington, VT 05250

RE: Barking Complaint

Dear Traci,

Thank you for your call alerting us of a complaint about barking dogs at our home. This letter is being written to formally apologize to you and to the anonymous complainant for any annoyances that may have been caused by our enthusiastic dogs. We are truly sorry that our dogs may have disturbed anyone and sincerely regret having been inconsiderate. Please note the following steps we are taking to reduce barking by our canine family members:

• All of our dogs are licensed with the Town of Arlington and are current on all required vaccinations.

• We have installed a secure fence behind which our dogs will be kept when outdoors in our backyard. We will never leave our dogs unattended outside in their fenced backyard for more than a reasonable period of time required for their normal bodily eliminations. When they bark at the backdoor, alerting us that they are ready to come back inside the house, we will be careful to respond and let them inside immediately.

• We will never leave our dogs outside when we are not present in our home. I have always taken my dogs with me in my car when I leave the house (except on hot days), and will continue to do so.

• When infrequent visitors and delivery persons come to our house, we will make every effort to curtail intruder alert barking. Barking on those occasions cannot, however, be prevented. It is natural for most dogs to bark, warning intruders.

• I will try to limit barking during play and training sessions to the least amount possible. My dogs and I participate in the sports of dog agility, disc throwing, and canine musical freestyle. When agility training each of my dogs at our residence, I will keep the other dogs in our family in crates to reduce barking. However, we have high-drive herding dogs that are vocal when stimulated. We usually play Frisbee in the midday hours, for a maximum period of time of 30 to 40 minutes per session. We usually play or train only one session per day. At the most, we play twice. Occasional barking may be heard during our playtimes.

• We will make every effort to stop our dogs immediately when instinctive barking at wildlife occurs. We live on the side of Ball Mountain and our property abuts thousands of acres of wildlife habitat. When we allow the dogs to go outside of the house into their fenced-in backyard, they may occasionally see or scent the presence of wild animals including coyote, bear, woodchuck, porcupine, skunk, and many others, on our property outside our fence. We will change the schedule of their nighttime elimination trips so that they are completed before 10:00 p.m.

As a dog trainer, I believe in positive reinforcement training methods as the best approach toward achieving the goal of a happy canine that is a pleasure to live with. As such, we will not use electric shock collars to teach our dogs not to bark. It is an unfortunate coincidence that our loudest dog is a rescue that had been severely abused when we found her. She is extremely sensitive to all forms of corporal punishment.

We love our dogs and take our responsibilities as their caretakers very seriously. We are not the types of dog owners that would ever leave our dogs tied up outside, which is the most common cause of annoying, frequent habitual barking. I hate that type of barking, too!

No neighbors are visible from our 4+ wooded acres, but I suspect that the sound of our dogs’ barking is magnified by the location of our property, which is situated hillside, overlooking the Batten Kill. Personally, we find the sound of traffic on Highway 313 to be a distracting annoyance related to our home’s location. And, it is commonplace for us to be startled by loud explosions from our target-shooting neighbors’ shotguns, even at night. But, we cannot change the fact of the amplification of sound that the river may cause. For our part, all we can do is try to reduce the frequency of the occasional barking that may continue to occur on our property.

We love living in Arlington. We moved here in 2006, and have become active members of the Northshire community. We relocated from suburban life with gated communities and planned unit development codes so that we could enjoy living in a relaxed, rural setting. One of the reasons we chose our site is due to its privacy so that our dogs could exercise and play, and occasionally bark. It is my understanding that we would be allowed to keep chickens or other livestock on our property that would possibly create noises that may be annoying to others. Roosters can be much more noisy than an occasionally barking border collie!

In summary, we will make every effort to reduce the barking that originates on our property. We will limit the incidence of play and training to a maximum period of one hour per day. We will take care to prevent barking after 10:00 p.m.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss our plans to reduce the frequency of barking by our dogs with the Arlington resident who complained. We would be happy to respect the wishes of our neighbor with regard to the timing of our play sessions. Perhaps the person works a late shift, and sleeps during particular times of the day. We could work out a schedule that would be mutually compatible and agreeable. Please provide our phone number to the complainant if they would like to discuss the issue with us directly.

Thank you for your understanding. We appreciate the work that you do!


Karen Lee

P.S. Please feel free to provide this letter to the complainant.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bay Neal

My first memory of Bay Neal was from the mortgage insurance heyday, 1984-ish. At the time, I was a young, impressionable branch manager for a medium-sized wholesale mortgage banker. The company I worked for was a mortgage player wannabe, trying hard to be up-and-coming in the mortgage business. On this memorable occasion, I, other b.m.’s, and the company’s self-important E.V.P’s, were being wined and dined by Ticor Mortgage Insurance Company at The Abbey Restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia. This was an over-the-top, extravagant dinner, so typical of the times, during which Ticor representatives intended to extract a commitment from my mortgage company for a high volume of insurable mortgage product. Ticor was a rival of Verex, a high-powered mortgage insurer and Bay’s employer. Evidently, Ticor’s primary purpose that night was to convince my bosses to choose Ticor over Verex.

Although I was middle management and not one of the decision makers, I overheard the names, “Bay Neal” and “Verex” spoken at the other end of the long dining table many times that evening. From the gossip, I ascertained that a Verex bigshot named Bay Neal had recently been gaining momentum in the fight to get my employer’s business. The choice of one of the most expensive restaurants in Atlanta, reserving the wine cellar for our private dining room, providing chauffeured transportation to and from our hotel so that we could be free to consume as much libation as we pleased, was to impress so highly that our bosses would certainly feel obligated to make a major commitment to Ticor. I’m certain they thought that there would be no way that Bay Neal or Verex could compete with that shindig!

After the four hour, multi-course dinner, our group of a few dozen mortgage bankers and mortgage insurers who were now the best of friends, staggered outside to hail our limos. …And, there, standing under the streetlight in front of the restaurant, opening the door of his luxury car for the president of one of the biggest mortgage banking firms in the country (a real mortgage player) was Bay Neal. I will never forget that moment. There he was with his white-blonde beach boy haircut, deep-water tanned face, and bright blue eyes, smiling broadly with those flashy pearly whites of his. He didn’t say it aloud, but I heard him think, “GOTCHA!” What he actually said was, “Fancy meeting you here! How was dinner, guys? Ours was great! See ya!”

That was Bay. Always a step ahead of everyone else, always smarter, always knowing what you were thinking before you did. Years after that memorable moment, after he and Barbara and Jim and I became close, good, good friends, I came to know that he was more than just a brilliant mind behind a handsome face. He was kind, thoughtful, and gentle. Bay was one of the last true gentlemen on this planet. And he was a loving person. Of course, we all know how much he loved Barbara and his human family, but he also dearly loved his kitties! A man who is devastated when his cat dies is a rare man who truly has a big, soft heart. …And, funny! He would come out with the most hilarious one-liners that would just slay me!

I will miss him, his wit, his smile, his heart. I am very, very appreciative of the fact of his friendship and will treasure the great memories that he gave Jim and me. The world is now a lesser place.

Karen Lee

Vermont Energy Plan Comments

My comments for consideration in the Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan are based my experience as an energy and environmental conservation activist for over 35 years, as well as my recent experience as a renewable energy professional in Vermont.

Karen Lee
P.O. Box 974
Arlington, VT 05250


I strongly recommend that we reprioritize our goals and strategies toward energy efficiency and energy production. Following is a list of topics, organized according in a logical, cost-effective order:

Top Priority. Efficiency and Conservation

The cost of space heating, operating inefficient appliances, and powering buildings is too expensive, environmentally and economically, to waste energy. (That’s just crazy!) We should spend most of our public resources in making certain that ALL buildings and operations in Vermont are as energy efficient as is reasonably possible.

Until we stop heating the outdoor environment
and stop wasting electrical power, our efforts to increase
our usage of renewable energy sources are counterintuitive.

Energy audits on all buildings and major appliances should be mandatory, not optional. Building owners should be required to install adequate insulation, upgrade outdated inefficient appliances, and other energy efficient retrofits. Low-cost financing should be available to all Vermonters, regardless of income and creditworthiness. (All buildings should be more energy efficient!) Monthly payments for efficiency financing should be collected by local utility companies as part of regular utility billing. When structured properly, the net monthly utility expense for consumers, given energy savings from efficiency, would be less than consumers are paying now. Efficiency financing could be funded privately by banks, credit unions, or other institutional investors. (Banks would appreciate the income stream.) An independent loan servicing company could serve as a conduit between utility companies and banks.

A reasonable household, per capita, electrical usage should be determined. Each household should pay electric fees to utility companies based on a sliding scale of increased rates for increased power usage, thereby encouraging consumers to use less electricity or to install on-site renewable energy systems, such as photovoltaic or wind systems.

Second Priority: Efficient thermal production for heating buildings

Other than transportation, Vermonters consume more energy for heating buildings than for any other purpose. Strong financial incentives should be provided to encourage property owners to retrofit their heating systems to carbon-neutral, sustainable-fuel based systems, including, but not limited to:

Highly efficient biomass burners
(Biomass fuel to be sustainably and regionally harvested using ecologically responsible practices)

Geothermal heat pumps

Solar space heating
(Viable when used in conjunction with biomass and/or geothermal systems)

An incentive program to develop a method for energy-efficient air-conditioning should be developed.

Third Priority: Thermal production for heating water

After efficiency upgrades, solar hot water technology is the lowest-hanging fruit in this discussion. Solar hot water systems work extremely well, even in Vermont! A large portion of Vermont’s fossil fuel consumption is spent toward heating water, but the sun shines for free! When designed properly, solar hot water systems will contribute more than 65% of the thermal energy necessary to meet the needs for domestic hot water.

Every homeowner, every dairy, every cheesemaker,
every restaurant, every hotel and inn, every laundromat,
and every other business that uses hot water
should have a solar hot water system in Vermont!

It is ridiculous that we are not better at educating the public about the benefits of solar hot water systems. Although modest state incentive programs are in place for solar hot water, the number of systems that have been installed is a drop in the bucket! Public officials should spend more time educating consumers about solar hot water and low-cost financing should be available to all property owners, regardless of income and credit-worthiness. We need to make better efforts toward the proliferation of solar hot water systems across the state. It is WRONG to spend more public time and to invest more public resources on production and installation of renewable energy technologies that are less efficient than solar hot water.

ALL energy experts agree that

Why are more public discussions and many more tax dollars spent on incentives for other technologies? We need to do a better job of spending our resources on the most cost-effective energy efficient measures possible. Solar hot water may not be as sexy as other technologies (such as photovoltaic technology) but solar hot water gives us a FAR better bang for our buck.

Fourth Priority: Generation of Electricity

AFTER aggressive state programs are instituted to assure that the top three energy priorities are met, public resources should be spent toward the generation of electricity from renewable energy resource technologies, including, but not limited to:

Solar power
Wind power
Micro-hydro power

I support individual or small, local renewable energy electrical generation, rather than regional solar and wind farms due to efficiency and public acceptance.


The following topics for consideration during the evaluation and institutional of energy programs and policies should be (listed in order of importance):

Carbon emission reduction
Our first energy goal should be to lessen Vermont’s impact on global climate change by reducing carbon emissions.

Sustainable fuel source
All fuel sources should be harvested sustainably.

Environmental impact
Negative impacts on air quality, water quality, erosion, and other environmental considerations should be avoided.

Ecological impact
Negative impacts on the natural ecology should be avoided. For example, timber harvests should be conducted seasonally to reduce mortality of nesting species. Hydro facilities should not negatively impact local watersheds.

Local harvest
We should use regional resources for renewable energy materials. (No biomass from the Pacific Northwest or photovoltaics made in China.)

Economic cost
We should assure that renewable energy systems are incentivized based on cost-effectiveness.

Local jobs created
Vermont-based renewable energy companies that employ Vermonters should be given highest consideration for development and installation of efficiency upgrades and renewable energy systems.


A smart energy policy will strengthen our Vermont economy. By encouraging locally conserved, locally generated, locally made, and locally harvested renewable energy, Vermont will set an example for other states to follow. We can establish a non-carbon based, energy-independent, healthy economy.

We have the technology, the resources, the demand, and the know-how to achieve our energy goals. All we need is the political will.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011



A essay on hope by Karen Lee,
Resident of Arlington, Vermont
Native Floridian

Written August, 2008

I used to fight the good fight. As a longtime volunteer environmental activist I am mentally and emotionally beleaguered, besieged, despondent, and full of cynicism. I have personally witnessed people at their worst -- greedy, selfish, short-sighted, and cruel. For many years now I have accepted with detached defeatism the inevitability of the failure of humankind to be successful stewards of our planet. We’re even worse at being caretakers of each other. Because I am not a spiritual person, finding solace in the faith of a benevolent super-being was not an option for me. I respect the religious faith of others and am happy for people that find comfort in their beliefs, but I consider my secular attitude as scientifically enlightened. I lightheartedly refer to myself as a member of the Church of Carl Sagan. I am in awe of the cosmos and have reverence for the beauty found in the random order of nature. So, seeking my own emotional peace, and to help me come to terms with the continual wrongdoings of mankind, I began long ago to evaluate our species from a cosmic perspective.

It has been ironically comforting for me to perceive Homo sapiens akin to a meteor or comet that has been hurtling toward earth on a cataclysmic course since our evolution. Our innate ability to ruthlessly destroy other species and dominate every natural ecosystem has led to our prolific success while coincidentally insuring the doom of the contemporary earth’s biosphere. From an evolutionary point of view, it is only natural that such a highly intelligent, adaptable creature as man would evolve, and it is only inevitable that the earth’s ecosystems would be altered by this lately evolved, ultimate predator.

Why do we think that today’s (or yesterday’s) climate, ecosystems, flora, and fauna are so precious? The earth has existed through many dramatically different changes of climate. The effects of evolution resulted in biological diversity compatible with each unique climatic condition. It is another in a long list of egocentric anthropogenic opinions to state that our modern earth is particularly special and, therefore, worth saving in its current (recent past) condition. The terminal fate of today’s (yesterday’s) ecosystems was determined a few hundred thousand years ago when mitochondrial Eve was born in the Rift Valley of Africa. Global climate change caused by the actions of Homo sapiens was inevitable and unavoidable. In the words of folk singer Jimmy Buffett, “Planets come and planets go. Apocalypso.”

Or so I thought. Resolved and full of gloom for our children’s future and the plight of the present earth, I was comfortably detached in 2003 when China built the largest dam in the world, the Three Gorges Dam, displacing indigenous human cultures and natural ecosystems. As the coral reefs of tropical oceans continued to bleach and die, as rainforests were burned, and as hundreds of species daily were permanently exterminated by human actions, I looked away dispassionately. When the Bush Administration denied the facts of global warming and kept the United States from participating in the Kyoto Treaty, I was unsurprised and unaffected. Self-indulgent gluttons continued to rape and pillage the earth, while despots, tyrants, and religious zealots murdered each other in senseless wars and vicious acts of genocide. I knew that these insane acts were the manifestations of Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest. Inter-and intra-species competition for and exploitation of finite resources were the enactments of predictable and predetermined natural functions.

While respectful and with admiration for their work, I pitied the heroic efforts of Al Gore and other advocates for reversal of climate change. I thought, “Those poor, deluded souls. They should know it’s too little, and we’re too late.” When the Arctic seaway opening to shipping in the summer of 2008, I was shocked by the blatant evidence that global warming truly is upon us and that we will experience dramatic effects of climate change during our lifetimes. I’m certain that some of the spark of momentary motivation came from an urgent sense of self preservation, but I almost became re-energized and almost rediscovered an activist’s passion. Almost. Before I jumped back into the fray of fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with my environmental friends, I took a deep breath and stepped back. I realized that ice melting due to global warming is only inevitable…ultimately natural, right? I decided, once again, to get over it and returned to my protective bubble of despair.

Although I had given up, and was officially retired as an environmental activist, I was mildly interested in U.S. politics, just to keep up the impression of having social graces, of course. (There’s no point to it all, naturally.) I was a supporter of Hillary Clinton for president and was unhappy when her bid for the Democratic nomination failed. I had respect for Barack Obama, but did not believe that our society was ready for him, or that he was prepared to be the most powerful leader of the human race. You see, I’m from the South. I know the bigotry that is still pervasive in the hearts and minds of millions of brainwashed and ignorant Americans living in the Deep South, the West, Mid-West, and in the corners of every region of the United States. I thought it possible that Americans just might vote for a woman, but Americans would not elect a person of color, and certainly not one with a name like Barack Obama.

I am terrified and elated to admit that I think I might have been wrong. Since I stopped listening to Hillary, I started listening to Barack. I watched in amazement as tens of thousands of people of all ethnicities were captivated and inspired by his speeches; speeches that were full of intelligence, insight, leadership. Words that made sense and unabashedly addressed the weaknesses of the human condition while preaching a message of – dare I write the terrifying word – HOPE.

In the past, I have heard several intelligent, wise, educated speakers say the right words. But, never in my life had I witnessed those words spoken in a manner that had such a dramatic impact on so many people, as did the words spoken by Barack Obama. I was intrigued as people were moved from complacency to enthusiasm; “Drinking the Kool-Aid,” according to CNN commentators. I began to wonder about the real possibilities of change.

Is it possible that we humans can redirect our destiny? Can we outsmart the irresistible forces of evolution and overcome our genetic urges to take, kill, abuse, and destroy? Can we evolve again and change our apocalyptic meteoric course to become Homo intelligencia and ultimately survive as the wisest, kindest, and truly “fittest” species on earth? Is it possible that one human, speaking clearly and sanely, can stir the enthusiasm of millions of disillusioned and disenfranchised people? Can we, then, inspire and educate others so that we all learn to live in peace together and in peace with our planet? Can we effectively communicate with Rush Limbaugh’s devotees who are drunk on his toxic flavored Kool-Aid? Can we reach their closed minds and help them see the human race’s urgent need for change?

I am reluctant to emerge from my comfort zone of avoidance and despondent resignation, but a more powerful emotion than reluctance is growing within me. The sensation is strange to me in my adult life. It is terrifying, almost physically painful. It is the feeling of hope. I am overwhelmed by the possibility of a healthy future for my grandchildren. I am cautious, full of trepidation, but I admit I do have hope.

Can we really do this?

The Well Story

May, 2008.

When we first arrived home at Summer Hill from our winter months in Florida, I was very excited to get out of the motorhome, and stand for a long time under a hot shower. But, the shower I longed for was not to be! Our well pump had stopped working. There was no water coming out of our taps. We called our local plumber, and he and Jim began the search for our well head to try and retrieve and replace the old pump. Because the well had been dug many years before modern code requirements, the well head was not installed above ground. We had only a general idea about the possible location of the old well head. That afternoon, we were unable to locate the well and we had return to the motorhome to take showers and go to the bathroom.

The next day, we hired a backhoe & operator, and he dug a giant cavity six feet deep, about 20 feet by 20 feet square. The plumber finally found the old well head. But, unfortunately, during the attempt to extract the old pump, the interior sides of the well caved in! Uh oh.

Our next step was to call a well driller and get on a WAITING LIST. We waited ten days for him to show up. (Back to living in the motorhome again.) The driller started by drilling near the old well. He drilled 360 feet, only to reach a limestone cavern that caved in. OK, his next drill spot was about fifty feet across the driveway (are you getting the picture of our formerly beautiful driveway and lawn?)...He drilled 160 feet down and reached another cavern that was evidently connected to the first well and vapor came geysering out of the first hole! Very interesting geologically, but not good for us.

The drill operator took out his divining rod (I am NOT kidding) and started poking all around the yard, including in my flower and vegetable gardens. Un-f-ing-believable. He tried to give up and leave, telling us we had no well water under our property. WHAT?!? So, you're telling me we have to live in our motorhome forever and that our home is now worthless? I don't THINK so! The drill operator called in the Big Guy, his daddy. Daddy Driller relocated the rig to the opposite end of the driveway, enlarged the drill bit, and encased the hole the entire way down in welded steel pipes, to protect against cave-ins. At 167 feet, he struck a LOT of water, but it was full of ocher (red clay).

That day, I learned a new word: "turbulating." I'm not so sure the word would hold up in a scrabble game. But in the well business, to Turbulate means "To vigorously pump air deep into a well cavity, pushing the the water out of the well with great force causing significant turbidity, in order to clean out the loose debris and to create a clean well water storage cavity." The ocher had to be removed from the water before it would be potable.

You cannot imagine the volume of turbulated water, foamy & brownish orange (coincidentally, about the same color as raw sewage) that came gushing out of the top of that new well. The water was actually clean (except for iron and other minerals). Because the water came from a well that was so deep, it had no nutrients and no pollution, it was just reddish limestone silt, but it looked awful. ...

... OK, picture this: We live on a hillside above a wild and scenic, very famous river -- the Batten Kill. The world-renowned fly-fishing retailer, Orvis, started here, on the Batten Kill. People come from around the world to fish in this pristine place.

About fifty gallons of foamy brownish orange water per minute were rushing down the hill from our new well. Toward the Batten Kill. During this entire well ordeal, I had been trying to be calm and not act like the screaming Flatlander* environmentalist that we all know I am. (*Flatlander is the local term for non-native Vermonters who moved here from anywhere else.) I had tried to go along and get along with the locals, but I couldn't stand it anymore. I followed the orange rivulet down the hill as it rushed through the stormwater ditch, into a culvert, under our road, down our neighbor's hill, into another culvert, under River Road, and directly INTO THE BATTEN KILL! I had followed the flow about 800 feet down our very steep hill, and I was now freaking out at the bottom of the hill. There I was, overweight, out of shape, trying to run back up the hill to tell the driller to TURN OFF THE F-ING PUMP! By the time, huffing and puffing, I finally got back to our driveway, about a mile's worth of orange silty water had poured into the river from our property.

Can you imagine? I was mortified! The driller and his daddy tried to assure me that the water was perfectly clean, there was no problem. No worries, ma'am. !!! Yeah, right. I knew better. They finally turned off the turbulating pump. Since it was 5 p.m., the drillers went home for the day, leaving the evidence stream flowing all the way to the Hudson.

The next morning, at 6:00 a.m. (real Vermonters are Morning People) the entire body of Selectmen (AKA: City Councilmen) of Arlington and the head of the local highway department were in our driveway. Their phones had rung off their hooks the night before with complaints from citizens about polluted water flowing into the river coming in from direction of our house. It took some extremely apologetic fast-talking on my part and Jim's, and we somehow avoided a fine or jail sentence. The river, of course, was absolutely OK since the gush from our well really and truly was clean water. The quality of water from our well was actually better than runoff from a storm or snowmelt, but it looked just awful.

Anyway, several thousand dollars in well drilling and trenching expense and four weeks later, we have copious amounts of crystal clear spring water now pumping into the plumbing system of our house. What an ordeal. Fresh water will never be taken for granted by me again!

Three days ago, Jim finished hand shoveling 22 TONS of gravel on the driveway and 10 TONS of topsoil on the yard to repair the well drilling damage. He distributed several bags of grass seed to repair the lawn.

Two days after the re-seeding, we had a rare (global warming) hailstorm and all of the seed and most of the new topsoil washed away. Into the Batten Kill.

Other than that, everything's been great! ... Seriously, everything here is really, really beautiful, the weather has been mostly perfect -- warm days, cool nights, and flowers are blooming everywhere. Very, very scenic and wonderful. I just had to share our well experience with you.

Karen Lee
Summer Hill
June, 2008

Panther Lake's Lucky Stinker

Stinky's Humble Beginnings
(written November, 2004)

The day before Thanksgiving in 2001, while driving in their van on County Road 630 in Polk County, Florida, Karen Lee and her husband, Jim, rescued an abandoned, abused, sickly puppy. Speeding trucks full of oranges from the morning's harvest dodged her as she sat waiting for them, on the white line marking the edge of the two-lane highway. The Lees didn't see her at first, as they zoomed by at 60 miles an hour. Simultaneously, they turned to each other and exclaimed, "It's a PUPPY!" Half a second later, "It's a border collie!" Jim pulled over onto the shoulder of the road, and Karen leapt from the van. Having had several extremely unfortunate experiences with attempts to rescue dogs, cats, and gopher turtles from highways, Karen was cautious. She was concerned that the puppy may have been feral, and afraid of people. Approaching the puppy might have sent her directly into the path of a multi-ton mass of racing fruit truck. So, Karen crouched down, more than ten feet back from the edge of the highway, down into the sandspurs and briars of the typical roadside scrub of central Florida. She called, "Here, Puppy, Puppy, Puppy!" The little dog evidently couldn't see Karen, but she heard her and immediately started air scenting to find the source of the human voice. The puppy ran into the center of the road, heading in the general direction of the Lee's van. Karen had a severe attack of panic, thinking that in the last few seconds before her rescue, the puppy would be hit by a truck. Just in time, the puppy spied the crouching human and ran toward Karen, launching into her outstretched arms. The puppy squealed with evident relief, joy, and ravenous hunger. She bit at Karen's ears and face maniacally.

Karen had a very strong stomach and was not prone to vomiting, but the smell of that puppy caused her to retch. The puppy smelled like diarrhea and decaying flesh with the essence of kerosene. What a little stinker! The Lees immediately took her to a local veterinarian (one that was unknown to the Lees, at the time), thinking she would have to be euthanised. As they entered front door of the vet office, all other patients and their humans cleared the waiting room due to the overwhelming stench from the mongrel in Karen's arms. The receptionist asked, "What do you want us to do with that?" Karen replied, "We found this puppy, and we want to see if you can help her!" The only response from the skeptical clerk was a sneer. Karen said, "We have money, we're going to pay!" The receptionist asked, "And then, what?" To which Jim replied, "Of course, we're gonna keep her!"

After besting the reluctant receptionist, the Lees were allowed to see the vet. Much to their surprise, the doctor examined the pitiful wretch and proclaimed her to be a "Diamond in the Rough!" He diagnosed her as having a severe total-body case of highly-contagious scabies and mange, and told the Lees that she had recently been dipped in burned motor oil, a common redneck treatment for mange. Horrified, the Lees told the vet that they would take responsibility for the puppy and that she would join their family. Karen mentioned that, after her recovery, maybe she would even become an agility dog. The vet looked at the little dog and said, "Stinky little puppy, I think you just won the lottery!"

Eight weeks of quarantine and several medical treatments later (Karen had to take a shower each time she touched the puppy, which was four times a day, for eight weeks!), little Stinky grew to became a healthy dog with a beautiful coat! She is now Panther Lake's Lucky Stinker, CGC, OA, NAJ, AD. Stinky is the apple of Jim's eye, and is Karen's canine freestyle (doggy dancing) partner. Stinky is quite a ham in front of an audience, she absolutely loves to dance, and also loves dog agility.
The Lees travel all over Florida and the USA, attending dog agility events with Stinky and their other dog, a Border Collie named Carly, when they're not at home in Islamorada in the Florida Keys. They support Karen's dog agility habit by working as mortgage brokers in their mom & pop mortgage business, Conch Republic Mortgage Corp. (November, 2004)