¡We have a gong!

How the GONG came to be

by Jesse

About a month ago, I was taking a walk on my trail loop and got caught in a thundershower over by the sugar house. So I took shelter in the vacuum pump room under the sap storage area. While waiting out the downpour, I noticed this large disk of metal that was probably the cut off end of a fuel oil tank. I rolled it out from the wall to take a good look at it. It was quite heavy, being 3/16” rusted steel and 42” in diameter. I stood it on edge and gave it a good kick with my boot and got a deep gong sound. I thought to myself “Would it be possible to mount this disk in a frame to make a gong?” At that point the rain had slowed enough so I could continue my walk. So I took a picture of the metal disk and moved it back where it was stored.

Over the next couple of weeks, I showed several CH members the pictures of the metal disk and told them of my hope to create a gong from it and keep it up at the lean-to site. Needless to say, I got a lot surprised responses, though no negative ones. Being that this time period was also intense gardening, along with mushroom log and beekeeping responsibilities, I shelved my gong construction for a rainy day. One day, when I was moving maple syrup from the sugar house to the root cellar, I grabbed the metal disk and put it in the equipment shed. 

From time to time, when I was on the internet, I looked at pictures of gongs and the frames they hung in. I decided to use some of the 2” metal square tubing that has lived outside of the wood working shop for the last 15 years. I had already used some of the 25’ pieces to fabricate a railing over at the bread oven and I used some others to replace the ricks in the mushroom fruiting area. There was still plenty of the tubing left, so I dragged a couple of sections over to the equipment shed. I had come up with a simple right angled design that would be a good test for my newly acquired welding skills.

Well, the last 2 weeks have provided plenty of rainy days to pursue this project. It was a bit of a challenge to accurately mate the long pieces of tubing so I could weld the angles right. After welding the frame, I spent about $12 on hardware to hang the metal disk in the frame. I ended up using a section of  metal pipe with a rubber maul handle protector as the gong mallet. After showing several CH members the finished gong in the equipment shed, we decided to keep it here on campus for now. So Rooz helped me move the gong from the equipment shed to the first bench in the center flower garden facing the Common House. When I was building the gong I had thought of it as more of a musical instrument than a piece of sculpture. But seeing it set up out there, I guess it’s both! 

Open house + open farm as part of VT Open Farm Week in August

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Come visit!  As part of Vermont's Open Farm Week (August 13-19), Cobb Hill Cohousing and Cedar Mountain Farm are hosting a Wednesday evening open house!  On August 15th, from 4-7pm, stop by to say hi, have a tour of our eco-village, see how we grow shiitake mushrooms, pet an Icelandic lamb or Jersey calf, see the Fjord draft horses, check for eggs in the chicken coop, and taste cheese and maple syrup.  Meet the cows with the Hartland 4H, taste dairy products, and help trim and groom a cow!

Taco's Tacos from nearby New Hampshire will be on-site with a food truck and delicious tacos for purchase featuring Cedar Mountain Farm beef and veggies. 

Tastings, tours, and tacos...what could be better?!

Dumpling Extravaganza

Cobb Hill residents were treated to a Chinese jiaotze feast this past weekend. We were welcomed by Jenny Macaulay, along with her mom Marian and her aunt Nancy, to learn/share/feast in one of their most special family traditions. 

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Marian and Nancy’s mother was Chinese and they honor that side of their family by having huge jiaotze feasts at their family gatherings and big holidays. Their family dumpling record is about 800.

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This was no dumpling-as-an-appetizer event!  Cobb Hill folks managed to wrap and eat 440 dumplings – along with fried rice, stir-fried veggies, green salad, and a rice noodle salad. 

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Part of the joy of this meal is making them together. A labor of love! In their family there is a "rule" you can't eat more than you wrap :) No such rule for this meal, but we enjoyed our community time learning about one of our families’ traditions.  It took our community pitching in to pull it off. Thank you Jenny, Marian and Nancy for such a delightful, yummy experience. 

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Text and photos by Coleen

Spring 2018 on the Hill

As we write this, there are still piles of snow on the ground in some areas, and mud in others - March in Vermont!  Spring is beginning to show itself in various ways at Cobb Hill.

We welcomed the equinox and the coming light and warmth, the change of seasons, with a small ritual:  the lighting of an orange candle in a special spot.  It is east facing, partially enclosed and protected, near the bottom of an oversized sledding hill and pasture rock wall border, which divides the property from south to north. The energy of spring is sensed to arrive from the east with the rising increase in sunlight; the lighted candle represents willing reception to this renewal, a rising to the occasion.  In this way, we celebrate the new season and the spirit of the land we humbly reside on.

The sap started to flow out of the sugarbush well before the first day of spring.  By the time the last tap was set, the sap was flowing, producing 700 gallons that night (February 15th)!  Despite the inevitable weather and equipment challenges of the six week season (leaks, broken pump, freezing and thawing, snow storms), we're on track to reach 500 gallons of delicious maple syrup this year.  A week ago, local pre-schoolers visited the sugar house, learning about the process, and even trudging up the hill to see the maple trees.  It's a sweet time of year here and across Vermont.

Spring also means new life!  Eager gardeners have begun sowing seeds in greenhouses and basements up and down the hill and many calves and lambs have recently been born in the barn.  Fourteen lambs were born to eight ewes in just over a week (lots of time in the barn for the humans!) and are all doing well - see adorable video!  Whipped Cream, the lone Holstein in the herd of Jerseys, gave birth to her first heifer.  See her and other Cobb Hill baby animals in a recent edition of the Vermont Standard.

Snow Days & Saturdays at the Earthen Oven

In 2016, Jesse finished building a beautiful and practical earthen, outdoor oven for the community. Now that Jesse's retired, the oven is getting more use than ever. This winter, Jesse has hosted Wiener Parties on every snow day where eager parents and children gather to roast hotdogs, pizza and other lunchtime nibbles. 

In the last few months, Jesse has also started regular community oven firing days on Saturdays. Households converge throughout the day to bake pizza dough, loaves of bread, baked beans, naan, pita bread and stews of all of kinds. The oven has added another way for us to connect and celebrate together as well as allow the impromptu  joy of getting together.


The Joy of Winter

Reijo playing in freshly fallen snow.

Reijo playing in freshly fallen snow.

In August, our family of four moved to Cobb Hill from the Hudson Valley of New York. While we had some other winter lovers in our old community, people mostly complained about the snow and the cold and eagerly awaited spring. Moving north to Vermont has been a great opportunity for us to further embrace the season along with our four and six year old kids.

Lila running down one of Cobb Hill's many hills.

Lila running down one of Cobb Hill's many hills.

One of the biggest joys of living at Cobb Hill so far has been all the winter opportunities right on site- miles of groomed cross country ski trails, extensive woodlands for snowshoeing, as the name suggests, plenty of hills for sledding, and ever growing mounds of snow to climb, slide down and burrow through. After the first snowfall in early December, I remember looking groggily out our window at our neighbor and his 9 year old daughter sledding before 8 am. Later, two ten years olds passed by on cross country skis. Over the course of the day, various community members of all ages jumped on sleds, slipped into snowshoes, and strapped on their cross country skis heading to the still ungroomed trails in celebration of the arrival of winter. Cobb Hill and the broader community clearly felt the same way about winter as we do.

A recent NY Times article about a nearby Vermont town claimed, “The town’s collective philosophy is that youth sports exist to develop a lasting love for physical activity and the outdoors, life skills and friendships that last forever.” Cobb Hill’s collective enthusiasm for the outdoors and enjoyment of winter has embodied this philosophy and and it’s been contagious.

Lilja, age six, gaining confidence during her first day alpine skiing

Lilja, age six, gaining confidence during her first day alpine skiing

For example, my six year old thought downhill skiing “looked too scary.” Several other kids kindly clarified that she would be on gentle slopes to learn and enthusiastically encouraged her. After her second day skiing she proclaimed, “Because I am such a good skier, I got to go all the way to the top of the mountain.” As a family, it brings us joy to be outside together but it also feels right from a parenting perspective. Our kids are learning life skills that build confidence and community and will bring health and fun for years to come.

Reijo, age four, looking out at Mt. Ascutney from the top of the Sheep Pasture- a short snow shoe from our doorstep.

Reijo, age four, looking out at Mt. Ascutney from the top of the Sheep Pasture- a short snow shoe from our doorstep.

Starting tomorrow, the weather is supposed to turn unseasonably warm. Trying to enjoy the last of the snow, my four year old and I headed out the door in snowshoes. After about fifteen minutes, we ended up atop the sheep pasture with gorgeous views of Mt. Ascutney and the mountains across the Connecticut River. The opportunity to hop out our door into winter has been deeply gratifying and has allowed us to explore the joy of winter with two small children.

Cobb Hill Winter Woods

By Karyn Stack

Some might think that not much goes on in the woods during the cold and quiet winter months, here in Vermont, but to the contrary.   I just got back from a walk with my trusted dog Gillie, after having seen some new, neatly piled mushroom logs that my husband Bill and the other Shiitake Stooges cut in preparation for the Spring Inoculation Party.  Ten minutes prior, I noticed small deer tracks on the Snowshoe trail I had cut weeks ago above the Sheep Pasture and use most days.  Makes me smile to think that I have made winter walking a bit easier for the young four-leggeds.

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Earlier in the week, I caught a glimpse of and heard, one of my old forest friends, the grand Pileated Woodpecker.  Days before that, I was treated to a Barred Owl conversation, between two who were hooting from a distance. 

More than a month ago, while cruising along in my Snowshoes, I spooked up what I believe was a Grouse.  I also regularly see remnants from a squirrel/chipmunk meal, scattered across the snow.

I like the independence of snowshoeing. Really, I can roam anywhere in our woods to create a trail, making it a bit easier the next time I venture out.

Sometimes I walk with friends or run into others while I wander, but many days it’s just Gillie and me.  She’s great company and spending more time in our woods, I have come to feel very comfortable and at home out there.