spring – at last

Pots and dirt. Wonderful!

Jeanne is so happy, the thermometer read fifty today and is predicted to be seventy by Sunday, she reacted by hauling her plant pots out of the garage and has been fiddling with them all day.

My horizontal mill, every guy’s dream.

The job for me, called for to balance out her activity, was to move a large milling machine from our basement into the garage.  About thirty feet was all I had to move it but it weighs a ton, literally, two thousand pounds give or take.  Five years ago I kept it as the only machine from our old business thinking I could use it, and I have but now it doesn’t go with the decor.  So inch by inch out it went using a crowbar and some rollers for my high tech method.  My next job will be plowing up a spot for a vegetable garden, but that can wait a week.

This weekend the boat gets uncovered, that’s a sure sign of spring.  Another is the mosquito that’s been flying around the house… doesn’t take long for them to come alive.


Our town of Ira recently organized an historical society.  We got involved and have high hopes for the group.  For one of the smaller towns in Vermont, Ira has a long rich history, some that has been recorded and much yet to be discovered.

Ira Central School, no longer used.
Ira Central School, no longer used.

We have lived here for thirty-two years and love the place.  It will be interesting to be a part of the new society’s progress. A very extensive website is online:  http://www.iravhs.com/history.html

Ira Town Hall, a classic structure of the nineteenth century.
Ira Town Hall, a classic structure of the nineteenth century.



cold cash

Be Happy! It’s only money…..

After ten years we found ourselves at the car dealer looking, and gasping at the price, at a new-to-us replacement for our deceased SUV.  This time our focus was on Subaru which has the best – that we discovered in Consumer Reports – reputation for lack of problems.  There’s some fantasy for you.  So after much haggling Jeanne has a dark blue Outback to drive.  The little car, I have to admit, is comfortable and has enough power to get up our steep driveway.  It will take some getting used to: It feels like we’re just clearing the ground after the high ride in the old Explorer and my pickup.

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Just a dusting of powder.

We had a dusting of snow last night, just enough to cover the ground. Now the hills and fields are bright white again and more appropriate for February.

But it is still an open winter.

Once in a great while, maybe over a dozen or even fifteen winters, very little or no snow will fall in Vermont.  When that happens it is said to be an ‘open winter’ and refers to an old, and still widespread belief that goes: “Open winter, open grave”.  It is said that more people died in open winters than during those with a normal snowfall.

Probably the number of people who passed on in a winter that had little or no snow was not much different than in other years but an open winter was something one could blame for death.  Without snow there is more dust visible in the air, and with more dust one can assume there are more germs.

That is one explaination. But when the old tale began not much was known about microbes so we can’t read too much into that theory.

Another source for the story may have been one of perception.  Cemetery workers, lacking power equipment, couldn’t excavate graves in the frozen ground and bodies had to be stored in their caskets until the soil thawed in Spring.  Most cemeteries had a cold storage cellar, and without deep snow hindering the horse and wagon people could bring a loved one’s coffin there instead of leaving it out in their wood shed.

The coffins would have stacked up noticably in the mausoleum giving rise to the fear of an open winter.

Or – just maybe – the story is spot on.

-20 F
-20 F

Stay warm!


harvest the forest

Click on any picture for a larger view.

Our neighbors, Ed and Betty, are having their trees harvested by a local logging company. It has been amazing to see how much wood was cut down and hauled away over the past three weeks.

logging.2Truck load after truck load of pine and ash logs, some of them impressively large, went off to the mill. logging.4The hillside is mostly bare now except for crushed branches and some small trees. It would make a decent ski slope.


We are thinking of asking the loggers if they might take trees on our side but we don’t want a clear-cut. logging.3

Ed’s land will grow back quickly with saplings and blackberry bushes, good for whitetail deer.


Monday we encountered a minor disaster. Just as Jeanne and I were leaving the house to go shopping in Burlington our phone rang with news from the marina that the plastic tarps covering our sailboat had blown apart. The marina is about sixty-five miles away and was right on our way. We got there at noon, in blowing snow with the temperature just above zero to find Walkabout half uncovered with the shredded tarps flapping in the wind. I tied up what I could of the flailing ends and figured that I could order new tarps and properly cover the boat up a few days later.

Then I turned to leave.

“Bob”, my wife cried, “there’s something terribly wrong with the car!”

Out from under our Ford poured a hot stream of red fluid. I could see it was coming from the transmission and so much was on the ground that there couldn’t be much left in it. Knowing there was little chance of success I put the car in gear.

Nope, no go. We were stranded.

But we know the folks in the marina very well and they were helpful and sympathetic. In the warmth of the marina’s shop we checked around on their computer for a towing company and within two hours a flatbed truck came from Rutland and hauled us home.

Home safe and sound. It was then that I discovered a big puddle of red ATF on the garage floor and a thin trail down the driveway. It had been leaking for sixty-five miles! If I had only spotted it our misadventure could have been avoided.

Since then we (sold) that car and are looking for another. It was old and the cost of repair was more than the car was worth – but losing it still stings.

Lucky for us our boat needed attention or we could have been lost in the middle of nowhere!


The temperature, as I mentioned, dropped below zero and we tried this little trick for fun.


If you throw a cupful of hot water into the air it will freeze before hitting the ground. Why the water has to be hot I don’t know but it does.snowmaking



Two-O-One-Six! I wonder how long it will take for that number to sink in?

Winter arrived in Ira last week with a wet snowfall that soon turned to sleet and misty freezing rain making a solid white crust all around. window_crWith the previous month of unseasonably warm days the ground had not had a chance to freeze so it’s surprising that the snow didn’t melt. Jeanne took her Ford Explorer out to the store and couldn’t make it back up the driveway through the slick slush, so we left it halfway up our road and only got it back in the garage last night after enough road dirt was exposed by two sunny days. The car may stay put from now ’til spring.

Thursday I had a chance to visit with my granddaughter. We went ice-skating in the afternoon and topped it off with cups of hot chocolate. Maria is becoming a fine young lady and I’m so very pleased. Her brother Christian, now in his senior year of high-school, told me that he’s been accepted at one college and has applied at two others. He wants to have a medical career, and I think he will.

At the Spartan Arena, Rutland, VT

Being a grandfather has its rewards.

Speaking of medicine…

DNA, etc.A_B_Z_DNA_balls

Of late, manipulation of the genetic code contained in the elegant structure of DNA has produced changes in plants, animals and, imminently, humans that marketeers claim “enhance” the subject organism. Some food crops have been re-engineered or genetically modified to be resistant to pests and disease, to have more yield. Faster maturing GMO animals and fish are coming to market. All beneficial things we are told. People are having their individual genetic make-up mapped and analyzed for possible proclivities like cancer or organ weaknesses. It all sounds wonderful. Patent attorneys are reaping great rewards protecting new discoveries in genetics for their research company clients. Patenting lifeforms. It’s a huge, new market.

I wouldn’t venture a guess as to whether this is good or ultimately not, but like many who appreciate all that science has given mankind, I do harbor a measure of skepticism. After all, there are plenty of glaring examples of well intentioned scientific study gone bad after the sale: Weapons of Mass Destruction, cigarettes, gas fracking, transfats, to recall a few.

Is there a substantial difference between enumerating the biological code in DNA and like chromosomal substances, and fully understanding the chain of events that follow its manipulation? What will these keys unlock, beyond the immediate result, when modifying an organism that natural evolution meticulously produced? Produced within the context of untold environmental variables over eons of time.

It seems to this layman that somebody has found a mysterious secret codebook lying on the sidewalk and now is hard at work tumbling combinations and vigorously selling his concoctions meanwhile claiming all side effects have been found and eliminated. I don’t regard my thinking as Luddite, but I believe a fast march to profits is dangerous, ultimately to everyone. Like all pots of gold – those that find them always wish the pot was bigger.







merry christmas


Oh Boy It’s Christmas!

Dear friends, I will keep this short and sweet.

A year ago Jeanne and I were heading back from the Caribbean islands on Walkabout, far from friends and family, away for the second half of our great sailing adventure. There was a time or two on that long trip when we felt really homesick but the excitement of the ocean diminished that – except at Christmas when we both wished we were back at home.


Now we are here in Vermont and even though we have had no snow Christmas is again like it always was. So, we hope your holidays are happy, filled with good cheer and the season brings family and friends to your side. And that you, like us, anticipate a wonderful year to come.



If I had a chance to do it over – this is going back to 1983 when we built our house – I would listen to my wife better than I did. She wanted kitchen cabinets, lots of them just like her mother had, and I thought what I provided was plenty. It was not enough and I had been getting the same complaint ever since. In truth, cabinet space in our kitchen is a bit limited, but I respond, “Think about our boat, we do fine on her!” … And the battle raged on.

A few weeks ago, fretting over what to give my dear wife for a Christmas present, I thought, why not build her a big overflow cabinet and then she can make room in those little kitchen cabinets that she’s been whining about for so long? Where to put it popped into my head almost as fast: The sun room is right by the kitchen and has a corner just perfect for it. Then came hours and hours of looking for ideas, sketching and measuring followed by trips to the lumber yard for the proper boards and hardware before I could start. A few moments of midnight inspiration came along too, can’t discount that.

cabinet.1Then it was time to stop measuring and start cutting.

I designed the pine cabinet thirty-two inches on a side, and almost seven feet tall. Everything is either square or cut at forty-five degrees, except the front columns which needed boards ripped at twenty-two and a half degrees then glued together. That was the extent of the math required.

This cabinet has seven shelves counting the top giving it over twenty square feet of space. cabinet.3It has two doors on three hinges secured with magnetic latches. Since Jeanne and I had to carry the finished product around the house and up stairs I used a minimum of framing and backing on the cabinet to keep the weight down and lots of stiffeners, glue and screws for strength.cabinet.2

It now stands in it’s corner like it grew there.


Happiness is a pleased spouse.


black friday

Friday, 11/27/2015

And no, I am not going shopping.  I saw the look in peoples eyes on Wednesday when I went to the grocery store for a jar of little white onions, they had that madness in them and I just won’t go out today.  At least not to a store.  Maybe to the ice rink for some exercise: Round and round with the kids.  Let me tell you – ice-skating is the most economical way to have fun in town.  Rutland City should be very proud of its Giorgetti Arena in Pine Hill Park.  It is amazing how far they have come in just a few years.  After a donation of ice-making machinery and closing in the arena it has developed into a first-class facility.  The Recreation and Parks Department offers public skating, hockey, skating classes, even curling all winter.  For a senior the price is right, and some days it’s free!

Jeanne and I enjoyed Thanksgiving day with my brother Arnie and his wife Janet and their two grown girls Madalyn and Emily.   Madalyn is in her last year of veterinary school, Emily is just finishing college and we are all very proud of them.  We ate and ate and in the late afternoon hiked through the woods, wearing red of course, to work the heavy meal off a bit.  It was nice for us having a traditional Thanksgiving after missing the last two.  But this turkey dinner was the second one for us, all of us, in less than a week.  dinner@meadows.2

Last Sunday we gathered with our Mom at her care-home, The Meadows, in Rutland and enjoyed the fact that we could be with her again on one of her favorite times of the year.  Her spirits were up and it was obvious that she was having fun, a break in her routine perhaps, so we had a good time too.

Eleanor, Emily and Madalyn Kirbach


The weather has been unusually warm for November, today it’s back in the fifties with a pleasant southerly wind, sun and blue-ish skies.

We’re waiting for the other shoe to drop.

a rare event

Rising from the breakfast table this morning I caught a glimpse of an animal passing by the corner of our house.  It was a cat of some sort and I soon realized it was a large bobcat, not a regular visitor certainly as I had only seen one other in the wild in my life.  In a stage whisper I called Jeanne to move slowly and come see it.


The large bobcat had just killed a gray squirrel that was dripping blood as it dangled from his jaws.  Less than a hundred feet from our sun room windows the cat crouched down on the lawn and began to eat.  We could see the hapless squirrel’s tail swishing back and forth but it obviously was very dead and the tail motion was from the vigorous chewing of the hungry bobcat.


Looking for more
Looking for more

The big cat seemed oblivious to us while he devoured his squirrel. I fetched my camera and shot as many pictures of him as I could through the window glass.  My long lens got the best results.  It’s not a thing you expect to see and it made our day.

A last look
One last look

I turn seventy-one tomorrow, and it has been five years since my wife and I retired from our business…  Where does the time go?

I’ll tell you this: Wherever it goes it goes fast.

But I’ve had more satisfaction and enjoyment in these past five years than I’d had in a long time.  Sailing on the wide open sea, visiting islands in the sun, meeting fascinating people and then returning to our home in the cool, green mountains of Vermont.  I’m a lucky guy and the years just don’t matter.


photos: copyright 2015 Robert P. Kirbach (bobkirbach@gmail.com)

white gold

Just a dusting.

There has been a marked swing toward colder weather this past week with a few flakes of  snow sticking to the grass last Saturday afternoon when a blast of Canadian air swooped down on us.  Nothing out of the ordinary in Vermont of course – where would we be without snow?  It didn’t last much more than an hour melting as quickly as it came down but it made us realize that serious weather is nearly upon us.


Killington, the ski area, which is about fifteen miles from here turned on their guns, made a little snow and opened for the season.  They do it every year just to be first.  We laugh but skiers from down-country believe it.  Today the temperature is in the fifties.

Tinmouth, VT

On Sunday we took a ride for one last look at the Fall foliage before  wind and rain knocks the leaves off the trees.  This year has been the best for color that we can remember.  We drove south through the little towns of Tinmouth and Pawlet then crossed over the New York border into Granville before heading back home.  It’s remarkable how much more beautiful the scenery is in Vermont. 😉

Jeanne and I finished covering up our sailboat after winterizing it’s plumbing and engine for the season.  It had been two years since we had had to do the job and it took us five full days, being complicated by an accumulation of Stuff that had to be brought home.  We had all summer to have done that chore but of course didn’t and remnants of our life on board remained hidden in lockers and drawers all throughout the boat.  Seashells, strange seedpods, maps and pamphlets for tourists have been gathered up and now are here at home waiting for disposal, or more likely just a new cubbyhole for their final resting place.  We’ve come to the conclusion that our heirs can clean it all up…


The new cat I wrote about last is becoming less and less skittish around us.  She may make a good house cat yet.     Halloween is nine days away and she looks the part.

Oh, before I forget to mention it, the re-caulked woodstove works great!

rpk, 10/22/2015

life in the country

Fall has arrived.  This year in our part of Vermont the tree leaves have suddenly turned brilliant, some maples are so red they hurt your eyes.  The woods around our house is like an impressionist’s canvas.  A week ago we were starting to think that there would be little color but thankfully we were wrong, it is one of the finest displays ever.


The past few nights the thermometer dropped into the thirties and we even had frost, not a killing one but frost nonetheless and the advancing cold is hurrying us along with our chores.  I had been piling up brush and other wood debris in the small field behind our house for over a year and the time was ripe to burn it.  I got permission from our town fire marshal Wednesday morning and by noon had a rip-roaring blaze going that continued all day.  burning.2By evening the pile had been reduced to a scorching hot mound of coals with thick white smoke pouring out of it from soggy pine logs still smouldering underneath.  That went on all night and the next day.  In fact, it’s still emitting small threads of smoke like a dormant volcano.  The smoke was so thick that it penetrated the house even with tightly closed windows.  My mistake, I should never have left the pile go so long before burning it.

Walkabout, our sailboat, was hauled by the yard this week and now is on her stands waiting to be winterized.  She had been in water since we launched last November down in Grenada and her hull was thick with barnacles and weeds.  No wonder we couldn’t win a race.  So now she will get a long winter’s break and some needed maintenance.

Jeanne got her wish and we have a new house-cat.  Pet angel Kristi Koch brought us a one year old black female feline two weeks ago, much to my wife’s delight, and it’s taken that long for the little thing to get used to us and come out from hiding under a bed all day.  lulu.2Kristi, bless her, takes in kittens and older cats for rehabilitation and socialization and this was one of those “damaged” animals.  This one shows signs of mental healing, perhaps, and may make a decent pet, eventually.  She, the cat, has six toes on each front paw, handy for walking on snow.  I called her “Digit” but Jeanne says “Lulu” is better.

Our family lost Betty Dougherty Tiemann who quietly passed away this week from old age.  She was my mother’s younger sister, the third of four girls who grew up in New Jersey.  Aunt Betty was a nurse, taking up the profession at an age when most people would be looking forward to retirement, and sticking with it for the rest of her working life.  She was our ‘no nonsense’ aunt and very much loved.