Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Chilly Out

Brr. Temps in the teens today. I did my walk -- quickly. Then had hot chocolate.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Chickadee Bath

I caught this little one having the world's fastest bath this weekend. There were several others lined up waiting for the puddle.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Panic in the Night

So yesterday was the first day in weeks that my family had no commitments, so there was a great deal of much belated yard work going on, with the help of Alaria's strong arms and Scott's chainsaw prowess. Many low-hanging limbs and storm-downed branches were cleared away, and the result was that a lot of mice and moles suddenly became homeless. While I sympathize with their plight, we got a rare treat to see, at dusk, what I'm pretty sure was an immature Coopers Hawk actually walking around the lawn outside the kitchen door, stalking his dinner while we were eating ours.

Later that night, however, things took a different turn. I was alone in the house (having been abandoned by Dennis who chose to enjoy a night out at a musical with Alaria). I was writing and listening to soft Celtic music and doing some much needed relaxing with the kitties for company, when the night was rent by the ferocious sound of claws tearing at the roof and the side of the house.

One cat immediately bolted under the nearest bed and the other, my huntress, began to pace from window to window with her back hunched up. I froze, not even breathing, as silence fell again. But just when I was starting to think that maybe I'd imagined it, the sound was repeated. Giant claws, tearing at the roof. So close and loud that it could almost be in the attic. Definitely not squirrels. At least a raccoon, if not a bear. Or a Bigfoot. Then silence again.

I must have sent up a panicked scream on the astral, because within minutes, two friends texted me. One tried to convince me that a mere doornob would be enough to stop this creature, if it was in fact in the attic. The other reminded me that I had lots of experience in the woods. After further discussion during which I absolutely did NOT exaggerate the situation, they both agreed that Bigfoot was a viable option and suggested that I flee not only the house but run as far as the west coast. There was even a hint that I might become a bride of Sasquatch.

Finally, my valiant lord and protector returned home. When I tearfully and tremblingly begged him to go outside armed with a flashlight and confront the creature with glowing eyes that crouched on the rooftop, he very succinctly said, "I ain't going out there." He proceeded to turn on the TV, which was showing nothing but left over Halloween movies.

So I took myself and both kitties to bed and spent the night with my head under the covers.

Upon reflection, I first surmised that what I heard was in fact an owl, attracted by the displaced  moles and mice. But knowing that owls are stealthy and silent hunters, and that there are many around here and I've never heard sounds like that before, I'm wondering if maybe the Coopers Hawk returned. I know that hawks do not normally hunt by night, but perhaps this one couldn't resist the feast and was continuing to hunt by the lights shining out the windows. There were definitely TALONS up there.

I checked around outside this morning at first light, and there was no sign of ripped shingles or scarred siding or bloody corpses. However, I remain apprehensive. If this is repeated tonight, and there is no sign of me tomorrow, then you can assume that I am either being held captive by Bigfoot in the Wilderness of Westford, or I have fled for the west coast and am living in luxury in the Hollywood Hills in a house with a pink car in the driveway.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Free Press Article

Here is a link to the Burlington Free Press article for which I was interviewed. It's very nice, and the museum appreciates the attention.

Click Here

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Welcome to my blog! If you're just popping over here from the Burlington Free Press, I'm thrilled that you're here. I am so appreciative of the attention they're giving to my father, Bob Spear, and to the Birds of Vermont Museum. I was thrilled that they wanted to interview me and publish the first essay in my Bird Carver's Daughter Series. I hope it made you smile.

And, not to blatantly advertise or anything, but if you enjoyed my essay, you might be interested in my two young adult novels. Both are available from Amazon.com.as paperbacks or eBooks. Here's a little information about them and links to where you can get them:

Shane and Cody -- two high school seniors, one growing up lonely and abused on a struggling horse farm, the other a privileged sports star. Each carefully hides a secret truth about himself. Both are unaware of the undercurrents beneath the surface of their quiet Vermont town, currents from the society hidden in the woods, by the streams, in the mountains, and even in the air around them.

Shane and Cody -- both chosen to become part of the culture hidden nearby, but chosen by opposite sides in an elemental struggle that has been underway since the beginning of time. It's up to them to forge a bond between the two groups despite the danger, not just to unite them, but to save them all from the dangers posed by humans who are destroying the world that keeps everyone alive.

Shane and Cody -- who must find their own peace with each other in a world more complicated than they've ever dreamed. A world which is also more wonderful than they've ever imagined.

Buy it HERE

Gareth's life is violent, frightening, and lonely. Abandoned by his parents and left to a series of harsh foster homes, he becomes as tough as the scar on his cheek. Death and destruction follow him. Sometimes, it actually seems like people are trying to kill him. By the time Gareth is in high school, friends are a luxury he can do without.

But deep inside, Gareth is tender, compassionate, and very gay. The only living soul Gareth lets into his heart is a silent young man who keeps saving his life. Every time Gareth gets a good look at his guardian, the man mysteriously vanishes. Does he even exist? Gareth isn't sure, until the day at school when his world implodes. Teachers suddenly know way more about him than they should. His secret guardian lies wounded on the darkroom floor. Before Gareth knows it, he and his guardian are on the run. Not only is Gareth more important than he ever dreamed, but the future of an entire planet depends on him. It's going to take all the courage and love Gareth has to face his destiny.

Buy it HERE

Monday, October 27, 2014


I was just interviewed by the Burlington Free Press for a story they're going to do about my father. And they want to publish one of my Carver's Daughter pieces to go with it! I'm so honored.

I am just stunned by the public outpouring over my father, who was amazing, of course, but just wanted educate people about nature and did so through a knack he had for making wood come alive.

I am feeling very much hugged.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Obituary


  • "The eath has lost a very talented man. His carving was..."
    - Leona Ross

ROBERT N. SPEAR JR. - HUNTINGTON - Robert N. Spear Jr., 94, passed away on Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014, surrounded by his family and friends. Bob was born in Burlington in 1920 to Robert N. Spear Sr. and Dorothy (Morrby) Spear. He spent much of his childhood roaming the woods around Wyben, Mass. Bob's family moved back to Vermont following the death of his mother in 1934. Bob went on to graduate from Winooski High School in 1937, and spent most of his late teens and early 20s farming with his father, except for a break in 1945 and 1946, when he served in the US Navy during World War II. In 1952, Bob began a 21-year career with General Electric. After retiring, he founded and directed the Green Mountain Audubon Nature Center in Huntington until 1978. Then, in an effort to portray birds in a medium which brings them alive, Bob began carving fulltime. In 1987, with the help of his life partner, Gale Lawrence, family, and friends, he opened the Birds of Vermont Museum. This project became the capstone of his career. Throughout his life, he was an avid advocate for the conservation and preservation of Vermont's wild spaces, including being a member of the Camel's Hump Park Commission and the Green Mountain Profile Committee. Bob wrote, "Birds of Vermont," one of the first books documenting the species of birds that live in Vermont. Over the course of his career, Bob won many awards including the Wildlife Conservation Award given by the National Wildlife Federation in 1966, the Science Educator's Award given by the Vermont Science Teachers Association in 1979, the Governor's Heritage Award for Traditional Artist in 2006, and the Olga Hallock Award for Community Service in 2014. Bob loved hiking, canoeing, cross-country skiing, ice skating, photography, studying the Civil War, and, of course, bird-watching. He was a self-taught musician and not only played but made several guitars and a mandolin. In his youth, he built and sailed his own iceboat on Lake Champlain with his friend, Charles Smith, and his skills as a roller-skater at Clarey's Bayside in Colchester were legendary. His compassion, gentleness, and sense of humor permeated every aspect of his life and touched everyone who knew him in deep and unforgettable ways. Bob was predeceased by his parents; and sister, Betty Bessette. He is survived by his life partner, Gale Lawrence; his daughter, Kari Jo Spear; son-in-law, Dennis Lanpher; granddaughters, Alaria Grella and Crystal Lanpher; grandson-in-law, Scott Grella; and many, many friends. Bob's family would like to invite everyone to an ice-cream social which will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014, at the Birds of Vermont Museum, 900 Sherman Hollow Road, Huntington, VT 05462. Parking will be limited, please carpool as much as possible. Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.lavignefuneralhome.com. Arrangements are under the care and direction of the LaVigne Funeral Home and Cremation Service. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Birds of Vermont Museum
Funeral Home
Lavigne Funeral Home and Cremation Service
132 Main St WinooskiVT 05404
(802) 655-3480
- See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/burlingtonfreepress/obituary.aspx?n=robert-n-spear&pid=172910238&fhid=19660#sthash.eUdWU6pq.dpuf

Monday, September 29, 2014

Velvet Ear Pond

Some foliage from yesterday.

When I was a little kid, my parents used to hike the Long Trail, which runs from one end of Vermont to the other. One of their favorite hikes was to climb what they called Velvet Ear Mountain, overlooking Velvet Ear Pond. I remember thinking that was such a lovely name. It wasn't until I was in college and my now husband mentioned climbing something called Belvedere Mountain, overlooking Belvedere Pond. I started to get a sinking feeling, and I asked him if that mountain was on the Long Trail. When he said it was, I realized that I had heard my parents wrong, and Velvet Ear Mountain and Velvet Ear Pond existed only in my own mind.

But they are as lovely as I imagined they were. To me, this will always be Velvet Ear Pond.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Carver's Daughter Number 8, My Dead Arm

Here's the next article in my Carver's Daughter series. From what I hear, this one's been getting a lot of chuckles. No idea why. It's meant to be completely serious. People just don't get what I went through as a kid with a museum in the family!

To read it, click HERE


Friday, August 22, 2014

Video for My Dad

Here's a link to a new video I made for the Birds of Vermont Museum about my father, Bob Spear.  Enjoy!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Diabetic Kitty

So after a summer of not quite acting like himself, our kitty Whisper has been diagnosed with diabetes. We began the two shots a day regime this weekend, and so far, so good. He is just a sweetheart about the whole thing, twining around my ankles while I get things ready, no running and hiding and giving me a hard time. Not even the injections are a big deal. And afterwards, he settles back down for a nap.

Durning my injection lesson, the vet said that I was a natural with a needle and asked if I'd had any prior experience. The writer in me wanted to launch into a story about my wild youth and bad habits (those of you who knew me then, stop laughing), but I managed to hold back and tell the truth -- I had to give myself shots for a week after knee surgery to prevent blood clots. But I will say it's one thing to give myself shots and something else to stick a needle into a kitty I love. But one does what one needs to do. The every twelve hour schedule, regulated kitty meal times, and having to do it at six in the morning every day for the indefinite future is a little daunting, but again, one does what ones needs to do for family, and he is most definitely part of mine.

But if anybody has any experience with diabetic kitties, let me know! Thanks.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Lanterns lit by Elijah's classmates formed their own brief constellations over the Davis Farm last night.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Sad Anniversary

A year ago this weekend, my family was devastated by the death of Elijah Davis, my daughter Crystal's boyfriend. They had been dating since their sophomore year -- they were solid and committed and loving. Good kids, involved in community and music, making good decisions and full of dreams of college and the Marines. They had just been apart for two weeks, eternity for teenagers, while Crystal was dancing in a summer program at the college she would be attending in the fall. Dennis and I had been away for a week in Florida to visit a friend who was very ill. We picked her up in Massachusetts on our way home.

When we reached the house, I was stunned to see the damage wrought by a storm while we'd been gone. Tree limbs littered our side yard, and a tree had fallen across the patio and barely missed the house. I was outside moving debris off the patio when Elijah pulled in. I heard his car, I heard his footsteps racing up the stairs, I heard Crystal's squeal of delight. I heard Alaria laugh and say, "Okay, group hug!" I stuck my head in the door and said hello. Elijah came out and looked at the fallen trees. I noticed how the sun had been bleaching his red hair all summer -- he looked tan and fit and every inch the Marine he was about to become. He told me that he would come over that week and help clear away the trees. I had finally gotten him to stop calling me "Mrs. Spear." My students did that enough. But the respect in his voice was always there. I thanked him and told him we would very much appreciate his help. Dennis and I had always jokingly told our girls they needed to find strong young men to help us out. And they both did.

And then Crystal and Elijah left for the drive-in.

I went to bed early, exhausted from our trip. Around midnight, Dennis came to bed. I asked if Crystal was home. He said she was.

The next thing I remember was the phone ringing. It was four in the morning. It had stopped ringing before I found it. I was just getting back into bed when it rang again. I answered that time. It was Elijah's mother. She asked if Crystal was home and safe. I said she was, beginning to get a horrible, horrible feeling. And then she told me that Elijah hadn't made it home.

I don't remember what I said, but Crystal and Alaria heard the tone in my voice -- it woke them way in their room. Having to tell Crystal was the hardest thing I've ever done. I remember saying over and over, "I don't know how to tell you this." And then I did. And it was worse than I imagined it could be.

The broken trees lay untouched and unnoticed beside the house for several weeks until some of our kind neighbors quietly made them go away for us.

To mark the anniversary, there will be a fund raising event for the Elijah Davis Memorial Fund at the Davis Farm in Jericho on August 7th at five o'clock. Free tickets are available at the Jericho Country Store. There will be music and food. Dennis and Alaria will be playing with their band, Maple Creek. All are welcome, and any donations much appreciated.

Fir more information, click HERE. Thank you

Monday, June 30, 2014


Here are a couple photos of a lovely day trip to Sutton, Canada last week with some friends. We had fun exploring the very European feeling town -- galleries, interesting shops -- and eating at the yummy La Fontaine. The flowers around the outside patio and the desserts were amazing. So glad I got my enhanced driver's liscence and could make the trip!

Sunday, June 29, 2014


June 22, 2014

Alaria is at least the third bride in the family to be living at the farm on her wedding day. I'm afraid I didn't take many photos myself, it was such a busy day. But these are my favorites. There will be more when the professional photographer gets them to us.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Rainbow Book Reviews

Here's a link to an interview I did recently with Rainbow Book Reviews. Thanks so much for making this happen, Serena!

Click HERE

And here's a link to my author page there:

Click HERE


It's lilac time at last! I've been dreaming of these all winter. I wish I could share the smell, too.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Garganey Duck

Okay, Garganey Ducks are supposed to be in Southern Europe or Australia right now, on their way north from Australia. I heard this morning through the rare bird alert that one had shown up at the Ethan Allen Homestead in Burlington, Vermont, about ten minutes from my high school. The minute the bell rang at the end of the day, obviously, I charged over there, unfortunately only with my pair of old, beat up binoculars that live in my car for just such emergencies, and my little camera.

I followed the directions along a muddy path, over two brooks, and to a flooded cornfield where there were four other birders standing in the edge of the woods, scanning the pool with spotting scopes. There were about two dozen ducks on the pool, but no Garganey. It had been seen last evening and again this morning, but it was scared off with all the other ducks by some idiot who called himself a photographer who went charging out across the field to get a photo and hence ruined the chances for anyone else who might come later to see a life bird. DON'T get me started on the ethics of birding.

Anyway, I had a nice chat with a man from Maine who'd driven all night, some folks from Burlington who'd been there all day, a couple from New York who had been there at noon, been so disappointed not the find the duck that they'd gone into Burlington and bought a new car to raise their spirits (yes, I'm really serious) and had now come back with their new wheels. We were all hoping that the Garganey would be among the ducks that were slowly dropping down in groups of three to five to spend the night. We would chat until more ducks dropped in, then silence would fall as we scanned the newcomers, then we would chat again. And then, after an hour and fifteen minutes, one of the guys with a scope hissed, "The Garganey's here!"

And we got VERY excited.

Unfortunately, my old binoculars weren't up to the job, but the folks with scopes made sure all of us without scopes got a good look. And so I got a life list bird today that's so rare it's not even in any of my bird books and has only been seen once before in Vermont, back in 1988. 

And I know for darn sure my scope and good camera are going to school with me tomorrow!

The flooded cornfield with no magnification

The best zoom my little camera could do. I can't even tell if the Garganey is in this bunch or not. But this is what I was looking at all afternoon.

For a link to Wikipedia's article and photos of Garganey Ducks click HERE
Did I mention he was absolutely gorgeous?

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Whisper having a snuggle with one of Crystal's many elephants on her bed this morning. I think he might miss her. (The rest of us might, too.)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Beautiful Morning

Crescent moon and Venus bright in the sky at six o'clock this morning. While I was out taking a few photos, a pair of barred owls started hooting back and forth across our valley. So, so beautiful.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Next Carver's Daughter

Here's a link to the next article in my Carver's Daughter series on the Birds of Vermont Museum's blog.



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

More Snowy

Couldn't resist going back for another look this past weekend with a friend. Brutally cold and windy this time, but the company and food were excellent. Owls and chocolate cookies go well together.

Same owl, same place, different tree. If anyone wants to make the trip down, go to the snow geese viewing area pull off in Addison, Vermont. We did glimpse a second owl farther down the road, but this is the best spot. They're the most active late afternoon, and the light is better for photos.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Snowy Owl

Vermont has been enjoying an influx of Snowy Owls this winter, down from the Arctic for better foraging options. A bad year for lemmings is a good year for Vermont birders. Last weekend, twenty-four Snowy Owls were found in Addison County, which is unprecedented. I found this lovely bird in a field by scanning with my spotting scope in an area where another birder said one had been seen earlier today. I just barely picked it up, sitting on the ground like a pale stump, when it flew on magnificently silent wings to perch in a tree beside the road where we were pulled off. Instantly, about ten other cars pulled in. The owl stayed there at least half an hour, allowing me to take about eighty shots and get my scope on it again so that everyone else in the pull-off could see it up close.

I walked off by myself for a little while to get a different angle, and when I came back, people were saying, "Bob Spear's daughter" in hushed voices. Dennis had squealed on me. Highly embarrassing. I spent another twenty minutes being peppered with questions about owls and the museum, which I plugged shamelessly. Finally, most of them left and I got a turn to look through my scope for a while. There is really nothing in the world like having a Snowy Owl's huge yellow eyes fixed on you.

I caught two deer running across a field while it was getting dark on our way home.

A very nice day.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


I was downloading some photos this morning and realized I'd never posted this photo of my works of art from last semester. (Not that I'm proud of them or anything.) Notice that perfect little blue pot in the middle, that I made on the wheel? The odd green things in front are meant to hang on a wall with a few dried flowers or something in the pockets. My mother had a pair of them that hung on our wall when I was a kid, and I never knew what had happened to them. In a weird twist of fate, I found them while going through the farm, just weeks after making my own. Now I've got four hanging in my kitchen. (Still like my mom's better.)

I had so much fun in the class. I got to make these cool things, the student I was supporting learned a lot about patience and detail, and it was very relaxing. I really appreciated that the teacher worked with me like any other student (not a particularly talented one) and let me use clay and glaze and space in the kiln and all that stuff. (I guess I should thank the Colchester tax payers, too! -- Wait, I am a Colchester tax payer now! Guilt assuaged!)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Snowy Evening

After an hour and a half drive home in a near white out, I was seriously wondering why I live so far away, and then I got reminded. Five other deer joined this one in the yard, shadowy and silent in the winter twilight. They're after apples buried under the apple trees, left over from last fall. The competition is fierce -- I saw one deer rear up on its hind legs and run at least fifteen feet to drive away another one from the biggest tree. Then they all walked in single file across the frozen pond, the snow up to their bellies, and disappeared into the woods again.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger

I heard on my way to school this morning that Pete Seeger died yesterday. The world suddenly felt sadder without knowing he was breathing in it any longer. When I was a baby, my mother said I wouldn't fall asleep unless she was playing one of her many Weaver's records. Going to hear him sing at Memorial Auditorium in Burlington when I was a teenager was the first grown up thing I ever did all by myself. Hearing Ronnie Gilbert a few years later in Boston was incredibly moving, too -- I don't know how I must have looked, sitting there in one of the first rows, but she blew me a kiss at the end of the show, so she must have noticed.

Today is also the six month anniversary of Elijah Davis's death.

I sat in my car for a while in the parking lot this morning before I went in to school.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

And the Next Generation Moves In!

Ithamer and Harriet Blakely (1810)
Frank and Alice Blakely (18??)
Argyle Stalker and Bertha Blakely Stalker(1902)
Len Carpenter and Sally Stalker Spear (1936)
{Dennis Lanpher and Kari Jo Spear (1963)--didn't actually ever live there, but Kari Jo's horse did, and she and her mother own the place now}
Scott Grella and Alaria Lanpher (1990)

Dates are the birthdates of the family member. Ithamer built and lived in a log cabin that was beside where the house is now, and built the barn. His son Frank built the house, which my mother had refinished about fifteen years ago, but it has the original frame. Frank had no sons, but had four daughters (Grayce, Ruth, Muriel, Bertha) and that's when the Blakely name ended. The road is still named after us, though! My mother has a brother, Frank Stalker, who lives in Nevada. Otherwise, my daughters and I are it for now.

Six generations. Pretty cool. Unfortunately, there haven't been any cows there for years, or animals at all since our horse farm endeavor ended in 1981. All the land has been sold except what's immediately around the buildings. The buildings are rented out for storage and a local farmer still hays the fields, but there's still a big garden and it's a beautiful place to be.

Yeah, whose idea was it to move in January? Cold, cold, cold!

Alaria had us all very well organized with her color-coded map of where everything was supposed to go. Every box had a sticker on it

Lanpher genes, not Spear, for sure

That one goes upstairs

Man, what did she put in this?

Looks like a lot, but believe me, it's nothing compared to the dishes we dug out of there last weekend. Some had been in the family since Harriet's time, I'm sure! Really.

Always handy to have an EMT on location when heavy lifting is involved. Wait, Scott's the one doing the heavy lifting. How does that work?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Midterms Over!

Thank goodness! It's been a long hard week of tests for everybody. When I got home today, it felt so good to hang out by our brook for a little while.

Monday, January 6, 2014

My Pot

So a little while ago, some of you may remember that I might have gotten a little excited after creating my first ever pot on a wheel, which was something I'd wanted to do like forever. Well, it was fired once, then I glazed it; it was fired again, and today I got to bring it home. Huge thanks to the wonderful Mr. C. for all his patience in putting up with a student who is slightly older than his usual ones, and for doing whatever it's called to the bottom to make it smooth since school was out on vacation during the time period that needed to be done.

Here it is:

Clearly, I must have been a potter in a previous life.
(A very modest one, I'm sure!)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Started the year off  great with a flock of fourteen turkeys bright and early this morning, the first ones I've seen here all winter. My daughter says they were here yesterday afternoon and startled her.

My cat Whisper has been pawing at the door, frantic to go out and play with them. I think the glass might be distorting his perception, or something. They're three times as big as he is.

So expressive!