International Monarch Symposium on the Silk of America

Last updated on August 14th, 2018 at 12:07 pm

monarch symposium

Join us in Montreal for a discussion on Monarchs, Milkweed and Where we go from here.

Our friend, Francois Simard of Encore 3, is hosting the first ever International Monarch Symposium on the Silk of America. Silk of America? Yes, that’s the new and improved name for milkweed! The symposium will focus on the topic of monarch butterfly habitat conservation in the USA and Canada.

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

A Year in Review 2016

Last updated on June 20th, 2019 at 11:42 am

year in review
Peggy (far left) with milkweed farmers from Vermont, Jose Luis Alvarez of FFM (4th from the left) and Francois Simard (4th from the right) of Encore 3 an innovative company transforming the way we use milkweed.

A look back at (almost) everything we did this year.

The Fun Stuff

From saving Monarch Butterflies to baking bread for the local food-shelf, we do a lot more than just sell wood furniture. At Vermont Woods Studios we’re on a mission to change the world. Our accomplishments may be on a smaller scale than some but they have deep meaning to us and to our customers.  Not to mention, it’s the most fun part of our work!

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

How to Make Milkweed and Flower Seed Bombs for Pollinators

Last updated on March 31st, 2017 at 01:41 pm

seed bombs

Our latest effort to expand monarch butterfly and pollinator habitats in Vermont: seed bombs

The monarch’s have returned to Mexico and we’re in that annual limbo of Fall weather in New England. So, it could seem odd that we’re talking about growing milkweed in November, but now is actually the perfect time to get your seeds outside for the Spring.

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Hell No, We Won’t Mow!

Last updated on November 18th, 2018 at 08:31 pm

"Hell No, We Won't Mow"
A monarch butterfly on it’s favorite source of food and habitat. Please join our “Hell No, We Won’t Mow” campaign and ask your local road crews if there are areas where mowing can be delayed until October. Photo by Elizabeth Howard, founder of Journey North.

7 Ways You Can Help Save Monarch Butterflies From Extinction

Frequent flyers on this blog are well schooled on the plight of the beautiful monarch butterfly.  Over the last couple decades the population has declined by over 90% leaving the monarch in imminent danger of extinction.  Once a billion butterflies strong, there are now only about 50 million and the need to conserve their habitat is urgent.  The good news is that, with your help and a little cooperation from Mother Nature, it may not be too late.  Here are 7 things you can do to help the monarch make an epic comeback in 2016-2017:

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Vermont Woods Studios Raises Monarch Butterflies

Last updated on March 31st, 2017 at 02:48 pm

monarch butterflies
Can you spot all four caterpillars in this photo? These are just some of the little guys we’ve adopted this summer.

From barely noticeable caterpillar to one of nature’s most beautiful creatures.

Monarch Butterflies have long been a popular and famous insect. Their image is used everywhere from GMO free food labels to makeup ads. And, just a couple of months ago President Obama met with the Canadian Prime Minister and Mexican President to discuss how these three countries can save the monarch. With seven states including Vermont calling it their state insect, it’s a wonder how we’ve let the monarch butterfly population reach the endangered zone.

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

How To Plant Milkweed for Monarchs

Last updated on October 23rd, 2018 at 03:11 pm

This is part of a series of posts on our Monarch Butterfly Restoration Project.

Monarch Butterfly on Milkweed
A monarch butterfly on it’s favorite source of food and habitat. Learn how to plant milkweed &  save the monarch from extinction.  Photo by Elizabeth Howard, founder of Journey North.

Calling all nature nuts and monarch butterfly enthusiasts!  You can help save the beautiful orange & black monarch butterfly from extinction.  It’s easy and you can do it no matter where you live, whether that’s a Manhattan apartment, a suburban ranch or an organic horse farm in Vermont.

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Does Planting a Tree Matter?

Last updated on August 14th, 2018 at 01:47 pm

Plant a Tree | Green Furniture Store in Vermont Tries to Change the World

We Plant a Tree for Every Order

Believe it or not that’s why our small business was born. We’re not a furniture company that “went green”. Vermont Woods Studios was actually a product of my mid-life crisis/desire to make a difference in this world. Weird, right? For some people it’s all about fast cars, loud motorcycles, sex, drugs or rock & roll. For me it was about forest conservation. It’s a long story (which I did tell to Laura Dunn of the Huffington Post, in the remote case you may be interested) but the point is:

The World Is Losing It’s Forests

Many people may not see it as a big deal but if you somehow found your way to this quirky green blog, there’s a good chance you’ll be concerned about these statistics:

  • More than half of the world’s 193 countries have already lost 90% or more of their forest cover
  • Rainforests that once covered 14% of the earth’s land surface now cover a mere 6%, yet they are home to over half the species of plants and animals in the world
  • We are losing the rainforest at the rate of 1.5 acres every second
  • Experts estimate that the last remaining rainforests could be gone from this earth before you are
Is your furniture made of wood that use to provide critical habitat for animals like this tiger?
We sell furniture made of sustainably harvested North American hardwoods in an effort to keep rainforest trees in the ground and out of the timber trade. The idea is to conserve habitat for endangered species like the tiger as well as indigenous peoples.

So We’re Trying to Help

Last year we celebrated our 10th year in business. Since 2005 we’ve planted about 7500 trees, many of them through The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees project. More importantly we’ve kept a similar number of rare rainforest trees out of the furniture market as we’ve used only sustainably harvested North American trees. Who is responsible for this progress?  You… our customers, our readers and our partners. Your support enables us to throw our energy into environmental projects we think are important and for that we are immensely grateful.

Planting trees in Mexico to save Monarch Butterfly habitat
Monarch butterflies over-winter in oyamel trees in Mexico but illegal logging has almost entirely wiped out their forest habitat. Over the past 20 years the monarch population has declined by 90 percent. So we’re supporting LCHPP and the reforestation of monarch habitat in Mexico. It’s an exciting project which I invite you to follow on this blog.

Planting Trees in Mexico

Recently we’ve focused our support on a tree-planting project called the La Cruz Habitat Protection Program LCHPP in Michoacan Mexico. This is a reforestation initiative that I discovered during my efforts to help save the Monarch Butterfly, which is native to Vermont but it over-winters in sunny Mexico. I wrote about it recently and will be visiting LCHPP’s project in Mexico next week. Stay tuned for a full report. Anyway…

Conservation Matters To Our Customers, Partners & Staff

Does it matter to you? Post your thoughts on our Facebook or contact me directly at peggy@VermontWoodsStudios.com. I want to know what you think. Thanks for reading!

 

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

You, Me & 100 Million Monarch Butterflies

Last updated on May 4th, 2018 at 10:05 am

Monarch Butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico
Monarch Butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico.  2016 tours are still available through Spirit of Butterflies Tours in coordination with Forests for Monarchs founder Jose Luis Alvarez.  Photo courtesy of Homero Gomez Gonzalez.

One of Earth’s Greatest Natural Wonders

Right now at this very moment, one of earth’s most amazing natural wonders is taking place in Mexico.  Nearly 100 million monarch butterflies from all over the USA and Canada have migrated south to the mountains of Central Mexico where they are over-wintering prior to their return flight this Spring.  We’ve described the Monarch migration in previous blogs– it’s the most complex migration pattern of any known species on earth.

A Monarch butterfly we reared in Vermont
A Monarch butterfly we reared at Stonehurst, here in Vermont.  She could well be one of those in the photo above after making a 3000 mile migration from VT to Mexico last Fall.

Monarch Butterflies Are on the Brink of Extinction

Over the past 20 years the monarch population has declined by 90 percent.  During the winter of 1996-1997, scientists estimated there were a billion monarchs over-wintering in Mexico.  An estimate from last year found only about 35 million, a number so low that several environmental organizations are petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to classify monarch butterflies as “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Reforestation of Monarch Habitat by LCHPP
Reforestation of the Monarch Habitat  in Michoacan, Mexico is being led by Jose Luis Alvarez of the La Cruz Habitat Protection program LCHPP (aka Forests for Monarchs).  I’m heading to Mexico in late February to work with Jose Luis.  You should join us!

You Can Help Save Them

Love nature?  Here are a couple ways you can help save the amazing Monarch butterfly from extinction:

Help Restore Monarch Habitat in the USA and Canada

Monarchs need milkweed and nectar plants to survive and thrive during the summer months they spend in the US and Southern Canada.  We’ve written many blogs about how to plant milkweed and we even have milkweed seeds we’ll be happy to send you if you’d like to get involved.

Help Restore Monarch Habitat in Mexico

At Vermont Woods Studios we’ve allied with the La Cruz Habitat Protection Program LCHPP in an effort to Plant a Million Trees every year in the Monarch’s overwintering area in Michoacan, Mexico.  I’ll be writing more about LCHPP, a leading organization in the race to save the Monarch, but for a glimpse of their work check out this video.

Join us on the Spirit of Butterflies tour Feb-March 2016
Join us on the Spirit of Butterflies tour Feb-March 2016. Photo courtesy of Homero Gomez Gonzalez.

Spirit of Butterflies Tour

For the adventurous nature lover, here’s another way to help save the Monarchs.  Contact Maraleen Manos-Jones who works with LCHPP and sign up for the trip of a lifetime: a tour of the Monarch butterflies over-wintering forest habitat in Michoacan, Mexico.  Leading the tour will be Jose Luis Alvarez, co-founder of LCHPP and renowned expert on Monarchs and reforestation of their habitat. I’m taking the tour at the end of February… why don’t you join me?  I’ll provide details in my next blog but in the meantime, you can check out what other travelers have said about visiting monarch over-wintering sites on TripAdvisor.

I took this photo 15 years ago when we were rearing wild monarchs in Vermont.
I took the photo of Kendall 15 years ago when we were rearing wild monarchs in Vermont.  Now there are none to be found.  Check out the link to National Geographic’s film about the monarch story.

Why Does A Furniture Company Care?

Vermont Woods Studios was founded on a mission of forest conservation.  From the beginning we set out not only to provide our customers with the best value & quality for Vermont made wood furniture but also to conserve the forests that provide wood for furniture.  That mission of forest conservation coupled with my history of studying Monarchs with Kendall and Riley when they were little, made this project with LCHPP and Spirit of Butterflies a perfect fit.  I hope you’ll join us as we work to help bring this iconic species back and conserve them for future generations.

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Look Jeff, You’re Famous!

Last updated on November 3rd, 2018 at 12:29 pm

jeff-reformer-1 (1)
Jeff and his claim to fame

The Power of Awareness

When we first started this monarch conservancy project, we knew a key pillar to success would be to spread the word. In order for a change to happen, people need to know that a change is necessary; intervention is necessary and knowledge is power.

You would think that raising awareness would be simple in our social media flooded climate. A post to Facebook would reach the eyes of hundreds and if they deemed it worthy of sharing, thousands. A quick and to-the-point blast to twitter would reach another thousand. Our website and blog would reach yet another; so, prospects were looking good.

Announcements were made, posts posted and blogs painstakingly pulled from the most creative corners of our minds until one day, Jeff was discovered. For those of you who somehow don’t know, Jeff is our monarch champion mascot and he’s pretty famous as of Wednesday when his picture first appeared in the Brattleboro Reformer.

A day later , an article appeared highlighting the need for monarch restoration and upping the ante on spreading awareness.

jeff-reformer-2
Jeff! Jeff! Can we have your autograph?

We at Vermont Woods Studio are extremely grateful to the local people, media and Jeff for getting the word out. We are very excited to continue reporting on our cohort of monarchs until they take flight and go off on their own in the world.

Don’t Panic! That’s not the end. Once our little Jeff and his cronies fly the coop, we will shed an honorary tear and then get back to work hatching plans to harvest more milkweed seeds to plant this fall. There is no time to waste people, we have monarchs to rehabilitate!

(This is part three of a four part blog series on our Monarch Butterfly Restoration Project)

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Ready For Take-off: Monarch Butterfly Migration

Last updated on November 3rd, 2018 at 12:29 pm

monarch butterfly chrysalises
Two chrysalises housing monarch pupa

Vermont Woods Studios Prepares Monarchs for Take-off

On a beautiful day straddling the line between August and September, we huddled on the deck of Vermont Woods Studios at our Stonehurst property. Five adults and two children all gazing in mirrored excitement at the progress of our monarch caterpillars as they forge their ways into butterfly-hood.

“I’m going to name him Jeff!” One of the young boys informed the group as Peggy Farabaugh, the CEO of Vermont Woods Studios and head caterpillar-rearer, gently scooped up two prized caterpillars and secured them safely in a jar for the boys to bring to their grandmother’s.

It has been two weeks since the arrival of the caterpillar babies (or larva) and already they are well on their way to adulthood. However, their transformation is far more magical than that of any other aging process. They came to us as tiny creatures no bigger than a grain of rice and have rapidly transformed into vibrant, two inched beauties that scuttle about their mesh hamper confinement eating milkweed and maturing with natural grace.

It is marvelous to watch the caterpillars inch their way to the top of the hamper and methodically suspend themselves upside down in a J shape. This is a signal to the world that the caterpillars are ready to enter the pupa or chrysalis stage of life. The caterpillars work tirelessly in this J-shape to molt their skin and transform their outer appearance into the grass green, gold speckled chrysalis.

“I wonder what they’re doing in there all the time.” Peggy mused, affectionately grooming the caterpillar habitat. The allure of mystery gripped us all as we watched the beautiful chrysalises hang, cautiously enveloping the transforming caterpillar.

In about two weeks the chrysalises will have turned black and the monarch butterfly will be ready to emerge with damp, fledgling wings. In the short span of two hours, the monarch’s wings will dry and it will be lusting for flight. Thus our babies will leave us and safety of the Stonehurst deck.

However, it won’t be a sad day, for on this day we will have reached our goal. With the help of Orley R.  “Chip” Taylor, founder of the Monarch Watch program at the University of Kansas, we will have completed cycle one of the Monarch Restoration project. The Vermont Woods Studios company developed an objective: to help restore the monarch population. Success is heavily contingent on three pillars: milkweed restoration, healthy, migration-ready monarchs and continued research.

Last October and November, Peggy and the Vermont Woods Studios staff went out in search of milkweed. Pods gathered along route 142 were brought back to the studio where seeds were harvested and packaged for distribution.

Seeds were distributed to local gardeners and nature enthusiasts, clients and planted on the Stonehurst property. 1 in 100 milkweed seeds strewn across the earth will produce a plant. Because of these small odds, we chose to carefully plant 80 seeds on the Stonehurst property yielding 80 viable milkweed plants.

Along with learning the importance of carefully planting the milkweed seeds, the Vermont Woods Studios staff have also developed important information for rearing monarch caterpillars:

  • Whenever it is possible, raise the caterpillars in a terrarium
  • Do not allow direct sunlight to hit the terrarium
  • Monarch caterpillars grow quickly and this process can be messy, so cleaning the terrarium frequently is a must
monarch caterpillar on milkweed
One of our monarch caterpillars getting ready to transition into a chrysalis

Once our monarchs are ready for flight, we have one last piece of the puzzle to put in place before we can call the project a success. Chip founded Monarch Watch in 1992 and has been studying monarch migration since 2005. The eastern monarchs born at the end of the summer months have the innate task of migrating to Mexico. This migration will take four generations of monarchs.

Our Stonehurst monarchs will fly just a portion of the way and then stop to lay eggs and die as the new babies begin the growing process and mature to fly their portion of the trip. This process will repeat until the final generation sails over sunny Mexico and makes themselves comfortable for eight to nine months when the United States is again habitable for the return of the monarchs.

How did people come to have such intimate detail about the migration pattern of these tireless creatures? The answer to this is evolving through research, which brings us to the final stage of the project: tagging the monarchs.

Before our monarchs take flight, we will place a small, adhesive tag, provided by Chip and his team on the wings of our monarchs. These tags will signal researchers to know where the monarchs came from and provide other valuable research that will continue to help rehabilitate the monarch population.

As we stand on the deck, without a chill in the air and watch the chrysalises form, we know the journey our caterpillars have before them. We discuss tagging the butterflies with nervous laughter, none of us having ever done it before; but were willing to try because we know that it is one key step in encouraging the comeback of these magical creatures.

(This is part two of a four part blog series on our Monarch Butterfly Restoration Project)

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.