First Quarter Project Presentations – YWL at Smokey House

At the IMG_1752end of the first quarter, we shared our progress with parents and teachers.  After a delicious lunch (prepared by students, of course), each student gave a talk, with PowerPoint, about his project work during the first quarter.  Here are excerpts from two of the presentations:

IMG_1525From Lucas (culinary):  “We were harvesting stuff in the garden and decided we had too many tomatoes.  Juanita and I didn’t want our tomatoes to rot, so we cooked them down to make a sauce.  First I cut up garlic.  Then I cut up onion and put it in the pan with olive oil.  Then I cut up the tomatoes, big red tomatoes and little cherry tomatoes.  Then we put it on high heat, smashed them down in the pot, and cooked it until it boiled and turned to mushy sauce.  Then without Juanita looking, as a prank, I put in part of a hot cayenne pepper.  It would have been funny to get the taste buds tingling.  I knew I wasn’t putting enough in to wreck it.  I was surprised that Juanita could taste it, because I didn’t put in a lot.  We had a good laugh.”


IMG_1513From Scott (woodshop wall):  “The back wall on the barn was rotted.  When we talked about projects, I said that I wanted to fix the wall. We talked with Jesse [SHC executive director], and he said it would be a good project.  First we measured how long the wall was, how high it was, and calculated for trim, overhang, siding and roofing.  Next, we called LaValley’s to price out all the materials needed…The total price for all the materials was $875.  We took this price to Jesse and he said “Go ahead, order it!”

woodshopFrom the start, we knew the project would take a month or two.  We knew ripping everything off would only take a day or two.  The ordered materials came in just over one weekend, so it’s just the labor that can take awhile.  It has taken a bit longer because we haven’t been able to work on it consistently.  When we started actually working on the wall, we realized there was more rotted wood than we thought.  We also realized the reason a lot of it had rotted was because there was no overhang.  So first, we had to rip all of the clapboards and the rotted wood off of the wall….”

Other projects included making raised beds for the garden, clearing and marking trails, and researching raising pigs vs. cows.

Our quarter two presentations are scheduled for Friday, January 16.


YouthWork&Learn – Off and Running

The first week of school at YouthWork&Learn – we started this school year at full speed!


Weeding is never done!

On the first day (Wednesday), after all the welcomes and introductions, and a cook-out for lunch, we harvested vegetables and herbs from our garden and prepared it for the farmers’ market in Poultney.


Setting up for farmers market

On Thursday, we were selling at our farmers market booth (as we did all summer with the Youth Agriculture Project – YAP).  Students also paid  a visit to the Green Mountain College farm and woodshop.


The view from the Eagles Nest at Smokey House Center

Friday, we hiked the Eagles’ Nest trail, for a great view of the mountains and some environmental science with Michael Kelley.  Not everyone made it to the top, but we’ve decided that to graduate from YWL you have to get to the Eagles Nest at least once!


Projects take planning and organization.

The next Tuesday, after a day off for Labor Day, we did project planning (SMART goals and action plans), each student deciding on a project linked to individual interests.  Then garden work – love that weeding!


Even with heavy-duty tools, it takes strength to wrestle the privet roots out of the ground.

Wednesday, it was off to Emerald Lake State Park for a day of invasive plant removal under the direction of Colleen Balch.  After some training, our group worked on uprooting large privets, hanging them upside down in the trees so they couldn’t reroot.  We also pulled out masses of multiflora roses.


Hanging invasive privet upside down so it can’t reroot.

Thursday morning it was off to the farmers market again, and Friday into the woods again, this time to the Old Sugar House.  We’re always on the move at Smokey House!

Flowers and Compost Bins

IMG_0869Hot, hazy, and humid… that didn’t slow down our Danby crew in its second week.  With only two days of work this week because of the 4th of July, the YAP crew weeded (everything!), transplanted (flowers by the Smokey House Center  sign) and harvested (garlic scapes, lettuce and herbs.)IMG_0314




We even found time to hike into the woods to check out the work on the Old Sugar House and cool off in the nearby stream.IMG_0866




Our big project, however, was constructing compost bins, based on a design by EMG Master Composter, Ron Hebert. With guidance from Robin Chesnut-Tangerman, we’ve already built three composters for ourselves.  The walls are sturdy 1/2″ hardware cloth, and the latch uses solid wood and good hardware.   This very practical design includes an easy open latch, which makes moving and turning the pile easy.  We plan to offer these for sale at the Poultney Farmers Market soon. (We’re taking orders now – $79 plus tax!)


The Old Sugar House Project

It was standing, neglected and unused, full of old farm equipment and rodent nests.   But we felt the Old Sugar House was also full of potential to be a classroom in the woods and a home base for field studies.  Our goal was to have it ready for the May field studies program, when Dorset 7th graders would come for two weeks of ecological work. When we discovered that the shed roof had to come down, we geared up to salvage and clean.  Once the roof was on the ground, YouthWork&Learn students took over the project.  Here is what they wrote:SugarHouse K D

SugarHouse L SLucas:  We’re taking the roof of the old sugar house apart.  It was a major relief when we got all of the tin off the top of the roof because that was the hardest part.  We set up the buckets so we could slide the nails into a bucket so a nail doesn’t go straight through our foot. We only brought what tools we could carry.

Scott: Working  on the Sugar house  was a good experience. It was fun, and  I now know I need to work on working with other people. The old roof came down,  so we are cleaning up and getting rid of the old roof.  So now we can make it part of the school  because we are going to have a bunch of kids coming to our school from Dorset.

SugarHouse frontDillon: I worked on the Sugar House roof after Jesse, Smokey House Director, took it down for us to use the pieces as salvage. Projects include but are not limited to us making benches, an outhouse and chairs. I had a hammer and hammered out nails, so that they’d be easier to pull out. After other students got out wooden boards from the structure of the Sugar House roof, I hammered nails out and then pulled them out using some tools. Overall, it has been great working on this project, especially since it is outside.

SugarHouse lunch





“I Like It Better Here”

We accept new students at YouthWork and Learn throughout the year.  Here’s what our latest student says about his first days with us:

“My first two weeks at Smokey House were exciting.

IMG_0052Monday, we completed work on the workbench. I did sanding, polyurethane, and built the shelf.


IMG_0136On Wednesday, Robin taught us how to do chip carving.   We did the map of New England on the pond.  We measured the lines on ice, drew them with sticks, and covered them with fire ash.  Friday, we made boxes out of pine and we cut down little trees to make wood mauls.

IMG_0197On Monday, we went rock climbing at the Green Mountain Climbing Center in Rutland. It was pretty good.  I want to go back.  The only thing I hated about it was the shoes, because they’re so tight, they’re uncomfortable.   We went to Subway for lunch.


Today,  Lucas made chicken cordon bleu, and it was amazing!  We did more decorations on the boxes, and some people made wood mauls.IMG_0214


My old school was pretty boring.  This school is hands-on projects and learning. I like it better here.”

– By Scott