Many transplants describe the moment they realized they were going to move to Vermont as involving a cool mountain stream or view of miles of forests and hayfields. For Sue Lovering, First Detector and Stewardship of the Urban Landscape (SOUL) Tree Steward, her realization came while staring at one plant—the Bastard toad flax, a plant common in the open dry woods of Massachusetts.
Sue grew up in the Berkshire mountains of western MA before moving to Cape Cod, where she started her own interior decorating business. In October of 1982, while vacationing in Vermont, she came upon the Bastard toad flax and recognized it as a plant she knew well. In that moment of recognition she realized that this place was familiar yet also in every way different than where she was living. She listened to that nagging voice that had been telling her she wanted to be in Vermont ever since a second grade trip to Lake Champlain. Six weeks later she bought a piece of land. For a number of years Sue would come up to Vermont on the weekends. Those 2 day weekends eventually grew into 6 day weekends and Sue now lives in a renovated sugarhouse in Johnson.
Sue does all she can to care for the woods and land she has grown to love. When she is not volunteering with the North County Animal League or feeding feral cats in Morrisville she is organizing talks on forest pests as a First Detector, helping with wildlife habitat conservation with Staying Connected, or beating back knotweed and other invasive plants. Sue organized the first tree tagging event and pest survey training, Get ‘em First, in Johnson. Sue and a group of “tree huggers” tied purple ribbons and tags to ash trees in the public parks to raise awareness about the threat of the Emerald Ash Borer.
To say Sue is a cat lover would be an understatement. Sue shares her sugarhouse with 14 cats as well as two life sized cut outs of Spock AND Captain Kirk. As an interior decorator Sue Lovering struggled to fit the two Star Trek characters into her home décor. Her invasive pest and plant work is sustained by a love of the woods, creative flare, and spark for life.
JEN LOYD PAIN
Jen spent her formative years in Bethesda, Maryland and was inevitably drawn into the political scene by being so close to Washington DC. As a political wonk she focused on international relations and taught several courses in international history and politics. Jen is the fourth generation of her family to live in Bethesda, and was the first to be driven out by the sprawl that slowly consumed her home town. Jen left Maryland and headed overseas to the UK to attend graduate school and as a bonus got her Mrs!
When Jen and her husband finally moved back to the U.S. she landed in Florida where the tension between the state’s natural treasures and development was palpable. After one of her rants about the loss of wildlife habitat her husband challenged her to put her money where her mouth was. So determined, Jen went back to school to pursue a PhD in conservation education. Jen noticed that the youth in cities where she has resided over the years are terrified of seemingly innocuous critters such as squirrels and possums (yes you read that right, terrified of squirrels). So she is focusing her dissertation on the better use of urban parks to educate folks about indigenous wildlife. Jen believes that “experiential education can have a great impact on attitude change and can alleviate fear.” She came into conservation education as a second career but has been interested in protecting habitat since she was a kid. Jen, her husband, and dog Daisy, have been in Bennington for two years and want to do something positive for the community. Jen was really inspired to get involved in the First Detector Program after hearing Jay Lackey give his “Don’t Move Firewood or Else” speech at a state parks meeting. While Jen admits to still being a bit of a news junkie, she is dedicated to developing curriculum on challenging conservation issues and works as a state parks interpreter.
Earl Holtz weaved his way right into the fabric of the Halifax community when he with his wife, purchased forested land in 1995 and built a geodesic dome in 2005. While Earl spent most of his life as an engineer, he has always been fascinated with trees and immediately volunteered as Halifax’s tree warden. Soon after, Mark Halverson, neighbor and SOUL Tree Steward graduate, recruited him to help with the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid surveys. Earl had seen HWA in Connecticut, many years ago, when he purchased an infected tree. Earl was recently elected to the Selectboard and serves on the Halifax broadband committee. Earl reflects fondly on a childhood spent collecting butternuts in the hardwood forests with his grandfather, and hiking in Cathedral Pines and Meadows State park in Connecticut. The pest work is certainly a far cry from the computer systems for postage meters that Earl designs as an engineer; the tree-related work is a second calling. Next on Earl’s bucket list—climbing trees. I think there are a couple of climbers in the group that could help Earl with that, no?
Trees have been an integral part of Janet Kane’s life, beginning at a young age when she helped her dad sugar on their dairy farm in Enosburg, VT. Her fascination with how trees move and grow led her to become a timber frame engineer. “Timber is so strong and each tree cuts differently,” Janet reflected recently. While Janet is classically trained as a structural engineer, her consulting business, JK Structural Designs, now specializes in post and beam construction and restoration of barns, covered bridges, and homes, among other projects.
When one visits Janet’s home in Winooski, it is immediately obvious that she is “NUTS about gardening.” Sycamores, elms, musclewood and other delightful varieties of trees and shrubs create a forest sanctuary right in her backyard. Planting these trees has been Janet’s “greatest act of faith.” She particularly admires the Canadian hemlock, which she describes as “a lady in a ball gown.” Her belief that everybody needs plants led her to form Operation Bloom, a volunteer beautification project in Winooski aimed at making the city a more aesthetically pleasing and healthier environment. Janet also volunteers with Branch Out Burlington! (BOB!), don’t forget the exclamation point, a group of volunteers who help plant and care for Burlington’s trees.
Janet thinks back on the days of streets lined with towering elms with an acute sense of nostalgia. During her childhood the elms began to succumb to Dutch Elm Disease and today one is hard pressed to find a healthy mature elm anywhere in the northeast. Furthermore, growing up in a family of sugarmakers she just can’t imagine Vermont without maples. It is this love of trees, appreciation for the strength and health benefits of trees, and memory of the painful impacts of Dutch Elm Disease that motivated Janet to become a First Detector and continue to motivate her to make trees a priority in her town and life.
JORDAN FLETCHER, “professional barefoot forest romper”
Jordan Fletcher has worn many hats over the course of his lifetime but the teacher baseball cap, volunteer beret and tree lover hard hat seem to be consistent throughout. Jordan lives with his wife, Sheryl, two sons, Liam and Aiden, and mother-in-law, Grandma Vee, on a farm in Westminster West. They have HUGE gardens and 30 chickens cared for by 9 ½ year old Liam and 7 ½ year old Aiden. Jordan and Sheryl home school their sons, which is Jordan's most recent teaching role. Outdoor education has been a thread throughout the last 20 years. Jordan began as a climbing and river guide leading adventure camps in Maryland and Virginia, then received a master’s in elementary education/environmental education at Antioch New England and taught physics and general science to 6-11 year olds where egg drops, match stick bridges and student-led projects were the norm. Jordan now works as a professional arborist and tree climber with his own business, Fletcher Tree Service. However, his volunteer resume is almost as long as his professional one.
While giving blood may not be his cup of tea, Jordan has volunteered as an adult literacy teacher, an EMT and recently as a VT Forests and Parks HWA volunteer. Jordan, Sheryl and his sons first became enamored with bugs when they joined the Vermont Entomological Society. There he credits the likes of Trish Hanson, Brian Pfeiffer and Chip Darmstadt as motivating him to volunteer. “I love trees and what’s coming is a big deal. Our biome is going to change in significant ways.” Jordan sees huge educational opportunities for connecting youth with these forest pests and hopes to bring these ideas to bear in his new volunteer role as a Forest Pest First Detector. This new role is an extension of his love of trees, his dedication to civic engagement and strong belief in the power of experiential education.