training camp in the Jura.

Skiwalking in the Swiss Jura. (Photo: Roli Eggspühler)

Coming from North America, I often think that the other side of whatever country I’m in is very, very far away.

Happily, here in Switzerland things are a little closer together. I live in Zürich and while the nearest big mountains are at least an hour away, nothing is very far. Going south or southwest through the Alps takes a few hours, but driving across the Swiss Plateau to the French border is easier.

A few weeks ago I was able to take part in a training camp in Les Cernets, which is on the border with France. Literally, after dropping our bags off at the inn where we were staying, Fabian and I ran up a hill a few kilometers and peered into the European Union. We followed a well-marked trail and there was a small monument at the top of the height of land. Anyone could take this route into France, although of course you have to get into Switzerland first, which is no easy feat.

(Certainly there was no border station on our running trail; even the one on the main road in Les Verrières, the bigger town, appeared to be minimally manned and just waved cars through without stopping.)

The camp I joined was with the Swiss Academic Ski Team (SAS), a group of college and older athletes. Once you are a member (I’m not), you’re a member for life, so a few masters-aged athletes also join us and sometimes kick our butts.

cowsAt camps we train hard, double sessions a day like the pros, but only for a few days. I can’t speak for the others, but for myself, I then go back to work, train fairly minimally, and engage in magical thinking to assure myself that these few days will somehow make a difference come winter…

Ironically, the team doesn’t have any athletes I’ve met so far from the French part of Switzerland. But in an effort for geographic fairness and also to keep things new and interesting, we went there.

We spent three days in the Jura mountains. It’s at the same time remote and not remote; growing up in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont, I felt right at home. The area is a mix of farms and forest, with some small homestead always hidden behind the next roll of the hill. But the city of Neuchâtel isn’t far, and in no time at all you are back on the big lake, feeling like you’re in metropolitan Switzerland.

There are a lot of dairy farms in the Jura. We missed, by just a few days, the annual festival where the cows walk from the high meadows down to town with flowers braided around their horns. On the main road you can find an unmanned, automated cheese vending machine with the local wares.

morningThis is the region that absinthe comes from, and you can imagine perfectly how even when it was outlawed, production continued just the same. There are infinite places to hide things and you can’t travel too fast on the country roads. All you need to do is call your neighbor to warn him someone was coming, and he could take care of his materials no problem.

The mascot of the Val de Travers region of Canton Neuchâtel region is a small green fairy, and it is plastered everywhere.

Come to the grocery store! With the absinthe fairy.

Take the train! With the absinthe fairy.

Stay at our hotel! With the absinthe fairy.

Here’s some highway information! With the absinthe fairy.

On our last night we tried some absinthe, which probably ruined our training effect. We stuck to one glass each and, it turns out, did not see the absinthe fairy. Shoot, I’ll have to try some again some other time.

creux du van 1But about that training effect: the Jura is a great place to train. There are tons of trails through the forest, some of which are ski trails. Les Cernets is connected to hundreds of kilometers of ski trails, including a few long point-to-point trails like the 65 k Franco-Suisse loop, where you can do inn-to-inn touring. I can’t wait to come explore in the winter.

Jogging the farm roads in the morning through the fog felt mystical. And in the forest, clearings, bogs, and other areas are given fairy-tale names painted on old, peeling signs.

I was also thrilled to return to Creux du Van, a huge rock cliff formation which I had hiked with a friend in the spring. The closest thing I can compare it to is Cannon cliffs in New Hampshire – if you made Cannon much more even and bent it in a gently arching bowl around the valley. And plopped a picturesque farm and some happily grazing cows on top.

Creux du Van speaks to almost everyone, I think. My housemate told me that being up there, with hundreds of meters of empty space in front of you and birds playing on the wind, gives you power.

Sometimes that kind of phrase can sound woo-woo, but when you stand on Creux du Van, it’s not inaccurate.

rollerskiing 2But that’s not why we came to the Jura. A short drive into France is a rollerski loop at the Stade Florence Baverel in Arçon. So every day we would drive to France to ski.

(Inaugurated in 2009, the venue is named after the French gold medalist from the 2006 Olympics. You can also rollerski around the biathlon stadium in Le Seigne, a bit south in the Département Doubs, but we didn’t check it out. Prémanon, the training site for the French national team, is also only an hour away.)

The center has a nice biathlon range, a few kilometers of paved trails to train on. I would describe it as if John Morton had been given the assignment to design some kilometers of trail, but only given half the space that he’s usually given in North America. (After all, there’s less space for basically everything in Europe.) And, in this scenario he was also denied vital information about the length of classic rollerski shafts.

So it was with some trepidation that I first set out around the course. I’m not a particularly timid downhill skier, but the turns are, umm, very tight – and there’s a pretty decent height differential given the tiny postage stamp of land the center is crammed onto, so you come into them with momentum.

There were posters all over the main building for the French biathlon festivals hosted at the venue. I was trying to imagine mass start or even pursuit racing on such narrow trails with such sharp corners. I pictured carnage. I’m interested to try to find video of how it actually works.

That said, once I’d made a few trips around the loop, I wasn’t nervous and instead the twists and turns just made for super fun skiing. One corner was still a little dicey on classic skis, but on skate skis you can tear around with little fear of serious repercussions, at least if you don’t get tangled up with someone else.

It’s an excellent, and tough, loop for intervals. There’s not much recovery because the downhills are short and technical, so you’re always on your toes. And with limited places to easily pass, it’s good practice for rubbing elbows and making tactical choices in where to use your speed… for instance, before the beginning of the next downhill!

I was a bit sad to go back to Zürich and work, and away from the Jura and Doubs regions which seem to be a perfect playground for training in summer and winter.

overambitious.

DSCN0253

This is me at 10 o’clock on Friday morning, after I had taken advantage of our day off from work to rollerski up to Sertig, a small village (not even really village) outside of Davos.

I did not look like this at 10 o’clock today. Emboldened by my rollerski explorations so far, I decided that I would rollerski up to the parking area for the field site we were visiting today, and meet my co-workers when they arrived by car.

“I’ll meet you up there tomorrow,” I told Gunther as we wrapped up prep yesterday afternoon in the office. “I’ll leave a bag for you to bring in the car.”

“Oh, so…. wait, what?”           

“You drive up there, and I’ll meet you there.”

“Ah! So you want to go with the bike!”

“No, no, not the bike. I’m going to rollerski.”

“You’re going to rollerski. Really. That’s brave.”

You see, where we were working today was on the flanks of Schwazhorn, a biggish mountain on one side of Fluelapass, a road leading from Davos and Graubunden over into the Engadin region of Switzerland. It gains quite a bit of elevation and is twisty and turny. It’s very popular for people to drive in their cars or campers or motorcycles, and fairly popular for people to ride on their road bikes. I haven’t seen any rollerskiers.

“Yes,” I confirmed. “I’m going to ski Fluelapass and meet you up there.”

“That’s going to take a while!” Gunther insisted. “When are you going to start?”

“It’s not that long,” I replied. “It’s only 12.5 kilometers. I think it will take an hour and a half. So I’ll just meet there.”

For reference, the car was leaving the office at 7 a.m. and driving the same 12.5 kilometers. Meanwhile Julia, our PhD student and boss, insisted that it was in fact 22 kilometers, and no amount of showing her google maps could convince her otherwise.

“Be careful!” she kept saying.

“We’ll pick you up along the way,” Gunther said. “You’re not going to make it to the top.”

“Yes I am,” I would say. “I’ll beat you there. See you at site 10!”

As they expressed over and over again how crazy I was, I thought: calm down, people. I used to do this for a living, more or less. I can handle this. I have done things way crazier and more hardcore than this. And I survived Climb to the Castle, how much worse can this be?

Climb to the Castle is five miles long with an average eight percent grade. This is the profile of Fluelapass, starting from my office.

view_route_elevation

Plus, of course, there’s the issue that back when I did Climb to the Castle, I was training for skiing full time and was in much better shape. But anyhow.

Here’s how my day went:

4:45 a.m.: wake up, shovel down coffee and a slice of bread

5:10 a.m.: set off on bike to the office

5:45 a.m.: arrive at office. Pack bag for fieldwork, leave it at Gunther’s desk

6:00 a.m.: clip into rollerskis and head out of the parking lot. Turn left onto Fluelapass. The road is flat at the beginning; V2 because I know I won’t be able to earlier.

6:20 a.m.: look for the Gasthaus Alpenrose, where I know I will have gone a little more than 4 km. It is not anywhere to be seen. The climb has already really begun, I am getting into a V1 rhythm; I’m not even fresh anymore, but I’m not exhausted. Stop and drink some water.

6:30 a.m.: Gasthaus Alpenrose. That took longer than I thought. Drink some more water. I’m a third of the way there; if I keep these splits it will take me an hour and a half, just as I had predicted. I wish I was going faster  but I’m feeling okay.

6:40 a.m.: Holy crap, I just hit the first section of 10 % grade. All of a sudden, things are getting really hard. I stop and eat a granola bar.

But at the same time, I am sinking into the fatigue and it feels good. It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything that made me tired like this – hiking doesn’t do it. At first when you begin to tire, your technique actually gets more efficient; there’s no energy to waste. I can feel my skis humming along with each push. I know my weight is in the right places, and I’m applying myself as well as ever. The months of not rollerskiing aren’t killing me as much as I thought.

6:50: a.m.: on a little flatter section (still not really flat) I’m trying to V2, to take the stress off my V1 muscles and use my upper body a little more. Very quickly thought, I have to break back into climbing. I ski a curve around a hotel and then a section that I hadn’t realized would be so brutal – a long, brutal, grinding, steep uphill along a straightaway. Cows munch at grass on either side, turning skittish at the noise of my poles as I pass. I have to repeatedly take a break for a few seconds; my body is now being punished for all that not-rollerskiing, and it can’t keep up V1 for an hour straight.

7:00 a.m.: begin looking for the Wagerhus hut, where I know I will have gone 8 kilometers. Instead, faced with some crazy steep switchbacks. I want to cut the corners, but a dump truck and a camper are coming so I stick to the edges of the road.

7:10 a.m.: Finally, I hit Wagerhus. The bend in the road as the next switchbacks begin is like a godsend – it doesn’t look flat, but it feels flat! I am V2ing like it is a “get out of jail free” card. I feel fast; I feel efficient, compared to the slog that has become V1.

7:11 a.m.: It gets too steep and I’m back to V1. I no longer feel that satisfying hum as I push off of each ski. Instead, I’m getting bogged down, my technique is falling apart completely, my skis are sometimes slapping the pavement. My strides are short and sometimes lopsided.

Furthermore, I have four kilometers to the top, and I doubt that I will be able to keep the brag I made to Gunther, that I will beat him and Sofia to the top. They were meeting in the office at 7 a.m.; depending on how efficient they were at getting out the door, they might already be on the road, driving up towards me.

I’m embarrassed at the prospect of having them catch me. I push through, not taking breaks anymore even though it would probably be more efficient to do so. The grade is undulating back and forth between 8 and 10 percent.

7:20 a.m: I can hear that the car coming up behind me is going slowly, and I know that it is my co-workers. They have caught me. As the white SLF Skoda pulls up alongside, Sofia rolls down her window and says, “Good job!” Then they are past.

Maybe they’ll let me finish the ski, I think, and meet me at the top. I can see the top – it is a few straightaways and a few switchbacks away, but it’s clearly in my sights and I am sure it is just ten minutes away. I yearn for that feeling of cresting the final uphill and beginning to roll down the other side, the reward that tells you, you skied up this whole damn thing, and now there’s no more up left.

But then the car pulls on to the shoulder ahead of me and Gunther steps out. These are two people who know what good skiing looks like – Gunther has a neighbor from home in Austria who is on the national team; Sofia is from Sweden. I smile as I take the last few strides and take off my poles.

“You were organized this morning!” I tell Gunther. “I thought you’d be ten more minutes, and then I would have been at the top.”

He agrees. I haven’t won our little bet, but he still respects the effort. I was close enough.

7:30 a.m.: We start hiking towards the field sites. Fifteen minutes later, we’re there, and I take data for Sofia and Gunther at the first site so that I can snarf down some breakfast while I scribble the numbers. At the next site, it’s my turn to take data. I squat down, put my face in the willow, and begin counting leaves and fruits.

9:00 a.m.: “What are you eating?” Gunther asks.

“Emergency chocolate,” I reply.

“So you are tired,” he says.

Yes. I have to admit it, I am. No coach would recommend doing fieldwork as recovery from a rollerski that gained over 2,000 feet of elevation. But it’s okay: I will survive this day of work. Maybe I won’t be hopping from rock to rock like a mountain goat, as I sometimes am on the days when my workouts come in the afternoon, when I’m already done with work.

But I can settle in to the exhaustion a little, too. It’s a different way of approaching recovery, by working on something else and crowding out the thoughts about how tired you are. It’s a division of your brain and your body that is unlike anything you’d experience if your whole life was training.

And I like work. I like Sofia and Gunther and we have fun counting our silly little plants. We pause to take a nap in the sun; at 9:30, Gunther is already starving, so he eats his entire lunch as Sofia and I half-sleep. Sofia hates Tuesdays, thinks they are the worst day of the week. I’m no worse off than else today.

10:00 a.m.: And here I am, thinking about my ski. I had accomplished something before most people had even started their day; I’m still feeling the glow of satisfaction from a job well done, a morning spent exerting myself.

But I’m frustrated, too. I wanted to ski over the top of the pass, and I want those ten minutes that I didn’t have at the end. And so I turn this into a goal. I am going to ski this pass a few more times before I leave Davos at the end of the summer, and in the meantime, I’m going to get fitter and more efficient. I’m not going to run out of power like I did today.

I’m going to ski the pass starting at 6 a.m., and I’m going to beat Gunther to the top even if he’s driving the car.

I’m empowered with a goal, and the knowledge that it’s going to be a great summer.

Climb to the Castle

(Author’s Note: The first three (3) sections of this were published in the Valley News today. The last section, the one where I ramble about my personal relationship with racing, was not. Also, I don’t have any pictures from this race – I gave my camera to Pepa but she forgot to actually use it – but some great ones can be found at TeamToday.)

When most skiers head to Lake Placid, New York, they find themselves racing down Whiteface Mountain.

Early Friday morning, I found myself racing up it on my rollerskis.

Ahead of me were eight of the fastest cross-country skiers in the country. Behind me were a handful of other formidable competitors. And if I looked to my side, I was surrounded by autumn foliage lit up in the sun and expansive views of the Adirondacks.

I didn’t have many chances to appreciate the scenery, though. The toll road up the mountain is five miles long, with an average grade of 8%. It finishes at the “castle”, 300 feet from the summit of Whiteface, which is the fifth tallest peak in the ‘Dacks. Construction of the toll road began in 1929; then-governor Franklin D. Roosevelt officiated the ceremony.

On Friday, our little ceremony was officiated by the New York Ski Education Foundation (NYSEF) and the U.S. Ski Team. White team vans leapfrogged past me as I skied, and periodically I would pass coaches from the country’s various elite teams taking video and cheering for their athletes.

At the halfway point, a group of NYSEF juniors offered me a paper cup with water in it; I skied past them. I haven’t done many hill climbs in my life, and certainly none on rollerskis, but here’s one thing I have learned: you can’t stop for anything. What little uphill momentum you have, you must conserve. Your body is moving, and if you let it stop…. you’re screwed.

Up ahead, I could see my own coach, video camera in hand, shouting at my teammate. “Come on Hannah! Turn it over!” For the last two miles, Hannah had been maybe 30 seconds ahead of me, tantalizingly close, but a gap too big to close on the windy course. If I had tried, after just a minute or two the effort would have shot me out the back of the race. You can’t get excited in a hill climb. It’s a deliberate slog.

In a few seconds, my coach’s attention would turn to me. I hoped that her voice would tell me whether I was doing well enough, or not. Preferably the former.

Two and a half miles left. I kept climbing.

Up ahead of me, the race for the podium was heating up. Climb to the Castle, as the competition is called, is the closest thing we skiers have to a national-level race in the off-season. While the teams from Alaska don’t make it to New York, many of the country’s other best athletes do.

The women’s field was small, with only fourteen finishers. The men’s field had sixty. But the main difference between the two was not the quality at the top, where both fields featured multiple Olympians and national champions. The nordic combined team – the men who won all the medals in Vancouver – were out in full force.

The front of the women’s race included Dartmouth student and Olympic biathlete Laura Spector; U.S. Ski Team Olympians Liz Stephen and Morgan Arritola; and Dartmouth senior Ida Sargent, the seventh-ranked skier in the country.

Last year, Sargent and my teammate Hannah (Dreissigacker) finished third and fourth.

This year, it was not to be. Sargent said, “Last year it went really well, so I was actually psyched to race it again. This year I thought I would know what to expect, but you can’t ever predict how something like this – which is just so hard – will unfold.  I felt tired and instead of being able to attack like I had hoped for, I was just kind of holding on.”

Spector’s experience was different. As a biathlete, her races usually consist of shorter loops with rifle-shooting stages in between them. She hadn’t raced against regular skiers recently, but was excited to see how she stacked up.

In the beginning, the pace conservative; everyone knew that they had 50 minutes of climbing ahead of them. Spector said, “A large group stayed together for nearly two miles.  It first started to split up when Morgan [Arritola] took the lead from Liz [Stephen]. I was working my way up one spot at a time. Every time I thought I saw a gap forming between the leaders and the person in front of me, I would jump ahead and fill that spot.

“When we got to around 3 miles I offered to pull because everyone in the lead group was taking a turn on the front.  I soon noticed that I had opened up a gap and decided to push it from there.”

Spector held her lead through the final kilometers of the race and ended up winning by just over a minute. She said, “My win was for my teammates. I feel like there have been doubts in the past as to how well American biathletes train and perform physically, and I was out to prove that our training is just as rigorous and effective as what the cross-country skiers are doing.”

Sargent finished fifth, unable to recapture the podium. She said, “I’m sure I’ll do [the race] again next year, but right now I’m glad there is a full year before it happens!”

One thing that we all faced as we neared the finish – regardless of whether we were headed toward victory or not – was the wind.

With just a half mile left, the toll road takes a turn, and the castle is visible, tantalizingly close. But this turn exposed us to the wind’s full force for the first time; estimates had the gusts reaching 50 miles per hour. It literally stopped us in our tracks; multiple athletes I claimed to actually have been blown backwards (rollerski wheels roll both directions).

“I don’t think I’ve ever skied in wind that strong before,” said Sargent. “It was brutal.”

Personally, I wanted to sit down and cry. Even though I could see the finish, I had no idea how I was going to get there. My strides were only gaining me a few inches each time I pushed forward. I could have walked faster.

In the end, I made it to the finish by reminding myself that the wind was just as tough on my competitors as it was on me. My teammate Hannah had put two minutes on me in the last mile, when all the climbing had finally caught up with me, but nobody had passed me.

Honestly, I was just relieved to have made it to the top.

There’s a month until the racing season begins, and it’s all going to feel easy after Whiteface. I guess I’m prepared now.

You might think the story ends there. But it doesn’t. Something surprising happened to me on that mountain. I stopped being afraid of ski racing.

The end of my season last year was an absolute disaster: race after race of burying myself to go slower and slower. I dropped out of a race for the first time ever. I skied like a sack of dog poop. I felt tired all the time. I couldn’t go hard, but it was so hard to go even not hard. Something was terribly wrong, and everyone had a different theory about what it was, but the case was never resolved completely.

It had made me forget what racing was supposed to be like. I dreaded racing. Going into Climb to the Castle, I was terrified. I was sure something was going to go horribly wrong, I was going to feel tired, I wasn’t going to be able to turn it over, I was going to get dropped by everyone, left to ski, cold, alone, perhaps sobbing, up this indescribably steep road to the top (when I got there, it wasn’t nearly as steep as it had been in my mind). You can’t drop out of an uphill rollerski race. What are you going to do, turn around and ski downhill for three miles? You would have to be crazy to attempt to ski down a toll road.

I was afraid because it was a hill climb, but what I didn’t realize was that I was also afraid because it was a race. The last race weekend I remember was Spring Series in Madawaska, Maine, where I dropped out of the first race, missed the heats in the sprint, and then did terribly in the hill climb. It was not a fun weekend of ski racing. But that was the most immediate sense I had of racing. Everything in my body and my mind expected that experience all over again.

Almost as soon as I started Climb to the Castle, though, it was different. I was skiing! I was skiing well, I would even say. I felt in control. I was deciding my pace; I wasn’t fighting with my body. I was relaxed. I was beating people. All of this, honestly, was a complete shock.

Sure, I did really fall apart in the last mile. I bonked. I was really, really slow. And I almost sat down on the side of the road and cried in that 50 m.p.h. wind. But that was different. Everyone gets tired after climbing a mountain for 4 miles. Pacing yourself perfectly in a hill climb is pretty tricky. The fact that I didn’t nail it doesn’t mean that I’m not ready, that I’m not fast, that I don’t have the ability to go do an actual, normal race, and pace myself as I should.

You might not think that finishing a five-mile race 9 minutes behind the leader would boost my confidence. But it did.

I don’t dread racing anymore. Now I remember why I love racing: it’s a thrill when you feel good. I can’t wait. Bring it, races.

Photos: a day in the life of a full-time ski racer.

I read somewhere that in order to develop a readership for your blog, you should only ever write about one thing. That way, people know what to expect and won’t be disappointed when they come looking for one topic and find something completely unrelated.

Well, I haven’t followed that rule, have I? I write about what I do and what interests me. And in any given day, that can be a lot of things. I wanted to share, visually, one day in my life, so that you can see what it’s really like. I was lucky enough to get Pepa to take some pictures of our workout this morning to start us off.

Click photos to enlarge.

At 9 a.m., we headed out on a 90 minute rollerski, classic, with ~23 minutes of threshold in the middle.

Threshold means working hard, but not too hard. This wasn’t a time trial although the course was identical to our usual time trial course. You don’t want to build up lactic acid in high quantities, but rather work at a level just below that, where your body can clear the acid quickly and efficiently. Threshold should feel good, and today it did for me (some days I’m tired and it doesn’t). The tape on my arms is to combat tendonitis in my elbows, which I developed to a debilitating degree last summer from the impact of my pole tips hitting the pavement. I’m considering getting cortisone injections this year. Also, I’m not sure if you can tell, but my poles are bright pink. I spray-painted them: no more boring black! It cheers me up every time I ski.

It started pouring as we were skiing back to our cars. It was a hot day, though, so the rain felt good.

The Craftsbury Public Library was having a used book sale, so Lauren and I drove up before lunch. I came home with three books I had bought at the sale (for $5 total), one which had come in on interlibrary loan, and two movies we had picked out to borrow. But when will I have time to read all these books?

After lunch I baked the loaf of sourdough which I had started before our rollerski. When I bake, I usually make two large oval loaves, but with the boys away in Bend, we’ll go through bread much slower. Anna has a really nice round brotform which she lets me use, as well as a lame.

In the afternoon, we had practice with our elementary school skiers. Algis Shalna, one of the US Biathlon Team coaches and a former Olympic gold medalist for the Soviet Union, was on hand to teach the kids about biathlon.

Shooting was the exciting part. Not being a biathlete, I was there to direct the kids in a bounding workout in between their shootings. It was very hot and I felt bad asking them to bound up the hill three times before they could go back to shoot again. But not too bad… you have to toughen them up a little!

After a quick break to put my feet up and recover from standing around in the sun and the 80 degree heat, I headed out for my second workout of the day, a 2-hour bike ride. I traipsed about for 33 miles, touching at least the corners of Craftsbury, Wolcott, Hardwick, and Greensboro.

I got the chance to appreciate some beautiful scenery on my ride, like these happy cows in a green, green field.

I was late for dinner because my ride took so long – I swear the same route didn’t take 2 hours last year. Lauren had done a shorter ride, but she had also shot with Algis earlier in the afternoon. We were both exhausted. Dinner was heavenly, thanks to the dining hall staff: roast beef, braised chard, a rice-nut loaf, baked potato, the usual excellent salad bar. The cooks had made homemade ice cream, too, in cardamom ginger, maple vanilla, and chocolate flavors, to be topped with chocolate sauce and raspberries. They really outdid themselves this time.

We were both exhausted, but managed to drag ourselves to a birthday party for one of the staff members. They burned a hollow log, which they stood up like a chimney; it burned from the inside out, throwing a large flame out the top. I forgot my camera, but the way the millions of sparks flew out and into the night sky, dancing around on the breeze, was beautiful. They all landed on in the grass, and I couldn’t help but feel lucky that the lawn didn’t catch on fire. There was also a very delicious pistachio cake from the Edelweiss Bakery in Johnson.

Every day is different, and not every day is a Saturday, but this is a taste of my life. For some full-time athletes, being an athlete is enough. But for many of us, it is not enough, and we have to pursue our other interests at least to some extent. We have to remain human, not become physiological machines, and we have to balance ourselves mentally. That’s why you’ll find me writing about baking and farming and the environment and pretty much anything that pops into my head.

Oh, and isn’t Vermont beautiful?