hill country observerThe independent newspaper of eastern New York, southwestern Vermont and the Berkshires





An organic generation, drawn to farming

At a time when many of the region’s traditional large-scale dairy farmers are stressed to the point of selling off their herds, some young people see a bright future for agriculture in upstate New York -- especially agriculture of the smallscale, organic variety. For these idealistic young people, making money isn’t the top priority, but they see farming both as a career and a lifestyle. One factor in this new back-to-the-land movement is a desire for meaningful life experiences in a high-tech, consumerist age. read more



Home-birth law fails to deliver

For advocates of natural childbirth, it was supposed to be a big step forward: Last year, Vermont legislators passed a law requiring health insurance companies to cover the cost of midwife care for babies born at home. But since the new law took effect in October, the state’s largest private insurer, Blue Cross Blue Sheild Vermont, has been refusing to reimburse midwives for most home births, saying the midwives must first be covered by malpractice insurance. Lawmakers now are trying to fix the original law to resolve the dispute. read more



Kitchen science lesson evolves into skin-care business

Alabu Skin Care got its start quite by accident in 1997, the result of a home-school science project and a goat-raising neighbor with a surplus of milk. Fifteen years later, Hal Mayes and his sister, Nell Turgeon, make more than 1,200 bars of soap per day at their Saratoga County farm and manufacturing plant. Although goat’s milk soap can be found just about anywhere nowadays, the sibilings’ products stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace. read more



Audubon prints at center of exhibit celebrating birds

John James Audubon’s “Birds of America,” compiled in the 1820s and ‘30s, still ranks as one of the greatest ornithological studies ever compiled, and now some large-scale prints from the original work are the central element in a multi-faceted exhibit at the Berkshire Museum. The exhibit, “Taking Flight: Audubon and the World of Birds,” pairs the Audubon prints with stuffed birds from the museum’s natural history collection.read more



A sign of dollars drying up

The children, seated in chairs around the edges of the room, were concentrating -- and laughing -- as they signaled to each other with their hands. King monkey, cat, signed one girl to another. Cat, dog, signed that girl to a boy nearby, as the dozen kids, ages 6 to 12, played a game to help them learn American Sign Language. read more



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