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





Inside stories from New York’s child welfare system

It was a typical pattern for a young person who winds up in New York’s child welfare system: Once Sid landed on the authorities’ radar at age 14, every rebellious act and incidence of misbehavior led to escalating punishment and deeper entanglement in the system. It wasn’t long before she was removed from her home and sent to a short-term detention center in the Glens Falls area. From there, she was transferred to a long-term residential center near Troy. Once in the system, her stay kept getting extended; she didn’t regain her freedom until just before she turned 18. read more



Bucking trends, indie bookstore plans for growth

When construction of the new four-story building on Btoadway is completed, downtown Saratoga Springs will again have a large bookstore, something it has lacked since the Borders chain pulled out two years ago. Northshire Bookstore of Manchester, Vt., is boldly expanding westward to open its second store, defying industry trends that have left many independent bookstores struggling for survival in the face of competition from Amazon and the rapid growth of e-readers. read more



Right-to-die debate takes new turns in Vermont

The emotional questions raised by Vermont’s proposed death-with-dignity law have become somewhat familiar after a series of legislative debates over the past decade. Should the terminally ill be able to choose the time and manner of their deaths? Should they be able to ask for assistance from a doctor to end their lives? This year, for the first time, the state Senate passed a stripped-down version of a bill that had been modeled on Oregon’s landmark right-to-die law. read more



Envisioning a schoolhouse for the visual arts

A historic former schoolhouse in the rural hamlet of Harlemville, N.Y., could soon return to its roots by serving as the home of the proposed Art School of Columbia County. Supporters hope to have a community-based, nonprofit visual arts school up and running by this fall in the building, which is just around the corner from the Hawthorne Valley Waldorf school and Hawthorne Valley Farm.read more



A quest for full flavor

Becoming a spice trader wasn’t part of Laura Griffin’s career plan. But when she visited an Indian spice store in Boston in 2008, the experience changed her life. “The store had a wall of spices that looked and smelled amazing,” Griffin recalled. “And I realized my spices at home didn't smell like this. My cinnamon smelled like dust in comparison.”read more