Nest — Fall 2022

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home design real estate FALL 2022 8 Burlington’s historic mail-order homes 12 Approachable interior design with Abode VT 16 Stop to smell the soaps at Farm Craft VT 20 A real estate co-op tackles Vermont’s housing crisis 22 A serial house sitter on the meaning of “home”
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In the early 20th century, affordable homes could be ordered through Sears catalogs — in fact, such KIT HOUSES still stand in Burlington. But housing is more complicated today, and this issue of Nest explores its nuances. As skyrocketing real estate prices edge buyers and renters out of the market, to meet demand. While a HOUSING COOPERATIVE doing business, Springfield’s TENFOLD ENGINEERING housing solution: expandable, movable cabins with automated setup through an app. Burlington’s ABODE VT offers savvy interior design — especially for folks who think they could never afford it. Designed or not, every home takes on the personality of the people who inhabit it, observes Stearns Bercaw. And in Shelburne, seed-to-soap herb operation forgets the greater meaning of “home”: planet Earth.

Last Quarter

Vermont housing news

Signed, Sealed, Delivered Historic New England highlights Burlington’s affordable housing of the 20th-century: mail-order-inspired homes

Intentional Design

With an accessible business model, Abode VT levels up living spaces

Sustainable Suds ....................

A Shelburne couple cultivates a farm-based body care and household products business

Chief Cooperator 20

Longtime co-op creator Matt Cropp turns his attention to the housing crisis

Another Way to Go Home Again 22 Lessons learned from house-sitting in Vermont

Tim and Becca Lindenmeyr at Farm Craft VT in Shelburne

NEST FALL 2022 5 ON THE COVERhome design real estate Burlington’s homes 12 Approachable interior design 16 Stop smell the 20 real co-op Vermont’s housing 22 sitter on the meaning
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Last Quarter

Vermont housing news

Expanding Horizons

David Jaacks, a Springfield entrepreneur with a degree in architecture, hopes to transform the way the world lives with an expandable steel-frame cabin that can set itself up on legs in a variety of locations.

e patented home is designed to leave the factory in the form of a 20-foot-long shipping container. At its destination, the legs come down automatically and the building rises, enabling the truck to drive out from underneath it. It then unfolds to become a 450-square-foot house, complete with furnishings — like an oversize camper that could serve as durable shelter for years.

Jaacks envisions parents occupying their movable homes in the yards of their adult children — and government agencies using them as emergency shelters or offices. ese uses fit into a movement known as nomadic architecture, which caters to those who want the freedom to change the view from their living rooms.

Jaacks has a history in this field: His previous business, Konrad Prefab, built the mobile lactation pods used by Mamava, a Burlington-based company working to make breastfeeding more accessible. In 2020, he purchased the designs of a British company, TenFold Engineering, and started adapting those to build the expandable homes at his industrial space in Vermont.

Most modular homes aren’t made to be moved repeatedly, and campers are too small to be comfortable long-term. e steel home designed by Jaacks’ TenFold is roomy but comes in a size that can be

trucked without permits. And the setup doesn’t require heavy equipment; an app directs the assembly, which takes about four hours.

Jaacks originally thought the retail sector would be most interested in TenFold’s structures. But he found a greater demand: Many workers — freed by the pandemic to move where they want — are having trouble finding houses to buy.

“What we have seen in the last two

years is that there is a significant market for relocatable buildings,” Jaacks said. With an expandable unit, he added, “you have a home that you can relocate within a moment’s notice, and do it cost-effectively.”

One of the things that sets TenFold’s designs apart is the steel. Most mobile buildings are made of wood or other conventional materials. But steel, Jaacks said, lends itself to automation in a

way that wood — which changes with temperature and other conditions — does not. And automation is key in an economy where construction labor is in short supply.

A TenFold prototype in Jaacks’ factory has expandable roof panels that hang at its side like wings. Jaacks spent the past year working with engineers to perfect a 45-pound hinge that does much of the work of expanding the building.

Further work on that prototype will soon move to Kentucky, where the machinery TenFold needs is available. In July, TenFold received $500,000 in federal COVID-19 relief money from the state Agency of Commerce and Community Development’s Capital Investment Program; Jaacks said he plans to move production to Springfield and, as TenFold grows, keep at least the R&D local.

Jaacks said he’s received 30,000 inquiries from potential buyers all over the world. e homes are expected to be costly — about $350 per square foot. at’s a third more than the typical cost of a stick-built home in Vermont, but it’s a bargain for someone who wants to plant their house near a ski area or on the California coast, where a threebedroom ranch can cost millions.

“If you hire a professional driver to relocate it, it’s easy to deploy at each location,” Jaacks said. “You could actually be a snowbird and literally move from one piece of land to another in short order.”

INFO Learn more at
A rendering of one of TenFold’s units when it’s fully extended David Jaacks with a 45-pound steel hinge

COLCHESTER: S.D. Ireland recently completed 60 Severance Green, a 61-unit apartment building with an underground parking garage. It offers studios, one-bedrooms and two-bedrooms as part of a 36-acre mixed-use development that includes condominiums, rentals and business space. A 700-square-foot one-bedroom apartment is $1,800.

New Kids on the Block

In response to historic demand, Vermont has seen a surge of home construction in the past few years. Most are multifamily buildings. To see what’s been springing up, Nest surveyed a few of the newest buildings in northern Vermont.


The push in Vermont is to build denser neighborhoods. But I rarely get a buyer who says they want to live in a growth center or that they want to see their neighbors clearly through their kitchen window.

Vermont has several programs in place aimed at encouraging downtown development as a way to preserve open land and promote the construction of affordable housing.

MORRISVILLE: e Foundry apartments were completed this year along the Lamoille River and the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. e development includes three buildings with five two-bedroom townhouses in each. Rents range from $1,500 to $1,800.

WINOOSKI: Butternut Grove Condominiums is a 20-unit condo development that opened in September. e units, which have all been sold, were developed by Champlain Housing Trust on land owned by the City of Winooski, and they will remain permanently affordable through the trust’s shared equity homeownership program.

A three-bedroom row house with a deck sold for $184,000.

STOWE: Lamoille Housing Partnership and Evernorth, a nonprofit affordable housing organization based in Burlington, used low-income tax credits, a Stowe community development fund, and money from the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board to complete these nine new affordable apartments in Stowe last winter. Rents are subsidized, and prices vary according to income; five of the apartments are reserved for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming so.

Realtor Richard Gardner, co-owner of RE/ MAX North Professionals in Colchester, said he understands why state and local policy makers are trying to encourage new home construction in those village centers. But most of the home shoppers he talks to, he said, want some acreage.

“A lot of the people who are buying are looking for the older neighborhoods with space between the houses and bigger yards,” he said. “And we’re just not building that way anymore.

“I’m all for preserving what Vermont has,” he added. “[But] I think Vermont needs to have a holistic conversation about what we want to be when we grow up. We’re not building what people want.”

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CHAMPLAIN HOUSING TRUST COURTESY OF TIFFANY DONZA JOHN JAMES JOHN JAMES COURTESY OF EVERNORTH BURLINGTON: 77 Residences is a newly opened 49-unit apartment building that repurposed the former People’s United Bank on Burlington’s Pine Street. Rents start at $990 for lofts; a two-bedroom is $1,245. e building was fully leased four months before it was completed, developer Doug Nedde said. Nedde’s company is working now on a 49-unit, ninestory apartment building right next door, at 79 Pine.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

“I walked in and thought, Oh, this house has really good bones and a good floor plan,” said Goltzman, who owns Daniel Goltzman Design and Development.

When architect Daniel Goltzman bought his home in the Five Sisters neighborhood of Burlington in 2013, he felt lucky. Just getting into the neighborhood was “a blood sport,” he recalled while standing in front of his 1931 home. The area’s small, unpretentious houses on quiet streets are within walking distance of downtown, Calahan Park and the Pine Street arts corridor. Plus, the house was well built.

Later that year, he realized that his Caroline Street home might be a kit house. Popular in the first half of the 20th century, kit houses were ordered from catalogs and arrived in precut components stacked in a train boxcar. Hundreds of designs for them filled catalogs issued by a host of companies big and small, including Sears, Roebuck & Co.; Montgomery Ward & Co.; Aladdin; and Gordon-Van Tine. Goltzman was flipping through one such catalog on display at a modest house on the 2013 Preservation Burlington Homes Tour — he served on the nonprofit’s board at the time — when he spotted what looked like a dead ringer for his house: a Dutch Colonial with a gambrel roof sporting a large second-story dormer and, below, a small columned entry porch next to a triple window. The house across his street has an almost identical plan, as do more down the road.

Kit houses seem to be everywhere in Burlington. That’s why Historic New England chose the city as the case study for its project “Kit Houses and 20th-Century A ordable Housing” and newly launched website,

The Haverhill, Mass.-based nonprofit owns and maintains 38 houses, farms and landscapes around New England, though none in Vermont. While many of the nonprofit’s properties are jaw-droppers — including the 1793 Lyman Estate in Waltham, Mass., and the 1938 Gropius House in Lincoln, Mass. — the kit houses project is part of the organization’s rather di erent initiative to document and preserve historic a ordable housing.

Charlotte Barrett, who developed the website, is the nonprofit’s community preservation manager for western New England and its Vermont sta person. A Burlington resident who recently explored historic Chittenden County markets in a project titled “More Than a Market,” Barrett took an interest in city neighborhoods that appear

Historic New England highlights Burlington’s a ordable housing of the 20th century: mail-order-inspired homes
Daniel Goltzman in front of his Burlington home, which may be a Sears, Roebuck & Co. kit house PHOTOS: JAMES BUCK

to have kit houses. These include the Five Sisters; Robinson Parkway and Henderson Terrace near the University of Vermont; sections of North Avenue; and “the Addition,” the grid of 12 blocks bound by Shelburne and Pine streets and Flynn and Home avenues.

“I found that I loved walking through them,” Barrett said, noting the neighborhoods’ small plots and shallow setbacks. “They have such an intimate feeling, and there always seems to be so much life on the streets — kids playing, neighbors chatting from their porches.”

Barrett worked with Devin Colman, Vermont’s state architectural historian, and Mary O’Neil, a City of Burlington principal planner for development review, on the project. All three earned master’s degrees in historic preservation at UVM. Three recent graduates of

at home. Catalogs touted the dream of homeownership in lush drawings of kit homes — then called “ready-cut” homes — in an enormous range of styles, with appealing names such as Shadow Lawn, Glen Falls and Graystone.

Some could be grand — Sears’ largest o ering was the 10-room Colonial Revival Magnolia model, based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s home in Cambridge, Mass. — but most were modest bungalows, capes or foursquares. Nevertheless, they o ered modern conveniences such as indoor plumbing, electricity and optional furnaces at a time when, in Vermont, many homes still had outhouses and woodstoves.

In Burlington, a kit arrived at the waterfront rail yard and was transferred from a boxcar to a truck to be carted to the building site. Kits included every-

the program — Nick Agresta, Gabrielle Perlman and Connor Plumley — contributed research to the website.

As the website details, the ability to order a house and build it — or have a contractor build it — from a kit put homeownership within reach of the early 20th century’s growing middle class. Farms and estates just outside town centers were subdivided to meet the housing demand, creating the first suburbs by the 1920s. Streetcars often provided quick connections.

In a 2021 Historic New England Zoom presentation, titled “Bungalow in a Box: Kit Houses of the Early 20th Century,” Colman noted that, by 1908, one-fifth of all Americans received the Sears catalog

thing, Colman noted: floor joists, siding, roof flashing, nails, paint. Framing components were often stamped with codes. A detailed plan showed how to put everything together.

The number of kits that became Burlington houses is not documented, but only about 400,000 were built nationwide. (Sears, the industry leader, sold 75,000 of them.) Local homeowners may find their house in a catalog — Goltzman’s matches Sears’ Van Page model — but that doesn’t mean it was a kit house. Some contractors took the plans from one and built several more using their own building

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Inside Daniel Goltzman’s

materials. Other houses were designed by architects who had Sears or other kit companies produce the components.

Confirming a kit house is so tricky, in fact, that doesn’t identify a single one.

But there are clues. Catalogs occasionally printed testimonials about a house model by former customers who were identified by partial names and towns — making it possible to track down their houses’ locations using U.S. Census information. Or the catalog might list all the towns in which a model had so far been built. Sometimes newspaper announcements of newly built houses mimicked language used in the catalogs, such as “honor bilt,” a Sears motto.

Inside, a homeowner might find stamped framing components in the attic or basement (though these may be lumberyard stamps) or, during renovations, discover paper labels still a xed to the back of a house’s trim. Sometimes original hardware, such as door handles, are stamped with the kit house company’s name — but companies also sold these separately.

Definitive proof lies in the rare survival of original paperwork, stashed in the attic or elsewhere: order forms, shipping inventories, receipts, blueprints or an o cial certificate of deposit on a building materials order.

While Barrett hopes eventually to

verify actual kit houses in town, the website focuses on the era’s creation of walkable neighborhoods with small, a ordable houses, whether kit or “plan-built,” that could serve as models for developing a ordable housing today. That is partly the focus of an upcoming Historic New England workshop, “Early 20th-Century A ordable Housing: Burlington’s Small Houses and Their Neighborhoods,” that will take place on Saturday, November 5, at the Generator makerspace. The half-day workshop will help homeowners, architects, builders and planners understand what made these neighborhoods special and how to preserve them.

Meanwhile, two ironies prevail in Burlington’s kit-house-type neighborhoods. First, while the houses were made a ordable in part by their modest size, they “feel small to an American family today,” Barrett said.

Like many Five Sisters owners, Goltzman expanded his original 1,200 square feet of living space with an 800-square-foot addition on the back. (He preserved the house’s original interior woodwork, including columns in the living room and a built-in linen press in the upstairs hallway.)

Second, the neighborhoods have so successfully maintained their intimate, walkable character that they have

become among the most valuable in the city. The few Five Sisters single-family houses that have come on the market in the past two years have sold for more than $500,000, according to Zillow.

“This is meant to be a middle-class neighborhood, but a normal middle-class family can’t a ord to live here,” noted Goltzman, who lives with his wife, UVM professor Jessica Strolin, and their two sons.

The Great Depression, followed by World War II-era restrictions on building materials, began to spell the end of kit houses; by the 1950s, construction had moved from building single houses to tract housing. Most companies selling kit houses had folded by the 1970s.

But the impact of kit houses is immense, in part because they defined the American dream. While not many were actually built, Colman said, “the fact that these companies were able to get their catalogs into so many households and plant the seeds of what the American single-family home could or should be was hugely influential. It cemented in the public’s mind, Oh, this is what we should want. Which is why, in the Five Sisters, they’re not all kit houses — but they all look like kit houses.”


“Early 20th-Century Affordable Housing: Burlington’s Small Houses and eir Neighborhoods,” Saturday, November 5, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Generator in Burlington. $1520.,

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Daniel Goltzman’s home in Burlington (above) and an advertisement for a kit home in a Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog circa 1926
HISTORY Signed, Sealed, Delivered « P.9
Original woodwork inside Daniel Goltzman’s home
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Below: A Shelburne living room that received the full “Abode Designed” service

Intentional Design

With an accessible business model, Abode VT levels up living spaces

The front door opens into a bright, airy living room adorned with gray and soft-blue furnishings and a natural-wood-topped co ee table. On it, a shallow basket holds a small plant and an antique cigar box that hides the TV remote control. A stack of terrazzo coasters sits on a book entitled Lake Champlain: Reflections on Our Past. A shiplap wall behind the sofa adds visual interest while camouflaging a door that hides storage space. Vintage wooden milking stools serve as side tables. Artwork on the wall features drawings of owls and hummingbirds.

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Right: Abode VT owner Juliet Palmer at her showroom in Burlington JAMES BUCK

Juliet Palmer, owner of the Burlington interior design business Abode VT, helped conceive the welcoming space in the city’s South End. These particular clients wanted to repurpose the 800-square-foot, second-floor apartment above their home as an Airbnb called the Aviary, with a bird theme and décor that nods to its Green Mountain surroundings.

The house’s dormer eaves posed a particular challenge: a steeply pitched ceiling. Palmer applied gleaming white paint to the walls, ceiling and trim, giving the room a wide-open feel. She made use of the otherwise wasted space of the dormer nooks: “We put a little desk in one and a little plant in one, just to make it more intentional,” she said.

A longtime restaurant manager, Palmer founded Abode VT on April 3 last year — 4-3-2-1, she pointed out, because she has a thing for numbers as well as a keen eye for atmospheric appeal. This July, she took her design services to the next level by opening a showroom in the Innovation Center of Vermont.

Visitors will hardly notice that it’s

in an oddly shaped former credit union o ce. Big windows facing Lakeside Avenue shine a light on Palmer’s style, which centers on clean, understated spaces and comfortable materials — an alpaca throw, a woven leather bench, a rattan hutch. In the showroom, she sells a smattering of antique and vintage pieces along with new, modern furniture — a green velvet sofa, a glass-topped round dining table, a small ottoman with an abstract print.

Finishing touches include ceramic vases, kilim throw pillows and candles made by a University of Vermont student who created signature scents for Abode VT: Peony Rain and Peony Gardenia.

“Livable spaces is what I’m going for, and that’s what I want people to experience here,” Palmer, 37, said during a recent interview while sitting on a caramel-colored West Elm leather sofa.

Function is key to Palmer. “I’m so big on intention of space and who it serves, who it needs to function for,” she said.

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Palmer has no formal certification in interior design and no access to directfrom-trade orders at discounted prices from furniture manufacturers. She sources products for client spaces herself, applying her skills as a savvy shopper and pledging to find deals that fit any budget. But Abode VT clients have no obligation to buy anything when they redo their rooms.

“If you have things you can use and pieces that you love, that’s what we’re going to work with,” Palmer said. Abode VT offers four tiers of service. Palmer charges $150 for a one-hour style discovery session in her studio, which includes shopping help and access to exclusive inventory. An in-home consultation costs $250. “I’ll help you move your furniture,” she said. “I’ll bring paint samples.”

For Palmer to create a design board, which features layout suggestions and links to products to purchase, clients pay an average of $1,250 per room. The full “Abode Designed” service — including project management, installation and styling oversight — ranges from about $3,000 to $8,000, with furnishings billed separately. For those jobs, Palmer has items shipped to her house, then she delivers them to the client and sets everything up.

When she started the business, Palmer heard people say they could never afford an interior designer. She caters to those clients.

“I want it to be approachable,” she said. “Everybody deserves a space that they love and can enjoy and that nourishes them and that they feel good in, whatever that looks like for them and whatever that budget is.”

Palmer’s target client is a working parent, like her, who might have come out of the pandemic with a house in shambles, having set up offices for work and school in the dining room or a bedroom. Now, those clients are looking to reclaim the space and make it their own.

“You know you want it to be better,” Palmer said. “You know there are improvements that can be made, but you’re not sure how.”

“I really felt like I needed a partner to execute it well,” Vaillancourt said, adding that Palmer proved to be the perfect collaborator. “She helped pull together the vision.”

And the investment has paid off, Vaillancourt said. The Aviary has enjoyed healthy bookings since opening in August, and guests’ gushing reviews invariably mention the décor.

Money was tight in Palmer’s household while she was growing up in Lebanon, N.H., she said. Her parents divorced when she was young, but each imparted to her a strong sense of style. Her mother loved to outfit a room or set a beautiful table, Palmer said. Her father was a chef for restaurants including at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, but after a triple bypass, he switched to collecting and selling antiques at flea markets. One of her father’s treasured pieces, a rustic white-painted dresser, stands in an honored position in the entry to the Abode VT showroom.

became the group’s chief operating officer. He has since left to work in property management.

When restaurants temporarily closed in March 2020 to stave off the spread of COVID-19, Palmer decided to stay home and focus on her son and daughter, now ages 6 and 9. But full-time parenting didn’t suit her, she said. She started a house-cleaning business and quickly filled her schedule, getting to know her neighbors while earning income, but it was too physically taxing to sustain, she said.

She and her family moved to their South Burlington home in June 2020. “The thing that kept me going during the pandemic was planning how I was going to design our house,” she said.

One day last year, Palmer and her daughter were watching one of their favorite TV shows, “Dream Home Makeover,” and her daughter said, “Mom, you could do this.”

Palmer uses no computer-aided design or digital presentations. “I can just look at a space and see if something’s going to work. I don’t need it laid out on a computer screen.”

She added, “To me, it’s so much about being in the space and feeling it and the energy and the flow.”

Bethany Vaillancourt and her husband had planned to handle the renovation of the Aviary themselves and balked at paying for an interior designer, which seemed like a luxury, she said. After starting the project, Vaillancourt found herself stymied by some decisions: the right position of the refrigerator, the placement of artwork, the items to accomplish the look she wanted.

Palmer also had instincts all her own. Though she doesn’t remember it, her mother often told Palmer that she would rearrange the furniture in her room as early as age 4, she said.

Her design predilection hadn’t surfaced as a career choice by the time Palmer graduated from the University of Vermont. Working in restaurants since age 14, she stayed in that business, taking a job with the now-defunct Three Tomatoes Trattoria. That’s where she met her husband, and they both later moved to the Farmhouse Group, which owns four Burlingtonarea eateries. Palmer managed the lunch service at the Farmhouse Tap & Grill on Bank Street, and her husband

The next day, she registered Abode VT. She intends to keep the business “hyperlocal,” she said. Most of her clients live in or near Burlington.

One exception — a recent job she took to refurbish a yurt in the middle of the woods in Granville — allowed Palmer to flex her design muscles. Previous tenants had trashed the place, she said, and the owners wanted an overhaul with all new furnishings.

“I try to stay true to the spaces themselves,” she said of the pieces she picked for the earthen yurt. “We’re sort of going for a Robert Frost-type writer’s retreat.” m

more about Abode VT at

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Sustainable Suds

A Shelburne couple cultivates a farm-based body care and household products business

Farm Craft VT bills itself as a “seed-to-soap herb farm,” which might raise the question: What do seeds have to do with soap?

The Shelburne farm’s three-acre field of bright-faced sunflowers, visible in late summer from Route 116, provides a clue.

As with many everyday items we take for granted, few people realize what goes into soap. At its most basic, explained Farm Craft co-owner Becca Lindenmeyr, bar soap consists of oils combined with water and sodium hydroxide. (No trace of the latter, commonly called lye, remains after it catalyzes fats into soap.) Additional ingredients might include fragrances and dyes, which are often synthetic in commercially manufactured soaps.

Lindenmeyr and her husband, Tim, founded Farm Craft in 2020 to make soap and other naturally scented and tinted body care and household cleaning products from scratch — with as many ingredients grown on their farm as possible. These include plants that add fragrance, color and functionality, as well as freshly pressed sunflower oil, the main ingredient in Farm Craft soaps and lotions.

Above: Green Mountains Autumn soap at Farm Craft VT Below: e Lindenmeyrs’ south-facing flower and herb garden PHOTOS: DARIA

The Lindenmeyrs picked sunflower oil for its high level of protective and restorative linoleic acid, the most abun dant fatty acid already present in skin, and because they could grow sunflowers, native plants that support pollinators.

A sweet little self-serve farm shop overlooks their sunflower field. Bunches of farm-grown herbs, such as lavender and lemon verbena, hang from rafters above shelves stacked with an aromatic rainbow of products crafted on-site in a workshop beside the Lindenmeyrs’ net-zero home.

Farm Craft’s lemon-honey-oat bar soap is rippled with bands of cream, honey gold and blush pink and speckled with oats. Purple and green swirl together in lavender-scented dish soap blocks. A vivid peak-foliage mountain scape depicted in soap deserves to be framed, not reduced to suds.

But the Lindenmeyrs want people to use their soaps, not display them. They believe in form and function. “Everyday

goods should be beautiful and practical,” Becca said.

The couple has invested a lot of time and effort to ensure their products perform and also meet broader goals. In addition to protecting skin without artificial ingredients, Farm Craft soaps, lotions and balms leverage the natural health properties of plants and avoid packaging as much as possible.

Noelle MacKay of Shelburne buys everything from laundry soap to shampoo bars from Farm Craft. “Becca is also great for advice,” MacKay wrote by email. When MacKay mentioned her sensitive skin, she said, Becca suggested she try the laundry soap. “I’ve been im pressed by how it has cleaned my clothes and also eliminated extra chemicals,” MacKay said.

Calen King’s Hinesburg family of four has converted entirely to Farm Craft

Above: Tim and Becca Lindenmeyr with freshly harvested sage in their herb and flower gardens Below: Lavender hanging from the farm shop’s rafters

personal care products, from soaps to creams to shower steamers, which dis solve to release scents such as eucalyptus with thyme and pine. King emailed that she appreciates the quality, lack of packaging and local provenance.

“Sometimes after a long or stressful day,” she confided, “I will stop by to pick up a soap on my way home just because the smell inside the shop is intoxicating and makes everything melt away.”

Earlier this year, the Lindenmeyrs could have used a little stress relief themselves. They had planted enough sunflowers to yield about 60 gallons of oil, the quantity needed for Farm Craft’s projected annual 6,000 bars of soap plus lotions. But the local bird population beat them to the harvest. After what the Lindenmeyrs ruefully dubbed “the great goldfinch feast,” they scrambled to gather what remained and will make up the shortfall with organic sunflower oil from Ukraine.

Despite the frustration of losing most of this important homegrown ingredient, the couple is sanguine. “We’ve always been stubbornly optimistic,” Becca, 52, said. “And entrepreneurial,” her husband, 50, added.

The couple met in Taos, N.M., when they were in their early twenties. Tim had grown up in Elmore and Becca in Newcastle, Maine, both in families of

artists and makers on back-to-the-land homesteads. “We grew up in our own craft schools,” Becca said.

Tim was working in construction, making pizza and skiing. Becca had applied her environmental science degree to a job in hazardous and nuclear waste remediation at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and, later, at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She also spent time working in garden centers and garden design. “I would vacillate between scary environmental science and gardening,” Becca said.

In 1995, the couple started Bluebird Herb Farm in Taos, where they raised culinary herbs, flowers and vegetables. They have worked together almost non stop since. When the Lindenmeyrs came back to Tim’s home state in 2000, they settled in Addison and launched Linden L.A.N.D. Group, an ecological landscape design/build company. In 2013, they moved their business and family, which by then included two daughters, to Chittenden County, where they bought 15 acres of a former Shelburne dairy farm.

The pandemic prompted a profes sional reevaluation. Inspired by supply chain disruptions of household essen tials, the couple brainstormed. Becca had dabbled in soapmaking during lockdown.

“Soap is the marriage of everything I love: chemistry, botanicals, horticulture, art and craft,” she said.

“We said, ‘Remember when we had an herb farm?’” Becca recalled. “‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we created products that are born and raised here?’”

Two years in, the business projects about $150,000 in annual revenue, mostly from online and farm shop sales, but also via a handful of local retailers and some holiday craft fairs. Bar soap accounts for about half of all sales. The hand-mixed and -poured four-ounce bars sell for $8 to $10. Each batch of 40 bars uses four ounces of essential oils, which derive their intensity from 28 pounds of herbs or flowers. The Lindenmeyrs cannot yet grow enough to meet their needs, but they are working toward that goal.

The couple believes that Farm Craft is one of only a few of seed-to-soap opera tions in the country. Managing the full production cycle requires a wide range of expertise that few people have, Becca noted: “You really need chemistry and farming and art.”

Farm Craft also offers camping sites, an Airbnb apartment above its workshop, and a handful of tours and classes during the growing season. The Mother’s Day Tea is especially popular. “We wanted to bring people here to share what we’re doing,” Becca said.

When visitors arrive, Becca serves as an expert guide and teacher. A recent property tour for Seven Days started with the farm’s five beehives under an old mulberry tree.

The couple bottles the bees’ pure, raw honey for sale and also uses the beeswax and honey in many products, such as Farm Craft’s face masks. Another important bee-produced ingredient is propolis, created when the insects gather sap from pine trees and mix it with their saliva. Bees deploy the sticky antimicro bial substance to protect their hive from disease. The Lindenmeyrs deploy it in their soothing calendula balm and some lotions.

The calendula comes from the southfacing, quarter-acre herb and flower garden, terraced in an amphitheater design. The couple and one part-time employee tend 50 plant varieties destined for their herbal tea line and the farm-made botanical oils, tinctures and hydrosols used in other products.

Walking the rows, Becca paused to pluck a leaf or flower to demonstrate her points as she rattled off information. “I collect knowledge,” she said.

Above: The Lindermeyrs’ environmentally sustainable home and glass greenhouse. Below: The stone terrace at the Lindenmeyrs’ house
Sustainable Suds « P.17

Sage and thyme, both with natural antibacterial properties, go into Farm Craft deodorant.

Spearmint, calendula flowers and rosemary contribute to the morning tea blend, designed to energize and promote digestive activity. Becca noted that lemongrass makes a vibrant local substi tute for lemon, and rose-scented geranium leaves pack much more floral punch than actual rose petals.

Becca stopped to point out the indigo, star-shaped flowers of borage, featured in Farm Craft’s logo. The petals go into the calm ing evening tea blend, while the tiny seeds are pressed into oil that’s added to lotion for its high content of gamma-linolenic acid, another essential fatty acid. The plant is also a bee favorite, Becca added.

Farm Craft employee Tobi Schulman was gathering borage and calendula flowers with Evelyn Kass, an overnight camper who was helping out in ex change for her stay. Kass had returned for a second visit while traveling the country for a year in her RV. The holistic veterinarian said she happened to arrive the first time when Becca was doing a tour. “She is just a world of information,” Kass said.

Kass was also impressed by the Lindenmeyrs’ ecological restoration plan to increase biodiversity, remove invasives and create wildlife corridors through the property. “They’re really

trying to create wild spaces and bring back native species and do the right thing,” she said.

Visitors on the organized tours might also be lucky enough to sit down for tea on the stone terrace of the family home, surrounded by meadows and a glass greenhouse housing the copper still used to make essential oils and hydrosols.

The Lindenmeyrs did much of the design for their 2,000-squarefoot environmentally sustainable home themselves, and Tim had a hand in building it. The superinsulated house generates as much energy from rooftop solar panels as it uses. A pair of heat pumps covers all heating needs; there’s a woodstove for backup. Local yellow birch flooring complements a living room mantle and furniture crafted from swamp white oak, re claimed from the 1830s barn on their Addison land.

A collection of 13 stunning botanical paintings by Tim’s paternal grandfather graces the walls. In a house full of thoughtful details, the works of art are prized family heirlooms, encapsulating the couple’s personal and professional passions.

“I designed the house interiors around them,” Becca said with a smile. m

Learn more at

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Chief Cooperator

Longtime co-op creator Matt Cropp turns his attention to the housing crisis

When Matt Cropp was in sixth grade, he saw firsthand the line between the haves and have-nots.

That was the year he transferred from a Baltimore-area elementary school to the pricey St. Albans School, a prep school for boys in Washington, D.C. Cropp’s mother was an art teacher there, which granted him access to a place that Business Insider lists as one of the most expensive private schools in the country.

“There were people with giant piles of money,” Cropp said. “That definitely made me much more conscious of the levels of disparity in day-to-day life.”

Cropp, now 35 and a Burlington resident, is still keenly aware of those inequities. He sees them in Vermont’s housing crisis: As real estate prices escalate, homeownership opportunities erode for people with modest means. Rising rents are forcing people out of their homes, and he’d like to do something about it.

That’s why Cropp — the executive director of the Vermont Employee Ownership Center, whose career has given him in-depth knowledge of co-ops — has turned his attention to cooperative ownership of housing. In 2020, he and others founded Vermont Real Estate Cooperative, a business that enables Vermonters to collectively own and manage commercial and residential real estate. Shares in VREC cost $1,000 each, and any Vermont resident can join.

Shareholders in a co-op housing company earn profits just as in other investor-owned businesses, but those profits are limited by design. In the co-op model, maximizing the company’s benefit to society takes priority over making as much money as possible. So, for example, instead of raising rents to make more money for shareholders, a housing co-op’s goal is to provide fair, stable rents for tenants — an important objective, Cropp said, at a time when housing is in short supply and rents are climbing.

At the Vermont Real Estate Cooperative, member-owners can earn up to a 6 percent annual return on their investment, depending on profits.

NEST FALL 202220
JAMES BUCK Matt Cropp outside the Oak Street Co-op in Burlington, which houses local eateries Poppy and Café Mamajuana

Renters receive a small refund when there is a profit after paying shareholder dividends. Members who are also ten ants would get both.

In 2021, the business bought its first property, a commercial building in Burlington that houses Good News Garage, a nonprofit that runs a vehicle donation program. VREC member Julia Curry said the difference for tenants is that, as a landlord, the co-op is values-driven — though she noted that the previous owner of the Good News Garage was also committed to helping the community. Although co-op owner ship might not mean rents are lower than those in neighboring buildings, it does mean the tenant has some assur ance rents won’t rise sharply as demand for commercial space increases.

“We are committed and, in fact, le gally required to kind of cap our profits, so we’ll never be looking to extract the maximum profits that the market would allow,” she said.

space, being flexible, taking on risks you otherwise wouldn’t — [that] would be unimaginable to people with more resources.”

After graduating from the University of Vermont with a degree in psychology and history in 2007, Cropp briefly tried social work. But in a time of financial collapse sparked by predatory lending, he found himself drawn to the idea of member-owned credit unions.

“Here was a model that looked like a realistic alternative,” he said.

For his master’s thesis, Cropp wrote about the first 25 years of the Vermont State Employees Credit Union. Since 2014, he’s been helping companies create employee ownership arrange ments through his job at the Vermont Employee Ownership Center. In 2015, he and others founded Vermont Solidarity Investing Club, paying $20 to $400 apiece to join and invest in local cooperative ventures. Cropp also co founded the Oak Street Co-op in 2020;

VREC is now is 50 members strong. Most, like Curry, are people who have been part of the co-op movement in Vermont for years. Curry met Cropp through her work on the board of Burlington’s City Market, Onion River Co-op, where he volunteered.

“There’s a little bit of a co-op ecosystem in Burlington and, to a smaller extent, around the state,” Curry said. “These are people who really value co-ops as a model.”

Now VREC is working to recruit more members, with the goal of raising up to $2 million to buy an apartment building with four to 12 units in Chittenden County. When the co-op has acquired five properties in the Burlington area, the founders will start looking at another market in Vermont, Cropp said. They want to move quickly.

“Given how much suffering and pain is out there in the housing market right now, with the desperation you see, how quickly can we have an impact?” Cropp said.

Creating VREC comes naturally to Cropp, who watched his father, a doctor, struggle with mental health problems. These landed him in his parents’ base ment and in a series of other inadequate living situations.

“As I got older, it started to become clear what happens when the sup ports fail or don’t really work,” Cropp said of his father’s situation. “Sharing

it owns the building that houses local eateries Poppy and Café Mamajuana.

“I’m something of a co-op nerd,” he said.

Cropp, who serves as treasurer of VREC, would like to amass a sizable real estate portfolio in Vermont. The group hopes to find its first residential building through word of mouth.

“If we can find a friendly seller who wants to exit in a way [that] long-stand ing tenants aren’t going to be displaced, that’s the best-case scenario,” Cropp said. If VREC bought a building with existing tenants, they wouldn’t have to join the co-op.

In the future, it’s possible that VREC could build an apartment building. For now, the goal is to reach a point where the co-op owns enough real estate to support paying a staff to manage the rentals.

VREC’s bylaws intentionally are not a secret: The business will share them with anyone else who wants to start a housing co-op in Vermont.

“We want to encourage everyone to join to help ramp this up,” Cropp said.

“But if they want to get things going faster where they are, this is a compel ling model.” m

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Another Way to Go Home Again

Lessons learned from house-sitting in Vermont

George Webber — the protagonist in Thomas Wolfe’s 1940 novel You Can’t Go Home Again — totally blew it. A writer himself, George returned to his hometown in North Carolina after mocking it in his first novel. Not surprisingly, the townsfolk were none too excited to see him back. Unnerved by their ire, George ran off again for brighter lights and bigger cities, eventually to learn the folly of his ways.

My family, which includes husband Allan and teenage son David, tends to run off, too. We lived in 20 homes over the course of two decades, a good number of which were in Vermont. We have always returned to this state and its people (including Allan’s eldest sons and their own growing families) for sanctuary from our travels — a phenomenon

I have written lovingly about in two mem oirs. In 2020, however, our story took a strange turn when we wandered off to North Carolina in search of a larger job market for my career.

Once there, I landed a remote position. Did we move back to Vermont? Not this time. Allan and I made the budget- and

weather-driven decision to buy a yet-tobe-built house in the Greek community of Tarpon Springs, Fla. (even though we are not Greek). I grew up in Florida. Whether swimming in outdoor pools for trophies or splashing in the Gulf of Mexico for pleasure, I was most at home in the water. I guess it makes sense that my residential existence would become fluid, as well, and that I would marry someone who has lived on the road as a musician and filmmaker.

Just as our recurring “go home again” story with Vermont seemed to be inching toward its final chapter, we discovered yet an other way to get there: house-sitting! Besides offering us welcoming places to stay during a summer of our discontent — waiting for the Florida house to be completed after two long years and anticipating David’s first year of college in New York — these gigs opened a door into the lives of people we cherish and the reasons they stay put.

NEST FALL 202222

Free-Range Richmond Farmhouse

Who could leave this place? The stunningly appointed 100-year-old farmhouse sits on several acres in the rolling hills of Richmond, surrounded by English gardens and some Rhode Island Red chickens. Obviously, our pal had to step away temporarily, but only for a glorious twoweek vacation in Peru. We seized the invitation to enjoy and manage her tranquil home, care for her dandy pup, and consume her free-range eggs.

On day one, a Sunday, we made omelettes and flower arrangements. We walked down winding gravel roads with the dog. That evening, we collected sticks for the outdoor firepit and made s’mores. We slept like logs in quilted beds with the windows open to the crisp mid-June night air. As every good domicile will do, this one made us feel like everything was going be OK. Om sweet om

Then we woke up on Monday to a new, conflicted reality: free-range farmhouse versus our madhouse existence. I started running around like a chicken with its head cut o to meet pressing work obligations. David hit the pavement in Burlington looking for “We’re hiring” signs so he could earn money for college. Allan hit the phones to book venues for his band, the Hokum Bros., and to talk with film festival organizers regarding his movie about Meat Loaf (the rock star, not the meal).

Epicurean Five Sisters Bungalow

We took our chilled-out shit show on the road to Burlington, where we set up residence in a friend’s bungalow in the Five Sisters neighborhood while she and her son skedaddled o to Tanzania for two weeks. As they watched lions hunt prey in the Serengeti, we raided their well-stocked cupboards, sank into their comfy furniture, admired their colorful rugs and walls, eyeballed their very curious art collection, and played with their hypoallergenic Himalayan cat.

that read “I’m a fucking ray of sunshine.” I sat down on the deep green couch, pulled a handmade blanket over my head, and waited for human resources to call and fire me. But I also had to laugh out loud, because the situation reminded me why I love staying here so much: It’s a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. There’s certainly no place quite like this home.

Reassuring South End Cape Cod


David started his summer job from this location. Allan did double house-sitting duty for another dear friend, whose artful home and glorious gardens also needed tending while she visited family in the Midwest. We’ve come to accept that Allan is this friend’s “house husband” to some degree, because he usually shacks up in her guest room when he’s in town. In appreciation, he runs errands for her and helps with projects.

Here’s where our never-ending Vermont story actually came to an end again. If we had to say goodbye, this was the sanctuary from which to do it. The people who reside in this lake-adjacent residence are endlessly reassuring, as is their abode. I felt deeply at peace here, surrounded by the powerful symbols of Judaism, even though I mostly ascribe to the Muslim faith after the United Arab Emirates rescued me from alcoholism.

Our presence was turning paradise into Grand Central station. What we needed was to be more like the house itself: rooted in time and place. Even the sweet pup was perplexed by our frantic ways. He’d lie in his cozy bed and sigh, as if to say, “What will it take to slow these humans down?”

into Grand Central station. What we the sweet pup was perplexed by our it take to slow these humans down?” heal — from disease as well as our to the farmhouse, I was grateful for

The answer came fast: COVID19. We all got it, then took to our beds and slept and slept and slept. The house wrapped us up in its warmth and helped us heal — from disease as well as our fever pitch. When we felt better, we snuggled up on the couch together to finally watch the last four episodes of “Game of Thrones.” When it came time to say goodbye to the farmhouse, I was grateful for the embrace of this edifice that held us together.

I took charge of my pal’s eclectic 1920s bungalow, which is an epicurean’s dream when she’s home. It’s a superb place to eat (she cooks everything from bibimbap to paella), drink (she has a secret family recipe known as the BoomBoom) and be merry (she honors most of the global holidays at her antique dining table). Even a recovering alcoholic like me has a reason to celebrate here: an assortment of co ee cups from local hairy potters — and several with the superpower to impact a conversation.

I share an unbreakable bond with my friend who lives here after we spent a week in India during a particularly volatile monsoon season in 2019. It included a visit to Gandhi’s Ashram in Ahmedabad, a tour of Jewish landmarks in Mumbai, and a trip to the Taj Mahal with my Muslim friend and tour guide. Wherever we went — synagogue, masjid or temple — I got a welcome home feeling in my heart.

an assortment of co ee cups

impact a conversation. morning serious colleagues when ing about my face, but rather be a pretty shade of yellow, so climate change. sink for a rinse. There, I saw what commendable

I was on a Zoom call one morning with a set of extremely serious colleagues when one remarked, “Nice mug, Nancy.” They weren’t talking about my face, but rather what was in my hand. From my perspective, the cup looked to be a pretty shade of yellow, so I just kept sipping and talking about global conflict and climate change.

When the meeting was over, I took the mug to the sink for a rinse. There, I saw what was so commendable about it — a bright orange message

So, while she and her family were in Israel for two weeks, my family took over their lives as well as their house. We kept the kitchen kosher; we loved their pup, Maccabee; we watched sports on television from their huge sectional sofa. I worked most days from that sofa, which seemed to take a load o my brain as well as my exhausted body. Their sweet dog joined several of my Zoom meetings, sitting next to me and staring at the screen. For this, my colleagues thanked me — because he actually is a fucking ray of sunshine.

I didn’t want my pal and her family to come back, because it would mean our summer in Vermont was over — and we’d return to a life on the road until our Florida house was completed. But come back they did, reminding me that, above all, home is where the heart is. And ours just happen to be here, there and everywhere.


Nancy Stearns Bercaw is a journalist and the author of two memoirs: Brain in a Jar: A Daughter’s Journey rough Her Father’s Memory and Dryland: One Woman’s Swim to Sobriety. She is the managing director of global internal communications for Mercy Corps, an international NGO.

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