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December 30, 2010

My Favorite Email Newsletter of 2010

Ed. Note: During the last week of the year, we asked our writers to reflect on the highs and lows of 2010.

Before I explain my pick for best email newsletter of 2010, I have to offer a disclaimer. When Seven Days publisher Paula Routly tasked me with managing our first email newsletter in January, 2007, I was less than thrilled. I didn't get any email newsletters — also known by the cringeworthy title "email blasts" — and I didn't think they were all that great.

But four years later, I'm a convert, and not just because I helped develop our e-newsletters Notes on the Weekend (NOW), Bite Club, and the Daily 7. I get a bunch of other e-newsletters in my inbox daily and weekly — from VT Digger, The Skinny Pancake, Vermont Tiger, Vermont Business Magazine, the Association of Alternative Weeklies, and Front Porch Forum — most of which I open and read. 

At their best, email newsletters help me filter information. They let me know what's out there, what's going on in my community, or with a business or organization I like. They offer a taste of that information, and by linking to additional content on the web, they give me the opportunity to dive deeper and learn more,

My favorite Vermont email newsletter of 2010 doesn't quite follow that rule, though. It gives a little more detail than I usually expect in an email. But it's such a perfect combination of useful info relayed with personality and style that I had to share it. And the winner is...

This week's Good Eats Newsletter, from my farmer, Peter Johnson, of Pete's Greens!

Every week, Pete sends an email letting us know what to expect in the farm share we pick up on Wednesdays. Included are storage tips and recipes, along with write-ups about the local products included with the share.

This week, though, Pete added a travelogue describing his recent trip to Iceland. It appears between the contents of the share and the storage tips for claytonia (a salad green — who knew?) and daikon radish. I loved imagining the Vermonter who grows my food biking around Iceland in the dark on a folding bike he packed in his suitcase.

Writes Pete:

I recently returned from a great greenhouse studying trip to Iceland and Holland. Because I didn't want the trip to be all about work I took along a folding bike that fits in a suitcase to ride from greenhouse to greenhouse. It's a slick rig, the bike travels in the suitcase and then the suitcase becomes a trailer that is pulled behind the bike.

Iceland is way up north-66 degrees. But on the coast the winter temperature hovers around freezing, considerably warmer than Vermont December temps. It's amazing what the warm Gulf Stream waters do to the climate of Iceland and Europe...

I had some great greenhouse visits and twice a day had a ritual soak in a hot tub. Public heated outdoor pools and hot tubs are in every neighborhood. Iceland has plentiful geothermal hot water that heats all the houses, produces much of the electricity, and allows for neighborhood outdoor pools and hot tubs. In these hot tubs I got to know some Icelanders. They love to talk about their country, particularly the weather, and I received many words of wisdom about how sometimes it storms and then there is ice and snow on the roads. These warnings became so frequent that I began to see the Icelanders as a bunch of sissies who have never heard of a place like Craftsbury where there is ice and snow on the roads for nearly 6 months of the year.

On my last day I had to ride back to the airport. The night before the ominous words about storms were flowing thickly in the hot tub. I was in a stupor from the too hot water and did not pay much attention. Started out the next morning and it was windy, but no big deal. The ride to the airport is about 25 miles and I planned to add a 15 mile detour to the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a small, man-made pond filled with hot, Carribean blue sea water in the middle of an immense lava field. It is a well known tourist destination, way overpriced, but still something to experience.

As I rode towards the airport it got windier. The wind was at my side, occasionally gusting hard enough make riding dangerous but the shoulder was very wide. I arrived at the turn to the Blue Lagoon and headed left. Now the wind was at my back and it was so windy that I was going 35 mph on flat ground without pedaling. Needless to say the 7 miles to the Lagoon took no time at all.

As I soaked in the Lagoon it got windier. So windy that during the gusts there was a solid spray of water pellets that had lifted off the surface of the Lagoon, fiercely stinging any exposed skin. Pieces of metal siding were loosening and flapping on the buildings, I was afraid they'd come loose and come whipping across the pond. And then it got dark and windier still.

I was in a tough position. At this point I'd been soaking in the wonderfully hot water for a couple hours, long enough to have had all my ambition dissolved away. But what I faced was a 7 mile upwind journey followed by another 10 miles of sidewind riding, all in the dark...

Click here to find out how he fared. And yes, the food he gives us is good, too. Thanks, Pete, for going the extra mile. Or, the extra miles. I applaud your efforts!

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