Ramblers Way suits this rambler’s way

The parcel from Ramblers Way arrived with perfect timing. I was packing for a 20-day, 6,000 mile, truck-camping trip to Ramblers-Way-Farm-logoMaine and back. I might see a washer and dryer at the midway point, but nice-looking, packable, stink-resistant tops would be key. They’d have to be versatile: for city and country, for hiking and reporting stints. They’d have to be warm or cool, depending on weather conditions over three weeks and 20 states.

Read more about Ramblers Way and its founder, Tom Chappell.

Like the perfectly chosen audio book or the most comfortable pair of hiking shoes, these tops were the tops. They helped make the trip easy and enjoyable.

I tried the women’s Henley tank, crew neck and quarter zip polo – all sized medium, in a warm charcoal grey of superfine Rambouillet wool.

“Itchy wool?” you ask.

On the Ramblers Way road

On the Ramblers Way road

No, yummy-next-to-the-skin, lightweight, delectable wool. Not your grandfather’s, scratchy beard wool, I reply.

The three items can be worn together or on their own. I mixed and matched. On a balmy Colorado walk and for a sultry college commencement in New York, the Henley tank served marvelously on its own and under a blazer.

The long-sleeved crew has the perfect neckline for showing off a necklace, but isn’t so scooped to make it inappropriate for active use. I wore it hiking and tucked it into my jeans for a slightly neater look and a dinner engagement.

To be honest, I also wore both as pajama tops, that’s how inseparable I was to these separates.

The quarter zip feels a bit like your favorite flannel shirt, but it’s warmer, classier and exponentially more versatile.

When I buy fabrics like wool or silk, a red flag immediately goes up: What about the dry cleaning or handwashing?

rwwRamblers Way items can be tossed in the washer and dryer. The care instructions say you can also hand wash and line dry them, but they held up well to my regular, no-fuss wash and dry treatment.

The last requirement for an active traveler, of course, is pack-ability. All of the tops were crammed into my pack (they’re made of fine, four and five ounce knit and compact exceedingly well). I even balled up the crew neck and used it to help with my sciatic pain while driving. They retained their shape perfectly and always looked wrinkle-free.

They might cost a bit more, but there’s something to be said for feel, the literal and more thoughtful varieties.

It’s nice on the skin. And, with Ramblers Way’s mission of sustainability and Made in America values, it’s nice on the brain, too.

A real model wears Ramblers Way top

A real model wears Ramblers Way top

Read more about Ramblers Way and its founder, Tom Chappell.

Ramblers Way, talking with Tom

We met Tom Chappell and his new company, Ramblers Way, at the Outdoor Retailer earlier this year.

Most of us know Chappell (pronounced “chapel”) from Tom’s of Maine, the hugely successful, natural toothpaste and personal

Tom Chappell

Tom Chappell

care product company bought by Colgate-Palmolive in 2006.

So, what’s this new gig for the tall, white-haired man who grew up on a farm and spent many a day riding his horse in the fields of Uxbridge, Massachusetts?

Chappell, 72, first brainstormed the Maine clothing company after a trek with his son in Wales, to celebrate the Tom’s of Maine $100 million sale.

They hiked for two weeks in cool, rainy weather. He tried all variety of garb – polypropylene, capilene, silk, wool, cotton – yet, he found nothing would keep him warm, dry, and body-odor free during those 12-mile, rambling days.

He admired the local sheep, seemingly comfortable and content in their own coats.

Ramblers-Way-Farm-logo“My first concept was to have something soft and comfortable, not scratchy, but that would insulate,” said Chappell by phone last month. “I wanted it for active, outdoor use.”

Read review of Ramblers Way products.

He did some research. (His wife, Kate, says he stayed retired for just a few weeks.)

He learned that by using the superfine fibers of the Rambouillet sheep, one could create soft, fine yarn that didn’t itch. From that, you can make light, insulating, breathable clothing.

With help from family members (son Chris Chappell helps on the technological side and daughter Eliza Chappell is a designer.), the company was born in 2009. With their help, the senior Chappell has learned about bounce rates, click-through-rates, and the world of Internet sales.

“If customers see an image of a white-haired guy in a Volvo, they’re just going to move off,” he recalled.

Ramblers Way is not another clothing company, selling high-end products sourced and made in China. Chappell, who earned a Masters from the Harvard Divinity School in 1991, wanted to create something more meaningful and valuable.

Tom Chappell with Rambouillet sheep

Tom Chappell with Rambouillet sheep

Heard of “ethical fashion?” It’s an umbrella term describing a range of issues including working conditions, fair trade, sustainable production, the environment, and animal welfare in the production and sale of clothing.

Ramblers Way is ethical fashion. The wool comes sheep in Colorado, Montana, Nevada, and Maine. It’s sent to mills in the North and South Carolina, then sewn by garment makers in Fall River, Massachusetts. Natural enzymes are used to clean the wool. Plant extracts are used to dye it. And the company has a thorough plan for sustainability which includes geothermal and solar energy for their offices in Kennebunk, Maine.

It started out exclusively on line and as appealing most directly to Baby Boomers. But Chappell learned that reaching younger buyers was crucial. The clothes are now geared for “value-centric” shoppers who are “stylish, fit, and trim,” he said.

He also found he disliked the “lack of relationships” inherent in the online-only entity, said Chappell. So, they connected with retailers. Its clothing is now in 400 independent clothing stores.

Read review of Ramblers Way products.

United in Love and Equine Dedication

kelQuestion: How many horse owners does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Name any number. The light bulb won’t get changed because they’re too busy talking about horses, minis, donkeys, and mules.

Say this about our crazy community: we are passionate, enthusiastic, devoted, engaged and opinionated. We help each other in the best and worst of times. Especially during this winter season, we bear burdens with tough commitment, smiles of commiseration, and shakes of the head that say, “What next!?”

Community is one of the most gratifying elements of work here at NickerNews and BestHorsePractices. We love hearing from you. Recently, with our Winter Weigh In’s and Winter Warrior Muck Boot Contest, we’ve been hearing a lot. Here’s some more news from horse gals:

nelKelly from Durham, Maine, cares for eight horses and sent this photo of her Nelson waterer.

“Three inches of ice from drool, but the Nelson is amazing,” she said, adding that with snow banks so high, her minis have finally stopped breaking out of the pasture.

We talked with Tom Dowd, head of customer service at Nelson Manufacturing. The Iowa company has been making the automatic waterers since 1949. They’re in zoos, they supply the Budweiser Clydesdales, and even serve a sheik’s racing thoroughbreds in the United Arab Emirates, he said.

This week, though, Dowd was mostly chatting with customers in cold weather states. He sent a new heating unit to a long-time customer in Palmer, Alaska, who needed to replace it after 12 years of service.
nelsonThe heater might wear out after over a decade of steady use, but it’s much more efficient that livestock tank heaters. It costs about 18 cents a day to maintain the Nelson when the weather is zero degrees, according to Dowd. That’s a stark contrast to many horse owners we’re heard from who say their electricity bill has tripled this winter.

“We like to joke that when you plug in a tank heater, you can see the smoke coming off the electric meter,” said Dowd.
We’ve heard from scores of horse owners from New England, southeast U.S., the Midwest and Western States, Canada, and beyond.

Carole, of Maine and Florida, poses with her pony, during a warmer moment

Carole, of Birds n Bees Farm in Hope, Maine, wrote to us:
“I am in Florida this winter, something I never thought I’d do because I’m not “old,” hate golf and RV parks. But I have discovered it’s a great place for walking and riding…I’m determined to get my ponies down here next winter.

Can you believe what they are going through in Maine? I’ve lived there nearly half a century and I have never seen a winter like this one. I don’t think my poor ponies can even walk around, it’s so deep.

We have testaments to that, Carole!

Check out our Winter Weigh In Series.
Check out our Winter Warrior Muck Boot Contest.

Not on facebook? You can submit your entry by emailing to info@nickernews.net
We love hearing from you.

Welcome Lucerne Farms!

HeaderwithBlueSky copyWe’re excited to welcome Lucerne Farms to our growing family of advertisers. The Maine company, based in Easton and Fort Fairfield, fits our values and mindset to a T: a small company with a high quality product that’s great for owners and their equines.

It’s the perfect time of year to know more about Lucerne Farms. Many of us like to supplement our horses’ diets to ensure weight maintenance through the cold months. Grain’s not always a good choice; forage is safe, affordable and horses love it!

Horses stomachs are small, about the size of a football. As grazing animals, they are designed to eat slowly and almost constantly. That makes forage a great option in any number of situations including when:

  • hay may have iffy nutritive value
  • pasture doesn’t give them what they need
  • turnout isn’t an optionAlfa-supreme-photos-003

Horseman Chris Cox worked with Lucerne to develop a special blend. This video explains how much he favors forage over grain or other alternatives. The popular clinician uses it year round.

Lucerne makes many varieties, most with a blend of timothy and alfalfa grasses. I love “Hi Fi” as we call it at the feed store. Hi Fiber has timothy hay, alfalfa hay, and oat hay with a touch of molasses to tamp down any dust and add a smidge of flavor. It’s nine percent protein and 30 percent fiber.

For those wanting more protein, there’s Alfalfa Supreme with 15 percent.

If you haven’t tried forage, give Lucerne products a try. We’re betting you’ll see positive changes.

Want more ideas for keeping the weight on in winter? Read more.


A Darn Tough Convert

26802_601_zoomWe hear from Barbara, a Remuda Reader from Maine, on her impressions of a free pair of Darn Tough socks:

I thought I was very lucky when notified that I’d won a Remuda Reader drawing for free products. However, I felt like I had really won the lottery, when  told to go directly to the Darn Tough website and choose a pair of their life-time guaranteed socks! This is an impressive website with fabulous options, great colors, styles and loads of product information which made shopping easy.

After much deliberation, I selected the whimsically designed and colorful Yeti over the calf performance sock, which is listed for ski and riding. Its lightly cushioned bottom and seamless Merino wool has met all of my expectations and its non-bulky profile is perfect for all my riding boots. I am so pleased with this product. They are by far the most comfortable and functional pair of socks I have worn riding.They stay put, do not chafe or irritate and wash and dry beautifully.

While my first pair was free (but normally at around $25) purchasing Darn Tough socks makes them affordable and a lifetime investment. I think they are a functional, comfortable and a high performance treat for yourself and they would make fabulous gifts, guaranteed to please the recipient forever. I truly can’t imagine how anyone could find a more satisfying sock for their outdoor adventures.

I will love my Darn Tough socks for the rest of my life! The people at Darn Tough have made a serious commitment to quality and value and it is a pleasure to purchase from a Vermont company that clearly has confidence in their product supported by their amazing guarantee.

Read UtahOutsider’s Review of Darn Toughs!

An autumn view of Barbara's Maine farm

An autumn view of Barbara’s Maine farm


July Storm: poet gives us telling image

July Storm


Like a tall woman walking across the hayfield

the rain came slowly, dressed in crystal and the sun.

Rustling along the ground, she stopped at our apple tree

only for a whispering minute, then swept darkening

skirts over the lake,

and so serenely climbed the wooden hills.

Was the rainbow a ribbon that she wore?

We saw it when she was gone. It seemed a part of her brightness

and the way she moved lightly, but with assurance

over the earth.

Elizabeth Coatsworth
Gary Lawless, owner of Gulf of Maine Books, was kind enough to send me this poem.
Coatsworth and her husband, Henry Beston (who helps open the pages of A Rider’s Reader) lived in Maine for more than 50 years.
Lawless writes:

“They bought the farm in the early 1930s. She died in 1986 and we came here to caretake right after her death. I read her poems at her funeral…She left six horses and a pony. Someone had to be here…Elizabeth published over 125 books in her lifetime, a full and beautiful life.”


Helen Peppe’s ‘Pigs Can’t Swim’ Inspires

It’s a wonder she made it out of childhood in one piece. And with a brilliant attitude to boot.

Those were my first thoughts, coming with a nervous chuckle, after reading Helen Peppe’s Pigs Can’t Swim: A Memoir.

There are scenes of frigid winter trudges, of endless sibling taunts, of lonely, seat-of-her-pants learning.

In Peppe’s childhood, hunger and confusion mix readily with mud and manure. And nearly everything seems to happen helenwhile barefooted, even the riding.

Those riding moments will resonate with us horse lovers. In Chapter 16, she writes of solo rides with a free-leased mare, Dakota:

“I felt the grip of home loosen. I began to feel something I can describe only as possibility, a release in my chest that made me breathe more deeply and fully.”

In my mind, Peppe achieved the near-impossible with this thoughtful memoir:

  • First, she recalled with vivid detail a fluid stream of memories from girlhood.
  • Second, she manages to do so with a convincing voice and girlish mindset.
  • Third, she knits into her narrative the kind, mature, and forgiving perspective of a woman who has made it through very personal and sometimes traumatic trials of growing up in a big, poor family.
  • Lastly, Peppe seems to encourage and inspire her readers, especially those of us who also grew up in rural Maine, to consider their own childhoods from a new perspective and with greater appreciation and humor.

That’s when books like Pigs Can’t Swim become more than words on pages. They become gifts.

Visit Helen Peppe’s website here.

Maine to Utah, circa 1849

Imagine my delight in learning a Maine family was among the first white folk to settle in this neighborhood!

Meet Thomas and Mary Jane Butterfield of Farmington, Maine.

[Photo at right shows the stone and brass monument, erected in their hometown, Herriman.]

In the 1830’s, they met Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, and followed him first to Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri, before finally heading to Utah by oxen and wagon.
In 1849, they settled just west of the Jordan River and found clear drinking water in the canyon that now bears their name, Butterfield Canyon.

Thomas Butterfield was a busy guy. He raised cows, sheep, oxen, horses, and bees, and fathered 12 children.

“Thomas Butterfield was a very industrious man. As the years went by, he added to the variety and amount of crops planted until the family produced most everything they needed or cared for. His herds grew large and prosperous. He was known for his generosity, always giving to those in need or less fortunate.”

thomasAccording to Family Search, a website maintained by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

The pretty Butterfield canyon lies a few miles from where, after much searching of the 21st century variety, we found a place to suit our needs and wants after completing our own journey west over the Rockies.

Photo at right, Thomas and Mary Jane Butterfield.

Dr. Rachel Flaherty opens solo practice

r f vetDr. Rachel Flaherty, for years a popular vet with Maine Equine Associates, has moved on to a solo practice.

Flaherty, a 37-year old graduate of the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, has opened Back Cove Equine Veterinary Care.

At MEA, Flaherty worked alongside Dr. David Jefferson, who inspired her to pursue veterinary studies decades ago.

“He was my veterinarian growing up. He’s probably the reason I became a large animal vet. I watched him, how he interacted with people and what his lifestyle was like,” said Flaherty.

That lifestyle is not for the faint of heart. Each day brings challenges with weather, travel, and, of course, thousand-pound animals and vtheir humans.

But, said Flaherty: “Building amazing relationships with people and their animals, seeing beautiful places every day, seeing parts of Maine that nobody ever gets to see… It’s kind of an amazing thing.”

Flaherty excels at internal medicine, dentistry, and enjoys her work with camelids (llamas and alpacas). With future coursework at the Chi Institute of Chinese Medicine in Reddick, Florida, she looks forward to adding acupuncture to her repertoire soon.

Best wishes, Dr. Flaherty!

Find Back Cove Equine on facebook or at the new website for Back Cove Equine Veterinary Care. She may also be reached at (207) 232-4316.

r f vv

Dr. Cooper will be missed

The large animal veterinary community lost a beloved and respected figure last week in Dr. E.L. “Coop” Cooper. After suffering a stroke, Dr. Cooper died at the Hospice House in Auburn. He was 87. Read the Sun Journal obituary.

Cooper hailed from British Columbia, Canada. After graduating with a vet degree from the University of Ontario, he worked for cooperDr. Edward Russell in Farmington before starting his own private practice.

Friend and fellow vet, Dr. David Jefferson, of Maine Equine Associates, shared this memory:

“Coop and I have been friends for years.  

One day I was up in Wilton on a Sunday emergency call.  After I sutured the leg of a horse that lost an argument with some barbed wire, I  stopped at that Windmill burger and fry place for a quick lunch.  Coop happened to be there and was sitting in his pick-up pulling on a thick milk shake.   
I asked what he was doing that day.  He replied that he had some calves to vaccinate and had to check some cows for pregnancy.   I said that those calls sounded pretty routine to me, and why in the world was he doing that stuff on a Sunday?  

He gave me a big grin and up came that funny little chuckle of his and he said:  

‘Seems like every time I try to take a day off I just get into trouble.   I figure that I might as well just work every day and you know,  I always have some fun at every farm that I visit.’

He did, and so did his clients.    
He was and is the hero of all of us who pound the roads on large animal calls.”

Rest in peace, Dr. Cooper. And sincere condolences to the Cooper family.

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