Posted on August 23rd, 2015 No comments
Burt Shavitz, co-founder of Burt’s Bees, died on July 5th, aged 80
SETTLING back in his rocking chair, feet spread to feel the heat of the stove, Burt Shavitz liked to reflect that he had everything he needed. A piece of land first: 40 acres of it, fields and woods, on which he could watch hawks and pine martens but not be bothered, with luck, by any human soul. Three golden retrievers for company. A fine wooden house, 20 feet wide by 20 feet deep, once a turkey coop but plenty spacious enough for him. From the upper storey he could see glorious sunsets, fire off his rifle at tin cans hanging in a tree, and in winter piss a fine yellow circle down onto the snow, and no one would care.
As the co-founder of Burt’s Bees, he could have been a multimillionaire. He had once held a third of the cosmetic company’s stock, valued in 2003 at $77m; he had surrendered it a decade earlier for property worth $130,000. In 2007 Clorox, a big corporation famous mostly for bleach, bought Burt’s Bees for a sum just shy of $1 billion. A fortune moulded originally from his honey and his beeswax allowed the other co-founder, Roxanne Quimby, once his lover, to purchase 100,000 acres of Maine to return them to their pristine wildness. His romantically bearded younger face, in battered hat, still graced the little tins of hand salve that would set you back $8.99 in Walgreens. But what would he ever want all that money for? He had his corner, and was content.
His dream was to earn just enough to live a simple life. His idea of business, before he met Roxanne, was to load his yellow pickup with honey from his bees in old quart pickle jars, park it beside Route 7 just out of Dexter, Maine, and see who chanced past. He was thought an independent cuss locally, given to swearing and bad manners, but he still sold enough honey—in the months between July 4th and the start of hunting season, before cold weather thickened the product—to pay his property tax, vehicle registration and lighting bill, and buy enough to eat.
Into the wilds
Bees were a marvel that way. They were the sort of livestock even a New Yorker could manage, for that, despite appearances, was what he was. He had been born in Manhattan and in the 1960s became a photographer there, snapping Black Muslim rallies and dandified drug-dealers on the Bowery, while growing steadily disenchanted with city life. A series of pictures of Harlem children showed them caged by metal bars and wire-mesh fences, spending their lives amid macadam and cement. He photographed the old woman who lived opposite his apartment, on 92nd and Third, staring sadly from a frame of lace curtains; she never left that room. At that point he decided to throw his books and a horsehair mattress into a camper van, and leave for the wilds.
He had almost no money and certainly no ambitions. Beekeeping saved him from a hobo’s existence. He did not even pay for his bees; he found a swarm on a fencepost as he was driving into Maine, and took it as a good omen. A friend in upper New York State had taught him beekeeping and given him a hive, gloves, mask and smoker, so all he had to do was house the swarm and scatter the hives through the woods around Dexter. And then the honey kept coming. No more hassle until the spring day in 1984 when he picked up the pretty, hippie Roxanne, hitchhiking to her waitressing job at the Dexter Motor Lodge, and everything changed.
They never lived together. That was as well, for the turkey coop was smaller in those days, and Roxanne would have filled it to bursting with her enterprises. He had 200lb of beeswax sitting about with no obvious purpose; she turned it into candles, furniture polish (which didn’t sell), lip balm (which sold wildly), hand lotion, even ornaments for the Christmas tree. Together they went to craft fairs all over Maine, he tetchily, she bustling and bright and overflowing with ideas. By 1991 they were a company, called Burt’s Bees after the name he had stencilled on his hives in the woods to keep off robbers. By 2000 the company’s annual revenue was $23m.
She tried to bring him along, but he didn’t much care for it all. He was still the face of the brand, though he never believed (as she did) that he had the pulling power of Colonel Sanders. He followed her when in 1994 she decamped to North Carolina, abandoning the flower-child kitchen candle-dipping in New England for factory production in a place where taxes were lower and unions weaker. But he missed Maine too much, and soon sold out and went back: no longer to keep bees, just to do what he wanted, when he wanted.
He didn’t need any of that commercial buzz, the stress and press of it, and especially not the bitterness between him and Roxanne, though that ebbed and flowed. To be an “upper-mobile rising yuppie” was not on his agenda. In 2003 another $4m was passed to him, allowing him to be a rather well-turned-out hermit, with fleece and plaid jackets straight out of L.L. Bean’s catalogue and a glimpse of a nice watch under his cuff. When asked he would travel, even as far as Taiwan, to hold up little tubes of lip balm and appear among swarms of small children dressed as bees. For the rest of the time, he would wander into the woods or lie on his lawn to watch the baby foxes play, murmuring “Golly dang!” with simple happiness.
Posted on August 20th, 2015 No comments
Silo Ridge is a proposed new development in Amenia on Route 22. The condo/Homes are supposed to sell for very high prices and the developer has suggested than professional athletes and the very rich will scarf them up like Dunkin Donuts old fashioned doughnuts.
Of course anyone who has lived around here for years knows that big planned developments and their execution are two different things. And of course this is Amenia, not Palm Beach. But one of our readers sent the below. Stay tuned and get ready for when the New York Giants appear at the local hardware store.
“The Donald sued a farmer in Aberdeen Scotland for his home being unsightly in a spot that would be visible from the Donald’s as yet unbuilt golf course. A Silo Ridge lot owner is doing the same to Amenia Fish & Game!
The Donald wants to build a wall on the Mexican border. Apparently, so Silo Ridge wants one too!
Paragraph 3. below is from a planner’s report on a findings statement from Silo Ridge
3. The Finding Statement mentions the impact of neighbors on the project, but fails to mention the impact of the project on the neighbors. Specifically, the adjoining Amenia Fish and Game Club is being threatened by a nuisance action by the owner of a dwelling yet to be built while the impact on the club from the proposed development is not mentioned. The SEQRA process, and the Findings Statement should provide the impacts to and the mitigation for the development’s impact on this existing membership club. The Findings presents mitigation as the construction of an 8 foot high wall. The wall and its impact has not been analyzed.”
If any of my readers think I am losing it on the post about the chocolate bunny mold, Rick Santorum isn’t far behind. The below quote got a rousing cheer on the campaign trail.
“When did it become the law of the land that the Supreme Court has the final say on everything?”
The answer to the below question is 200 years ago when the Marbury vs Madison case was decided.
A Cast Iron Four Place Chocolate Bunny Mold.
I receive regular emails from a company called Proxibid which allows you to particpate in auctions on line. I have never bid on anything but might be tempted to buy the below.
The minimum bid is $5.00 but the auction is over soon so if any of my readers buy it, email me and tell me how it works.
Donald Trump has come out with his plan to, among other things, deport 11 million people living in America. Without getting into the details of this plan, I take you back 150 years to another time in America when immigrants were viewed in the same way that Trump appeals to a large group of Americans.
The Native American Party, renamed in 1855 as American Party, and commonly named Know Nothing movement, was an American political party that operated on a national basis during the mid-1850s. It promised to purify American politics by limiting or ending the influence of Irish Catholics and other immigrants, thus reflecting nativism and anti-Catholic sentiment. It was empowered by popular fears that the country was being overwhelmed by German and Irish Catholic immigrants, whom they saw as hostile to republican values and controlled by the Pope in Rome. Mainly active from 1854 to 1856, it strove to curb immigration and naturalization, but met with little success. Membership was limited to Protestant men. The most prominent leader was former President Millard Fillmore (the party’s presidential nominee in 1856).
Posted on August 13th, 2015 No comments
I saw this picture and title on MSN News Website. Einstein was left handed, so is Angelina Jolie and Barack Obama. It turns out that only 11% of the population is left handed which doesn’t seem correct as you would think that 50% is more logical. But being left handed i know what it means to have that strange crablike hand posture when you are writing and the ink or lead from the pencil left on the side of your hand
Posted on August 11th, 2015 No comments
A Neighbor sent these two photographs taken this past week. I thought the box turtle was rare but find they are very common. I was hoping for a rare species which would stop developers in their tracks.
Posted on August 11th, 2015 No comments
Posted on August 7th, 2015 No comments
Five years ago I interviewed Roman Totenberg, the virtuoso violinist. He was 99 at the time, still driving, still teaching and he told me the fascinating story of his life. At the end of the interview he showed me his violin, a Guarniri which he kept hidden in his closet. What I didn’t know and he never told me was that at one time he had owned a Stradivarius. If you cut and paste the below link, his daughter, Nina Totenberg takes up the story.
The below picture from the 1950s, Roman Totenberg (second from the left) with Artur Rubinstein in Rio de Janiero. Look at those suits!
Posted on August 4th, 2015 No comments