Buttermilk Falls–A Vermont style waterpark.

Upper Buttermilk Falls

A well known destination for those hot Summer days Buttermilk Falls offers locals and visitors alike the chance to cool off in the Branch Brook, without having to fork over an entrance fee.   Many people have cooled off in the Buttermilk Falls since they were little kids and now bring their grandchildren.

Middle Buttermilk Falls

 

Buttermilk Falls consists of three separate waterfalls, spread out over .2 of a mile of the river. The lower falls, a set of cascades about 8 feet high, lacks a pool of any significance.  The middle falls is about 20 feet high and be quite dramatic during times of high-water volume. It flows into a 25 foot wide pool that is deep enough for complete submersion.  The upper falls is segmented into two flows about 12 and 15 feet high respectively.  Both falls flow into a large swimming pool with clear water and a pebble covered bottom.

The State of Vermont, through the Vermont Rivers Conservancy, purchased the land around the falls when it came up for sale.  Over 60 private individuals and businesses contributed to the purchase.  In order to preserve this unique river resource, the site has come under Vermont’s Department of Parks and Recreation.  Buttermilk Falls is cared for by the staff from Camp Plymouth State Park during the summer months.


Lower Buttermilk Falls

The get to Buttermilk Falls from the October Country Inn, go South on Route 100A about 6 miles to the intersection with Route 100.  Turn left, and follow Route 100 North for about 10 miles to the intersections with Route 103.  Turn right.   Buttermilk Falls Road is almost immediately on your right.  Parking areas stretch out along the last half-mile of this dead end road.

Woodstock’s Sculpture Fest: Yard-art taken to a whole new level.

If you’re planning a trip to our neck of Vermont’s woods this weekend, you’re in luck.  A truly unique opportunity to wander around a Vermont farm that is festooned with interesting and unusual outdoor sculpture is at hand–Woodstock’s Sculpture Fest 2012.  This year Sculpture Fest will be a two exhibition event.  On Saturday, July 28, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., the opening event, “Poetry on the Land” will be held at King Farm, with a special viewing of Bonnie Gale’s “Living Willow” installed on the adjoining Prosper Road site.  On Saturday, September 1, Sculputre Fest’s second stage, themed “Living Art,”  will be held at the Prosper Road venue.

The King Farm, site of Sculpture Fest’s July event, is an exceptional example of a 19th-century Vermont hill farm that still has most of its original buildings intact.  The property includes 154 acres of farm and forest land bordered by the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Historic National Park, and located close to the October Country Inn.  The King Farm was a bequest to the Vermont Land Trust from Francisca King Thomas in 1986.  In order to ensure that this property is properly maintained in the spirit of preserving the land for ongoing public enjoyment, the farm is in the process of being incorporated into the M-B-R National Park.

Sculpture Fest 2012 will host the works of more than 20 local artists.  The works range from forged steel, sound installations, ceramic sculpture, welded sculpture, mixed media three dimensional work, mosaic, wood sculpture, transformed found objects, and more.  A workshop by John Bieling is planned.

King Farm is located at the end of King Farm Road.  From the October Country Inn, follow Route 4 east for about 5 miles.  As you enter West Woodstock, at the intersections with Prosper Road and Rose Hill Road, veer left onto Rose Hill Road, than left on King Farm Rd.

The Prosper Road venue is located at 509 Prosper Road.  Instead of taking Rose Hill Road, turn left on Prosper Road.  This venue is located on the left, about 1/2 mile up the road.   A footpath also connects King Farm to the Prosper Road venue.

 

OCI’s Zucchini Curry soup is a consistent favorite.

Zucchini Curry soup ready to eat.It’s mid July and slight acquaintances are apt to show up at your door with the gift of mass quantities of zucchini.  They have a saying in Minnesota: “If you don’t lock your car during the summer, you’ll come back and find it full of zucchini.”

An excellent use for all of that zucchini is to make large quantities of zucchini curry soup.  At the October Country Inn, we serve this soup with our French County dinner and it always gets rave reviews.  To make a batch big enough to serve 5 or 6 persons, you will need:

  • 10 ounces fresh zucchini (about 4 depending on size)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 3 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon of curry powder
  • 6 ounces of half-and-half
  • Sour cream or yogurt and chopped chives garnish

It’s pretty easy to prepare.  Wash the zucchini, trim off the ends, and cut the zucchini in half lengthwise.  Place the cut side down so the cross-cut pieces don’t roll around, and cut the lengths crosswise into chunks about 1 or 2 inches wide.  Place cut zucchini in a pot big enough to hold everything.

Soup mixture after cooking

Soup mixture after cooking.

Take the onion and trim off the ends.  Place the onion on one of the cut ends, and cut it in half vertically.  Peel off all of the dry outer skin layers from both halves, place a half onion down on the flat side, cut lengthwise into thirds, and while keeping the lengthwise cut thirds together, cut crosswise into thirds.  Repeat for the remaining half onion, and put all the cut onion in with the zucchini.  Put the tablespoon of curry powder over the top of the zucchini and onion pieces in the pot, and pour in the chicken stock.

A word about the curry powder.  There are lots of different formulations and brands of curry powder available.  We use a particularly delightful variety that we highly recommend.  Look for Sun Brand Madras Curry Powder prepared by Merwanjee Poonjiajee & Sons.  It comes in square cans with cool designs all over.

Pureeing the cooked soup mixture

The set-up to puree the cooked soup mixture–from cooking pot, to blender, to strained mixture in the finished soup pot.

Place the uncovered pot full of zucchini, onion, curry powder and chicken stock on a medium hot burner and bring to a boil.  When it boils, cover the pot, reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.  When done, remove the pot to a table or counter space where you can set up a blender and a strainer.  Puree the cooked mixture on the highest speed in batches.  Pour each pureed batch into a strainer placed over a second pot.  Repeat until all cooked ingredients have been pureed and strained.  Stir the half-and-half into the strained mixture and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with a swirled dollop of sour creme or yogurt garnished with chopped chives.

If you have a lot of zucchini, make a big batch, serve some for dinner, and pour batches, 4 cups in a batch, into 1 quart ziplock bags and freeze the rest for later.   It lasts for months. We always make a triple batch (multiply the ingredients by three).  If you have pots that are big enough, it’s not much more work for a lot more yield.

 

Nearby Thundering Brook trail leads to Thundering Brook falls (both of them).

Appalachian Trail map showing trail spur and parking area.

One option is an easy loop walk in terms of distance, but that could result in nasty falls if you don’t pay attention.  This option goes down a rocky, winding, rutted path beside Thundering Brook to upper Thundering Brook Falls, then continues down to the observation deck at lower Thundering Brook Falls.  The return trail goes back up the still windy, and rocky, but better engineered blue blaze marked path back to the trailhead.

Upper Thundering Brook Falls

Another option is to forgo visiting the upper falls and just take the less challenging blue blaze marked trail down to the observation deck at the lower falls and back.  In either case, depending on what recent weather has been like–more spectacular falls after a good rain–this little journey has significant rewards.

The trail map at the top shows the short, blue dotted, spur trail that leads off the Appalachian Trail.  A boardwalk that was built over the Ottauquechee River flood plain, accessed via River Road, provided wheelchair access to lower Thundering Brook Falls but was partially destroyed by the flooding from Hurricane Irene in 2011.  Until this is replaced, Appalachian Trail hikers have to make a short .4 mile detour up Thundering Brook Road and bypass this section althogether.

Edie hugs a tree while she studies lower Thundering Brook Falls from the trail to the observation deck.

To get to the Thundering Brook Falls trailhead from the October Country Inn, go west on Route 4 about 10 miles.  Turn right on River Road, at the base of where Route 4 begins to climb toward the Killington Ski Resort access road.  Follow River Road for about a mile, and take the first left after the road turns to dirt.  Although the street sign might be missing, this is Thundering Brook Road.  Proceed .4 mile up the wooded road.  You will see some tree trunks on your right with white blazes indicating the Appalachian Trail detour route.  Soon, you will see two white blazes, one on top of the other and staggered a bit.  This marks the beginning of a blue blaze marked .2 mile spur trail that leads to the observation platform at lower Thundering Brook Falls.  If you want to see upper Thundering Brook Falls, that trailhead is on the downhill side of a small parking area another 50 yards up the road.

Blue blaze marked trail from the observation deck back to the trailhead.

The trail to the upper falls descends from the parking area alongside Thundering Brook.  You soon come to a shaded swimming hole.  A little further on you’ll come to the upper falls.  It gets a bit challenging from here.  Be careful.  Watch your footing and follow the trail down to the lower falls and observation deck.  From there you can take the blue blaze marked trail back up to the parking area.

The trailhead is also accessible from where Thundering Brook Road intersects with Route 4 about a mile west of the River Road intersection.  Proceed past Kent Pond for 1.3 miles.  The parking area is on the left.

 

Bridgewater Corners for didgeridoos–who knew?

It’s a little known fact that Bridgewater Corners, Vermont is a hotbed for hand-crafted didgeridoos.  Kai Mayberger, creator, owner, operator, and sound engineer-in-chief of White Raven Drum Works, is the person you can blame for this rare quirk of nature.

White Raven Drum Works, Bridgewater Corners, Vermont

Fortunately, White Raven offers more than didgeridoos–hand-made from exotic woods. Hand-made Askido drums, and wooden flutes are also available for the discerning music lover.

The didgeridoo is a wind instrument developed by indigenous Australians about 1,500 years ago and is still in widespread use today in Australia and around the world.  It is sometimes described as a natural wooden trumpet or “drone pipe.”  Musicologists classify it as a brass aerophone.  A modern didgeridoo is usually cylindrical or conical, and can measure anywhere from 3 to 10 feet long.  The length is directly related to the 1/4 tone wavelength of the keynote.  Generally, the longer the instrument, the lower the pitch or key.

Didgeridoos for you.

Kai, a native of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, was born into a family of crafts people.  His mother was a potter.  His father was a weaver.  Kai was fascinated with sharp tools as a child, and carved every piece of wood he could find while rummaging around his parents Cornwall, Vermont crafts shop.

While attending Vermont’s Goddard College, Kai studied drum design and construction as his senior project.  As a respite from drum studies, he started fooling with carved wooden flutes.  Also during his college years, Kai discovered a Boston based musical group called Outback.  The group’s frontman, Dr. Didge, played the didgeridoo.  Kai became fascinated with didgeridoos, and began investigating what made them sound the way they do and how they are made.

White Raven Drum Works’ collection of Askidos.

Kai turned his youthful fascinations into a product line, and White Raven Drum Works was born.  He first set up shop in the Bridgewater Mill building in 1993.  He moved to his present location in Bridgewater Corners in 1998.

While visiting the October Country Inn, you need to stop by.  Whether or not you ever thought that you needed a hand-made wooden didgeridoo, an Askido, or a melodic wooden flute, you at least need to be exposed to the magic of their sounds, and the beauty of Kai’s handiwork.

The man himself–Kai Mayberger.