Take a walk along the Ottauquechee River before breakfast.

Returning back down River Road in the Fall.

Sometimes, while staying at the October Country Inn, you might wake up early on a beautiful day and want to take a walk before breakfast.  Or, you just want to take a walk in the neighborhood without having do drive somewhere first.  When we get this urge, Edie and I walk down to River Road for a 3 mile stroll alongside the Ottauquechee River.

From the inn, head east on Upper Road for a short distance and take the spur trail off to the right.  It emerges on Route 4 across the street from the Bridgewater Corner Store at the

A Jack-in-the-pulpit alongside the trail.

intersection of Route 4 and Route 100A.  Follow Route 100A south.  Cross the Ottauquechee River bridge and turn left on River Road just past the Bridgewater Grange Hall.

Follow River Rd to the east for about a mile.  This flat gravel road becomes increasingly less maintained as it narrows into a quiet lane through the woods that closely follows the river.  This is a great place to see Orioles in the summer.  The road begins an uphill trend that brings you to a intersection with a snowmobile trail that turns off to the right.  Continue straight ahead, moving away from the river, into a clearing on a small hill.  This road becomes just a faint double-track path over this clearing and continues into mixed woods on the other side.

Turn left into the pine woods just as the road turns to the right.

Continue following this relatively flat primitive road for about .4 mile as it crosses several small creeks.  You will come to a small creek with a markedly short, steep hill that turns to the right at the top.  Just before this turn, on your left, you will see a faint but discernible trail that angles off toward the river in the general direction from which you came.  Follow this trail through a pine forest as you begin to make a loop back toward the river.

You will descend a short but steep pitch as you arrive back at the river.  At this point, after crossing a creek, the path turns away from the river and goes uphill for a short distance before merging back with River Road.  Turn right and retrace your route back to Route 100A and back to the inn.

Heading back toward the river thru the pine woods.

An abbreviated, 2 mile version of this walk would be to skip the 1 mile loop section that starts at the intersection with the snowmobile trail, and just walk to that point and return.

However, quiet-time-in-the-woods is a precious thing.  It may be difficult to acquire if you live in an urban-ish setting.  It may be a good part of why you’re in Vermont to begin with.  In other words, don’t miss the loop part of this walk, Especially in the late summer and fall.

It’s also a great candidate for a snowshoe trek during the Winter.

Apple cider jelly in the morning–a Vermont tradition

A jar of locally made apple cider jelly is always found on the October Country Inn’s breakfast table.  It is such a popular treat for our guests that we periodically take the trip to Willis Wood’s family farm in nearby Springfield in order to keep a small stock of his cider jelly on hand for guests to purchase and take home.

The Wood’s farm is a small general farm that has been in his family since 1798.  Besides keeping cows, sheep, chickens, and a garden for personal use and local sales, the Wood’s family has been making apple cider and jelly since 1882 when they bought a twin-screw cider press from the Empire State Press Company.  Back then, the press was housed by the mill pond because it was powered by a water-wheel.  It has since been moved up the hill to its present location, and powered by electricity, but it’s still the same press that has been in use since 1882.

Every year, during the Fall apple harvest, the Wood’s cider mill springs to life.  Apples are first fed into a grinder where they are converted to mash.  The mash is spread out into many layers consisting of cloth filters separated by wooden grates.  When the press is full the entire stack is pressed to extract pure apple cider.  The cider is collected into large stainless steel pans on top of a wood fired stove and boiled until the water evaporates and only the pure apple cider jelly is left.  The jelly is packaged as is, nothing is added.

Willis Wood stoking the fire for the evaporator stove.

Each pressing yields about 200 gallons of apple cider.  This 200 gallons of apple cider, after the water is evaporated off, yields about 22 gallons, or 27.5 pounds of apple cider jelly, a reduction ratio of 9 to 1.   Each gallon of apple cider yields 20 ounces of apple cider jelly.

If you’re visiting October Country Inn during the apple harvest season, late September to early November, you might want to visit Wood’s Cider Mill and watch Willis and his crew in action.  Until then visit www.woodscidermill.com online where you can order apple cider jelly as well as other apple products.

 

OCI’s Italian minestrone soup from the summer garden

A serving of OCI’s Summer garden minestrone ready for the table.

This hearty soup, a favorite at the October Country Inn, that serves about 8, is replete with fresh vegetables that are typically harvested from the Summer garden.  Of course, you can get some or all of them as well from the local Farmer’s Market, or grocery.  After initial preparation, this soup is cooked in two stages.  The first stage is to saute one group of the vegetables.  The second stage is to add the squash and beans to the cooked broth to avoid overcooking them.

Ingredients are:

  • 1 leek, halved lengthwise, then chop crosswise into 1/4 inch wide chunks
  • 1 rib celery, halved lengthwise, then chop crosswise into 1/4 inch wide chunks
  • 1 carrot, peeled halved or quartered lengthwise, then chop crosswise into 1/4 inch wide chunks
  • 1 green pepper, sliced into quarters lengthwise, then cored and seeded and sliced lengthwise into 3/8 inch wide strips,  then chop crosswise into 1/4 inch wide chunks
  • 6 plumb tomatoes, trim stem end and halve, then core and seed, then slice halves lengthwise into thirds, then chop crosswise in half
  • 1/4 pounds green beans, trim ends as needed and cut crosswise into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 zucchini, trim ends and quarter lengthwise, then chop crosswise into 3/8 inch wide chunks
  • 1 yellow squash, trim ends and quarter lengthwise, then chop crosswise into 3/8 inch wide chunks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme

Vegetables separated into groups after being chopped. Three tomato halves at bottom shown trimmed, cored, and seeded but before lengthwise slicing and chopping.

First chop leeks, celery, carrots, and green pepper as indicated.  Add minced garlic and keep this group of vegetables separate.  Chop zucchini, yellow squash, and green beans and keep these vegetables separate from the first batch.  Chop tomatoes as indicated and keep separate from the other two groups.

In a pot large enough to hold everything, saute leeks, carrots, green pepper and garlic in the olive oil over low/medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes.  Add tomatoes and stir.  Heat everything for another couple of minutes until the tomatoes release their juices.  Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes.

At this point, you can put the soup aside for a hour or less if you’re not going to serve the soup right away.  About 15 minutes before serving, bring soup back to a boil then add zucchini, yellow squash, green beans and spices.  When the soup comes back to a boil, turn off the heat and let steep for about 5 minutes before serving.