Although you wouldn’t know it by the warm temperatures, the last days of Summer at the October Country Inn are close at hand. Here and there a few trees are starting to display Fall colors. It won’t be long now. Labor Day weekend traditionally signals the close of Summer. This may be your last chance for a quick getaway. Let us make a suggestion, check out the 11th annual 2015 Plymouth Notch Folk and Blues Festival. Music will fill the air on Labor Day weekend, September 5 and 6, in this idyllic rural community which was the birthplace of Calvin Coolidge, also known as “Silent-Cal,” the 30th president of the United States.
An article in a local newspaper puts it this way: “It’s hard to get more Vermont-ish than Plymouth Notch. Forget about the modern-day Vermont attention-getters like Ben & Jerry’s or Phish; we’re talking Calvin Coolidge and prize-winning cheese here. And this Labor Day weekend, Plymouth continues what’s become a new tradition in town – the annual folk and blues festival.” The reference to “prize-winning cheese” is about the Vermont Cheese factory located across the street from the Coolidge homestead. But apart from sampling their delicious smoked cheddar, taking a wagon ride, or painting your face, bring a blanket to spread on the lawn and be entertained by down-home folk and blues performers. And it won’t cost a dime. It’s all free.
Jay Ottaway with his band.
The event’s organizer, Jay Ottaway, a traveling blues musician himself, notes: “The festival is special for performers and audience alike because, even though it draws a big crowd, it retains the intimate, personal feel of an acoustic folk coffeehouse.” Ottaway said that he chose this venue for the festival because: With all the traveling I do as a musician Plymouth Notch has been my one steady home since childhood. Also, if you’re more of a hands-on folk and blues enthusiast, there’s a Saturday night jam session at Ramunto’s Brick and Brew Pizza Pub. All in all, not a bad choice for a Labor Day outing in peaceful Plymouth Notch. If it rains, no worries, the whole thing just moves indoors to the historic 1840 Union Christian Church right in Plymouth Notch. Of course, if you need lodging, you can’t go wrong with the October Country Inn.
The October Country Inn was recently certified “Greenleader Gold,” by Trip Advisor for our energy conservation practices. A substantial element of our conservation practices is to use energy-efficient lighting throughout the inn. We first replaced all the many incandescent light bulbs with the more efficient flourescent variety, leaving a box full of incandescent bulbs in the basement. Most recently we revisited this bulb switching strategy by replacing all the flourescent bulbs with the even more energy-efficient LED variety. Now we also have a box full of flourescent bulbs in the basement alongside the box of incandescent bulbs.
The box of replaced incandescent bulbs next to the box of replaced flourescent bulbs.
Speaking of light, regardless of how energy-efficient our lighting may be, a nighttime thunder-storm will roll through every once in a while and blow down a few trees taking out a power line somewhere, and we are thrown into darkness like it was the middle ages. Out come the candles. Candles have been around since about 3000 BC, however, where they were once the go-to form of artificial light, they only serve an interim purpose when electricity is unavailable to provide quick access to light in order to collect and fire up the slightly more practical wick burning lamps.
Woodstock’s gas plant (note the chimney) circa 1860
In the eighteenth century, Edie’s Vermont ancestors would have used wick lamps burning whale oil (which may well have also come from Edie’s whale hunting ancestors). Compared to candles, whale oil produced a superior whiter, brighter light. But then they began to run out of whales. The price of whale oil went way up, and cheaper carboniferous fuels from coal and petroleum emerged. By the 1850s kerosene replaced whale oil as the lamp fuel of choice in the Woodstock area. The next big thing in indoor lighting was fueled by gas that was piped into homes and businesses from coal-fired gas generating stations like Woodstock’s Gas Light Company set up in 1855. Gas light was cheap and led to a high incidence of night illumination in the cities and towns of the area. It was also a bit dangerous and led to many structure fires as well as gas plant explosions.
Of course, just like today, when gas supplies (or electrical supplies) are interrupted, out come the candles and lamps. In some ways, when you need to push back the darkness, not much has changed.
The village of Woodstock circa 1860 with the First Congregational Chuch in the foreground.
Although the October Country Inn is located in the tiny town of Bridgewater Corners, Vermont our guests enjoy the quiet of a small country town yet are still a mere fifteen minute drive to either Woodstock or Killington and all that these more well-known destinations have to offer. One such attraction is the rich history of this area of Vermont, especially Woodstock. Although it might take a little digging to uncover it. Did you ever wonder what life was like in Woodstock during the Civil War, or the role Woodstock played in the war effort. Did you know that the Civil War began on April 12, 1861, and on May 2, 1861 Woodstock sent a brigade of light
Woodstock light infantry gathers on the Green.
infantry to join the cause of the Union Army? Did you know that Billings Farm was converted into Camp Dike to train new recruits? Did you know that Woodstock’s First Congregational Chuch, established in 1801, four years after Vermont’s constitution outlawed slavery, played a prominent role in helping escaped slaves find sanctuary? This is just a sampling of Woodstock’s historic role during these troubled times. If you want to learn more, you’re in luck. You have three paths you can follow.
One path is to sign up for The Home Front Tour; a two-hour walking tour conducted by a Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park ranger that visits sites within Woodstock village to impart a deeper understanding of the far-reaching effects of the Civil War on the role of African-Americans and women, the meaning of citizenship, and the beginnings of land conservation. This tour will run from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on August 1, 15, and 29, or September 19; Meet at the Billings Farm and Museum Visitor Center.
A couple of self-guided tour options are also available. Download a printable copy of New Birth of Freedom. Illustrated with photographs from the Woodstock History Center archive and hand drawn maps, this booklet is extremely informative and will guide you through the Civil War walking tour at your own pace. Or, a smartphone app is available from iTunes (search the Apple App Store for Woodstock Vermont Civil War Tour) with photos, videos, and sound clips. This free iPhone app can guide you along the walking tour, whether on foot or virtually, from the comfort of your couch. If you have an interest in history, take this tour. You may have thought you were familiar with Woodstock, but his is a chance to see this village from a whole different perspective.
There’s a reason that the October Country Inn has hosted bike tours and bike riders for the better part of 40 years. This area of Vermont has world-class cycling routes. The air is clean and pure and the scenery is magnificent. Now you have the opportunity to experience it yourself and also join in the fastest-growing local cycling event. Register now for the Saturday, July 18, 2015, 4th Annual Tour de Zack. Ride either the 27 or the 47 mile loops, both wind through nearby idyllic Vermont countryside. Enjoy a fantastic bike ride with a group of like-minded enthusiasts and support a great cause in the bargain.
Zack Frates with his mother Dail.
The Tour de Zack starts at the nearby Quechee Green at 10 a.m. The 27 mile ride goes from Quechee through West Hartford, to Pomfret, and back, or go the full 47 miles and continue to Bethel and Barnard through Woodstock and back to Quechee. All will meet at The Quechee Green, for a delicious gourmet picnic provided by Jake’s Quechee Market, at 1pm or whenever you finish. These rides are some of the most scenic in Vermont. There are good climbs so be sure to read the elevation gain for each ride. Diners who choose not to cycle are also welcome to join us for lunch. Discovery Tours will follow the riders with water and sweep behind the last starting rider.
The Tour de Zack is a fundraiser that benefits Zack’s Place, a free enrichment center whose mission is to empower special-needs people of all ages to express themselves through art, music, dance, literacy, athletics, and fitness while developing bonds of friendship. The center was founded in 2006 by the parents of Zack Frates who were seeking fellowship and creative outlets for their son with Cerebral Palsy, who would soon age out of the public education system. With few post-educational resources available, Zack’s parents created “Zack’s Place” in answer to the daunting issue of what do special-needs individuals and their families do after their school years have ended.
Here at the October Country Inn, we usually serve this chocolate cake for dessert with our Italian country dinner. Check out the dining section of our website for more details about our Italian country dinner, including links to other recipes. This chocolate cake recipe uses mayonnaise as a substitute for eggs and oil. Be sure and use a real mayonnaise brand such as Hellmann’s. Start by assembling the ingredients, a mixing bowl, and an eight inch round baking pan. The ingredients are:
- I cup of all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon of baking powder
- 2 heaping tablespoons of cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup of real mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup of cold water
All ingredients ready to be mixed together.
Before mixing the batter, spread a liberal coating of Crisco on the sides and bottom of the baking pan, place a small portion of flour in the pan and rotate up, down, and around to evenly coat the Crisco smeared area and dump out the remaining loose flour. Once the baking pan is ready, place a sifter in a mixing bowl put in the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and cocoa powder and sift it all together. To this dry pile of the sifted ingredients add the mayonnaise, water, and vanilla and mix it all together into a smooth batter.
Out of the oven and cooling.
Scrape the batter from the mixing bowl into the baking pan and spread it around until the thickness of the batter in the pan is more or less even. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, check that a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out without any crumbs sticking to it. Let cool. If you duplicate the recipe and bake two cakes you can make a layer cake with your favorite frosting. I recommend cream cheese. But we serve it as a single slice (an 8 inch cake can be divided into 10 reasonable portions, or 8 more generous slices) with a raspberry Cassis sauce over the top and freshly whipped cream. To make the raspberry Cassis sauce, place about 2/3 cup of raspberry preserves in a small pan and add a couple of tablespoons of Creme de Cassis. Heat while mixing together and spoon over plated slices of chocolate cake before adding a dollop or two of whipped cream.
If you were staying at the October Country Inn next weekend, you would be in for a rare spectacle. Daredevil skateboarders from around the world descend on Killington June 6, 7 & 8 for the second annual Throwdown freeride event. Presented by Restless Longboards, this speed competition is a favorite for downhill skateboard and street luge competitors. This steep downhill course covers the twists, and turns of the lower two miles of East Mountain Road. Racers can reach speeds of 75 miles per hour.
Click on this YouTube video link to follow Sam Blais and Sam Davignon down the course.
This is the fastest course east of the Mississippi. East Mountain Road is notoriously steep and very challenging to ride. Over a hundred competitors from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany, Brazil, Spain, and New Zealand are expected to compete in this event. The Killington Downhill Throwdown is the first stop in this year’s Vermont International Downhill Federation Skate Week. Part two is hosted by Burke Mountain on June 11 to 13.
Don’t miss the action. Racing on East Mountain Road starts daily at 9:00am and ends at 5:30pm. Of course, the road will be closed for the racing during this event from 8:00am to 6:00pm. Get there early and get a good spot. Passage up East Mountain Road between events will be allowed (approximately every 20 minutes) and the Killington Police Department will be directing traffic. This is really exciting stuff to watch. These skateboarders are very skillful and go very fast. Don’t miss it.