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So far Chuck Janisse has created 117 blog entries.

The Yankee farmer: The art and industry of using stone.

Photo of the Route 4 sign for October Country Inn hanging above a well crafted stone barnyard retaining wall.

October Country Inn’s retaing wall is an example of the art and industry of the Yankee farmer.

October Country Inn is bordered by early Vermont stone walls to the north, and west.  Many say that stone walls are Vermont’s signature landform.  More to the point,  Vermont writer Castle Freeman Jr. notes, “… if a stone wall a fraction as long as the walls of Vermont alone had been built by the order of some old king or emperor, it would be one of the wonders of the world.”  These stones were carried to Vermont by ancient glaciers.  As the glaciers  receded, millions of tons of rocks stayed behind.

Stone walls are Vermont’s signature landform.

Photo of stone steps leading to three Adirondak chairs sittiing empth on October Counry Inn's lush back lawn.

These irreplaceable slabs of stone, once the cellar steps, were recycled to form the portal to our lawn and gardens.

Throughout the centuries, many early Vermont farmers would find that their farmland would have many stones on it that weren’t there previously. Before a farmer plowed a farm, he probably few rocks scattered throughout the farm. However, plowing causes the layers of soil beneath the surface to push up their rocks from the underlying soil layers.  This problem was especially evident in Vermont because of its rocky and stone filled soil. Many farmers would have to remove the rocks on their farm if they wanted to plow it again, only to find that they would have to repeat the process of removing stones, again and again. It’s like they were growing stones.  Consequently, field stone became an abundant natural building material.  Stones were used for foundations, water wells, and for retaining and boundary walls.  These stone walls are scattered throughout Vermont to this day.

Vermont seems to grows stones.

Close up photo of the stone work of October Country Inn's barnyard retaining wall.

Detail of the stonework in the above pictured retaining wall.

Every day we are reminded of this legacy of stone because of the October Country Inn’s Vermont hill farm heritage.  From the stacked stone foundation that still supports the inn’s old farmhouse core, to the artful construction of the barnyard’s retaining wall, to the stone lined hand-dug well out back, meandering around the property can easily become a trip back through time.  Many questions come to mind.  Just look at the detail and incredible precision with how the stones are set in the barnyard’s retraining wall.  In order for such a retaining wall to do its job, the width at the base of the wall must be as wide as the wall is high, tapering in width at the wall rises in height.  That’s an awful lot of rock to move around

We live in the midst of this past work that is so easy to take for granted.  Vermont’s stone walls are cultural resources left behind by the people who once lived here, in the same spot where we now live.  We are humbled by their legacy of stone.  We will not take it for granted.

 

By |2021-01-05T18:40:09-05:00December 5th, 2020|Local Culture & Lore|

Wassail Weekend: Woodstock, Vermont

woodstock Vermont downtown awaits Wassail Weekend.

Woodstock–the prettiest small town in America.

Winter is upon us in Woodstock, Vermont, and that means Wassail Weekend. Snow covers the ground here at the October Country Inn. The nearby Ottauquechee River has started to freeze over.  And the morning air’s bite  makes it especially welcome when the Winter sun shows itself. Christmas will be here soon.  Most importantly, Vermont’s most iconic Winter event occurs the second weekend in December.  This is when the nearby village of Woodstock hosts it’s 35th annual Wassail Weekend.

Prettiest Small Town in America

Wassail Weekend is an especially unique event for an especially unique Vermont village. Named the prettiest small town in America, Woodstock also hosts the best Christmas celebration in New England.

Wassail is from a phrase meaning “good health.”

horse drawn Wassail Weekend parade Wagon in Woodstock VermontWreathes and Christmas trees dot the village as the three-day Wassail weekend festival prepares to celebrate traditional local culture. It’s a unique window into one of the many things that makes the Green Mountain State so special. A wide range of eclectic activities from craft fairs, to carol singing on the steps of the library, to ornament-making at Billings Farm & Museum, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Many of Woodstock’s beautiful homes open to the public.  Almost every local business and organization is involved in some way. In case you’re wondering.  The word Wassail comes from a old Anglo-Saxon phrase which means “good health.”

The Wassail Weekend Yule log in Vermont

Getting warm around the yule log.

Wassail Weekend History

Originally, the wassail was a drink made of mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and sugar. It was served from huge bowls often made of silver or pewter.

The high point of Wassail Weekend is Saturday’s horse-drawn parade through downtown Woodstock that showcase local rural expertise and culture with more than fifty horses from all around the town and further afield taking part, the parade is truly a must-see. A performance by the Yale Whiffenpoofs, an internationally acclaimed group of a cappella singers will perform at the Woodstock Town Hall Theatre on Friday, Dec. 13. Established at Yale University in 1909, it is the oldest such group in the U.S. 

Join us in Vermont for Wassail Weekend

At 2:00 p.m., on Saturday, Dec. 14, the Wassail weekend parade invites you to line the streets around the village green for a cavalcade of clopping hooves, tossing manes, jolly jingling bells, tall top hats, flowing skirts, and merriness all around. Petite ponies and mighty Percherons pass by carrying their cargo of children in candy cane stockings, adults in historic finery, heavy carts, and Santa himself. Starting at the 3:00 p.m. first lighting, gather in the village green around the neatly stacked yule log. Check the Woodstock Chamber website for a complete listing of all the many ways to enjoy the holidays, as well as parking and shuttle information.

By |2021-01-05T19:02:30-05:00December 9th, 2019|Seasonal Events|

Scenic Route 100: Vermont’s Main Street

scenic route 100 VermontVermont is our brand here at the October Country Inn.  We do our best to provide our guests with as much local knowledge about whatever might interest them. For sure, especially during the fall, taking a drive along Route 100, also known as Vermont’s Main Street, is sure to please.

Vermont Route 100

Following the eastern edge of the Green Mountains for 146 miles, Route 100, now designated as a Vermont Scenic Byway, is recognized as one of the most scenic drives in New England. Along the route you’ll find great food, farm stands, brewpubs, cheese makers, opportunities to explore history and culture, museums, and country stores. There are wonderful opportunities to visit galleries and shops featuring handmade furniture, ceramic wares, antiques and contemporary art. You’ll find Vermont scenic viewstreasures similar to what you’d expect at an urban gallery.

Vermont Hidden Gems

There’s also the oldest craft school in America, live theater venues, and classical music. There’s also easy access to Vermont’s end-to-end hiking and backcountry skiing trails. The Green Mountain Forest contains an exceptional network of cycling routes, State Parks, snowmobile trails, camping sites and lakes.

Changing Seasons in Vermont

In Vermont, one thing is beautifully certain: The seasons will change. And with that change, so changes the landscape, the activity, and the way of life. With every season comes different opportunities to explore, and recreate. Vermont is a state that is truly never out of season. Spring is all about enjoying the soft snow conditions on the mountain and visiting a sugar house for some pure Vermont maple syrup. Summer is the season to soak in the warmer weather; fishing, biking, hiking, and camping are just a few popular activities to enjoy during the summer.

Fall in Vermont

Fall is scenic fall in Vermontincredible. Vermont has the world’s best foliage colors. Combine the stunning scenery with comfortable weather, hearty food and great company, it’s guaranteed to be a trip to remember. Of course, Winter brings colder weather and snow—which either invites you to play outside or drives you indoors to sit around the fire with friends. With it’s award winning ski resorts and spas, Vermont celebrates more than just the holidays during the winter months.

Beauty in Every Season

Regardless of the time of year that you decide to explore Vermont’s Route 100, the attractions and destinations that await are plentiful throughout the state. Truly a four-seasons state for tourism, weather is no factor in finding a good time in Vermont. Even if you’re already familiar with Route 100, enlist the aid of a personal tour guide. Download the Vermont Rt 100 Gypsy Guide before hitting the road. Available for smart phones from the App Store or Google Play, this GPS empowered app picks up from where you are, and entertains as well as educates. It’s really fun.

By |2021-01-05T19:04:32-05:00September 20th, 2019|Sightseeing|

Ski Woodstock: Vermont Mountain History

Poster Ad for Gilbert's HillFall is around the corner, and winter closely follows.  We look forward to winter here at the October Country Inn. It brings a new set of options to the recreational activity menu; snow skiing being principle among them. As a fitting precursor, Woodstock—site of first ski lift in the U.S.—hosts an “Excursion to Gilbert’s Hill,” a look back at how it was in the old days to more fully appreciate how it is today.

Gilbert’s Hill

Woodstock winters in the early 1930s, as in much of New England, were tough times for the local folks. Road travel in the snowy winter months, if possible at all, was usually done with horse and sleigh. Naturally, due to an abundance of snow, locals developed ways to amuse themselves in snowy, hilly terrain. Sledding, snowshoeing, and skiing were popular.

Time to Visit Vermont

Pretty soon, visitors from New York city began showing up to ski the local hills. In order to accommodate these visitors, local folks, idle for the winter, began renting out rooms, ferrying visitors around, and providing other tourist like services. All of a sudden, economic opportunity was recognized and exploited. It was in this climate that Bunny Bertram began teaching the New York visitors how to ski. Hearing constant complaints from his clients about having to spend so much time walking up the hills in order for a brief trip down, Bunny began tinkering with the idea of using a rope tow to transport skiers up the hill.

Vermont ski history original lift ticket

The first lift ticket.

The story gets interesting at this point, and we don’t want to spoil it, but it resulted in a flurry of interest in Woodstock winter skiing and an influx of skiing enthusiasts that led to the creation of four separate ski hills in Woodstock alone, one of which, Suicide Six, remains to this day. Mark your calendar: Sunday, August 25, 1 to 3 pm. Gilbert’s Hill, 1362 Barnard Rd., Woodstock, VT. Learn the full story.

By |2021-01-05T19:08:11-05:00August 10th, 2019|Historic Roots|

The Bridgewater Grange: Vermont’s rural roots.

Photo looking down a dirt road with a board fence on the right leading to a Vermont farm in the distance.

Agriculture abounds along just about any local road.

Whether aware of it or not,  many of our guests find their way to the October Country Inn to connect with nature and the rural spirit that envelopes our corner of Vermont.  Whether aware of it or not, are countless opportunities and varieties of ways to connect with Vermont’s nature and spirit.  One way unfolds before your eyes as you drive down almost any local road.  Agriculture abounds.  Vermont is a farming state.  And farming is indelibly linked with the Grange.  The 1875 era Bridgewater Corners Grange hall is nestled next to the Ottauquechee River. You might drive this unassuming building without any clue as to its historical significance

History of the Grange.

From its 17th century beginnings in the U.S., agriculture has always been a significant economic enterprise.  Much of rural New England became locked in a downward spiral after the Civil War.  There was popularion decline, abandonment of farms, reversion of cleared land to forest and shrinking of villages. All contributing to widespread feelings of melancholy and loss among residents.  The economy was struggling and farming was even more difficult than before the war.  Unlike farming, industry in the north had grown tremendously from supplying the war effort, and had amassed significant economic leverage.  In response, the National Grange of the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry came into being in 1867.  

Visit the Bridgewater Grange .

Bridgewater Grange Hall

Bridgewater Grange today.

It published a Declaration of Purposes that identified middlemen and monopolists as the economic enemies of farmers, urged farmers to engage in crop diversification and economic cooperation, and declared the Grange to be nonpartisan.  Using the force of numbers to negotiate for cheaper prices worked well for awhile.  As a result, the Grange movement grew quickly and reached its maximum of 760,000 members within ten years of its founding.

However, disorganization, poor communication, and greed led to an equally rapid decline.  Then, the focus on maximizing a farmer’s profits became tempered with more focus on advocacy for the agricultural profession, education, and general community enrichment.  Consequently, the Grange movement again began to grow.  It remains to this day as a lighthouse signaling the importance and value of community in rural America.  Keep your eye out for the Bridgewater Corners Grange during your local travels.  It’s on Vermont Route 100A, just south of the Country Store, and north of the Mennonite Church.

 

By |2021-01-06T18:57:59-05:00June 30th, 2019|Historic Roots|

The Vermont Gran Fondo: Summer Activities

Vermont gran fondoVermont is renown for its natural beauty, and country living life-style. As a result, of the long list of potential outdoor activities, cycling is a favorite. Because the combination of stunning scenery, clean air, lightly traveled roads, and challenging terrain attract cyclists from afar.  Consequently, the October Country Inn has long been a home-away-from-home, and base of operations for many, many visiting cyclists. Mark your schedules. The 2019 Vermont’s Gran Fondo is slated for June 29. Go online to vermontgranfondo.com for information and to register.

Gran Fondo hits Vermont

Gran Fondo is Italian for ‘big ride.’  Typically, Gran Fondo events are long distance, mass-participation cycling events—not races.  They are immensely popular in Italy and the rest of Europe.   And are quickly becoming increasingly popular in the United States. Participation is open to cyclists of all abilities. The Vermont Gran Fondo is not a race in the traditional sense.  But it goes well beyond the scope of most recreational or charity rides. In some ways, the Vermont Gran Fondo is similar to a 26-mile running marathon. Its a personal challenge. Rather than racing other participants, participants are challenging themselves in a battle against the course, and the distance.

A Special Road Course in the Green Mountains

The challenging nature of the Vermont Gran Fondo is due to a road course that crosses the Green Mountains at four different locations.  Called “gaps,” these mountain passes all involve some serious climbing.  The southernmost Brandon Gap is a category 2 climb with 1,178 feet of elevation gain in 3.2 miles with an average grade of 7%

map of Vermont gran fondo

Vermont Gran Fondo course.

and a maximum grade of 18%. Next to the north, the Middlebury Gap is a category 3 climb with 1,018 feet of elevation gain in 3.1 miles with an average grade of 6% and a maximum grade of 27%.  Next to the north, the Lincoln Gap—distinguished by being the steepest continuous mile (20% to 24%) in the U.S.—is a category 2 climb with an elevation gain of 1,059 feet in 2.7 miles with an average grade of 15% and a maximum grade of 24%.  The northernmost Appalachian Gap is a category 2 climb with 1,163 feet of elevation gain in 2.7 miles with an average grade of 8% and a maximum grade of 24%.

Is this on Your Bucket List?

Pick the challenge that suits you from among the four course choices: The Gran Fondo course is 108 miles with 11,400 feet of climbing over the Appalachian Gap (west to east), Lincoln Gap (east to west), Appalachian Gap again (west to east), and the Middlebury Gap (east to west). The Medio Difficile course is 66 miles with 6,900 feet of climbing over the Appalachian and Lincoln Gaps. The Medio Facile course is 77 miles with 7,000 feet of climbing over the Appalachian and Middlebury Gaps. The Piccolo Fondo is 37 miles with 2,600 feet of climbing but no Gaps. The Vermont Gran Fondo is truly a challenge. Ride it if you can.

By |2021-01-06T19:09:55-05:00May 31st, 2019|Bike Rides|

Father’s Day in Vermont: Hot Air Balloon Rides

Colorful hot air balloons in the mountainsEverybody here at the October Country Inn understands that time spent in Vermont is never wasted.  That said, as a bonus, during the Father’s Day weekend, the nearby town of Quechee once again hosts its annual Quechee Hot Air Balloon, Craft & Music Festival.  A very popular event, be sure to plan ahead, and arrive early to ensure convienent parking.

History of Hot Air Balloons

Besides being the longest running hot air balloon festival in New England, with up to 20 hot air balloons rising at 6 a.m. each morning and 6 p.m. each afternoon, there will be continuous music, 60 craft artisans displaying their crafts, food vendors, and a beer and wine garden.  And there are activities for children such as Euro Bungee, a ninja warrior obstacle course, bounce house, and more.  Now is your chance to take that balloon ride you’ve been thinking about.

Ride in a Hot Air Balloon.

There are two types of hot air balloon rides available.  A Tethered Ride gives riders a taste of Ballooning while being held down by long ropes only floating up to 50 feet in the air. They are a great way for small children or elders to experience a balloon ride. Like all other Balloon Rides, tethered ride are also weather permitting. Each ride lasts 5 – 10 minutes .Tethered rides are available for purchase during the festival weekend only.

An Ascension Ride or the typical balloon ride is between 30 – 40 minutes with the whole experience taking about 2 hours. The balloons take off together and soar hundreds of feet in the air, gracefully moving over the landscapes of Quechee, VT and beyond. The balloons land outside the festival grounds, end with champagne and transportation back to the festival. They are available for purchase before and during the festival. All balloon rides are wind and weather dependent.

 

By |2021-01-06T19:36:04-05:00May 17th, 2019|Sightseeing|

Quechee Ski Hill: Affortable fun near Woodstock, Vermont.

Ski lift at Queechee Ski HillSnow covered hills and meadows defines Vermont winters, and offers another universe of options for outdoor play. Many of October Country Inn’s winter weekend guests come to ski or snowboard at one of several local resorts catering to this dynamic activity.

Some choose big-mountain venues, such as Killington or Okemo, where you can ski all day and never cross your tracks, but also pay top-dollar for a lift ticket, struggle to find parking, and share the mountain with many, many others. Or, some choose a smaller, local hill, such as Suicide Six, or Quechee Lakes. These smaller venues don’t offer quite the double black diamond thrill as the bigger mountains, but still offer quality skiing and snowboarding without many of the logistical problems of finding Ski trails at Quechee Ski Hillsomewhere to park within walking distance to the lifts, and are generally much more family friendly, and considerably less expensive. Let’s take a closer look at Quechee Lakes.

Winter fun just east of Woodstock, Vermont

Grown from picturesque rolling farmlands, The Quechee Lakes Landowners’ Association was established in the winter of 1970. It’s a homespun Vermont village community just east of Woodstock that’s part of Quechee Village, a small town rich in heritage. Everything about it is a demonstration of the well-known fundamental Vermont culture. Quechee Lakes began close to half a century ago.  Its vision is to host families at a premier four-season resort community. The Quechee Club, with its wide open post and beam architecture overlooks the Ottauquechee River.  It is well-known for two of Vermont’s most acclaimed golf courses.  The courses are converted into more than 10 miles of top-notch Nordic trails in winter months. It also includes ice skating facilities, a sledding hill, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and the Quechee Ski Hill.

A great spot for the whole family.

Horse drawn sleigh.

Take a sleigh ride to the base lodge.

Quechee Ski Area features generally novice and intermediate terrain, with upper mountain trails emptying into open slopes. A centerpiece of winter recreation in the development, the Quechee ski area opened with a double chairlift for the 1970-71 season. A T-Bar was added half a decade later, serving novice lower mountain terrain. The original double chairlift was replaced with a new quad chairlift in 2005. Today, the Quechee Ski Area operates with three lifts, a quad chairlift, a T-bar, and a handle tow, 13 trails, a terrain park and some woods skiing when conditions permit.  There is also a big focus on snowmaking and grooming. Uphill travel via backcountry ski, or snowshoeing is also available. Quechee Ski Area is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as well as winter holiday periods. Lift ticket prices are nearly a third less expensive that the big mountain venues.

By |2021-01-07T10:45:35-05:00February 22nd, 2019|Winter Fun|

Vermont stonework: An often overlooked legacy.

is Granite curbs are common in Vermont.New England in general, and Vermont in particular, is known for its rocky soil.  Vermont has thousands of miles of stone walls.  Early American farmers piled up stones while clearing their fields. The walls remain as a testament to this work.  Such walls mark the western and northern property lines here at the October Country Inn.  In addition to stone walls, the quarrying of Vermont’s extensive marble and granite deposits supplied regional stoneworkers for centuries. It and still supply them today.  Consequently, there is a lot of really beautiful stonework in the neighborhood

Vermont has a lot of granite.

Slabs of cut granite line up in a stone yard.

Used granite curbs waiting to be repurposed.

A common use for granite, often overlooked, is for street curbing.  Not usually seen in the western and central U.S., granite curbing predates the use of cast concrete, the most commonly used material.  Although initially more expensive than cast concrete, granite lasts many times longer.  Granite curbs don’t wear out.  Granite is recycled when removed to reconfigure a street or for some other reason. Used curbing is in high demand for use as stone steps, decks, pathways, or other landscaping features.  Among industry experts, granite curbing is superior to cast concrete in strength, abrasive resistance, durability, cost of maintenance, reusability, and aesthetics.

Granite is the best choice for every application.

Although granite is the best choice for virtually every curbing Cut granitee is often used in place of concrete.application, over the past 25 years there has been a significant increase in the use of cast concrete curbing due entirely to an assumption that granite curbing is expensive relative to concrete. However, research studies show that granite is the superior choice.   Especially when calculating long-term costs of maintenance, repair, and disposal or resetting expenses along with initial costs.

Stone looks better.

Street curbs in Washington D.C. are made of granite instead of cast concrete for this reason.  There are plenty of things to gripe about when it comes to the federal government.  But at least they made the right choice when it came to curbs.  It’s not just money or longevity that justifies the use of granite.  Stone just looks better.  Washington D.C.’s street curbs should be as stately as the rest of its grand exterior.

By |2021-01-07T14:48:53-05:00February 18th, 2019|Local Culture & Lore|

Drewski’s On the River: Best choice for breakfast and lunch.

A waffle covered in syrup.Although, at the October Country Inn, our guests are always served a freshly cooked country breakfast, if Edie and I want to treat ourselves to breakfast out when we don’t have guests, or have a leisurely lunch, Drewski’s On the River is our first choice.  It was formerly known as Blanche and Bill’s Pancake House.  It was a long-standing local favorite breakfast and lunch spot when Blanche retired.  However, Blanche left it in the capable hands of Chef Andrew Geller and his wife Francine.  Chef Andrew is a Culinary Institute of America trained chef.  He brings his considerable training and skills to bear.  He treats this small, family owned and operated Vermont eatery as if it were a four-star Paris bistro.

Located near Killington Skyship Base Lodge.

Chef Andrew, Francine and Lucas posing in front ot their sign.

Chef Andrew, Francine and Lucas.

Drewski’s On the River is located at 586 U.S. Route 4, West Bridgewater, Vermont.  Just 1.5 mile east of Killington Ski Resort’s Skyeship Base Lodge.  Chef Andrew and Francine took over in May 2016 and continue to serve Blanche’s famous pancakes and waffles.  These recipies have been perfected for more than 40 years, and continue the tradition of serving fine, homemade, fresh, locally sourced food, in a warm and friendly atmosphere. Chef Andrew’s prepares, and serves, the Drewski's dining room.best food Vermont has to offer.

The best food around.

But it doesn’t stop with breakfast and lunch, Chef Andrew expanded his culinary service to include seasonal, bi-weekly Tuesday Night Dinner at Drewski’s On the River, as well as making his restaurant available for private events, dinners, or parties.  Whatever the need, Chef Andrew will cook for you.  Most of Drewski’s On the River menu items are made to order, guaranteeing the highest quality, and best tasting home-cooked meals possible.  Drewski’s On the Rive strives to uphold its long standing tradition of preparing fine food, and serving it with friendliness, and humor with the aim of enticing you to return with a smile and an appetite.

By |2021-01-07T14:56:57-05:00January 31st, 2019|Local Foods|
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