Laird Bradley

Lilac Season

LilacsOne wonderful reason to visit Woodstock in the spring is the chance to see the village’s thousands of lilac trees in full bloom. But hurry! No plant better captures the evanescence of a hard-earned New England spring than the lilac. 

A member of the olive family, lilacs are popularly grown in temperate areas from southeastern Europe to eastern Asia (though we can’t help feeling a proprietary affection for our local beauties). While the most common hue is the light purple from which the popular name is derived, blossoms can be found in white, pink, pale yellow, deep purple, dark burgundy, and variegated varieties. The flowers are appealing for their luxuriant shape and saturated colors, but it’s the heady fragrance perfuming our little village for a week or two that makes lilacs the quintessential harbinger of springtime in Vermont.

Be sure to visit our Pinterest page to gather ideas for growing or displaying your own lilacs. And follow us on Instagram to see images of our local lilacs in bloom!

Variety of LilacsDeep Purple LilacsLilac in Bloom

Plymouth Cheese: Tradition, Refreshed

If you’re looking for an artisanal cheese selection as local as it is creative and as distinctive as it is delicious, then you need look no further than Plymouth Artisan Cheese in Plymouth, Vermont.

One of the oldest cheese factories in the US, the Plymouth Cheese Factory was built in 1890 by Col. John Coolidge, father of President Calvin Coolidge. In 2009, Jesse Werner took over the operation and revived Coolidge’s original recipe and hand-dipped packaging.

Today, Plymouth Artisan Cheese produces over 11 varieties of artisanal raw cow’s milk cheeses. Sourcing milk from a single local herd, Plymouth Artisan Cheese uses only use the finest and freshest milk, free from any additives, antibiotics, or rBST.

In addition to making high-quality artisanal cheeses, Werner collaborates with Sarit Melmed, owner of Empress Branding (and his fiancé), to make their vintage-inspired packaging as delightful as the cheeses themselves.

You can visit the Plymouth Cheese Factory year round. Call ahead (802-672-3650) for their cheesemaking schedule, and make time to visit their General Store and onsite museum.

A few of our favorite Plymouth Cheeses:

cheese curdsgrace's choice cheeseoriginal plymouth cheesebig blue cheese

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Tapping Trees: Vermont Maple Syrup

maple tree tapWhen the days grow warmer but the nights stay cold, Vermonters know that it’s time to start tapping maple trees.

From home connoisseurs who only hang a few buckets to major producers who harvest from a vast sugarbush, nearly every Vermonter looks forward to collecting, drinking, and boiling the maple sap (or maybe we’re all just excited about spring). Vermont produces over 42% of the nation’s maple syrup, and over 1,500 sugarhouses contribute to our state’s bounty.

Of course, we all know that maple syrup makes a delicious topping for pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, and ice cream, but it’s also a versatile ingredient for more savory dishes. For a refreshing springtime beverage, the sap itself can be drunk straight from the tree, or it can be mixed to create an artisanal cocktail. Visit our Pinterest page for great maple syrup ideas.

However you decide to enjoy your maple, it’s a great time of year to visit Vermont and participate in our favorite spring ritual.

Farm House Pottery: The New Vermont Aesthetic

Zoe and James ZilianFarmhouse Pottery founders Zoe and James Zilian are shaping the new Vermont aesthetic.

While our little state has long inspired innovative makers with its beauty and authenticity, we’ve been delighted to see artists like Zoe and James elevating traditional forms with new life and energy.  Farmhouse Pottery is not merely pretty – it unites beauty and purpose with heirloom-quality vessels that are as pleasing to the eye as they are to the hand – and we’re not the only ones who think so.  James and Zoe’s work has been lauded in Martha Stewart Living, Boston Magazine, Apartment Therapy, and Design Sponge and is the subject of an upcoming feature in Yankee Magazine.  In addition to pottery, the duo curates a collection of locally sourced goods that reflect the enduring quality and simplicity of their “modern farm aesthetic.” You can visit Farmhouse Pottery’s gift store and workshop on your next visit to Vermont; they’re located at 1837 West Woodstock Road (Route 4) in Woodstock.

Thanks to Zoe and James for kindly letting us use these gorgeous images from their website. You can also get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their picturesque Vermont life on Instagram.

saucerdog bowlbowlpitcher

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Vermont Water

Water…Abundant, flowing water covers the Earth.
Water…A simple combination of 2 parts hydrogen and 1 part oxygen unified in an explosive cauldron billions of year ago. Rare in the universe and irreplaceable in our time.
Water…The life-giving liquid defines our world blue and shimmering in the vast expanse of space.
Water….Three days give or take a few hours is as long we can last without the fluid that comprises over 2/3 of our bodies.

Water…Rain, rain go away. A rhyme unsung in the parched west at the edge of the Pacific.
Water…water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.
Water… We take it for granted in Vermont, until it seeps into our basements.
Water…It is everywhere….until it isn’t.

Here is a short video on how wonderful the water of Vermont is. We have an abundance of water and blessed with this abundance. The water of Vermont also helps to support real estate values. It makes for many beautiful scenes and fun to play in.

Barnard Vermont - Community Supported Agriculture

Community FarmingCommunity Party on Thursday and You're Invited!

When I was young, potlucks, “hoedowns,” and seasonal celebrations were the center of rural life. Everyone brought a favorite dish and anyone who played a portable instrument showed up (unfortunately, some budding musicians should have been plowed under). Going out to dinner at a restaurant just wasn’t done and everyone got up so early that dinner parties generally ended before dark.

It isn’t easy to find this type of experience in modern days, but Heartwood Fable Collective Farm, commonly known as the Barnard CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), has revived the hoedown aura with their weekly “pickups.”For those who haven’t encountered the CSA idea, it is a concept that seems to be gaining traction, particularly in these parts. A group of farmers (in Barnard’s case, two brothers, Jon and Christopher Piana and co-owner Justin Park) collect share money from local community members. They farm the land, with the help of interns, and everyone in the community reaps the joys of fresh produce, which they pick up every Thursday evening.

Every age group is represented at the weekly pickups, which have evolved into a veritable farmers’ market they call the “Feast and Field” Market. The market is held at the Clark Farm on the Royalton Turnpike from about  early June to mid-October—there, you’ll see tiny babies, teenagers, college kids, young adults, parents, grandparents…did I leave anyone out?  You’ll also see people of all types—those who are more comfortable in suits and ties, others who prefer tie-dye, and many who tend more toward blue jeans or Carhartts. Some people bring their own food or food to share, while others buy tacos, made with ingredients raised by the farmers, cooked by the farmers, and served by the farmers.

If you ask Christopher Piana about their vision for the farm, he’ll tell you “it’s an amalgamation of our experiences traveling around and seeing things.” I like the word amalgamation, but I have to admit I think he’s been using this word with more frequency since they started making cider. Talk about an amalgamation worth testing out. This isn’t like the cider you’ll find on the shelves. The farmers take pride in their brewing methods and the rich flavors that result from good old fashioned care, attention, and love.

This isn’t the type of market where you pick up your produce and head home. The Heartwood Fable Collective hoped to create a community environment, a space where people can gather, families can come, children can play, and people can eat good food and hang out. They wanted to create a space that would attract young people, who often flock to the cities after college to experience cultural and artistic engagement. For this reason, they offer an eclectic selection of dinner music at every pickup (and you never want to plow these musicians under). They have also developed a theater, which attracts actors from New York City who enjoy time the farm through the summer months as they prepare for an end of season performance.

The Heartwood Fable Collective Farm is always evolving to meet the needs of the community. They began at the center of Barnard, selling pizza and offering music, a community gathering space, and a venue for local artisans. They have evolved into a smoothly functioning market that includes vendors, music, and theater while maintaining the open family and community atmosphere that continues to attract a large and friendly crowd every single week.

If you are interested in living in this type of community then look at our home listings for the Woodstock-Barnard area.

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Living in Vermont

Want a Beer? Bring your Water Shoes!

Beer lovers in the greater Woodstock area know that one of the best summertime beer experiences can be found at the Long Trail Brewing Co. in Bridgewater Corners.

Why? Glad you asked!

A river runs through it! (Almost & I’m not referring to Irene) There aren’t many breweries that have a river for walking, sitting, or (why not) lying in whilst sipping craft beer. On a hot summer day, there’s nothing better.

The Long Trail Brewery Co. is fashioned after the Hofbrauhaus in Munich (one of the most famous of the Munich beer halls), so it’s not your average American tavern. They close early and have created an atmosphere that lends well to family gatherings and comfortable socializing. Long tables encourage group seating and there is no large screen television to stare at so you soon find yourself chatting with your neighbor.

After you’ve enjoyed reviving the art of conversation, over well-prepared pub fare, and refreshed your soul by soaking your feet in the Ottauquechee River, you can meander through a self-guided tour of the brewery to check out the spotless, hi-tech brew-house and cellars. I like to spend a little time gazing down on the bottle spinner, dazzled and a little dizzy from watching the rapid-fire shuffle of bottles as they spin upside down, round and round, on their journey through the filling and capping machine.

For those of you who don’t know the story, Long Trail Brewery Co. (originally Mountain Brewers) began production in 1989 as a 15-barrel brew-house in the basement of the Old Woolen Mill just east of their current site. At the time, malt beverage options in the States consisted of mass-produced beers like Budweiser, Miller, and Coors.  Imported (and expensive) beers from Holland, Germany and elsewhere in Europe bore little resemblance to the classic brews more well-traveled Americans enjoyed on the continent. Irish pubs all offered their own basement-brewed ale or lager along with the ubiquitous Guinness on draught. Here, in the US, it was a bleak landscape for the thirsty palate of beer connoisseurs.

Andy Pherson decided that there was no reason why American’s couldn’t make high-quality beer at an affordable price, so he started production of one of the first American craft beers. A risky and rare venture at the time is now approaching a significant anniversary.  The Long Trail Brewing Co. has been in business for 25 years and now distributes their brew all along the eastern coast. Vermont has become a mecca for newly converted acolytes of the craft brewing art, which is nearly a religious calling for some.

Maybe cooler than the actual place is the mission of Long Trail Brewing Co. The words on their website indicate a commitment to the environment, community, and healthy lifestyles, but you can read that on just about any website these days. If you Google Long Trail Brewery Co., you’ll find videos and articles about their success with water conservation and their investment in ‘cow power’ (converting methane to energy).  You may find out that they have built their own wastewater plant, they source as many ingredients as possible from local vendors, and they have even made a pact to sell only merchandise that was made in the US of A (not as easy as they’d hoped but they’re halfway there).

Long Trail Brewing Co. is just one of those places that is always looking for a new way to reduce impact and produce a product that is out of this world. If you haven’t already, I suggest you taste it in this world, preferably with your feet chilling in the river.

A Wonderful and Historic General Store

Gillinghams General StoreCaviar to Cow Manure – This 200-Year-Old Store Has it All

Depending on how spry I’m feeling, FH Gillingham & Sons General Store is either a hop, skip and jump or a short stroll from our Sotheby’s office. This is handy on days when I need a quick snack mid-day, a duplicate key, an interesting and useful gift for a client or when I just want to pop in and see some friendly faces.

Gillingham’s is the type of place that has what you need when you need it and they’ve had my back for things like last minute gifts and various hardware items whenever they were needed.

Walking into Gillingham’s is like walking back in time, floors creak and chirp keeping you company as you shop. The long thick boards have a patina earned honestly by bearing up under the trod of shoes, boots, and sneakers over a hundred years. It reminds me of Little House on the Prairie with the sweet aroma of wood and spice I imagine the show’s general store to have (Oleson’s Mercantile, for the curious few). Sarah and Ada, the resident mackerel striped cats make sure that nobody leaves without a smile on their face…not exactly Wal-Mart greeters, as they are a little picky about who they talk to.

I imagine that as a kid, visiting Gillingham’s has to be a little slice of heaven. The first things you notice are the jars of candy lined up on the shelves (they have, bar none, the most delicious caramels ever to gum up a set of baby teeth). Adults may be more interested in the make-your-own peanut butter, fresh produce, hardware, and remarkable selection of fine and well-priced wines.

Gillingham’s has been at the center of the Woodstock community since the late 1800’s when Frank Henry Gillingham opened his doors and proclaimed “your money’s worth or your money back.” The store has occupied the brick building at 16 Elm Street ever since then and has flourished under family ownership. It is currently operated by F.H. Gillingham’s great-grandsons, Frank and Jireh Billings.

The store’s success is due to their uncanny ability to keep up with the times, both new and old. They maintain strong ties to the store’s rich history and offer consistently good service and high-quality products. I believe that another reason for their success is community involvement, which includes partnering with local cheese companies, working with the Woodstock Business Alliance and Chamber of Commerce, and operating town water system under the aegis of the Woodstock Aqueduct. Gillingham’s has supported local farmers long before it became fashionable…over a hundred years before!

Gillingham’s still delivers groceries. They figured out a workable system long before there were “apps” and internet food sites. According to Frank, this goes back to the early days when people who wanted a delivery (mostly elderly but not always) would place a blue card with a “G” on it in their window. Someone from Gillingham’s would ride around the community, in the company horse and buggy, and distribute the goods to houses sporting the “G.” They still do this today (though the use of the blue card has fallen away and the ‘infernal’ combustion engine vehicle replaced buggies).

The description you will find on the Gillingham’s website refers to the store as: “One of Vermont’s oldest general stores, where you can buy everything from caviar to cow manure – accompanied by a farmstead cheese and a bottle of Corton Charlemagne!” That ‘bout covers it…oh, and they sell clothes and Muck Boots too.

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Woodstock's New-Generation Library Maintains Old-School Connections

Norman Williams Public LibraryIf you are like me, you have an old-school attachment to the local library. My attachment goes back to the stacks of books where I could become lost in my imagination as a kid, the cozy rooms where I hung out with friends after school whispering about our favorite stories, and the card catalogues that were written in impenetrable code I never deciphered.

Woodstock’s Norman Williams Public Library has maintained this old-school charm (frankly, I prefer ‘historical’, not ‘old’), but they also offer all of the resources required by the technologically savvy kids that collect on its steps at the end of the school day. They provide two rows of computer terminals for public use. The kids don’t need to ask a lot of questions but, for their elders (aka techno-dinos) who are feeling a little lost, the library schedules one-on-one tutoring.

When I was younger, one of the great things about going to the library was seeing my friends and simply getting out of the house. The Norman Williams Public Library knows it is in competition with electronic media, so they continually develop creative programs tailored to the needs of residents in the greater Woodstock area. The programs are ever-changing and wide-ranging.  I don’t know of another library with enough creative juice to host a support group for the addicts of Downton Abbey who suffer withdrawal at season’s end while developing a Business Effectiveness Series for local professionals who want to strengthen their communication skills and sharpen marketing tools. They do all of this while simultaneously hosting story reading for pre-schoolers in the magical children’s section.  

I would say this is not your grandma’s library, but the truth is that it still is your grandma’s library and her grandkids’ too. The library still has everything grandma loved and has evolved and adapted itself to the modern world. The Norman Williams Public Library continues to nurture young readers with the generation-appropriate tools kids are reared on these days, in a venue where they can connect with their friends and neighbors to share the joy of learning.  

The Norman Williams Public Library Mission: The library enriches the intellectual and cultural life of the Woodstock community by providing access to literature, culture, current information, and technology; promoting the love of reading; fostering the free and open exchange of ideas; serving as a gathering place for people of all ages; and supporting lifelong learning for all.

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Woodstock History

You See Route 4? I see a RailwayWoodstock Bridge

The next time you’re driving along route 4 through Quechee, on your way to Woodstock, think about what the landscape may have looked like a hundred or so years ago. If you visualize pasture-dotted landscapes fanning out around your paid seat on a locomotive; you have an insight into what the new director of the Woodstock History Center, Matthew Powers, sees during that same drive.

I doubt Matthew is given to hallucinations, but he does love to think about history as a continuous story of places and the people living there. He says that he likes the historical perspective this particular daydream projects on to the landscape, which draws travelers along the same path today as it did a hundred years ago, “though perhaps the mode of transport is different.”

It is a given that time will pass and the spaces we occupy will change, possibly on a massive scale, over the generations. For this reason, it is great that we have a passionate and active historical society in the center of Woodstock providing us with a collective memory of our community through time.

The Woodstock History Center has all of the books, pictures, galleries, and exhibits to keep a history buff occupied a millennium, but what I enjoy most are the events they host. The Center makes history fun, and they take full advantage of holidays to share the joy of learning about our town. Halloween is one example, when they put on “Spooky Woodstock,” to bring us all back into the mindset of our slightly more superstitious ancestors. The History Center uses the Village Green to put on skits about the vampire that is buried there (Eat your heart out Count, so to speak) and then members light a fire on the History Center lawn so folks can gather ‘round and listen to local ghost lore. (Woodstock was the site of the classic film “Ghost Story” with Fred Astaire, John Housman and Patricia Neal to name a few stars and showcases many local vistas and buildings).

According to Matthew, the Woodstock History Center hosts one or two lectures per month, covering topics as far ranging as medicinal plants, Woodstock’s role in conservation, and the Civil War. They bring in crowds of twenty to fifty year around, which is a pretty impressive turnout in a small town venue. It gives you an idea of how much people in this area appreciate their history.

With the realization that a lot of our history is captured in the memories of local elders and passed down in the oral tradition of rural Vermont: the Woodstock History Center is dedicated to recording the voices of those who still remember and are willing to share. Matthew hopes to increase the tape and transcript library they have begun so that those who visit can “actually hear the voices” of history.

The Woodstock History Center is open year-round and often rents out its Library and lawn for a variety of functions like weddings, educational events, and local festivities. Their mission is to collect and preserve evidence of the history of Woodstock and surrounding communities, to provide leadership in local history education, and to provide a forum for public study and discussion of current issues which have a strong bearing on the history of the region. I’ve shortened this for the purposes of my blog, but you can find their mission in full at http://woodstockhistorical.org/.

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