The Most Beautiful Town in America

Woodstock, VTWoodstock, Vermont was just named the most beautiful town in America by Conde Nast Traveler – follow this link to see! Of course, we have long known that our little village was pretty special, but it’s great to hear others singing her praises.  Come see for yourself!  It’s always a great time to visit, and maybe, like the rest of us, you’ll decide it’s a great time to stay!

Image via Conde Nast Traveler.


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Here we Come A-Wassailing

When snow dusts the village and lights spangle the trees along the green, Woodstock is at its most resplendent—it’s like living in a Holiday card.  We celebrate this season during Wassail Weekend, and you can join in the festivities. View the schedule here


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Osteria Pane e Salute: Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber

WineTucked away atop an old bluestone staircase in historic downtown Woodstock is Osteria Pane e Salute, one of the village’s most celebrated dining venues.  Tiny and open seasonally, it can be tricky to get a seat for even in-the-know locals, but an evening at Pane is always worth the wait.

In addition to their successful restaurant, proprietors Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber have turned their seemingly endless enthusiasm to farming, vineyard cultivation, winemaking, and design.  Enjoy a balmy evening on their home farm vineyard and winery at one of their summer suppers or wine tastings, or if a trip to Vermont isn’t in the cards, you can find their delectable wines at select venues in New York and Boston.

Farmingmenu boardpeople eating in early eveningpeople eating at night


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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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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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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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Woodstock Community and Artistree

Woodstock Community Artistree and GalleryDeep Roots for the Creative Soul

I love the name Artistree. It reminds me of old growth—a place where the intrepid artist can explore wild ideas and beautiful realities in a firmly rooted community of people who endeavor to express themselves creatively. Maybe this is why Kathleen Dolan (Artistree’s visionary founder) chose this name for the community arts center and gallery she opened in Woodstock a decade ago.

Artistree’s public mission describes the organization as “a non-profit committed to making creative expression and its appreciation accessible to our community.” They do this by offering arts and crafts classes to people of all ages and abilities. Whether you like to sing, dance, play instruments, bend yourself into a yoga pretzel, draw, paint, sculpt or test your eyesight with needlepoint; Artistree is designed to provide resources to help you express yourself creatively. They even offer a class that uses pastels as a path toward personal growth.

(If you will indulge my tree metaphor a little longer), the people who work with Artistree seem to become grafted to the Artistree trunk like sturdy branches that enhance the beauty of the whole. For example: Annette Compton, a well known local artist who recently succumbed to cancer, was a regular teacher. Annette was a gifted painter who developed quite a following at Artistree and her death did not end her contributions to the arts center. Thanks to her mother, Trish Compton, Annette’s legacy continues to support the center she loved in life through a scholarship program. According to Kathleen, one of the goals of Artistree is to “make it so that nobody is turned away.” The contribution left behind in Annette’s honor helps achieve this goal.

Artistree has been stimulating minds young and old in Woodstock since 2003 and will be celebrating their ten-year anniversary by moving to a new location in South Pomfret. By the end of the summer of 2014, they will be located in a dramatically renovated dairy barn directly behind the Teago General Store. Kathleen believes the new space will be “a much more accommodating space for art classes.” You might even say it has been a treemendous success..or then again, you might not.


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The Beat of Horse Hooves Leads Nature's Rhythm

HorsesThe Green Mountain Horse Association (GMHA) has been around since 1926. If you said this about a trucking business, your mind might travel back over the years and wonder what the trucks looked like back then.  Trucks, like everything in the modern world, have picked up the pace to race around the clock. Everything moves at full gallop on a 24/7 schedule.  Horses, though, have evolved over 50 million years and change comes more slowly in nature.  Somehow I find it comforting to watch a horse extend its head and nip a bunch of grass beside a brook and take time to savor the taste.

I grew up on a small ranch outside of Tucson, Arizona where we raised Quarter Horses and much of our own food. My experiences on the ranch and in 4H Club (my brothers and I were members for years) instilled in me an appreciation for the rhythm of living things moving mindful only of the moment. GMHA offers us an opportunity to change our pace to the particular rhythms that surround horses.  

Located on Route 106, past the South Woodstock store, GMHA is an integral part of the Woodstock community. In fact, the Tuck School of Business recently completed a study on the impact GMHA has had on its local economy, and found that they had injected a whopping $4.2 million per annum through direct impacts (visitors eating and shopping locally) as well as indirect impacts (the contractors brought in for upkeep of the property).

The true impact, or the one that matters most to me, is the chance GMHA gives to local children and families and those from nearby states and countries (well, really just one country—Canada) visit GMHA to experience working hands-on with horses.  Vermonters might take country life for granted, but those from more crowded places may not have the resources to board and raise their own horses (it should be noted that GMHA does not have horses, so children bring their own).  In addition to teaching children riding skills, GMHA shows them how to care for a horse.  They learn basic grooming, nutrition, and veterinary care through programs like the Junior Horsemanship Clinic.  Horses are an expensive hobby, so GMHA provides a variety of scholarships for qualifying riders.

GMHA is a great place to stop or plan an afternoon of fun for the family. There is no entrance fee to watch the shows, so you can hang out for the day and watch the horses and riders go through their paces.  You’ll be able to share in a moment or two petting the horses or talking to the riders while they are at rest. You can bring a brown bag snack, but GMHA has a sweet little café, which is open for events.

GMHA has something going on at all times of year, even winter, since horse lovers passions don’t wax and wane with the weather.  GMHA has many events planned, so you’ll want to check out their schedule. From my perspective, the must-see events are the Team Jumper Challenge and Lobster Bake in July (no the lobster isn’t local) and Chef’s Night (yes, they are local), and sample sumptuous fare.

GMHA’s Mission: GMHA is dedicated to providing and maintaining opportunities for educational and competitive activities for diverse equestrian disciplines; emphasis is placed on equestrian trails preservation, horsemanship and youth education.  


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Quantifying the Arts

After graduating from Dartmouth, Serena Nelson first worked with the Hopkins Center for the Arts. She spent two summers at her local opera company before taking a job with the Pentangle Arts Council. She was hired to work in the Pentangle administrative offices but her background and skills quickly earned her a place on the production team for the summer’s performance of Oz. As stage manager, Serena helped Director RLee Adams coordinate the exuberant energy of a multi-generational cast.

Serena continues to work in the administrative offices and glows when you ask her about her experiences with Oz. Part of her excitement is born from the spark of creative talent meeting need. The other part is clearly the kindling of her gift working with children eager to fire their own imaginations.

At the heart of the Pentangle mission is a commitment to encouraging “accessible multi-generational arts experiences and the participation of both current and future audiences.” Pentangle began, in 1974, as an arts council serving a five-town area with Woodstock at its center and now reaches a diverse community including Barnard, Bridgewater, Reading, Pomfret, Quechee, Killington, Hartford, Hartland, Sharon, Bethel, Plymouth, and beyond.

Pentangle provides a local venue where we can share rare performance experiences, quality films of general and limited distribution, concerts provided by gifted musicians and consciousness-expanding education series. The scope of entertainment ranges from simple community events like the annual snow-sculpture festival (Vermont Flurry) and summertime concerts on the Village Green (Brown Bag Concert Series) to a performance by Judy Collins at Christmas. The Council works with area schools and non-profits, providing programming for several thousand school kids each year through the ‘Dana Emmons Arts in Education Program’.

Pentangle and the arts are where I dedicate most of our firm’s financial gifts dedicated to community support. The premise behind so many spending decisions today, both public and private, is based an objective criteria of a ‘dollars and cents’ economic benefit. The educational emphasis in school today on test-driven ‘Three R’s’ is missing one important ‘R’; the one in ‘aRts’.

As I see it, the greatest contribution of our local Pentangle Arts Council is the opportunity it offers local talent to explore and expand their abilities and to communicate personal creative vision. Another incalculable benefit is broadening and deepening artistic experiences in a world in need of a muse.

I believe the most quantifiable thing in life is the quality of existence and our human need and desire to share it. Art enables us to communicate the infinite variety of ways we experience the world in the isolated shells of ourselves. Art, in its many forms, expressed—in shades, sounds, shapes and words—builds bridges of understanding that defy destruction.


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