Field Trip: Woodstock Vermont

The Green Mountain State is well known as a winter destination, but absolutely worth a visit outside of ski season as well.  We were blown away with how beautiful Vermont is during a recent getaway that lead us to the charming town of Woodstock.  The working farms that dot the landscape put a rustic, hardworking feeling to the air. The friendly people strolling past quaint shops and restaurants added to the ambiance and made for a perfect long weekend of exploring and relaxing.

We stayed in a beautifully refurbished barn which included a loft the kids enjoyed climbing up to and playing-in for hours. The “Kingsley Barn” was the perfect spot for our family, complete with a fire pit for nightly s’mores and a gentle stream for wading.  It was cozy yet spacious, with all the comforts of home.  Taking advantage of the kitchen and grill, we cooked dinner together our first night using local produce from the farmers market, steak from The Village Butcher, and some Longtrail beer from the brewery up the road.

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Woodstock is one of our new favorite places and we can’t wait to get back. So, without further ado, here is a round up of the top five things we enjoyed most in Woodstock:

  1. Sugarbush Farm Free samples of locally made cheese and maple syrup? Yes, please! The staff was so impressed that our children tried every variety of cheese, including the jalapeño (which our youngest found just a little too spicy).
  2. Mount Tom A gentle zig-zagging walk gets you to the top in about 35 minutes, unless you get impatient to reach it like my kids did.  Then there are some more challenging “short cuts” you can access which make the hike a little more vertical but cuts your hiking time down a bit.
  3. Woodstock Inn A beautiful old inn that is fun to walk around both inside and out.  Its elegant lobby and artwork harkens back to days gone by.
  4. Billings Farm Our timing was perfect, as it was ice-cream tasting time when we arrived. Our girls enjoyed churning the crank to make homemade blueberry ice cream.  The museum is worth walking through to learn the history and appreciate all that went into creating such a farm.  Our girls especially loved seeing the dairy cows, and getting a peek at the baby calfs in the nursery.
  5. Worthy Kitchen Ummm, we ate here twice in three days. Enough said. They have the best burgers and beer selection around, hands down. Delicious farm to table food in an unpretentious setting.

Field Trip: East Hill Farm

Nestled at the base of Mount Monadnock in Troy, New Hampshire, East Hill Farm is a working inn and farm that caters to families looking for a rustic getaway. Once a bustling mill town with a textile industry that manufactured everything from horse blankets to coat linings, Troy is now a sleepy rural town with a population of less than 2500 people. Getting there is fairly easy if your home base is in Massachusetts, with a drive-time of about 1 1/2 hours from Boston.

The 150-acre farm has evolved since it’s first residents built a small home on the hillside in 1765. The current owners, Dave & Sally Adams, have turned it into an agritourism experience that allows them to keep the historic charm of a working farm while providing modern amenities that families have come to expect from a resort vacation. There are 65 guest rooms, 3 swimming pools, hiking trails, paddle boats, a barnyard filled with animals, and a mess hall where homemade cookies are baked daily and families gather and socialize at each meal.

My girls loved checking the chicken coop throughout the day and collecting eggs for breakfast the next day.

There are trails throughout the property that are beautiful but aren’t well mapped (I ended up on the side of the road after walking through someones private property). If you keep within the main trails and earshot of the Inn, you’ll be fine. Side note: Farmer Dave keeps the most immaculate stack of firewood at his home at the end of one of the trails.

If you’re looking for a back-to-basics getaway with modern conveniences a short drive from Boston, we highly recommend it.

 

 
    
    
	
    
    

East Hill Farm

Experimenting with Candle Recipes

Creating candles that burn perfectly (and safely) takes a lot of experimenting so I spent part of the afternoon today trying all kinds of combinations. Different proportions of beeswax, soy wax and coconut oil…wood wicks…cotton wicks…glass containers…enamelware mugs.

Observation #1:
Melted yellow beeswax could pass as a real Goose Island IPA beer in a pint glass, and melted white beeswax could pass as a Heineken!

beeswax beer pint
Beeswax pint candles with Macgyvered wick holders

Observation #2:
The glow of the flame from beeswax is remarkably different than a traditional candle. The pale yellow glow is both mesmerizing and entrancing.
beeswax candle flame

Observation #3:
Enamel mugs make awesome candle containers. They’re durable, built for open flames…and best of all, they can be reused afterwards to hold your favorite drink.

Field Trip: Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary

Stony Brook Norfolk
Stony Brook Waterfall

As a member of the Mass Audubon Society, we do our best to utilize the resources they preserve throughout the state. This past weekend, we took advantage of the early Spring weather and visited the Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Norfolk, MA (a small town of eleven thousand about an hour south of Boston).

Stony Brook Sanctuary
108 North St.
Norfolk, Mass.

Stony Brook covers just over 100 acres and has a manageable 2 miles of trails that are great for all ages. The paths are relatively flat (watch out for protruding roots in the wooded areas) and cover a variety of landscapes. There’s a children’s play area and picnic tables just outside the main entrance. A straight path leads from the visitors center to the boardwalk overlooking the Stony Brook Reservoir and is a perfect spot for turtle-spotting on sunny days.

To find an Audubon reservation near you, click the button below to search Audubon sites and then get outside!

Find An Audubon Center

Field Trip: Hill Farmstead and TreeHouse Breweries

Decided to take a day off and do a brewery day with some friends. Living in New England, we’ve got access to some amazing beer, including Hill Farmstead (Vermont) and Treehouse (Massachusetts) which we visited today.

The day started off loading coolers into the SUV and enjoying homemade breakfast sandwiches as we started the expedition from Massachusetts to Greensboro, Vermont (3 hours). We hoped to get to Hill Farmstead for opening time at noon.

We stopped in New Hampshire for a bathroom break and made sure to refuel our coffee and pick up some cider donuts.

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Cider donuts and coffee!

It had snowed a few inches the night before in Vermont which made the scenery even more beautiful as we approached the brewery.

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Approaching Hill Farmstead Brewery

We got there as they opened and it was pretty quiet (we had heard it can get crowded). We tried a few samples, enjoyed the scenery, filled our growlers and headed out. I also bought what I thought was a bottle of beer brewed with local maple syrup. I found out later that it was just a bottle of pricey (but delicious) local maple syrup that was aged in bourbon barrels.

We stopped at Prohibition Pig for lunch as we headed back towards Massachusetts. We were also able to score some elusive Heady Topper at the craft beer shop across the street from the restaurant – much to the dismay of a local passerby who noted that “I can’t even get Heady and I live here!”.

Next stop was TreeHouse Brewery in Monson, MA. It was pretty crowded when we finally got there but we were able to get in and out in about 30 minutes. The car, now beer-laden, and weighing about 80,000 lbs headed to our last stop for the day: BT’s smokehouse in Sturbridge, MA. BT’s seems to be a popular destination for those who also like TreeHouse since we saw a lot of familiar faces from earlier in the night there. After sampling pulled chicken, cornbread and collard greens it was time to head home.

We had experienced New England scenery at it’s finest, enjoyed some of the best beer around and shared some laughs with friends…now that’s a good day. In fact, it was so good that we felt the need to blare Ice Cube’s “Today Was a Good Day” as we drove the final stretch home (with the back bumper scraping the highway under the weight of the beer and leaving an epic spark show in our wake*).
Beer laden car
*This part did not really happen