Sunday, October 29, 2017

Road Trip: Quintessentially New England

See part one here and part two here.

Don't worry, I won't be bothering you with pictures of a seemingly random town for much longer. Seeing as I love a good small town, the weather was beautiful, and I had a few afternoons free, I decided to be outside and enjoy the fall weather (that has been very absent here at home). What follows are just things that happened to catch my eye as I walked around town and to the farm. I'll skip the text and let you scroll in peace. The sun was so bright it was actually not easy to see what I was shooting, so I'm fairly pleased with what I've got (though I doubt Currier and Ives would have put anything on a lithograph).

You may be thinking "Where is the glorious fall foliage New England is famous for?" Where, indeed. I didn't know if I was too early or too late for it, so I asked some of the locals. They said that I was a little late for it, but that they didn't get the vibrant colors this year anyway. Everything was more of a muted tone before they let go of the trees.

On the way home, my GPS took me on one route that was absolutely breath-taking. For the first time in my life I understood what people mean when they say 'rolling hills.' I wanted nothing more than to pull over and take hundreds of photos in every direction, but I was on a two-lane road with a very narrow shoulder and safety sense prevailed. So I figured I'd just enjoy the drive. It was a view I would very much like to have shared, but at least I've got the memory of it. That doesn't leave you anywhere, though, so I guess you'll just have to see for yourself one day.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Road Trip: Billings Farm and Museum

See my first post here.

On my knitting retreat, mornings were made for big breakfasts and knitting classes, followed by delicious lunches. We then had the afternoons free until dinner to shop, explore, relax, go to the spa, whatever. I decided to head to the Billings Farm--it was a very walkable distance, and sometimes City Girl here likes that sort of thing.

While the farm is on Route 12, I took this photo because I am so madly in love with the dappled effects of sun shining through leaves.

These delightful creatures were just off the main road. One of them scared the bejesus out of me when it mooed, loudly and deeply, just as I was inhaling lungfuls of fresh air. I had a split-second thought of "Oh my goodness, what's happening?" thinking I had developed a respiratory disorder in literally one second, when really the moooooo started slow and deep, and then grew. I felt so ridiculous that I started laughing hysterically, and then felt even more ridiculous as other people were walking down the farm lane.

The farm was dotted with Robert Frost poetry. Random poetry should be in a lot more places at random intervals. Wouldn't that be delightful?

Horse (Clydesdales, I believe) and wagon rides were available, but my ability to intermingle with strangers only goes so far, and random wagon rides are not within that scope.

Besides, there was a sheep...I guess...demonstration. And as I was on a wool-based retreat, I figured I'd listen in.

The ewes lambed in April, and were a big wooly hunk of dirty cuteness. Seriously. When I think of sheep I imagine fluffy white snuggle-buggles that are just adorable. Real sheep are quite dirty, and the wool feels like a kid's hair after he runs ice cream hands through it. There are a ton of steps to get wool from sheep to skein, and more than half of them involve washing.

Two hundred years ago, merino sheep were brought to the area that had many farms and spinning mills. That changed by the mid 19th century, ending 'Merino Madness.'

Cute, right??? I was hoping for just such a picture. Years ago I told my dad he should get a sheep herd to 'mow' his lawn, and then I'll take the fleece, but now that I know there are dozens of steps to make the fleece knittable I'm shelving that idea.

This is Hazel. Hazel was rejected by her mom and was 'raised' by the workers on the farm. She's therefore very good with people, so they trot her out on a leash for these little talks. There was a woman there who kept going up to her and baa-ing. I'm sure it was delightful. I know I enjoyed it... (please tell me the sarcasm came through).

The Billings farm is a working dairy farm, so there were lots of cows. But as they're kept in stalls, and stalls are generally...mucky...I didn't take photos to share. You're welcome.

With the exception of this pretty lady. I kept trying to pet her, but she must be so tired of people and cameras and being bothered as she kept trying to duck my touch. Which is just as well, because with my luck I would have ended up with a handful of wet cow nose.

The upstairs of the welcome center was a museum devoted to farm life. There were tons of implements and machinery on display, as well as (what felt like endless) depictions of rural life.

I like the idea of picnics, but I don't like the idea of bugs invading my food. I'm very territorial when it comes to my food. Ask anyone I've ever dated.


Many of the items (like the butter mold and the cheese making implements) were straight out of the Little House books.


As were the sugaring and ice-blocking displays. Sincerely, it's as though I was looking at scenes from Little House in the Big Woods and Farmer Boy. I suppose not much would be vastly different from one section of the country to the next  back in those days.

Including the general store. I've realized in looking through my photos that I have a thing for shelves. Something about all that potential for organization and arranging things prettily.

There were numerous displays of all aspects of rural life--the country school, the church, every kind of farm activity, what every room in the farmhouse might look like, and so on. It's the type of thing I love, and imagine that the curators of these pieces must have had great fun arranging them just so.

In addition to the farm and museum, you could tour the old farmhouse where the farm manager lived with his family.

This pantry must be the stuff of dreams. I love those little bins of flour and sugar. I doubt I would make the mess I do when measuring out flour if I had a handy little thing like that.

Every room had beautiful old coal stoves in them. I'm sure they were dirty and sooty and gross back then, but they're beautiful now.

I so wish I had stepped back a few more feet when taking this picture. Walking into this room made me gasp (literally). The light coming in through those curtains and pinging off of every wall in the room, creating dappled shadows on the floor and walls and making things seem as though they were sparkling, was literally breath-taking. I looked out all of the windows in this house, and there wasn't a bad view from any of them.

What IS it about shelves? I much prefer them to drawers and cabinets.

About twenty years ago, an Oscar-nominated documentary was made about Woodstock, the Billings Farm, and the conservation efforts that sprang from therein. There is now a park across from the farm called the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park. All three of the owners were wildly involved in land preservation across the country, going back to well before we were paving parking lots and building landfills everywhere; it actually started with the robust timber industry in Vermont almost two hundred years ago.

I have oodles more pictures but I won't bore you any further with all of that. I don't know that you all have the same love for shelves that I do.

Next time I'll show you some absolutely New England pictures.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Road Trip: Woodstock, Vermont

I have been thinking and thinking about how I want to write about this. It all seems so very much, but at the same time not much at all. Do I do this in one post so as not to bore people? Do I make it the longest blog post in history? Do I split it up? So I decided to just write a few posts about it, as while I write this blog for others to read I do enjoy going back and reading about trips or family events or cute little things the nephews used to say.

So, from the beginning. A few months ago, I ended a relationship I was in that, in lovely 20/20 hindsight, was not good for me at all. I felt restless and unhappy afterwards, and felt the need for...something to happen (but no idea what that needed to be). One morning, I was going through my emails when one caught my eye. It was for an Interweave Escapes trip to Woodstock, Vermont, to hang out with other knitters in a beautiful place, taking classes taught by Arne and Carlos (my Norwegian knitting boyfriends) and Lars Rains (Mr. Icelandic Sweater--he doesn't know I call him this). It hit that hollow spot in me, and I instantly knew this was the something I needed. It seemed a little  pricey, and I have a history of being quite impulsive, so I polled my advisors (my mom and sisters) and asked if I needed to go. They agreed it sounded like a trip designed specifically for me, so I signed up and spent the following weeks squealing intermittently and saying "I'm going to VerMONT to knit!"

Kids, it was amazing. We ate with the designers (all of the amazing meals were included in the package), made new friends (and some reconnected with old friends), learned some new techniques, and had a lot of laughs. By the end of the three days, I felt as though I had known some people for years and years. There was such a variety of ages, locations, and jobs represented (from retired teacher to wildlife biologist to NASA rocket scientist), yet we were all connected by that common thread that is our craft (we even had discussions on whether that should be categorized as a fine craft). We discussed gender views of knitting, how we all got started, the size of our stashes, and anything and everything else. I am almost entirely certain that I smiled from beginning to end.

I don't have many pictures from the workshops themselves (as every minute was used--and then some--on the topic at hand), but as I complete those projects I'll share them here.

So now that we're all caught up, want to take a stroll through town?

This is the beautiful Woodstock Inn and Resort, situated right on the village green (I don't know that I've ever been somewhere with a village green, so I must record that to remember that now I have been to such a place).

The town is not a large place by any means, but it's probably exactly what you'd think of if someone asked you what a Hallmark-designed New England town might look like. The weather was absolutely divine--vibrant blue skies, that fall smell in the air, and a bit of a nip that actually felt good when it hit your face upon stepping outside.

The court house was situated right next to the inn. I would not mind having jury duty if it was in such a building as this (unlike where you have to go here in Philadelphia where you leave feeling certain that part of your soul was sucked out of your body).

Every time I passed this place people were going in/coming out (it's the Norman Williams Public Library).


I imagine these houses on The Green cost the arms and legs of several people, as well as the promise of many first-borns. They remind me of the dollhouse I had when I was little.

The small white Congregational Church, where Laurence Rockefeller (son of John, brother of Nelson) was married to his lovely wife Mary.

I don't know to whom this house belongs. It might be famous, it might not. I just wish it was mine. I feel like I can see myself in one of those upstairs bedrooms, with the window open on a summer afternoon, while I lay (lie?) sprawled on my bed reading Nancy Drew for the zillionth time.

Soooo that's downtown. The thing that kept catching me off guard is that people actually stop for pedestrians in this town. And they're not impatient while they're doing it. At home sometimes it feels like you're literally playing a game of Frogger to cross the street. People barely slow down, and they certainly don't stop.

This pharmacy had a bit of a general store feel about. It reminds me of the Mayberry pharmacy from The Andy Griffith Show.

I don't know what it is, but I love small town post offices. They close branches in big cities, but these little buildings that once served as a big connection to the outside world are so endearing.

This old general store was a lot of fun to poke around in. They had a nice grocery section, as well as gifts, toys, and housewares.

It is so rare anymore to see an indie bookshop--everything is online or a major national chain. I didn't think I needed any books right now, but I went in anyway, and found something by a local author about growing up on a Vermont farm that I neeeeded. 

I had big plans to try and capture this shot at night, but due to a certain design duo at my table at dinner I completely forgot about it. That's OK, I'm sure it was pretty.

The Whippletree is the town's yarn shop. As attendees of the retreat we received a discount to the store. I was very well-behaved and did not overindulge. I needn't have indulged at all, as we received goody bags full of yarn, and there were yarn raffles each night, but it only felt right to buy some souvenir yarn. And a pattern. And a magazine. And a lotion bar (which I hear is an amazing thing). I'll be honest--I was a little underwhelmed by the yarn shop--not a lot of selection (but room for a lot more), and not the warmest employees either. The visit was actually a little off-putting, and I wasn't the only one. As we all shared stories around the fireplace (literally!) one of the common experiences was a touch of coldness in this shop. If I were a business owner I would be pleased that two dozen knitters high on inspiration were in town, but I guess not. Not that it means much from 350 miles away, but I wouldn't go back to this place (and no, I have no idea why on earth I gave them some of my money anyway).

That's enough for one day, eh? Next time we'll go to the farm.


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