Bennington Pottery, Catamounts in Bennington Vermont, Country Stores of New England, Isabelle's Herbs and Things, Isabelles's Lavender Farm, Lavender in New England, Mid-State Vermont, Mountain Golf in Vermont, New England Road Tripping, Southern Vermont, Touring Around in New England, Vermont Country Store, Vermont Lavender, Vermont Road Trip
We packed a cooler, some clothes and the golf clubs and headed out for a little end-of-summer adventuring. The focus was finding new golf courses in a part of Vermont we had driven through several times but never stayed in. Pat is the golfer and it was his birthday week so we took it from there. I can always find something that interests me in the vicinity of a golf course that interests him. We were quite fortunate to have near-perfect weather, warm and breezy, for rambling.
Our accommodations were in West Dover Vermont but our travels took us over several hundred miles of Southern and Mid-Vermont back roads in just a few days.
We had a picnic in Wilmington before Pat headed out to play golf at nearby Mount Snow. Wilmington Vermont is a very quaint Vermont village with lots of vintage white buildings downtown sporting gingerbread and other interesting trim work, an old inn and many interesting sounding shops and creative businesses. A quilt shop is snuggled into one of the oldest houses in the village. A river really does run through it, winding its way behind and under the main streets and stately buildings.
I visited the country store and a shop named, “Hopeless Romantic” because I couldn’t resist with a name like that. I checked out a bead shop called, Beadz Knees and found some wire I’d been looking for. I was surprised at the number of bookstores, art and antique stores and clever consignment-type shops rubbing shoulders in such a relatively small town. A lot of interest in a compact area, and attractively wrapped as well!
Everywhere I looked were window boxes and planters, overflowing. They seemed to be on and in front of every building downtown. After exploring the village center, I found a quiet bench in a little park across the river where I read undisturbed. What could be better?
When Pat finished his game at nearly Mount Snow Golf Club, we drove to Dover and had dinner in a place called The Forge Restaurant, a restored old forge with a stone floor and still containing much of the original stone forge area inside. They specialized in smoked and barbequed food. Tasty!
The second day, we aimed south First we checked out the Hermitage Golf Club on Haystack Mountain but they were booked up. Then we headed for Jacksonville Vermont. I’d read about a place called Isabelle’s Herbs and Things Lavender Farm there and was “drawn as if by magic.”
Our route, as have all the others so far, included winding back roads that follow twisting streams and river beds, up and down hills and mountainsides lush with trees and ripe fields of hay and corn. This journey was no exception. We were encouraged to see so many cows and horses enjoying the velvety pastures. Every little village had a variety of bridges; stone, covered and open, crossing and often re-crossing those many streams and rivers.
When we arrived at Isabelle’s lavender farm, we were enveloped by the heady scent of lavender before we even parked the car. And there was Isabelle, tending to the plants and harvesting tender lavender blossoms in the closest amethyst- colored field.
Sun on lavender is about as close to Heaven as I can imagine, and whole fields of it…. There are few scents as soothing and spellbinding as lavender. It reminds almost everyone of something; inevitably something wonderful …
I joined Isabelle in the closest field as she waved me over. She was incredibly generous with her time and wisdom. I had a lot of questions and she shared many lavender growing tips for New England and other northern gardens, gleaned from her decades of experience with lavender and other herbs and perennials.
She showed me her greenhouse and the tiny plants she grows from seed. They marched forth in orderly row, growing in a small nursery field that sits in a protected section of the sheltering fields. She shared seed sources and so much more, obviously picking up on my shared passion for herbs somehow…
We talked about the challenges of growing what is commonly considered a Mediterranean plant, in New England and which varieties are the toughest survivors in our climate. It was very encouraging. I have had mixed success wintering-over this very special plant year after year. It does great all summer, then I hold my breath during the long cold season. I have quite a few lavender plants this year and hope to keep them all for many years to come. Isabelle has plants she moved with her to her present location, over a decade ago. She really knows what she is doing! Isabelle is a member of the US Lavender Grower’s Association. She is one of only a few Northeast Members.
Isabelle sells lavender plants in three sizes. We walked to one of the fields and I chose the plant I wanted to take home. Isabelle dug it up and prepared it for travel back to New Hampshire, where it is now “a plant with a story” and a wonderful addition to our own garden.
Isabelle’s shop is as fragrant as the fields beyond, filled with lavender and other herbal inspired crafts, including the lavender water Isabelle makes herself and sells in pretty dark blue glass bottles. Isabelle shared that she had worked for years with someone I have admired very much for most of my life; the late Tasha Tudor. As amazing as that was, somehow, after meeting Isabelle and talking to her, I was not at all surprised. At her shop and gardens, I felt transported to another time, a gentler and more relaxed time . I was truly enchanted.
If you love herbs and perennials and down-to-earth country things, especially lavender, I can’t recommend enough that you visit Isabelle’s Herbs and Things Lavender Farm in Jacksonville Vermont. Congratulations Isabelle for following and living your dream!
This unique and very special place, also offers fairy teas in the garden and Lavender Days workshops. Check it out! You will not be disappointed!
When I could finally tear myself away, we headed northwest passing through Whitington, Readsboro, Bearsburg and other small New England villages to Bennington Vermont, on a different sort of mission. Since I was a young teenager, I have admired unique and sturdy Bennington Pottery. If this name does not ring any bells for you, please check out their website when you have a chance. Better yet, visit them in person. Over the years, I have picked up a couple of special pieces of Bennington Pottery and have been considering one other addition. The best plan seemed to go to the source.
I did expect to find the pottery and possibly to spend some time enjoying beautiful and historic Bennington itself. It’s no surprise that Norman Rockwell elected to live and paint here and Robert Frost chose to be buried in this quaint Vermont village.
I was surprised however, to see dozens of life-sized catamount (mountain lion). statues sprinkled liberally all over the main streets and other highly visible locations!
I found out a bit later, that these catamounts, as well as being the local icons for many Bennington institutions like the schools, are currently part of a town-wide arts project, an initiative called Catamount Prowl 2013.
More than thirty of these majestic cats were commissioned to be cast. They were then painted individually by various local artists, each one quite uniquely. They are displayed all over the town of Bennington for the summer and will be raffled off at the end of October for a variety of charitable causes.
We did, after a bit of catamount distraction, locate the Bennington Pottery works, housed in a former grist mill, lovingly restored. A vintage school house set in front of the studios serves as the showroom entryway. I have admired a large heart-shaped, Bennington baking dish for a long time. Over the years, the number of glazes of Bennington Pottery has expanded from the original few, to ten currently.
If you have read any of my blue and white dishes posts, you can probably guess that my favorite glaze is Blue Agate. I was afraid I’d finally get here and either the pan style or the glaze would be discontinued. Fortunately for me, neither was the case and I was able get the dish I wanted, in the glaze I love. Yay !
Anyway…. The Bennington Pottery studios and Showrooms are pretty interesting. You can watch all their pottery being made and glazed by hand and then see it displayed on the grounds in some really inviting settings. You can buy each piece individually or a set of matching tableware. I tend to gravitate to a few dark blue serving and baking pieces to combine with many old dishes I have. The Bennington Pottery style, really speaks to my personal ‘form and function’ philosophy.
We drove north up to the humming town of Manchester Vermont, passing through Arlington. We picnicked there on the green. It was windy but warm. Our luck was holding. Manchester is a town with a lot of history and natural beauty as well. We have explored it on previous travels and so, just stopped long enough to look around a bit this time, have a picnic and move on.
Pat was able to get a tee time at Stratton Mountain Golf Club and we headed back in that direction. (It’s no coincidence that all these local courses have ‘Mountain’ in their names.) Pat was really impressed with the layout and scenic beauty this course offered. It was sufficiently challenging, reasonably priced and beautifully maintained.
When we drove home, we had a couple of places we wanted to see along the way. Chester is a pretty Vermont village with a large number of gorgeous old stone homes and public buildings along its main streets.
Weston has a very charming green in the center, complete with bandstand and lots of benches. This is the home of the original Vermont Country Store, maintained in the Orton family for generations. This is a well-kept and superbly stocked old-fashioned general store with everything from wheels of aged Cabot cheddar cheese to quality clothing, garden supplies, books, vintage-themed toys and shelves full of candy jars. It even has the requisite checker barrel and chairs by the wood stove. I always try to take a detour to this shop when I am anywhere near. I remember visiting here as a child and being overwhelmed in the best possible way .
Our road trip drew to an end and we aimed New Hampshireward. We traveled by the second Vermont Country Store in Rochester Vermont, owned and operated by the same family as the original. The Ortons have done a great job of captivating the atmosphere of the original store here while giving it a bit of personality of its own. There is even a “kissing bridge” on the property, just what every country store should have!
It’s nice to know there’s still a lot of Vermont country stores, covered bridges, barns, sugar houses and winding roads, just a couple of hours away. Explore New England’s back roads soon and you will not be disappointed!