Victoria Thrane’s farm in Hartland has been a gateway to a rich network of trails since before she came to own it twenty-one years ago. Located at the end of a peaceful road tucked into the hills where South Woodstock and Hartland meet, it is a familiar spot at the end of the Upwey Farm Trail. Victoria is a lifetime horsewoman who is happy to be a part of GMHA’s trail riding tradition.
“I just love the sound and sight of the horses and riders,” says Victoria. “It’s nice to see them enjoying the trails.”
These days, Victoria shares her farm with a donkey and a pony, who also enjoy being part of the welcoming committee. She has always loved horses, and grew up as a “wild cowgirl, riding the wildest horses.” After a few brushes with mortality, she has come to favor the companionship of slower, steadier equines. Her farm is quintessential Vermont – a quiet and sturdy complement to the landscape. It is a timeless reminder of the treasure we have in our network of trails, and the welcoming spirit of the landowners who make it possible.
One of the highlights of our Fall Foliage Rides this year was the Friday lunch stop at the top of a rolling field in Hartland with a spectacular view of Mt. Ascutney. That field, and the 200 acre farm that surrounds it, is gladly shared with GMHA riders by Gayle Davis and Kraig Murphy of Lull Brook Farm. Gayle has been a life member of GMHA since the 1980’s. “This has been my stomping ground for the past 30 years,” says Gayle as she describes GMHA. She is an active competitor in Eventing, and also enjoys riding with the North Country Hounds and hacking through the beautiful trails on her property and throughout the GMHA network.
Gayle has lived across the river in Cornish, New Hampshire for most of her adult life, and hadn’t planned to move to Hartland, but fate intervened.
“My good friend, who lives nearby, encouraged me to look at Lull Brook Farm. Peggy Cummings owned it at the time, and was in ill health. I fell in love with the place. After I heard that Peggy was giving her blessing for us to buy it, I knew that I would be moving to Hartland,” said Gayle. “We moved just days after Hurricane Irene blew through the area in Fall of 2011.”
Lull Brook Farm has a well-established trail system that has been used by the local horse community and by GMHA for the past century. Gayle and Craig consider themselves stewards of the land and the trails, and have improved and maintained them each year. “We have a little piece of heaven here, and we want to share it,” she says. The farm consists of an amazing brick farmhouse that was completely restored from the ground up in 1997, a barn, and both indoor and outdoor arenas. Along with sharing her trails, Gayle hosts hunts, hunter paces, and clinics from the facility
Have you ever considered opening up your land and designating trails or wooded areas for Green Mountain Horse Association Members to ride through? Fifth generation South Woodstock resident, Tina Barr Tuckerman tells us about the benefits and pleasures of sharing her family’s Vermont farm with the GMHA community.
There have been Barrs on the family farm in South Woodstock, Vermont since the early 1900s. According to Tina, Earl and Aggy Barr (Tina’s grandparents) opened up their land to GMHA sometime in the 1960s with the simple request, “that the land be used appropriately.”
Earl Barr installed a water tank on the property placed there expressly for the horses. One of his greatest pleasures was watching the horses come through and stop for a drink, which gave him a chance to exchange a few words with the riders. Tina says, “My grandfather loved the horses—my grandmother—not so much!”
The horse-loving part must have been passed on to Tina. She was inspired by her grandfather’s enthusiasm and says she literally “grew up” with GMHA, participating in 4-H and other events. Tina says, “I learned so much at GMHA. I was so privileged as a child to be able to go there and use real jumps instead of just hay bales and logs.”
When asked about the benefits of opening private land to GMHA, Tina is heartfelt in her response. “Being a horse person, I just love watching the horses go by—sometimes it’s the only way we see our neighbors! During the 100-mile event, a lot of the competitors stop in, remembering my grandparents. And the letters we get every year—oh, we get such great letters from riders!”
When asked if there are any drawbacks to sharing the family’s land with riders, Tina says with feeling, “I don’t know of any drawbacks. Everyone is so polite and nice! It’s a privilege to share our land and be an ambassador for Vermont. We keep our 125 acres neat and tidy and whether it’s on the back of a horse—or on the back of a snowmobile—it’s just so nice to share our Vermont farm with everyone. It’s a nice way for us to give back to the community.”
Latte’s Lathers, One Chicken At A Time Farm
In keeping with a time-honored family farm tradition, Tina Barr Tuckerman and her family own and run Latte’s Lathers, which features goats milk soaps containing all natural ingredients. Tina says, “the hand-made soaps are made the old-fashioned way, the way my grandparents used to do it.”
Apparently, “Latte” was the name of a goat that Tina took in. “Latte was found in a mud puddle and than lived with us in the house for three months,” says Tina. “And than one goat turned into eight goats. My husband finally said, ‘What are you going to do with all of these goats? This is no longer a hobby—you have to do something with these goats!’ So I thought to myself, what can a goat do? A goat can make cheese, a goat can make milk—and a goat can make soap. “ Providence stepped in when about that time one of Tina’s daughters developed sensitivity to certain soaps. The dye was cast; soap was the product of choice and Latte’s Lathers was created.
Eight goats soon became 30 and Tina says there are usually closer to 50 during kidding season. Tina says the goats are all “part of the family” and apparently love horses, and have their own horse, Araby. In addition to Latte’s Lathers, the farm sells maple syrup in the spring, and hay and garden produce in the summer.
At the top of Town Hill Road in Reading there is an oasis called High Meadows Farm. George and Harriet Wiswell’s 300 acres began as a rustic winter retreat for their family. After discovering the pure fun of skiing at Suicide Six in the 1960’s, they purchased 150 acres of raw land with the help of their new friend, Roger Maher, a GMHA founding father. They plunked a cabin on the land and retreated there from their home in Connecticut for winter recreation. As their 3 sons grew, so did the house. Years later, they purchased the neighboring farm, doubling the size of their property and moving into the 100 year-old farmhouse. The old Stage Road, now known as Rich Trail, runs down the property boundary. It is a major artery for equestrian travel and a part of the GMHA 100-mile trail.
Since owning the property, the Wiswell’s have added a network of trails through their fields and forests that connect to a system of neighborhood riding trails.
“We’re not horse people,” says George Wiswell. “We just enjoy seeing them and we have so many neighbors and friends who are horse people. Horseback riding and GMHA are part of the fabric of life up here. We never want to see it end.”
The trails through the Wiswell’s farm began when one of their sons took up Nordic skiing in high school. George made the trails for his son and his classmates and then he and Harriet took up Nordic skiing as well. “At that time,” says Harriet. “We had a period of very snowy winters. We would pack a lunch and ski all the way to South Woodstock and back. We had snowmobiles as well, and we would travel all over the hills with our friends.” George recounted tales of sledding parties that ran straight down Town Hill Road with a snowmobile-powered tow to the top.
Through the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, High Meadows Farm was rented to horse people in the summer as the Wiswell’s chose to spend their summers sailing off the North Shore of Massachusetts. “At that time, many of our friends from Glastonbury, Connecticut participated in Pony Club. GMHA was their summer headquarters, so the hills were filled with kids and their ponies,” says Harriet.
As their sons grew, George and Harriet became more interested in living and learning in rural Vermont, spending more time at High Meadows. One son learned about sugaring while at Middlebury College, and George began helping out at the neighboring Jenne Farm. Soon they had a sugarhouse and a few hundred tapped trees. Now, their sugaring operation has 10,000 taps and is managed by Green Mountain Sugar House. There was a foray into sheep farming, but that only lasted a few years. Most of the Wiswell’s land is productive managed forest. They have enjoyed learning about forest stewardship and managing the resources of the forest, including the trails.
Although their sons are grown and have children and now grandchildren of their own, High Meadow Farm continues to be their oasis. Every year, they enjoy Thanksgiving together at the farm. George and Harriet spend more time here in the summers now, in the midst of the place where they have so many rich memories of family, neighbors, and friends. When health permits, they enjoy venturing out to see the horses, meet new faces, and learn something new.