Breakfast

Verdant Vermont: The Growing Season Begins!

It's been a little over a month since our last blog post and things have been happening fast around here! As we mentioned, we have started our own little fruit orchard in one of our fields. So far we have 5 Peach trees and 4 Pear trees planted, and we have 2 Plum trees sitting in the driveway waiting for the yard to dry out a little so we can drive over it without making a mess of the lawn. Eventually we will get a 3rd Plum tree to make the orchard a little more symmetrical, but that may wait until next year. Hopefully if all goes well in the next few years we will be whipping up some peach cobbler or plum preserves... or perhaps some Perry? (Pear Cider.) We are excited to add new fruits to the breakfast menu at our B&B and serve local fruits that we have grown on the property! Food is better when it's so fresh you can still taste the sunshine!

 Our new plum trees, making their way to the orchard!

Our new plum trees, making their way to the orchard!

 Seedlings, safe and warm inside!

Seedlings, safe and warm inside!

The little seedlings we started a few months ago are itching to get into the garden. Admittedly, I started them too early. Last year, by this time, things were dry and pretty warm. This year things are still a little too soggy, and the nighttime temperatures are still dipping a little too low to get them out. (Chilly nights make for great sleeping weather!) But that's OK, they are perfectly cozy in the little greenhouse with all of their friends. Eventually the peppers and tomatoes will be placed in the garden under the gardening hoops you can see in the picture below. Then a white fabric gets stretched over the hoops and secured. This will keep the plants warm, and protected from the elements while they get settled in and grow roots. 

 The greenhouse plays a key role in keeping our plants safe and warm in the early season!

The greenhouse plays a key role in keeping our plants safe and warm in the early season!



While we grow 100% of our vegetables from seed, space in the house, as well as time commitments on the part of yours truly, prevents us from growing everything from seed. While we still grow a fair amount of flowers from seed, including zinnias, sunflowers, and petunias; and divide and overwinter our dahlias every year, there are some things we rely on local greenhouses to provide. This last weekend we were visiting family down in the Lebanon, NH area and stopped by one of our favorite nurseries, Edgewater Farm. We picked up some basil and mint for the wonderful breakfasts we will be serving up, and we also picked up some impatients for the flower pots on the front porch. I also snuck some creeping phlox and delphinium into the shopping cart for around the pond.  I can't resist flowers!

 We prepare the soil with compost, then overlay it with ground cover to keep the weeds down without using chemicals. The hoops are covered with fabric to provide shelter to young plants in the early season.

We prepare the soil with compost, then overlay it with ground cover to keep the weeds down without using chemicals. The hoops are covered with fabric to provide shelter to young plants in the early season.

Over the next few weeks all of this will be going into the ground and the property will start showing it's true colors. I can't wait!

-Luke McCarthy

Spring in Vermont: Starting Seeds and Boiling Maple Sap

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Spring is my second favorite season in Vermont. And it's a very close second. There is so much going on here at the farm in late March and early April! The landscape is coming to life, and we are getting busy with preparation for yet another successful season at our Bed and Breakfast. 

 Example of early preparation of the garden, at the start of the growing season 2016

Example of early preparation of the garden, at the start of the growing season 2016

We try to be fairly self-sufficient at the B&B. We have our own flock of chickens and ducks for eggs, we make our own maple syrup, and we try to grow most of our own fruits and veggies we use around the bed and breakfast. Back in mid-February we had a good run of weather to collect maple sap, which we boiled down into a few gallons of syrup. Right around the same time I started a whole bunch of pepper and tomato seeds. This is pretty early to be starting any kind of seed in Vermont, but as you'll read later on we start early because we take some precautions in order to set plants out a little earlier than normal. (Normal for our mountainous area is right around Memorial Day.) Anyway, after we boiled some sap and started some seeds, mother nature had a good laugh at us and it turned cold and snowy again. The sap stopped flowing and I questioned my sanity starting so many seeds early. 

 Collecting maple sap from the trees

Collecting maple sap from the trees


Then, at the end March, we saw Robins so heavy with eggs they could barely fly, and those that had already laid their eggs were busy searching for food to feed their hatchlings. Spring had officially arrived at the B&B!

By now the temperature swings are perfect for maple sap collection and those seeds I planted in mid-February are about 6 inches tall. We keep them under a combination of LED and fluorescent lights near one of the baseboard radiators to keep some heat in and they love it. They will soon outgrow their 4 inch pots, as well as require more light than we can give them indoors.

 Indoor seed starter station

Indoor seed starter station

Just today I went out and shook the cobwebs out of our little 6 foot by 6 foot greenhouse. In another week or so all of the large seedlings will move out to the greenhouse where they will enjoy 80 degree days and a small electric heater will keep them at around 50 degrees at night. With almost two months until our official "plant out" date, how can we keep them in pots for that long you ask? Well, as soon as the ground thaws out a bit in the garden we will go out and cover it with black fabric, and then cover a few areas with row cover, or a mini hoop-house. This will heat up the soil where plants like melons, peppers and tomatoes are planted; and it will also provide up to 7 degrees of frost protection at night for the seedlings. With this system, we can plant up to two weeks earlier than normal Vermont gardens. 

 Greenhouse grow space

Greenhouse grow space

I will collect some sap today, and then tomorrow I'll take down all of our taps and buckets until next year. Taking the buckets off the trees is always bittersweet for me; while i love the process of collecting and boiling, by the time they are ready to come off I'm usually ready to move on to other things. Tending to the garden, planting the annual flower beds, regular maintenance, and this year we are planting an orchard with peaches, pears, and plums which should all be arriving in early May! Stay tuned for more on that later.

-Luke

Lucky Ducks! (Take two)

We love providing fresh food to our Bed and Breakfast guests, so this year we decided to raise ducks and chickens. In May we picked up three day old ducks that we had ordered in the spring from our local hardware store. When we put in our order we were not able to specify whether we wanted male or female ducks, we were only able to order a "straight run." Since we only wanted females for egg production we hedged our bets and ordered three ducks, hoping for at least one female who would produce eggs for our breakfast menu.

Duck eggs are particularly rich and good for baking. In addition to being larger than a chicken egg, ducks lay their eggs all year round, while chickens tend to slow down in the winter months. It takes a few months for either bird to develop to adolescence and start laying. We were hopeful that the cute little ducklings would turn into a brood of layers so we could make delicious breakfast breads and muffins!

 Zucchini Apple Bread, made fresh from the farm!

Zucchini Apple Bread, made fresh from the farm!

As the weeks passed our little ducklings got their voice and started speaking to us. Not a distinct quack, but a shallow raspy honk almost. From everything I had read this was a telltale sign that we had males. Hoping for at least one female we waited a few more weeks for their full feathers to come in to find out exactly what we had. Sure enough, as their full feathers came in we saw a distinct curled feather on each of their tails. We had three drakes. No eggs would be coming our way.

 The little ones, on their their arrival day!

The little ones, on their their arrival day!

After doing a little research I found out that when customers order from hatcheries, hatcheries fill the order for females or males first, then they fill the "straight run" orders after. Since a lot of customers are in it for the eggs, the female ducks get ordered first which leaves the straight run orders largely male. Since the local hardware store only fills orders for straight run ducks, I knew we would be in the same situation next spring if we ordered more. So, in early September I made a bold choice and special ordered four female ducks from a hatchery.

 Taking a field trip to meet the neighbors!

Taking a field trip to meet the neighbors!

Our four female Pekin ducklings shipped from Metzer Farms on September 6th, and they showed up at our Post Office on the 8th first thing in the morning. It's only been a few weeks but I can already hear a difference in their voices from the males. They are nearly fully feathered now and can go out and join their mates on a full time basis.

 Enjoying the grass and pool on a sunny day!

Enjoying the grass and pool on a sunny day!

We started out by housing them in the shed under a heat lamp with some supervised time with the other ducks and chickens. Now they have full run of the coop but are still finding their way around. They haven’t yet figured out how to climb back up the ladder to their house, so every night we collect them by hand and make sure that they are tucked in, cozy and warm under the heat lamp in their house. As the nights get colder, it’s a bit of race to see how quickly their full feathers come in.

 The little ones enjoy the heated lamp at night, while their mates prefer to sleep outside under the stars.

The little ones enjoy the heated lamp at night, while their mates prefer to sleep outside under the stars.

The little ones are getting along well with the chickens and other ducks. We’re hoping they will figure out how to climb the ramp into their house on their own but until then, we’ll continue to make sure they are cozy and warm before we turn in for the night. 

-Luke McCarthy

A Sweeter Apple: Farm Fresh Food at the B&B

A Sweeter Apple: Farm Fresh Food at the B&B

Once Stout starts visiting the apple trees we know ripe fruit isn't far behind. So this morning I am looking up new Apple breakfast recipes we can try, and find some really good ones for our guests. So not only will our fall guests get some great apple products served up but they can enjoy a walk around the property and pick their own fresh apples while enjoying the fall foliage and views of the mountains. If our guests are really lucky, Stout might even show you her secret tree.

Green Thumbs Up & Super Local Food!

Green Thumbs Up & Super Local Food!

We've been enjoying fresh from the garden lettuce, peas, carrots and broccoli. In the next few weeks we will have tomatoes ripening, and all of the squashes will be the right size for picking. We will also pull up the garlic and begin drying it out.  Now, it's time to craft some new breakfast menu ideas with all of our fresh fruits and veggies!

Summer time and the living is easy!

Summer is in full swing!

We’ve had such an amazing start to the summer season! Vermont is greener than green and our garden is flourishing!  We are enjoying fresh fruits and veggies from the garden and planning B&B menus to share with our guests. In the next few weeks, we expect to have melons and some veggies ready to work into the menu.

 The view from our front porch at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm

The view from our front porch at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm

Updates from the farm:

Our strawberry towers have blossomed and born their first fruit! I’ve never tasted a juicier, more flavorful strawberry. We’re excited to share these delicious treats as part of our menu of breakfast offerings.

We planted blueberry and currant bushes, as well as a peach tree. While these won’t fruit for a few years, we’re excited to envision our guests walking the B&B property and enjoying a delicious tour of Vermont’s truly local foods.

Our brood is doing well. The chicks have grown into chickens! They are still figuring out their gangly bodies and exploring the lawn with great interest.  We are anticipating that they will be laying fresh eggs for the B&B by foliage season.  In the meantime, they are really funny. They spend most of the day stealing food from the ducks and keeping cool by rolling in the dirt. In the evening, they snuggle into the coop and – while they have spacious sleeping quarters – they all try to squeeze into one little nesting box together. It’s really funny to see. They have made us understand the term “all cooped up” in a new way.  They all appear to be female, so thankfully there hasn’t been any crowing or early morning wake up calls.

We had a funny story with the ducks. A few weeks ago, our neighbors approached us because they had found a little duckling that had been abandoned. Naturally, we took it in and tried to raise it with our ducks. It looked a little bit like a Wood duck, but we weren’t sure. It was a few weeks younger than the others, and they weren’t getting along so we had to keep them separate from the Pekins. After a few weeks of continued struggle, we started comparing images of the birds we suspected it might be. As it turns out, the little Wood duck was actually a Canadian goose! Our little "ugly duckling" seemed a little lonely with the ducks and chickens, which makes sense now. It had started presenting a little differently than the others, so we got curious and realized its true identity. Canadian Geese are federally protected, so we have re-homed it at a local rehabilitation center, where it was quickly adopted and warmly taken in by a true Mama goose.

The real ducks love to swim! They have their adult feathers now, and they spend much of the day jumping in and out of the water and then shaking their tail feathers, literally. While we have provided them with a little swimming pool, they sometimes take a refreshing dip in their drinking water.  One of the ducks is smarter than the others, and has figured out how to access the ramp to their coop with ease, so it always enjoys the freshest food and water. The others will figure it out soon enough, we hope!  It should be just a few months before they are also laying fresh eggs that we can use to make fresh baked goods for the B&B. Duck eggs are bigger and richer, so they are great for baking.

Our peonies are still popping in the garden and filling our guest rooms with aromatic scents of summer!  We have also planted a number of dahlias and other flowers for cutting along the edge of the pond. I’m excited to see them sprouting up and adding color to the landscape.

 Dahlias, adorning the bedside table of the Blue Spruce Room

Dahlias, adorning the bedside table of the Blue Spruce Room

So! Sorry for the long-overdue update. We are busy enjoying the best of summer in Vermont and invite you join us.

-Carin McCarthy

Local Food Comes Home to Roost!

Spring has sprung on the farm! We’re busily planting our garden with fresh fruits, flowers and veggies to share with our guests at the Bed and Breakfast. With the weather warming up and the days getting longer, we’re seeing real changes in the landscape. The trees are blossoming and the mountain view is changing colors every day. It’s really a beautiful place to be!

 The garden is filling out!

The garden is filling out!

Vermont is a great place for foodies to visit! With nearby farmers markets, breweries and vineyards, there really is something for everyone to enjoy.

We’re trying to source as much of our food locally as possible. In addition to growing our own strawberries and melons, this year, we’re excited to have a few new additions to our farm. We are raising little baby chicks and ducklings, who are really showing off their photogenic qualities and charming us with their cuteness every day. As they get older, they will begin to lay eggs.

 The ducklings, on their first field trip!

The ducklings, on their first field trip!

As you’ve seen in our earlier posts, Luke has built the ducks and chickens beautiful little coops where they can stay warm and cozy. We’ve fenced an area of the lawn so that they can explore the beautiful Vermont outdoors and stay safe from nearby wildlife who might like to add local meat to their menu. With mountains, fields and water all around, we are confident that these little birds have the best view in Vermont.

 The chicken coop, while under construction.

The chicken coop, while under construction.

Our hope is that by the late summer we’ll be able to feed our Bed and Breakfast guests a menu of items that include farm fresh eggs. We love making French toast, quiche, baked goods, and fluffy scrambled eggs, and we’re excited to share the fresh flavors of our farm with our guests.

We’re raising a few different breeds, as I mentioned in an earlier post, and I’m excited to see the rainbow of different egg colors. Chickens lay one or two eggs a day during the sunny season, and their production slows down a bit in the winter as they are conserving energy.

 The ducks had a swim lesson and were naturals!

The ducks had a swim lesson and were naturals!

Now that the weather is perfect and the nights are mild and breezy, we are nearly ready to move the chicks and ducklings outside to their new home. They are currently housed in one of our little barns and enjoying the added comfort of a heat lamp until their full feathers come in. It should just be a few more weeks until they are ready for the great outdoors.  We are excited to see how they like their new accommodations!

-Carin McCarthy

So Fresh and So Green!

Spring has sprung in Vermont and we are excitedly readying the Bed and Breakfast for travelers to visit and enjoy the sights and sounds of our property this summer and fall. We had a very mild winter and spring, so we are already starting our garden with great success.

Along the pond, we have planted some new fruit trees that will start to bear fruit in the next few years. We are excited to grow our own fresh blueberries and currants that we can serve to our guests for breakfast. Guests will also be able to stroll along outside and taste these treats as they explore the Bed and Breakfast.  In addition to shrubs and plants, our chicks and ducklings have arrived, so we’ll soon have fresh farm raised eggs on the menu soon too!  (I’ll give a full update soon, but trust me when I tell you that they are adorable!)

"We believe there is nothing like biting into fruits and veggies that are so fresh they are still warm from the sun..."

One of the great things about visiting Vermont is being able to really get a sense of the flavors of the land. With so many local providers and sustainable farmers, there are delicious ways to tour the Green Mountains and explore the seasons while supporting local businesses. We believe there is nothing like biting into fruits and veggies that are so fresh they are still warm from the sun, and we aim to serve our guests at the Bed and Breakfast fresh, flavorful and seasonally appropriate dishes.

We have a 30x30’ garden (pictured above) that sits on the eastern side of the house. Every morning, the sun rises over the Green Mountains with its first rays hitting the garden and keeping it in sunlight through most of the afternoon and early evening. Because of the short growing season in Vermont, we started a lot of seeds indoors this year and built some raised beds to improve water drainage in the garden.

Gardening in early spring is always a little risky, especially in the mountains of Vermont, where the temperatures can drop low at night. (We think this makes for perfect sleeping conditions!) To protect our plants, we have covered some rows of the garden in straw to insulate them on a particularly cold night but really, this year is shaping up to be an incredible gardening season. We have had perfect temperatures so far and night time temperatures are holding above freezing. We have had some rain, enough to fill the rain barrels but so far not too many May showers.

 

Because we love to serve our guests fresh flavors of Vermont, we have planted fruits and veggies all over the place here at the B&B. There are some melon seeds that have sprouted inside under lights where they will stay until the weather warms up some more. We have our small greenhouse full of some habanero, jalapeno, and bell pepper seedlings and a few of the many heirloom tomato plants. In order to prepare them for the outdoor elements, we keep some plants on a rolling cart in the garage to stay warm at night and take them out daily to enjoy the sunshine.

The garlic we planted last October is coming up nicely, and last month we planted lettuce, spinach, radishes, and carrots. We also have some kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli already planted. Normally our last frost date is somewhere around Memorial Day but we are keeping our eyes on the forecast daily. If conditions look good we will plant a few things under row covers to get a jump on the growing season. 

 

For those of you who read the strawberry tower blog, the strawberries are doing great! The towers have big and lush foliage popping out of every square inch of the pipe. It shouldn't be more than a few weeks before we start seeing small flowers emerge where the juicy red fruits will grow. We add a little bit of fertilizer that is specifically designed for hydroponic strawberries so they get all the nutrients they need. It seems to be working!  We’re excited to serve our guests fresh strawberries from our garden.

With all the veggies pretty much squared away, it's time to turn our attention to our flowers! 

-Luke & Carin McCarthy

Serving up Fresh VT Maple Syrup from the B&B: Small Batch DIY Production

A quick trip into town yesterday made one thing blatantly obvious: Spring is coming and sugaring season is upon us! On the way to Bristol, it seemed like every other pickup truck had a 300 gallon tank in the back with Vermont Maple sap sloshing around as they shuttled the sweet stuff from the tree stands to their boiling location. The mountains around us have a faint fog of wood smoke mixed with the sweet aroma of sap steam as it reduces to Maple syrup.

Making sap while the sun shines!

The more intense producers around here have 2,000+ gallon sap tanks sitting at the bottom of their hillside tree stands and will come around daily with their transport vehicles and ferry the sap off to be produced. Then again, when you run 13,000 taps as one producer near us does, you need fairly large storage tanks! As humble beginners, we run a few less than that. 

Vermont has an interesting history of cultivation of its forests and farmland that we see hints of even today. When white settlers first arrived, the land was mostly heavily forested. Land clearing proceeded and sheep herding and wool production became the mainstay of Vermont settlers. By the 1840’s, Addison County (where we have our Bed and Breakfast) was the leading wool producing area in the United States (Agriculture in Vermont). Many of the towns nearby still show their history, with mill buildings set along the river ways that once powered their fabric production. During the second half of the 19th century, sheep farming began to decline and was gradually eclipsed by the dairy industry. (What Ceres Might Say) For the places that aren't farm land, the northern climate and abundance of Maple trees makes Vermont a perfect location for syrup production.

 

As recently as 20 years ago, our property and all the acreage around us was used primarily for farm land. The land was clear cut and used to graze dairy cows and support other farm operations, which opened up beautiful views to the mountains along all sides of our Bed and Breakfast. Since the farmers sold their cows, the trees and forests have started to fill in but we still have an amazing view of the Green Mountains.

As a Vermont Bed and Breakfast, we serve up a lot of Maple syrup to our guests. A weekend getaway in Vermont isn't complete without a breakfast menu item with that maple sweetness cultivated across the hills of Vermont. We’re now in the process of planning and cultivating our land to support our goals for the future and for our BandB. We would like to make all of our own sap but given the fact that it takes 30 years for a Sugar Maple tree to be old enough to tap, the pickins are slim for working the trees. We have planted some new saplings and hope to be producing more and more over the years.

Our Mobile Sap Collector

This year we have about 15 taps going which, as of yesterday, have given us about 15 gallons of sap. We have the capacity for about 30 more taps but because of the historical land clearing, our maple trees are so spread out we really haven’t discovered a good way of collecting the sap yet. (Don't worry, I've been looking at ATV's and Tractors... that problem will be fixed soon!) So for now, we are perfectly content sticking with tapping just the couple of trees close to the house and using our little 50 gallon mobile collection tank set up. 

Reducing the sap to syrup!


Given the fact that it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, the 7 gallons of sap I boiled last night yielded just a few cups. We’ll need to make some time over the next few days to boil all 15 gallons. Boiling 7 gallons from last night took the better part of 6 hours to reduce in our little turkey fryer. We’re still learning and perfecting our set up. If everyone around us is working with thousands of gallons, and we are only working with tens of gallons, does that make our Syrup artisan? I like to think so... It just tastes better local!

DIY Small Batch Maple Syrup

-Luke McCarthy

Cooking Up Some Projects on the Farm!

After a successful summer and fall season here at the B&B we've realized something: we go through a ton of eggs! We had always wanted to get a small flock of chickens but after going through so many eggs this year our plans have been moved up a little. While our new flock of baby chicks wont be here until early May, there is no time like the present to build them a nice and cozy home to live out their days. 

Read about the DIY build project and design.