Farm

Summer Fun in the Sun!

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It’s been a while since we have updated the blog, mostly because the summer is such a full, verdant, vibrant time to be here. It’s been a hot summer and we have spent a lot of time outdoors appreciating the beauty and working on projects outside to improve our guests’ experience.

So much has happened since our last post! In a quick recap of summer, everything is in bloom and we are extending the boundaries of our gardens to make room for new flowers and crops.  Luke has put in 8 new flowers beds in the lower field, and his plans include spring, summer and fall blooming flowers. It really has been a joy to see them bursting out in a colorful array. We are excited to experience each new season and the surprise of flowers that pop up in the freshly tilled soil.

 Luke has added new flower beds in the lower field, where every season we enjoy new blooms!

Luke has added new flower beds in the lower field, where every season we enjoy new blooms!

Now, with more flowers to tend to, Luke is working on perfecting our irrigation system. With a series of timers and gravity fed spigots that draw water from the pond, we are getting closer to nurturing the plants to their optimum potential. (More on this, later!)

 Dahlias are some of our favorite summer blooms!

Dahlias are some of our favorite summer blooms!

I’m coming to realize that we just don’t have enough vases for all of the flowers that are adorning the property. It has been such a rejuvenating experience each week to fill a bucket until it is brimming over with flowers to make bouquets for every room. In true form, the square footage (or acreage) of Luke’s gardens grow by 20-30% every year. What started as a 10x10’ plot has grown to 5,000 square feet. I think next year we will have to start a little flower stand or bring them to market, as they are so beautiful and abundant!

 Foxgloves bloom in the lower field, where Luke has planted a cutting garden.

Foxgloves bloom in the lower field, where Luke has planted a cutting garden.

Our chickens have learned how to escape their coop and we love seeing them explore free-range, enjoying the fresh food available in the garden and yard. They have gotten braver and friendlier with each day, where now you must close the doors and windows of your car or they might take it up as their new roost. I absolutely love them. As I write this, they are hunting and pecking around my feet at the pebbles of our outdoor patio. Now that they are exploring a wider footprint of the property, we sometimes find their eggs on the lawn, which brings back all of the joys of childhood scavenger hunts and Easter egg parties!

 Our friendly little chickens enjoy exploring the property at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast, free-range!

Our friendly little chickens enjoy exploring the property at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast, free-range!

The Bed and Breakfast has been busy and we have loved seeing returning guests, who we are happy have enjoyed their experience enough to come back – some have even brought friends on their return journey! We have had a few long-term stay guests and it has been fun to get to know people better and see them feel at-home as guests at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast.

 Guests at our B&B enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and the view from our Vermont Bed and Breakfast.

Guests at our B&B enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and the view from our Vermont Bed and Breakfast.

One project that truly excited me to accomplish was the addition of a tiny free library, which guests can enjoy as they walk the path around the pond. Placed just next to a mossy rock, it’s the perfect place to read a little poem or reference a bird watching book to see what species just flew by. As I write this, a hummingbird stopped by to visit the zinnias and enjoy their sweet nectar. I find that if you are quiet for a moment here, you are bound to see something awe-inspiring.

 Check out the books in our new tiny free library!

Check out the books in our new tiny free library!

It has been a fun and delicious experience to enjoy the berries and fruit that grow on the property. We had a very healthy crop of currants this year and the walk around the pond easily becomes a feast when the raspberries are in full season, as they were earlier this month. The blueberries are still a little young to harvest but are starting to show the signs of fruit development and hold promise for next year. Our next big crop will be apples, which are starting to blush a beautiful pink. Our dog, Stout, is starting to visit the apple trees to snack on the sweet and tart treats.

Summer is winding down and we are savoring every day that we get to play outside and enjoy this beautiful place. Fall foliage is starting to turn and we are looking forward to the crisp air and coziness that autumn brings to New England. We are so grateful to live here and share this experience with guests at our Bed and Breakfast.

-Carin McCarthy

Vermont Bed and Breakfast: History, Present and Future

 The view of Camel's Hump mountain, to the north, from Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm. (Notice the deer at the center of the field, by the stand of trees and shrubs.)

The view of Camel's Hump mountain, to the north, from Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm. (Notice the deer at the center of the field, by the stand of trees and shrubs.)

When Carin and I moved into this house in early 2015 we moved into our dream home. The first day we looked at it there was a fresh blanket of snow and the sky was so clear that the peak of Camel's Hump mountain was so defined it was practically calling for us to go hike it. On the spine of the Green Mountains to the right, you could almost see the top ski lift of Mad River Glen spinning around. We walked in the house and were met with the large field-stone fireplace in the living room and we had the same reaction I'm sure many of our guests do; that of relaxation, tranquility, and (for us anyway) a desire to spend the rest of our lives here.

 A snowy day at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm.

A snowy day at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm.

 The hearth in the Great Room, at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm.

The hearth in the Great Room, at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm.

Interestingly, this house didn't always have that fireplace we love so much, or even the front porch. When this house was first built in the 1870's it resembled more of a small Cape Cod style house sitting on a fraction of what is now a rather large footprint.

The Young family, Luthera and Russell, first moved to the property sometime shortly thereafter and worked the 500 acre property adjoining the house. They maintained a heard of milking cows, and a large barn across the street where the town road turn-around is located today. Each morning they would milk the herd by hand and put the milk in the shed across from the house, where it was kept cool until it could be picked up. There was a second carriage barn behind the house where a small shed now stands. One of their children, Ralph Young, was born in 1925.

When the Young family moved on, and the farm was no longer being worked, the house underwent a few major renovations. It's unclear exactly when, but somewhere along the way the house was expanded to accommodate a larger living room, and a full second floor was added. At some point in this time frame the field stone fireplace was added. The entire front of the house was re-worked to have an almost Greek-revival feel with pillars stretching from the ground all the way to the roof.  For some time, the house itself was being used as a ski dorm with several small rooms upstairs. We have enjoyed having some of the former residents' family come and stay with us. Hearing their stories and memories of the place has been a gift.

 The start of spring at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm

The start of spring at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm

Over time, the majority of the land was divided and the house went back to use as a single family residence, until the early 2000's when another major renovation took place. The porch was reconfigured to take advantage of the beautiful mountain view. The pillars were boxed in to create two large guest rooms upstairs and the entire back half of the house was added on, where the kitchen and garage are today.

We are fully aware that this house has significant history. Not just for the individuals who poured their hearts and souls into it over the years, but for the town as a whole. As the current caretakers we want any changes that we make to not only accommodate our guests and our own future at the house, but also keeping the extensive history of the house in mind.

 Energy efficiency renovation at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm.

Energy efficiency renovation at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm.

This spring, when the bed and breakfast is closed, we are embarking on a small modernization and energy efficiency project. All the windows and siding on the front of the house will come off so we can add some insulation, replace older windows for a more energy efficient style, and install sturdier siding. These improvements will keep our guests a little cozier in the winter, improve energy efficiency and go a long way toward extending the longevity of the house.

 Welcoming entryway at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm.

Welcoming entryway at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm.

Ralph Young, who was born here in 1925, passed away in 2014 and we hope he, and all the other former occupants of this house, appreciate the love and care currently being put into this wonderful home. We love sharing the experience that this property provides to our guests and we are happy to take good care of it and call it home.

-Luke McCarthy

Welcoming a New Year at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast

 Winter at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm

Winter at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm

With the New Year upon us, we have been thinking about what an amazing year 2017 was. We had guests from around the world – France, Israel, and all over the United States, including a handful of guests who have come back for a return stay at our Bed and Breakfast. As always, we enjoyed visiting with our guests and helping them to experience the best of Vermont in a weekend.

Since our last blog post, we have taken some time for family visits and vacation. We enjoyed an amazing trip to the Azores, which was our first trip abroad with our son, Kellen. We had such a good time exploring, and it was a great reminder of what we enjoy as travelers – good food, kind people, and quality sleep after full days of adventuring!

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We Took a Family Trip

Terceira island, Azores

Our Fall Foliage season was exceptionally busy this year and we are grateful that we already have a handful of reservations for next autumn. Last year, we were surprised by thoughtful gifts and gestures from our guests, who shared with us prints of their photos, wine from their hometowns, essential oils, and delicious treats from around the world! It’s always amazing to us how by opening your home you also open your heart. We love having guests and sharing the Vermont Bed and Breakfast experience with them.

 Enjoying games and books by the fire at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm

Enjoying games and books by the fire at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm

With the quiet season that comes after the leaves fall, we enjoyed visiting with friends and family, especially spending time together over the holidays. This is such an incredible place for reconnecting and enjoying a slower pace. In the last few weeks, we have enjoyed doing puzzles by the fire, marking Christmas ornaments and cookies, and having friends and family visit.

 Blue Skis at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm

Blue Skis at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm

Now that the ski season is ramping up, we are excited to welcome families who are looking for a relaxing retreat after a full day of adventure at the mountain. With both Mad River Glen and Sugarbush Resort nearby, as well as Sleepy Hollow Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Center, there are miles and miles of trails to explore in the winter. 

 Enjoying an evening walk at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm

Enjoying an evening walk at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm

We’ve also been working on some projects at the house. Luke has more than 65 new Dahlia tubers to grow this year and I am excited for the beautiful flowers to decorate the property and bedside tables. Our seed catalogs have started to arrive and we are enjoying leafing through and dreaming of what to grow this summer. 

With the chilly winter months here, the chickens and ducks have slowed their laying. They are nestled in with a heat lamp and are enjoying their feather-down jackets. Luke and Stout bring them fresh food and water every day, and check that their house is cozy and warm.

 Stout, enjoying fresh snow at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm

Stout, enjoying fresh snow at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm

All is well on the farm. We are keeping the house cozy and warm and enjoying the restful pace of winter months. We hope you plan some self-care and travel into your New Year’s resolutions. We will have a room ready for you when you are ready for a getaway!

Visit Vermont this Summer: a Highlight of Some of our Favorite Attractions

Summer is such a great time to be in Vermont. Even for those of us who love winter and enjoy adventures in the snow, the change of seasons is a welcome thing in the Green Mountains. Looking forward to the next few months, there is so much to see and do that makes a Vermont getaway worthwhile - and so memorable.

For the Foodies and Outdoor Adventurers, there is an abundance of fresh, local food that you can enjoy. Some of our favorite activities include attending the Waitsfield farmer’s market, ranked one of the top 5 Farmer's Markets in New England by Yankee Magazine, to pick up delicious treats to fill a picnic basket and take a hike, or go tubing down the Mad River.

There are so many great day hikes in our area. My favorite hikes are within an hour of our Bed and Breakfast, and include a few hours of moderate hiking, ending with a picturesque view of the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain. Some of these hikes are even located near our favorite breweries and vineyards, so you can pick up a growler and enjoy a sunset hike!

Another great way to enjoy the season is to visit some of the local pick-your-own farms and orchards. Nearby, we have blueberries, strawberries, cherries and apple orchards where you can spend a sunny afternoon enjoying the scents and sounds of summer while you pick fruit to eat fresh or use for ingredients to make a delicious pie or breakfast treat! We grow our own strawberries and blueberries at the B&B, so we are excited for a good growing season!)

If you’re interested in cultural events, there are so events coming up! The Discover Jazz Festival takes over Burlington in early June, with world-class musicians and performers filling the venues across town. Higher Ground brings top-line musicians to perform live in their venue, at the waterfront, and at Shelburne Museum. Check their calendar early to reserve tickets to one of the upcoming shows!

The Church Street Marketplace comes alive the summer, with restaurant seating spilling out into the pedestrian marketplace. It really is a celebration of the season of sunshine! There are other annual celebrations that take place in the summer, like the weekly Farmer’s Market, Kids Day and Festival of Fools (Circus Arts), to name a few.

 

Shelburne Farms hosts the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival every year in July, and I can’t think of a better setting to enjoy local food and learn about the rich history of Vermont agriculture. Some of the world's best cheese is made in Vermont, and you'll know what makes it special when you see the beautiful landscape and hardworking people who make it.

One of my favorite things to do in go out on a sunset sail with the Whistlingman, on Lake Champlain. Sailing towards the Adirondacks, you look back at Burlington as it sits glowing in the evening sun, with the beautiful Green Mountains in the background. You can pack a picnic on the boat, which has a capacity for 12 people. It’s a perfect way to enjoy an evening. When you land on the docks at dusk, you can walk up to the Church Street marketplace and enjoy some of the best bars and restaurants in the area.

If you’re needing a getaway this summer, there’s no better place than Vermont. Some of our guests don’t ever leave the property – they enjoy a leisurely breakfast, have coffee on the porch, read by the pond, stroll around the property or practice yoga with a view! We love it here and we are so happy when our guests enjoy themselves, either by exploring the nearby attractions or settling in for a quiet weekend retreat at our B&B. Summer is the perfect time to visit Vermont and make the most of the local food, beer and wine, outdoor adventures, and cultural events. We hope you will come and see for yourself!

-Carin McCarthy

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

B&B Winter Projects: Preparing for Summer Flowers

We love to grow flowers to put on the breakfast table or in our B&B's guest rooms. Even in the dead of Vermont winter, we are starting seeds or planning the flowers to plant in the seasonal garden beds. It takes some love and care to keep the gardens in line.

During our last post we mentioned that our Dahlia tubers that we placed into storage this winter began to mold a little and were generally not doing well. We are going to devote an entire post to Dahlias because not only do they add a huge burst of color to the Bed and Breakfast property every summer, but this flower in particular holds a special place in our hearts. 

Dahlias run the gambit from small, 1 inch diameter flowers on short stems; to flowers the size of dinner plates on massive stalks that need stakes driven into the ground in order to support their weighty heads. Whichever type of Dahlia you choose, they run the rainbow spectrum in color and eye popping appeal. This is why they line the banks of our pond and adorn the nightstands of our guestrooms when they are in season. Dahlias do, however, have one major drawback for Vermont growers. 

Native to Mexico, Dahlias are closely related to the Zinnia and Sunflower. Needless to say, they are a very tender annual and do not handle cold very well. While Zinnias and Sunflowers are easy to grow from seed each year, the Dahlia's root system is a group of meaty tubers that take time to become established. Therefore it isn't as easy as throwing a bunch of seeds in the ground each spring. Dahlia tubers can be purchased from any mail order seed catalogue, or even purchased at your local hardware store; but if you live in a climate such as ours, and you want to save your favorite Dahlia plants from one year to the next, certain precautions need to be taken so they can thrive in a Vermont garden.

At the first signs of frost their hearty stalks turn black with winter chill and they begin to die off. Before that frost reaches the ground, we snip off the blackened stalk and use a pitchfork to loosen up the soil around the mass of tubers. Once we can extract the tubers from the ground we rinse the mass off with water and set them out to dry for several days. The reason we had some mold popping up on our crop this year was twofold: I was impatient and didn't let them dry enough before putting the tubers into storage; and the storage container I placed them in did not have enough ventilation holes. 

 Dahlia tubers, being prepared for winter storage

Dahlia tubers, being prepared for winter storage

 Dahlias adorn the Blue Spruce Room bedside table.

Dahlias adorn the Blue Spruce Room bedside table.

Since there is a good 6-7 month stretch from killing frost to spring planting, these Dahlia tubers actually spend most of their life in storage, which means we need to be very careful about how and where they are stored. In years past I've placed them all in a cardboard box, separated by thin layers of newspaper, and placed them in the basement. This works well for many but here at the B&B our basement stays a little too warm. Ideally, they should be in storage conditions similar to a root cellar. Chilly, but never frosty. To meet these special conditions, our Dahlia tubers get stored in our garage for winter. I wanted to upgrade from the cardboard box to something more substantial this year, so we went out and got two large plastic totes to store everything in. Since Dahlias need to breathe, I drilled a few holes around the sides and top of the totes, and stored them just like I always had: with just a few pieces of newspaper in between them. 

 Dahlia storage

Dahlia storage

After two weeks I went to check on them and lo and behold: MOLD! I knew right away what had happened. In the short time that they had been in storage, the extra moisture in the tubers came out and the few holes and sparse packing material were not enough to wick away the moisture. We were able to save them just in time! They all came out, got sprayed with 1:10 bleach solution, sat under a fan for a week, and we re-packed them for a long winter’s nap. This time I drilled many more holes in the containers and used a bag of pine shavings to pack in between the tubers. You want your packing material to pull extra moisture away from the tubers, but not pull TOO much moisture away from them. So now they sit in our garage. I make a point of checking them every other week to make sure they are still doing well; and waiting for their chance to be planted and enjoyed by our guests for another season.

-Luke McCarthy

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

Planning for Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs

Spring is coming, which means it's almost time for the baby birds to arrive at our local hardware store!  We are excited to be raising a roost, so we put our order in early. We picked out some of the best layers they had to offer. They will arrive just after hatching and we'll raise them by hand and heat lamp until they are ready to go outside and move into their new coop! 

Here's a desciption of the hens (and ducks) who will be living on the farm and contributing to the fresh breakfast menu items we offer at the B&B!

Rhode Island Reds - This is one of the most famous and all time popular breeds of truly American chickens. Developed in the early part of this century in the state of the same name, they have maintained their reputation as a dual purpose fowl through the years. Outstanding for production qualities, they have led the contests for brown egg layers time after time. No other heavy breed lays more or better eggs than the Rhode Island Reds. Our "production" strain is keeping up the fine reputation of this old favorite. Baby chicks are a rusty red color and the mature birds are a variety of mahogany red. (Murray McMurray Hatchery, The World’s Rare Breed Poultry Headquarters)

Golden Laced Wyandottes - The “ancestors” of Golden Laced Wyandottes originated in Wisconsin and were called Winnebagoes. By 1880 they received their present-day name. This variety is a beautiful combination of rich golden bay laced with lustrous greenish black. The general feather pattern is very similar to the Silver Laced Wyandottes. A beautiful bird for exhibition. (Murray McMurray Hatchery, The World’s Rare Breed Poultry Headquarters)

Silver Laced Wyandottes - The Silver Laced is the original Wyandotte and the other varieties were developed from it later with crosses on other breeds. It is an outstanding example of American poultry breeding ingenuity and is one of the most beautiful breeds we offer. It is colorful, hardy, and productive. The broad feathered, smooth fitting plumage is sharply marked. The general appearance is silvery white and lustrous greenish black as each feather is edged in a contrasting color. The close-fitting rose comb and good body size are valuable assets for winter laying. Cold weather doesn't seem to bother them at all as their hardiness and vigor keep them laying straight through the winter. They lay a nicely shaped, good sized egg, varying from light to rich brown and will set some. This is another excellent variety for exhibition. Baby chicks vary from almost black to light silvery gray and many have contrasting light and dark stripes on the back. (Murray McMurray Hatchery, The World’s Rare Breed Poultry Headquarters)

Araucanas - This unusual breed gets in name from the Indian tribe of Chile where they were first discovered.  Our chicks have some Araucana and some Ameraucana blood mixed and consequently are not for show but are beautiful chickens known for their ability to lay colored eggs of shades varying from turquoise to deep olive to shades of brown.  Each bird will typically lay a different shade of colored egg that will amaze your friends and make a wonderful "show and tell" type project for school.  Adults are of medium size with pea combs and our breeding stock are selected for their ability to produce colored eggs.  They exhibit a wonderful combination of colors and color patterns and 10 or 20 of these birds will make an absolutely beautiful laying flock that is extremely hardy and will be the talk of the town.  Baby chicks come in all colors, plain and fancy, just like the adults.  This is a unique breed and great fun to have when the colored eggs start coming.  (Murray McMurray Hatchery, The World’s Rare Breed Poultry Headquarters)

Golden Cornets - The Comet has been widely acclaimed in all areas of the world where brown eggs are preferred. The reason is simple. The Comet pullet is easily one of the finest brown egg layers available today. They mature early and lay eggs of excellent size and quality. She is an extremely quiet bird, that seems to be able to withstand the colder, non-insulated, laying houses of the small flock owner, better than most breeds. The Comet is a buff sex-link strain. The chicks may be sexed by color, pullets red-roosters white. When mature, the  Comet pullet is golden red in color, but has some white showing through in her neck and back. (Mt. Healthy Hatcheries)

Pekin Ducks - Originating in China in ancient times, White Pekins were brought to the Western World in the middle 1800’s. Their fine meat quality and egg laying ability quickly made them the first choice of American duck growers. Both the male and female are creamy white in color, yellow skinned, and very large breasted. The males carry a fall weight of 10 to 11 pounds and the females weigh 8 to 9 pounds. They are the easiest domestic ducks to pick and prepare for eating. (Murray McMurray Hatchery, The World’s Rare Breed Poultry Headquarters)

We look forward to sharing updates about our little brood's progress. We expect them to arrive in early May. It will take a little while for them to adjust and be ready to lay fresh eggs but we'll be happy to prepare some new breakfast recipes with eggs to keep the farm flavors fresh and local. 

- Luke & Carin McCarthy

Vermont: Always a Good Bet...

Timing our sap collection and starting seeds in a bit of a gamble. We think we're lucky, win or lose!

There’s a lot to see and do in Vermont during the late winter months. From cheese tours, to breweries, visiting covered bridges and museums, or touring (and sampling) maple syrup production, there is something for all adventurers to taste and enjoy. So, don’t despair if you’ve planned your trip and the snow isn’t cooperating. We have lots of ideas about how to explore and enjoy the best of Vermont in this season. It’s a beautiful place in any season, and we feel lucky to live here and share it with guests who want to have a real getaway.

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.