Vermont

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

Winter Adventures Off the Beaten Trail

 View of Mt Ellen and Mt Abraham, from Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm

View of Mt Ellen and Mt Abraham, from Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm

For those winter travelers looking for an outdoor activity this winter that is easy on your budget and will get your heart pumping, we have a secret in our backyard. Since the Appalachian mountain “gaps” or highway passes over the Green Mountains close over the winter, they make a great avenue for winter hiking and advanced sledding.

A great place to try out winter hiking and sledding is Mount Philo. Looking out over the Lake Champlain basin, the little knoll in southern Chittenden County offers epic views and a fun winding trail up and down the hill. After sliding down, we recommend that you have a pint (or growler) at Fiddlehead, a pie at Folino’s Flatbread, or go for a wine tasting at Shelburne Vineyard.

For those adventurers brave enough to give it a try, the section of road that traverses Lincoln and Warren, known to locals as the Lincoln Gap, is worth every heartbeat of the hike up and the adrenaline rush down. Some come to sled, others to back country ski, and some even to hike up on snowshoes to Mt. Abraham (accessible by the Long Trail which runs across the top of the pass).

 Get cozy by the fire at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm

Get cozy by the fire at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm

I recommend using a hard plastic sled or a “jump jack” reconfigured ski sled, rather than an inflatable tube, as you can better control the speed and direction. The 20% grade is ridiculously steep, and at the top, it pitches to a punishing 24% grade. The pitch of the mountain road will really get your speed up, so it’s important that you wear a helmet.   Clearwater Sports in Waitsfield rents Mad River Rocket sleds for $15/day. They also offer a guided “Rocket-Shoeing Adventure”  snow-shoe-and-sledding day trip up Lincoln Gap with the rocket sleds for $55/person.

When you’re ready to warm up, we recommend getting a pint at the Bobcat Café or setting up at the delightful bar at Mary’s Restaurant, in Bristol. For guests who want to relax by the fire at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast, the new owners at the nearby Jerusalem Corners Country Store have revamped their menu and now offer delicious pizza, soups and sandwiches to order.

Winter is a great time to visit because the tourism scene is quieter and the local-food scene is always in season. There are great beer and wine tours nearby, and guests can enjoy tasting the artisan flavors of handcrafted spirits.

 Mountain view from the guest rooms at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm

Mountain view from the guest rooms at Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm

Many of our guests inquire about visiting local cheese makers and we are excited that the International Cheese Festival has just announced their 2018 festival dates, August 11th & 12th. You can also explore our interactive google map to view listings of local cheese making farms and tasting rooms.

We are also looking forward to the upcoming Maple festivals that make visiting at this time of year extra sweet.

Need an excuse to visit? We’ll be happy to help you craft one.

-Carin 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!

Vermont Foliage Touring

We love the change of seasons here. The crisp autumn air and the smell of wood smoke as you drive through the valleys of the Green Mountains reminds us how special Vermont is. Our Bed and Breakfast has been bustling with guests from all around the world, looking not just for lodging but for an experience of Vermont in a weekend.

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

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

We love recommending day trips that will help our guests to experience the most authentic, beautiful places in Vermont in the span of a weekend. We are perfectly positioned as a jumping-off point for foliage tourism, with mountain views, lakes and cultural centers within a short drive.

First, we love recommending that people visit the Farmer’s Markets nearby. There are so many talented producers who are making crafts with the best cultivated fruits, flowers, veggies, cheeses, meats and drinks from the Vermont landscape.

The Waitsfield Farmer’s Market is one of our favorites. We love the live music, distillery tasting, fresh cheese, Red Hen baguettes, Lincoln Peak Wine and wide variety of pickled treats! Save room in your belly for lunch at the Mad Taco and an epic sundae at Canteen.

 

Another favorite is the Burlington Farmer’s Market, where you can fill your belly on meals with flavors from around the world, beautiful flowers, and exceptional people-watching – one of my favorite past times. We love meandering along the Church Street marketplace, where you can spend the day exploring restaurants, shops and the vibrant arts scene.

Another one of our favorite places to suggest is the Old Mill Cider Company, in Waterbury. I love to get the cider slushy and a cider donut. Just across the street, visitors can enjoy samples at the Cabot Cheese tasting room, Lake Champlain Chocolates and the Smuggler’s Notch Distillery. A little further down the road, visitors can enjoy Von Trapp brewery and take a tour, and then visit the bakery and enjoy the view from the porch. (The hills are alive with the sound of music!)

The Smuggler’s Notch (route 108), known to locals as “The Mountain Road”, is a perfect adventure for those looking for a memorable trip! The top of the mountain is filled with tight turns and narrow passes, which every year poses a problem for long trucks that take the “short cut” and get stuck at the top. Guests love exploring this route – especially on a motorcycle!

One of our favorite places to go as a family is to take a walk through beautiful Shelburne Farms, then enjoy lunch at Folino’s flatbread. We like to pick up a growler of beer at the next door Fiddlehead brewery before hiking up Mount Philo and enjoying the view of the Lake Champlain and the agricultural valleys around. It’s an easy hike for such a stunning vista!

For folks looking for a cultural and historical experience, the Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburg hosts interesting exhibits about Vermont’s history in the Underground Railroad. Afterwards, we suggest that guests stop in at Cookie Love and enjoy some of the best cookies around or pop in and try the samples and pick out gifts at Dakin Farm.

Depending on what guests are looking to do, whether relaxing here at the Bed and Breakfast or exploring the trails of the Green Mountains, there is something for everyone. We love seasonal events and activities, like the harvest festivals, pumpkin patch parties, apple picking celebrations, and brewery tour events! The calendar is always full in the fall! 

Planning a trip? Let us know if you need any recommendations!

Happy adventuring!

-Carin McCarthy

Special Events! Free Family Yoga - July 9th and August 6th

For a long time I’ve been thinking about how we can provide a community space for our friends and neighbors! This summer, we will be offering a few special events including Family yoga!

On Sunday July 9th and August 6th, we will be hosting a free family yoga class designed for pre-crawlers through new-walkers. We invite community members to bring their little people for an outdoor yoga class. Hope for sunny weather, as it will be weather-dependent.

We will have a few available but please bring a mat and blanket, if you can. We also encourage you to bring any protective layers or products that will help you to feel comfortable enjoying the lawn in the afternoon.  Please help us spread the word! We hope to see you there and look forward to meeting our newest neighbors!

-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

The Best Times to Book a Visit to Vermont

In Vermont, there’s something for everyone and planning your visit at the right time of year can make a world of difference as to how you experience your getaway. Planning your trip during the shoulder ‘in-between’ seasons can provide a more intimate experience of Vermont’s area attractions. Now is the perfect time to start planning your Vermont vacation.

Late winter is a sweet time of year to experience Vermont. Whether you’re getting first tracks on Vermont’s many ski and snowboard trails or visiting apres-ski events at the many breweries and local-food sourced restaurants, it’s a great time to visit.  For those interested in history, culture and craft hobbies, visiting Vermont in February or March, during the Maple sugar season, is a sweet and memorable experience. Many farms open up their “sugar shacks” for maple syrup tastings. There are plenty of birds to watch at the birdfeeders. With nights below freezing and sunny, warmer days, maple season is a nice time to spend the day snowshoeing, touring maple production, and sampling some of the local cheese purveyors.  

 Collecting maple sap, to reduce into syrup

Collecting maple sap, to reduce into syrup

 

Plan your visit for the start of the growing season and you may find that you have a private B&B getaway. Visiting in early May, you’ll experience everything in full bloom. The countryside will be filled with the scent of blossoming trees and flowers. On many farms, baby animals will be venturing out to pasture and kicking up their hooves and feet for the first time. Many farms have events to meet baby lambs and goats. A visit to small-town hardware stores and you can see fluffy little yellow chicks, ducklings and goslings, heading to area farms. What could be cuter?

 Apple blossoms, alongside the barn

Apple blossoms, alongside the barn

Late August through mid-September is a great time to experience the bountiful Vermont foodie scene, as farmers are harvesting their crops and producing craft treats with local ingredients. The swimming holes are still open, while not being too crowded for a dip in a mountain stream. As a visitor, you can experience all of the verdant landscapes of the Green Mountain state before the foliage season peaks and restaurants fill with tourists. Don’t forget to check the local concert listings, as there are many outdoor music festivals that showcase world-class musicians in a beautiful setting.

 

Beer and wine flow all year long, and the weeks between foliage season and the first snow is the perfect time to plan a relaxing getaway in Vermont.  “Stick season”, as the period after the leaves fall off the trees is called, is a great time to pick up a growler of local beer and hike the Green Mountains to enjoy the clear view and crisp air. After adventuring outside, many of our guests enjoy cozying up by the fire and reading a book or playing games.  

 The nearby Appalachian Gap, photo credit: Lindsay Dahlheimer

The nearby Appalachian Gap, photo credit: Lindsay Dahlheimer

 

No matter the season, you’re bound to find something to suit your interests so don’t delay in planning your Vermont getaway. If you have questions about planning your trip, take a look at a few of our favorite spots or feel free to contact us. We’ll be happy to give you an insider’s view to guide your travel plans.

-Carin McCarthy

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.