Fresh

Summer Fun in the Sun!

Smell the Roses.PNG

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

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

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.