Vermont

Sweetness of the Season!

Fresh cider from the apple trees at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast!

Fresh cider from the apple trees at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast!

What a difference a few months makes! When we last checked in our flowers were in full bloom, we were swimming in the pond, and enjoying everything summer has to offer. But, this is New England and just as soon as you get fully comfortable in one season, another comes knocking at the door! I know everyone likes summer to be just a little bit longer, but I personally love the changing of the seasons. Sure, the "to do" list might not have been fully complete; but each season brings its own fun activities and events, and makes you appreciate each season in its own special way. 


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Fresh Cider!

Our guests enjoy local treats from close to home, like cider from our apple trees!

Shortly after our last blog post we acquired an apple press in order to make our own apple cider. We spent a few days exploring the apple trees scattered across our property and collected a few large barrels of apples. After that we got to work grinding them up and pressing them into delicious apple cider! The first batch came out a little tart, but we are still perfecting our recipe! As an added bonus, we gave all the leftover ground up apples to a local farm down the road to feed to their goats! 

We have a wide variety of heirloom apple trees on the property at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast!

We have a wide variety of heirloom apple trees on the property at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast!

Also this fall we made a quick afternoon trip over to the East Charlotte Tractor Parade. A truly Vermont event, the parade and festival is timed around the end of harvest season and features a pie eating contest, local vendors and music, and the main event: a stream of about 200 tractors of all sizes and ages rolling down the street. On the way home we stopped in at a family run apple orchard and I had one of the best apple donuts of my life! It had just come out of the fryer so was nice and crispy, then they put it in a dish and topped it with a maple creemee. A tractor parade, cider donuts and maple creemee? I'm not sure how more Vermont you can get. I think I was even wearing a flannel shirt! 


Quite the festive scene at the East Charlotte Tractor Parade!

Quite the festive scene at the East Charlotte Tractor Parade!

Just as soon as you get content with the seasons though... 

Fresh snow at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast!

Fresh snow at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast!

Sure enough, Mother Nature decided we had enough of fall and decided it was time to throw some winter at us. It was an unusually snowy November here in the Green Mountains, but in my book a fresh blanket of snow is just as pretty as the flowers we grow all summer (and i don't have to work for it!) Vermont is a skier’s paradise right now with relatively moderate temperatures and a thick blanket of fresh natural snow.

Snowed in at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast!

Snowed in at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast!

If snowshoeing is your preference (as it is mine) we have begun to carve out a network of trails across our property so guests can get out and enjoy themselves! We'll have some hot cocoa ready for you when you get back! 

With the holidays approaching and the end of the year upon us, we have been spending some time reflecting upon what an incredible time we have had this year at the Bed and Breakfast. Through the seasons, we continue to be grateful for the incredible guests who we have met since we opened our doors in 2015. Thank you!

We are full of good cheer and the magic of Christmas!

We are full of good cheer and the magic of Christmas!

Wishing you the best this holiday season, from our family to yours!

- Luke & Carin McCarthy






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

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

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

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

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

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!

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.