Witnessing A Honeybee Swarm (2013-July)

A swarm in May is worth a load of hay,

A swarm in June is worth a silver spoon,

A swarm in July ain’t worth a fly.

 

Simply put, a swarm is a beehive’s way of reproducing.  In the Spring, if the queen of a hive is strong and the population of bees plentiful, the queen will leave the hive with nearly two-thirds of the hive’s bees to find a new home, leaving the original hive to rear a new queen and continue on.  A honeybee swarm is an amazing sight to witness.  A strong hive may have 60,000 bees, so when the queen leaves with her followers, she’s in the air with nearly 45,000 bees.   An awesome vision, the bees fill the air like snowflakes in a blizzard.

 

So it was this that Michael noticed through our solarium window.  We have three beehives at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast and one of them is just outside our breakfast room.  This is the hive that had released its bees into the yard, completely consuming the front lawn – bees in the grass, bees climbing the hive boxes, bees in the air.   We watched for several minutes, waiting to see where the bees would land – because that’s what the poem up above is all about.  Ideally, the honeybee swarm will land in a place that we can catch them and relocate them to an empty hive box.  If it’s early enough in the season, say May or June, the bees will have plenty of time to draw out their honeycomb and fill it with enough honey to survive the inevitable winter season.  The earlier, the better, because a May swarm will not only make enough for its own stores, but honey for the beekeeper too!  But if it’s late in the season, the bees prospects for survival are just not as strong, so they’re not as valuable to a beekeeper.

 

Our own honeybee swarm was in the first couple days of July so I was feeling pretty optimistic about the bees being able to pull it together and make a go of it.  With this eagerness, we waited for the bees to settle.  A honeybee’s swarm schedule is pretty predictable.  The bees leave the hive in a flurry, then they settle on a nearby branch dispatching several bees to scout the area for a suitable new home.  This can take a few hours or a few days.  The swarm waits patiently in a cluster – well, a “cluster” is sort of an understatement.  The mass of bees crawling over one another and hanging off of one another is the size of a basketball with thousands of bees sprawling along the branch for several inches in every direction.  One of the coolest parts of seeing bees in this state is that the bees are super passive and very unlikely to notice a human’s presence, so we’re able to stand freely and watch the magic.

 

Unfortunately for us, these bees settled on a branch three stories high.   There was no prudent way to catch them, so we were forced to accept this a donation to nature.  The bees would find a new home, move into it and continue the tradition of bee-ness elsewhere. (In the photo — which was taken from 30 feet below –you can see the brown clump.   That’s the mass of 40,000 bees or so.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes a picture just doesn’t do justice.)

 

The bees remained on their branch for two overnights, through the torrential downpours that have so marked this Spring. And then on a sunny afternoon, after returning from errands, we found the branch bare.  The queen and her acolytes found a new space while the hive they left behind awaited the birth of their new queen.  Within days, their new queen would emerge and this ‘daughter hive’ would be complete once again.

 

Our Bed and Breakfast is located in the Okemo Valley of Vermont.  We have two sheep, nearly two dozen chickens (fresh eggs!), and three beehives.  Ask about getting a tour of a beehive.  You can don a beekeepers suit and veil — or watch through the windows from the comfort of our solarium.

-Julie-Lynn Wood, Innkeeper, Golden Stage Inn

Craft Classes at the Wild and Woolly Weekend

When it comes to woolly craft classes and workshops,

I’ve always been much more of a spectator than a participant – though I admit to harboring a steady curiosity (or maybe envy is a better word).  At county fairs, I always seek out the craft barn and – okay, I’ll admit it – I get excited when I see that the spinners are doing their thing.  It’s like watching a fairy tale come to life as fluffy piles of wool are changed into spools of rough-hewn yarn.  Well, maybe it’s not quite as magical as spinning straw into gold, but it still impresses me every time! 

So it was a real treat for me to attend last year’s craft classes at Wild and Woolly Weekend, a fiber arts fair hosted by Six Loose Ladies and Fiber Arts in Vermont.  ­­­Now, I’m looking forward to this year’s installment, on April 27 and 28 at the Pointe Hotel.  This fiber arts weekend is 50% fair, 50% craft classes, and 50% social networking.   No, that’s not careless math; it’s just that this weekend has so much packed into two days that it overflows!  Veteran and virgin crafters alike really ought to swing by to check out the vendors and craft classes being offered by this energetic group of artists and do-it-yourself-ers.

Those who are new to this sort of event may have the wrong impression.  A weekend about yarn?!  Probably a bunch of old ladies sitting around with knitting needles, balls of yarn, and maybe even a cat or two by their feet.  You couldn’t be more wrong. When you look up the meaning of the phrase Wild and Woolly, you’ll find synonyms such as boisterous and unruly.  And, based on the energy that is present from the moment you walk in the door, boisterous and unruly seem like achievable descriptors!  (I mean, with a retail store name of Six Loose Ladies, you know that rowdy humor will be a part of the fun!)

The Wild and Woolly Weekend has craft classes available for the very beginner, like me, but they also have classes appropriate for those who are already pretty established in the crafting tradition.  In some classes, you’ll go home with a finished product; in others you’ll go home with enough knowledge and enthusiasm that you can tackle a new project on your own.  You can choose between three-hour classes or 50-minute ‘mini-classes.’  The topics range from spinning on a wheel or on a drop spindle; choosing and working with colors; making mug rugs (coasters), chair pads, animal pins, and mittens with needle felting; designing decorative boxes from paper collage;  and creating sparkly bracelets using beaded knitting.

Whether you’re still a latent crafter or an admitted junkie of all things wool, this event is well worth checking out.  Entrance is not only free, but there are door prizes galore.   The costs of craft classes are $5 or $10 for the mini-classes and between $30 and $45 for the 3-hour classes.  Class listings are available at the Six Loose Ladies website.

 

-Julie-Lynn, Innkeeper, Golden Stage Inn

How To Make Homemade Cheese – Farmer’s Style

Trying new recipes that use local foods is something we frequently do at Golden Stage Inn Bed and Breakfast.  Blogging about them, however, is fairly new to us.  We’re glad to share what we learn along our kitchen journeys and would love to hear your ideas  … or even your requests for when you come to visit us in Southern Vermont!

We found this recipe by trying to get our teenage kids out of bed on schooldays. Never an easy task, we devised a new plan.  First one downstairs in the morning, ready for school, gets to pick which new breakfast recipe we’ll try (for dinner)!  This plan seems like a good way to get going a few minutes earlier, while also trying out new creative breakfast recipes for the inn — where we love to wow guests with great food.

So when the “first one down” picked Cheese Filled Blueberry Blintzes (stay tuned for this upcoming blog post), a recipe that relies on farmer’s cheese, we promptly had to research: what is farmers cheese and how do we get it?   Here is how to make homemade cheese. Well, as for what it is, Farmer’s Cheese is a mild and soft white cheese made from milk curds. It is a good melty cheese, like a mozzarella or a ricotta. Since “easy to make” was part of so many of the descriptions, we decided that’s how we’d get it.  We found this super easy Homemade Farmer’s Cheese on allrecipes.com.  I tailored the recipe’s volume to match the amount of raw milk I had in the fridge (3/4 gallon) and then embarked upon my first cheese making conquest!  The “waste product” of this recipe was a surprise bonus. Keep reading…!

The quick summary of the recipe is this:  heat milk; add lemon; wait; strain; refrigerate.  It’s that easy.  That said, here’s a little more detail –

Ingredients:

  • ¾ gallon of milk (raw preferred, pasteurized tolerated, but not ultra-pasteurized … because really that’s just not milk anyway!)
  • the juice of a medium lemon
  • a pinch of a salt

Heat the milk with salt until the milk almost boils, stirring frequently to avoid scorching.  (Another recipe warned: don’t heat too much or you’ll destroy the healthy bacteria in the milk.)

Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice.  Wait 5 – 10 minutes for the milk to curdle (starts immediately).    While waiting, line a strainer with cheese cloth, and place the whole set-up in a deep pot that will collect the runoff liquid, more fondly called whey.

Ten minutes later,   How to Make Cheese Curds Picture - Golden Stage Inn

this is about what the milk looks like, er, um, I mean the cheese.  Like magic!

Pour the mixture into the strainer lined with cheesecloth (don’t forget the catch pan!) and let drain for a bit, maybe 5 minutes or so.

Vermont Inn Local Foods Breakfast

Straining the curds

 

The remaining whey can be removed by picking up the cheese cloth and squeezing out most of the liquid. (Caution: do not drop your iphone into the curd when trying for a photo.)

Draining the Curd - Making Cheese.

Squeeze out excess liquid from the cheese.

For kicks, I weighed the cheese.  Nine-tenths of a pound.

Weighing Homemade Cheese - How To

3/4 gallon of raw milk made 9/10 pound of cheese, plus the 8 cups of whey

The cheese gets wrapped and put in the fridge for use within a week.

But the unexpected bonus of this recipe was surely the 8 cups of whey.  All that runoff liquid that’s no good for cheese is great for a buttermilk replacement in biscuits, pancakes, or even rhubarb coffee cake.  We poured they whey into 2-cup portions and put it in the freezer.  Perfect for future baking!

At seven dollars per gallon, raw milk is rather expensive.  But for this $7 investment, plus under 30 minutes of my time, we got a pound of cheese and a half gallon of healthy buttermilk replacement.  I’m impressed!  Eating local is so often considered a luxury, but this recipe is a reminder that it can also be affordable and practical too.

Coming Soon ….  We’ll post the Cheese Stuffed Blintzes recipe that requires this Farmer’s Cheese.  Looks SO good!

You can experience homemade farmer’s cheese at our beautiful Vermont B&B!

Okemo Valley Shuttle connects our Vermont Bed and Breakfast with Ludlow Restaurants (2013-01-23)

Okemo Mountain Resort has long offered a free daytime shuttle service, transporting skiers to and from the mountain and valley lodging for fantastic Vermont skiing.  However, come evening time, Valley travelers have had little option other than driving their own cars when heading into Ludlow nightlife.  Not only was this inconvenient for many, but with high drunk driving rates, it was also unsafe.  The Okemo Valley  Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Ludlow Police Department helped initiate a service to correct this deficit in our Vermont Ski Resort community.  As members of the Chamber of Commerce and as a directly-paying Vermont lodging property, we are proud to introduce the Okemo Valley Shuttle as a complimentary service to our guests.

The Okemo Valley Shuttle will drive an hourly loop through the valley, picking up and dropping off passengers at Ludlow hotels, condos, bars and restaurants along the way.  The route begins at Jackson Gore on the north and travels through Ludlow, ending at The Pointe Hotel, continuing onto Golden Stage Inn Bed and Breakfast and Glimmerstone Mansion on a “on demand” basis.

Shuttle Service in Okemo Valley is complimentary to our Vermont Bed and Breakfast guests

The 24 passenger vehicle is available to travelers on winter Fridays, Saturdays, and holiday periods from 6pm through 2am, through the e­­­nd of March 2013.  A second vehicle, a 15 passenger van, is used for fare-taxi service in Ludlow and its surrounding communities. For taxi service, call (802) 438-8089.

The buses are owned and operated by The Good Bus, a local business offering taxi service and private charters for all occasions including weddings, bachelor or bachelorette parties, brewery tours, corporate outings and family reunions. Tesha Buss, owner of The Good Bus, says The Good Bus  “is excited to fill the transportation need for the Okemo Valley and contribute to the safety and vitality of our night life.”  For more information on The Good Bus and its services, you can call (802) 776-8333.

Snowmobile Vermont: Yet another great winter activity for your Okemo Valley vacation! 2013-01-06

“What winter activities can we do in Vermont other than just skiing?”  As innkeepers, we are often asked this question, and when we reply with a long list of ideas (sleigh rides, snow shoeing, cheese tours, and so on), we always recommend that our guests snowmobile Vermont.  And this is why…

What a blast!  Our family of four just got home from a 2-hour guided tour through Calvin Coolidge State Forest in Plymouth, Vermont.  Not far from Killington, and less than a half hour from Golden Stage Inn Bed and Breakfast, the tour company offers tours of varying lengths and cost.  Helmets and boots are included in the cost and I am happy to report that safety is only one feature of the helmet; it also provides incredible warmth!

The Woods go Snowmobiling in Vermont Wonderland!

After some brief instructions on how to use the snowmobile, we were led by a guide to snowmobile Vermont’s trails, up and down the rolling hills (mountains may be a better word), winding through the forests, and careening through the open meadows.  (Okay, so maybe some of us were a bit too conservative to actually careen, but my memory tends to exaggerate my speed and confidence!)  In the open area, we were offered some time to drive around, practicing our speed and turns, and just goof off a bit where the potential for damage was pretty minimal.  Overall, the entire tour filled nearly two hours and we covered about 25 miles of scenic Vermont trails.

The customer service at Snowmobile Vermont was fantastic from the initial phone reservation through the representatives in the shop and certainly including our tour guide. We absolutely recommend this snowmobile tour as a fantastic way to see the winter wonderland of Central Vermont.

 

 

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