The Vermont Golden Honey Festival – Sept 14, 2013

Just a few more days and we’ll be hosting the Vermont Golden Honey Festival!  Over a dozen vendors will be gathering at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast on September 14, 2013 to offer their Vermont-themed and honeybee-themed products.  Co-hosted by Golden Stage Inn Bed and Breakfast of Proctorsville and Goodman’s American Pie of Ludlow, this event is sure to please!

Why a Vermont Golden Honey Festival?  Vermont’s state insect is the honeybee after all, so it already seems a perfect match.  But as hobby beekeepers, we also have an added incentive.  The honeybee is often feared, or — maybe worse – overlooked and disregarded.  Although honeybees have received a lot of press lately for their dire circumstances, still not enough people realize just how awesome and important these bees are.  Responsible for nearly one of every three bites of food we eat, the honeybee provides us with so much more than honey.

At the festival, in addition to browsing the vendor booths for freshly baked bread and quilted crafts, books and photography, flowers, handmade stationery, and so much more, visitors will also have the opportunity to hear brief talks on beekeeping, mead making, fiber arts projects, and comic strip creation.  Goodman’s American Pie will be making their first public appearance with their all-new portable beehive pizza oven.  Honey-crust and honey-themed pizzas anyone?  It’s sure to be delicious!  There will even be a table for kids (of all ages) to make a simple craft.  Admission is free.  The festival runs from 10am through 4pm.  Check out our festival page on facebook for updates.

If you’re anywhere near the Okemo Valley in Vermont this weekend, be sure to swing by the Vermont Golden Honey Festival at Golden Stage Inn.

We can’t wait to see you! – Julie-Lynn, Innkeeper, Golden Stage Inn

Summer Theatre at Weston Playhouse, 2013

Summer theatre at Weston Playhouse in Vermont is one of my favorite attractions of Okemo Valley.  Earlier this month, I went with my daughter Samantha and our exchange-student family member Yui to see Educating Rita.  The cast of two put on an engaging performance.  Even though the play was not my favorite selection, the play was thought provoking and insightful. The acting, the set, and overall the whole evening was a delight – as it typically is at Weston.

The line-up for the rest of the 2013 season looks great!  At the beautiful historic Main Stage, located on the green in the heart of Weston village, the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company is performing three more shows this season. They’ll plunge directly into some heavy issues about family life and mental health in Next to Normal, a rock musical with a Tony-award winning score.  And then they turn to some long-standing classics as they perform 42nd Street, the Tony-award winning musical about an actress trying to make it on Broadway , and To Kill A Mockingbird, a play that brings to life two of America’s favorite characters, Scout and Atticus Finch.

Just a few miles from the Main Stage is the “Other Stage,” located in the Weston Rod & Gun Club building on Route 100.  Tickets are a bit less expensive for shows performed here, but really, I don’t see why – every seat is a great one, and the quality of each performance is just as good too!  Each summer starts with a children’s show and this year’s was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  (My kids loved this book, I’m sad that we missed this performance.)  Upcoming shows include Loving Leo, a new musical that explores family relationships, and The Blessed Plot, a one man play about the battle for free Shakespeare in Central Park.

Whether you are a seasoned theatre-goer or someone who thinks maybe it’s time to try theatre for the first time, Weston Playhouse is a great choice.  Of course, we recommend that you consider our theatre package so you can enjoy two nights at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast.  It’s a gorgeous drive between our inn in Proctorsville (Cavendish) and the Weston Playhouse.  And our breakfasts are sure to impress you at least as much as the theatre does!

-Julie-Lynn, Innkeeper, Golden Stage Inn

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!

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