A Maple Syrup Vacation in Vermont

It’s finally here!  Sugaring season in Vermont kicks off with the Maple Syrup Open House Tour this weekend.

Taking a maple syrup trip is certainly a vacation off the beaten path – and one well worth it!  Vermont is a state that knows how to do its festivals right.  If getting out and getting active during the chilly days of March isn’t enough of a reason to stay at Golden Stage Inn during sugaring season, here’s a whole list…

Maple-Sap-Buckets-Vermont-bed-and-breakfast

Maple Madness at Woodstock, VT will add excitement to your Vermont maple syrup tour.

Go crazy with all the fun events planned in the quaint Vermont village of Woodstock.  Eat maple butter popcorn on the green and participate in a scavenger hunt…maybe you’ll win a basket full of maple prizes!  For any cyclists out there, an Epic Bike Ride on Sunday will connect you between sugarhouses.  A sap bucket auction will be great fun for art collectors as local Vermont artists have individually painted each one.

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Tour several great sugar houses just down the road from the Golden Stage Inn.

Green Mountain Sugar House will be open both days from 10 am to 5 pm and boiling with modern equipment, weather permitting.  All day there will be free Sugar-on-Snow, coffee, and donuts with maple cream for visitors.  Papa John’s Sugar Shack in Mount Holly is also very close by our Bed & Breakfast and will have free maple cotton candy.  In the other direction, you can get to Mitch’s Maple in Chester to learn about the process of sugaring from tapping to the finished product.

2014 brings new developments to the Maple Syrup Industry in Vermont!

This year, Vermont has adopted a new grading system of maple syrup.  During your maple vacation, learn the difference by taste.  Do you prefer Golden with a Delicate Taste, or Very Dark with Strong Taste?  How do you know which one to use for pancakes versus baking?  You may also learn about the new technique of tapping maple saplings, which increases the amount of maple syrup produced per acre tenfold!

maple-syrup-grades-2014-vermont

Vermont books and radio will tell you the detailed story of maple syrup.

A maple syrup tour wouldn’t be complete without the story behind the product.  Listen to VPR’s program about the changes in maple sugaring over the past couple centuries.  A rebroadcast of VPR’s 2002 maple program profiles modern day maple sugar producers and features a song by Pete Seeger called “Maple Syrup Time.”  Two of Vermont’s best books about maple syrup and sugaring will be out in the Golden Stage Inn’s cozy living room for you to enjoy during your down time.

And last but not least, Vermont maple syrup is the way to go for any and all maple recipes!

Bring your maple syrup tour back home with you in a bottle and try out all types of recipes from the websites below.

Maple Syrup Goes to Dinner – And Drinks from NPR’s ‘The Kitchen Window’ has two dinner recipes, a maple pecan pie recipe, and shows you how to make “The Old Vermont Cocktail.”

The Vermont Sugar Maker’s Association has nineteen different tried and true recipes using VT maple syrup.  Some of them include videos to show you the cooking process in detail.

Finally, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets has compiled a lengthy list of maple syrup recipes from Vermont residents and businesses.  The first recipe is from a bed and breakfast owner!

vermont-maple-leaf-syrup-trip

Extend the winter season with a maple tour of Vermont.  The Golden Stage Inn can recommend the best places and events near our Ludlow bed and breakfast, as well as some unique maple products found nowhere but Vermont!  All images used in this blog post are courtesy vpr.net.
A Beekeeping Workshop with Renowned Vermont Natural Beekeeper

Honey bees are an essential fact of the innkeeping life here at Golden Stage Bed and Breakfast.

Our hive tours entertain and educate guests; the harvest season brings folks from far and near to our annual Honey Harvest Festival; and, of course, the golden reward of raw honey from the inn’s backyard sweetens guests’ morning tea and breakfast treats year-round.

Golden Stage Inn Honey bee hives in winter

Julie and I attended a natural beekeeping conference this weekend with renowned organic beekeeper Ross Conrad of Dancing Bee Gardens in Middlebury, Vermont.  Ross Conrad wrote the first book in the United States about organic beekeeping practices, so naturally we had to check this out!  The beekeeping workshop was part of Grafton Nature Museum’s 2014 Adult and Family Programs.  The theme this year is ‘The Birds and the Bees.’  Conrad also did a presentation for this series that Julie attended a few weeks ago about Colony Collapse Disorder.  Coming up this week is a talk with Sara Zahendra about Native Bumblebees, and on April 9th, Bridget Butler ‘The Bird Diva’ will present a workshop on bird-watching!

So, back to the organic beekeeping workshop…

Though I have not yet started my own backyard beekeeping, I figured I could still pick up some advice or inspiration from the talk.  Sure enough, I walked away with my head positively buzzing with knowledge and excitement about keeping bees.  Here, I’d like to share with you some of the lessons I learned from Ross Conrad!

  1. Treat your bees well.  Some people buy hives with the expectation of having a low-maintenance pet.  Bees should be cared for just as you would any other livestock or living creature.  Visit their hives once a week; be attune to their state of health; do what is natural and good for the bees rather than simply caring about the size of your honey harvest.
  2. To begin beekeeping, learn by doing!  As a beginning beekeeper myself, I really took this message to heart.  I can attend as many talks as I want, and read every book about bees, but that will not make me a good beekeeper!  The best way to learn beekeeping is to do it.  Just as in real life, we must learn from our failures.  Conrad said, “When your hive fails, that colony was giving you a gift.  They are helping you learn from your mistakes and be a better beekeeper in the future.”  A beekeeper must take that opportunity to learn – to evaluate what went wrong and how she or he can do better next time.  There are local beekeeping clubs to help you get started with networking all across the country.
  3. There is no correct way to keep bees.  Every beekeeper has their own method.  Some are organic, some use pesticides.  Some are hobby beekeepers, some are commercial.  Everyone has their own philosophy and rules when it comes to honey bees, and you will figure out your own once you spend time with your hives.
  4. Always control for mites. Ross Conrad’s three priorities with raising bees are health, honey and dryness.  Keeping your bees healthy comes first!  If you do nothing for varroa mites, which every hive will inevitably deal with, your bees will have weakened immune systems.  This means their chances of succumbing to diseases, pests or difficult weather conditions will be threatened.  Conrad listed many ways of controlling for varroa mites organically, so that your bees and honey are not exposed to pesticides or toxins.
  5. If you hold a bee in your hand, the world will be beautiful… because beauty is in the eye of the bee-holder!

Dancing Bee Gardens Raw Honey

Visit Vermont to meet the honey bees at Golden Stage Inn bed and breakfast and sample some local honey!  Stay tuned to hear about our bee installation this spring.

Vermont Zombie Honey Bees caused by Parasitic Fly

The honey bees at the Golden Stage Inn are waiting out the winter to make another delicious batch of local Vermont honey this summer, but always on a backyard beekeeper’s mind is the threat of what is known as “Colony Collapse Disorder.” While the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder remains a mystery and may be more complicated than one simple answer, a parasitic fly may have something to do with it. Before October 2013, this parasite had not been observed any further East than South Dakota…but a recent spotting will cause concern for Vermont beekeepers this summer. The phenomenon of ‘Zombie Bees’ (or even ‘ZomBees‘) has reached Vermont and now threatens the East Coast. See where Zombie Honey Bees have been spotted across the United States using this map, and visit www.zombiewatch.org to help monitor the spread of the ZomBee syndrome through citizen science.

Vermont Zombie Honey Bee killed by Parasitic Fly

Save our pollinators!

The parasitic fly causing the zombie-like infection is called Apocephalus borealis, and has been known since the 1920′s as a parasite of yellow jackets and bumble bees. John Hafernik discovered that the zombie fly infected honey bees as well in 2008, just two years after colony collapse disorder began to affect honey bees and their hives. Apocephalus borealis lays its eggs in the stomach of the honeybee. The infected honey bee leaves its hive, exhibiting symptoms such as nocturnal activity, attraction to light, and disoriented, spasmodic movement. It is this convulsive movement that the term “ZomBee” came from, as the bees move very similarly to zombies in Hollywood movies. They are not actually undead; they simply appear to be. When the eggs hatch, the honey bee dies. Unfortunately, Vermont was the first state in the East Coast to record a sighting of this parasitic attack back in October 2013 in Burlington. It is unknown whether these Vermont zombie honey bees are an isolated case or a forewarning of more Apocephalus borealis infestations to come.

Colony collapse disorder is a serious threat to both backyard beekeepers and large-scale, commercial beekeepers. Since 1/3 of the fruits and vegetables we eat depend upon bees to be pollinated, this disorder doesn’t just affect the insects – it affects our cuisine and nutrition as people!  Vermont zombie honey bees may be a new threat to beehives across Vermont or even New England, which is why it’s important to continue research and become a beekeeper! Even if you are not a beekeeper and don’t plan on keeping honeybees, you can help in other ways. Purchase local Vermont honey as your sweetener. Welcome beekeepers to your community. Know what chemicals and pesticides have been found to harm honey bees and contribute to colony collapse disorder. Plant a bee-friendly garden with native wildflowers. Learning about bees is not just environmentally-conscious…it is fascinating and fun!!

Bzzzz. -Sophi Veltrop, Golden Stage Inn Undead Insect Researcher

Northern Stage presents “Good People”

Now through March 23rd, take a trip to Northern Stage, located in Briggs Opera House at White River Junction, Vermont. Northern Stage is a 45 minute drive north of our Southern Vermont Bed and Breakfast. The show Good People opened on March 5th, and will be playing through March 23rd. This contemporary drama is set in South Boston and, like any good piece of theater, tells of hardship and struggle. A working class woman loses her job and faces real challenges with a warm heart, dancing around the question of what makes a person a good person. The classic American story blends humor with humanity, suspense with social inquiry. See a preview of rehearsal and commentary below! As they say in the video, “Good People” is one of the most produced plays in America this year; it is a treat to have this show running at Northern Stage in Vermont!

The script was written by Pulitzer prize-winner David Lindsay-Abaire, and the show is directed by Carol Dunne. Tickets are $15-60, with group rates available.
A stunning review of Northern Stage’s “Good People” in the Rutland Herald called the main lead “a fully dynamic perfomance…with flair,” and said the production was the best since 2012. Stay at our Southern Vermont Bed and Breakfast on your way to the play, and make an evening of it with dinner at a nearby restaurant in White River Junction, such as Elixir or Tuckerbox. Coming next to Northern Stage in April…the Spitfire Grill!

Action!

-Sophi Veltrop, Golden Stage Inn Secretary of the Arts

Classes at Fletcher Farm School for the Arts and Crafts: March 2014

While waiting out this final stretch of winter, make use of your indoor time with classes at Fletcher Farm School for the Arts and Crafts. Though the snow may keep you inside, you can keep your hands and mind active and create something beautiful and useful. March classes at Fletcher Farm School range across a number of topics, including felting, basketry, weaving and printing. Classes are usually welcoming to every level, so that the “What is felting?!” beginners like me can have just as much fun as experienced print-makers and weavers who are looking for something new. All classes at Fletcher Farm School are from 9 am to 4 pm with a half hour lunch break at noon.

Learn to weave miniature baskets at a Vermont crafts school! There are many classes at Fletcher Farm School to choose from.

March 15-16: Felt a Flying Owl with Sue Carey

Using wool primarily sourced from Vermont sheep, create your own realistic owl (6-8 inch wingspan). Combining the techniques of wet felting and needle felting, beginning and intermediate felters will leave the class with a beautiful ornament. In addition, the class provides you with a felting needle which you may take home for future felt projects, and a valuable source of knowledge and information regarding various needle and wool types.

March 22: Weave Miniature Baskets with Judy Nevin

Adorable baskets can add to your decor or hold small objects at your desk. Carve the handles and rims yourself before weaving together an Aztec-inspired basket an a Cathead Oval basket. I can imagine my ten-year-old self loving these baskets for my stuffed animals and dolls!

March 23: Weave a Landscape with Carolyn Scott

I had no idea you could weave a landscape – or anything framed and picturesque – until reading about the March offerings for classes at Fletcher Farm School for the Arts and Crafts. Even beginning crafters can design a landscape using simple knotting, embroidery and weaving skills. Ready to hang on the wall the minute you leave!

Weave a gorgeous and strong chair seat using old neckties! Just one of many classes at Fletcher Farm School in VT

March 29-30: Weave a Necktie Chair Seat with Joyce Fuller

That’s right – re-purpose those old neckties into a gorgeous and innovative piece of furniture! Basic sewing skills are required for this class. You will create a strong seat cushion with your own hands, giving new life to both those old neckties and a chair or rocker whose woven or rush seat has been busted. If you need extra ties they will be available for purchase.

 

Solarplate printmaking is one of the classes at Fletcher Farm School offered this March.

March 29-30: Solarplate Printmaking with Roger Hyndman

Transform original images into high-quality etchings. Using the sun’s UV light and no acids at all, you can develop these plates in tap water! The only other tools involved will be your creativity and images and basic tools of the printmaker. Participate in critiques and learn a variety of techniques. Use an Intaglio Press to create limited edition etchings. This class appeals to students of all levels, and artists involved in any media!

Stay at the Golden Stage Inn for your arts and crafts travel weekends, and try out the classes at Fletcher Farm School for the Arts and Crafts for a uniquely creative way to stay busy this March!

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