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The Gazebo – A place to enjoy a little music, a little wine, a pretty view.

August 17th, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck

The Gazebo at The Speckled Hen Inn Bed & Breakfast in Madison WI

The Gazebo – a space for guest to enjoy.

Earlier this summer I visited Olbrich Botanical Gardens, our award-winning city garden in Madison, Wisconsin.  I discovered that they had created several small sitting areas throughout the garden where visitors could stop and rest and enjoy the views of the garden or perhaps become a part of the garden.  I decided that guests might enjoy doing the same thing at The Speckled Hen Inn.

I often feel that some guests, with their desire for privacy, fail to take advantage of all the extra little places around our property where they can share a quiet conversation, relax and enjoy the natural surroundings, and disconnect from whatever it is that they need to get away from.  Our rooms in the Inn are great places but we have more to offer.

So, Bob and I set out to create those spaces on the property for our guests to enjoy.  One space that already existed is our garden gazebo.  The Gazebo was constructed in 2002, just in time for a wedding on the property.  It is made of Canadian red cedar and still carries that sweet smell when you step in the double doors.  There is comfortable seating in the gazebo and the screen covered windows provide a panoramic view of the garden pond, pasture, gardens and the Inn.

To make the gazebo more guest friendly we added a larger top on the dining table so sharing a meal there is a bit less cramped or the scrabble board now fits nicely on the table.  We installed a new CD player and stocked the collection of CD’s there with more relaxing titles.  We also installed a wine refrigerator that has dual temperature sections for red and white wines.  Of course, it is fully stocked with wines from our wine list and glasses, cork screw, and menus from a couple of local restaurants that will deliver right to the gazebo (or the Inn) are on hand.

Since the gazebo is right in the middle of the garden we also decided that it would be a good spot for our collection of books that will help guests identify butterflies, wildflowers, and birds.  Of course the gazebo is a great destination for guests looking for a comfortable spot to settle in with a good book or their laptop.  The gazebo gets a good strong wifi signal too.

 

A Rainy Day at The Speckled Hen Inn

August 8th, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck

Hummingbird at the feader at the Speckled Hen Inn in Madison Wisconsin

Hummingbird has lunch in the rain

It has been a long hot summer in Madison, Wisconsin.  There was hardly any rain at all during the months of June and July.  All the ferns in the beds around the Speckled Hen Inn turned brown and crispy.  It was a struggle just to keep up with the watering of the vegetable gardens, flower pots and new trees and shrubs that had been planted this spring. But now, it’s August and a few rain showers have turned the pastures green again.  The lawn is recovering from dormancy and we are no longer stressing about how we will feed our sheep and llamas this winter.  The gardens are providing lots of fresh veggies for the breakfast table and a few peaches even managed to ripen and find their way onto the menu.

Today this little hummingbird seemed to express our gratitude for the rain as she danced and darted about in the raindrops and was determined to have her lunch.  Perhaps she was celebrating the return of the rain too as it will mean a more bountiful buffet of nectar bearing flowers for her to enjoy.

Addition to the Garden at The Speckled Hen Inn Bed and Breakfast

April 12th, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck

New Garden Shed at The Speckled Hen Inn

Squaring up the building site.

Today it really begins.  The carpenters arrived at The Speckled Hen Inn around 9:00AM, just as the lumber delivery truck was departing.  Their mission is to build the garden shed of my dreams, Pat’s Playhouse, another Fischbeck Folly.

The plan has been developing all winter long.  We spent hours pouring through folders of saved magazine clippings.  We consulted our library of garden design books.  We clicked our way from one end of the internet’s photos files to the other and finally came up with a design simply sketched on a pad of graph paper.  There is an air of finality about a design finally drawn using a straight edge.

Then there were endless debates about where to put the little building.  It should be near the garden, of course.  But, it can’t block the view of the pasture from the cottage or, more importantly, the Inn.  And it shouldn’t be where it would shade the garden.  Heaven knows we already have enough shade on the property.  It had to be somewhere that a 16 x 12 building wouldn’t look lost on the 50-acre property.  After exploring several possibilities, we decided on a spot.  Jerome, our builder, drove a few stakes in the ground and we all decided that the spot that we had selected had problems with elevation and proximity to our parking area.  So, we moved it.  Decisions are much easier to make when your builder is standing there snapping his measuring tape out and back.  The new garden shed will be just outside the gate of the cutting garden and will snuggle against the pasture fence.  A couple of guys came and dug the holes for the posts that will support the building and it has been a mad scramble to pick out windows, a door, and flooring.  But, I think that most of the major design decisions are behind us and we are thrilled to see the construction begin so early in the season.

I have great plans for my little building.  It is inspired by the shed/smokehouse that was in my grandparent’s back yard.  That was a rather rustic building with a tidy row of well cared for tools on one wall and a long workbench under a dusky window opposite it.  There was always a galvanized steel bucket filled with sand saturated with used motor oil for cleaning and protecting the blades of shovels and hoes.  Two smooth wooden stakes with heavy cotton twine leaned in the corner when they were not being used to mark out straight garden rows.  There were rolls of wire pea fence amd an old nail keg full of stakes for tomato vines.  A bale of spagnum moss usually rested in the wheelbarrow and it was the winter home for a family of plastic ducks that spent their summers in the rock garden.

I envision my garden shed as having all those features plus being a place where I can hang a few herbs to dry.  It should be a place where I can hang my gardening hat and change from my Innkeeper shoes to my garden clogs. Imagine, if you will, a portal from my role as Innkeeper to my role as gardner.  I can arrange the flowers I will gather from my garden or pot up a little slip of a plant for a friend.  Veggies from the kitchen garden can shed their excess soil and compostable parts there.  And when I’m tired for weeding there will be a spot to sit and smell the roses or a shady place for Happy to watch what is happening in the garden.  The garden shed will also be the backdrop for a nice stand of Hollyhocks.  I’ve started them from seed, again.

Another dream moves toward reality.  I’m smiling as I write and feeling guilty because I should be outside helping paint the siding for my little gem.

 

The boys at The Speckled Hen Inn have a new toy.

March 9th, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck

Happy and Bob doing chores at the bed and breakfast

Can I drive next time?

The boys at The Speckled Hen Inn Bed and Breakfast in Madison, Wisconsin have a new toy to help out with the chores around the Inn.  The new UTV is great for getting the garbage cans to and from the curb.  The many trips to the stable to feed the sheep and chickens, collect the eggs, find the needed tool or pick a fresh tomato will be a little bit easier now and of course, Happy can go along for the ride.

The chore list at the Inn for the warm season ahead seems to get a bit longer every day.  One project always seems to spawn another.  We will be constructing a new greenhouse on the end of the stable by the garden and using those great passive solar water tubes that we picked up at the Habitat Re-Store.  If we have a greenhouse we can propagate pachasandra cuttings to use a ground cover when we re-design a part of the Japanese garden.  Another construction project is a garden ‘shed’ just outside the cutting garden to provide a focal point for the garden and to give a home to all the garden tools that seem to scatter about the property.  The design of this building is still in flux as we keep thinking of possible uses of just a little bit more storage space.  It seems that we never have enough storage space.  Of course, the garden surrounding the new shed will need to be expanded a bit for more flowers to use in the Inn and new raspberry beds and a grape arbor are on the planning list too.  The final (at least at this moment) building project for this summer is a garden house very similar to our gazebo.  We plan to locate this over by the pool and intend to use it as an outdoor sitting room.  It will be a great place to relax with a glass of wine at the end of the day or maybe even a spot to sneak away with a good book and a friendly dog.
  The ongoing project is the woodland restorations.  The UTV will really come in handy for getting into the woods without doing too much damage to the woodland floor.  The UTV is much lighter than our pick-up truck so we will not have to worry quite so much about compacting tree roots and trampeling wildflowers.  The bed in the back will be great for hauling out brush and cut firewood as well as for hauling in the tools that we will need to use.

Woodland Restoration project at THe Speckled Hen Inn

December 28th, 2011 by Pat Fischbeck

The crew from Good Oak Woodland restorations recently cleared a lot of brush and invasive buckthorn trees from the hillside behind the Inn.  We thought that you would enjoy reading what they had to say about it on their blog and seeing the before and after pictures.  We have already noticed how much easier it is to see the wildlife activitity in the woods.  The wild turkey have been scratching around in the carpet of leaves for whatever it is that wild turkey look for.  It is fun to sit at the breakfast table and actually see what is happening in the woods.  The folks from Good Oak will be working with us next spring to identify our wildflowers and make recommendations for planting that will restore this woodland area to it’s original and native form.

 

Innkeepers Recharged by WBBA Conference

November 11th, 2011 by Pat Fischbeck

"Pumpkin the Kitty" at The Speckled Hen Inn

Distraction

Earlier this week the members of The Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast Association met at The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin for their annual meeting and conference.  The conference began with a special day of presentations for Aspiring Innkeepers.  Sixteen future innkeepers learned about the profession from experts in business, financing, and insurance and received lots of advice from practicing innkeepers about marketing, policies, record keeping and websites.  Tours of local B&B’s were enjoyed by many of the conference attendees.  The keynote presentation was delived on Monday morning by Jay Karen of PAII.  His message encouraged innkeepers to reach out to the next generation of guests by listening to their needs and desires.  The rest of Monday and Tuesday were filled with interesting workshops, a trade show, and probably most importantly, time for the members of WBBA to share time with old friends and welcome some new ones into this family of innkeepers.

What does happen when innkeepers get together?  Do they tell horror stories about bad guests?  No, well maybe a little bit but innkeepers are really a positive group sharing the feeling that B&B guests are a very special group of people who make a conscious choice to be a guest at a B&B.  So innkeepers time together is a time to share best practices, tidbits of vendor information, and recipes and breakfast menu plans.  It really is a time to recharge and then go back to their B&B’s with a long, long list of ideas, projects, and concepts to explore during the slightly quieter months ahead.

So, a new year begins now before January even rolls around.  There is blogging to do, facebook to do better, pictures to take (especially food pictures), rooms to refurbish or redecorate, a cookbook to create, new marketing techniques to master, and time management issues to resolve.  You can share my journey on facebook, if you care to.  It promises to be interesting.

Wisconsin Top Ten Eco-Elegant Inns

November 15th, 2010 by Pat Fischbeck

Crab Trees at The Speckled Hen Inn

The Speckled Hen Inn is delighted and proud to be named one of Wisconsin’s Top Ten Eco-Elegant Inns by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.  We take our participation in Wisconsin’s Travel Green certification program very seriously and want travelers to know that “traveling green” doesn’t mean having to forgo some of the very nice things in life.  It often means making the best choice available and that choice is often delicious, delightful, and downright fun.

Here is what they had to say about us:

   
 

Speckled Hen Inn, Madison, www.speckledheninn.com 

Their Green Story: Here’s a B&B that pampers guests with easy-going elegance while supporting principles of sustainable living. This 50-acre property of Patricia and Robert Fischbeck features pastures with sheep and llamas, orchards, gardens and walking trails. According to Pat Fischbeck, “We’re committed to green but also sustaining the culture and sense of place travelers enjoy in Wisconsin.”

Of Special Note: Pat was the grand prize winner of the 2008 Wisconsin B&B Association recipe cook-off for her recipe for Wisconsin Breakfast Panini featuring cranberries and lots of other Wisconsin goodies.

Innkeepers’ Recommendations for Other Green Businesses Around Town: Guests come to the inn specifically to visit the Farmer’s Market on the Capitol square, the largest true farmers’ market in the nation. As an aside, Pat used to have a booth there selling homegrown herbs. For a taste of Wisconsin art, the Absolutely Art gallery features all Madison artists and the Bindley Collection gallery features all Wisconsin artists. Harvest restaurant is a top choice, thanks to their all local, in-season menu.

New Guest Room at The Speckled Hen Inn

June 23rd, 2010 by Pat Fischbeck

We proudly announce the opening of the newest room at The Speckled Hen Inn Bed and Breakfast.  The “Madison Lakes Room” is complete and ready to accept guests.   Bookings are being accepted as of June 26, 2010.

This room will allow The Speckled Hen Inn to now accept children under the age of 12 and the room is also pet-friendly.  The Madison Lakes Room is on the lower level of the Inn and has its own private entrance.

 This has been a fun project to design and construct.  We did the majority of the work ourselves over the winter.

 The room has a more contemporary feel than the other four guest rooms in the Inn.   Upon walking in through double French doors off the lower deck, the bedroom is sunken 12” below the tiled entry foyer/breakfast area.  The King-sized bed is recessed slightly into one wall.  There is a separate seating area with two swivel chairs.  The room also has a gas fireplace with a 37” HDTV/DirecTV above the mantle, viewable from the bed and the seating area.  The fireplace is nestled between a built-in bookcase and seating/luggage bench.  The room is decorated with textured fabrics in shades of chocolate brown, bronze and pear green with a few sunset colors as accents.

There is also a wet bar and freezer/refrigerator in the room.  For business travelers, there is a desk area built into the wall next to the fireplace. Free wireless internet access is provided.  Breakfast will be served in the dining room of the Inn, or if you prefer, in the room at your private dining table.

 The room also features an attached private spa-like bathroom.   The Spa Room is elevated 6” above the main room.  The shower is 4×6 feet in size with an all glass front.  There is a two person bench built into the shower where you can enjoy a normal wall shower, an overhead rain shower and last but not least, a steam shower!  The room also features a 2-person champagne-bubble air-jet tub.   The Spa Room is fully tiled giving it a warm, luxurious feeling.  There is an all glass vessel sink next to the tub bench, matching the glass tile insert in the wall tile pattern.  There is a separate enclosed toilet room.

The art work in the room depicts scenes of Madison from the Lakes, and hence, the “Madison Lakes” room-name.

Soon there will be a small outdoor courtyard for guests of the Madison Lakes Room to enjoy and we hope to have pictures available very soon.

I love my job!

July 2nd, 2009 by Pat Fischbeck

This a is little different than my usual blog posts. 

A telemarketer phoned while I was cleaning up after breakfast today.  I’m sure that he had, what he thought, was an original line.  It went something like this, ” If I could give you information that would allow you earn enough money to stop doing what you are doing now, would you take a minute to write down a web address?”  My immediate response, without even thinking about it was, “NO”.  He wished me “good luck” and hung up. 

I was thinking about his pitch while I was drying the crystal and reflecting on the life of an innkeeper.  This really is a great job.  We meet the nicest people as our guests, from near and far, far away.  We get to do the things we like to do such as cooking and gardening and decorating.  We get to show off this great city that we live in.  We are constantly learning new things whether it is how to install tile or write a blog.  When we need a break we can take one.  Guests sometimes ask if we are uncomfortable with having “strangers” in our home.  The answer is a very resounding NO.  Our guests validate what we do.  If we had done all this work and put so much effort into creating The Speckled Hen Inn and did not share it with our guests, we surely wouldn’t enjoy it as much.

So, I wasn’t just  giving the brush to the telemarketer this morning.  I wouldn’t want to stop doing what I am doing right now.  We hope that our passion shows.  I’m sure that it does.

Madison Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast Welcomes Spring

May 6th, 2009 by Pat Fischbeck

 

The Speckled Hen Inn B&B was featured as one of Madison’s “Best Kept Secrets” by WISC-TV Channel 3, Madison, WI.  We invite you to view the video for a tour of the Inn and grounds.

The Japanese Garden in Early Spring

The Japanese Garden in Early Spring

 

 

Located in Madison, Wisconsin, the Speckled Hen is just 7.5 miles from the Capitol Square and the campus of the University of Wisconsin. The B&B is the perfect place for a romantic retreat, reunions, celebrations, business travelers, or family visiting students at the university.     

The Inn has four spacious guest rooms, each with a private bath. Guests also enjoy the large gathering room with piano and wood-burning stove, a home theater, library and candle-lit dining room.

Llamas, Green Pastures, and Flowering Crabs

Llamas, Green Pastures, and Flowering Crabs

The 50–acre property features pastures with sheep and llamas, wetland and grassland areas, streams, pine and spruce plantations, orchards, walking trails and gardens. Breakfast includes local ingredients, many from the Inn’s property.

 

 

 

 

Springtime is an especially great time to visit the Inn.  The woods are filled with wildflowers.  The gardens are coming to life.  Veggie and flower plants are being moved from the window sills to their summer garden homes.  These photos capture but a bit of the spring spirit.
Spring Chicks find a Home at The Speckled Hen Inn

Spring Chicks find a Home at The Speckled Hen Inn

 

 

 

 
 
 

 

The Speckled Hen Inn is a proud member of the Travel Green Wisconsin Certification program and is committed to sustaining not only the ecosystem of which it is a part, but also the economy, the culture, and the sense of place that guests enjoy in south-central Wisconsin.