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Posts Tagged ‘Garden’

Four Sure Cures for Spring Fever in Madison, WI

April 14th, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

Scarlet Tanager in a Hickory Tree

Scarlet Tanager in a Hickory Tree

I have Four Sure Cures for Spring Fever that you can find in Madison, WI.  I’m sure that this is just what you need after a long, rough winter.  It’s time to get out of the house, get a little exercise, and bring a little color back into our lives.

Beginning on Saturday, April 19, the Dane County Farmer’s Market will move back onto the Capitol Square.  Go to seek out fresh spring veggies, herbs and bedding plants for your own home and garden or go just to be a part of one of Madison’s greatest traditions.

You can also go visit The Allen Centennial Gardens on the UW campus.  The spring bulbs always put on a bright show of color and this compact garden packs a lot of inspiration into a space that easily translates into projects for your home gardens.  The gardens are also celebrating their 25th birthday this year.  If you have never strolled their paths, it is time to do so or maybe even take one of their classes.  Information is on their website.

The other sure Spring Fever cure that the UW Madison provides visitors is our UW Arboretum.  Walk or bike your way through the trails and enjoy the spring flowering trees or later the magnificent lilac collection .  But don’t rush!  Take your time and enjoy the scents and sounds of spring.  Listen for the call of the red-wing blackbirds, and the spring peepers, and the buzz of bees.  They also have classes, lectures, and walks to enhance your enjoyment of this outdoor treasure.

And finally, number 4: You must go visit Olbrich Gardens.  Admission to the outdoor gardens is free (as is everything listed above) but I’m sure that you will wish to leave a little contribution in the collection box.  I’ve often used the garden as a resource for inspiration of things to plant for a whole season of garden color.  It does begin with the spectacular show of bulbs in the spring.  I’n especially fond of the areas where there are naturalized tulips and daffodils.  The addition of small seating areas throughout the gardens make this a place where you will want to go to relax and spend some time either with a special friend or your own thoughts and dreams.

If that doesn’t cure your spring fever please book a visit with us at The Speckled Hen Inn Bed and Breakfast.  From the chives poking up in the cutting garden to the wild flowers on the hillside, lambs in the pasture and robins everywhere, Spring is finally here.

 

Eating Fresh, Eating Local in April

April 10th, 2013 by Pat Fischbeck

Eating fresh, local produce begins to become a real possibility now that the snow has melted away from the garden beds and wooded hillsides of our Madison Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast.  We look forward to serving fresh nibbles from our greenhouse pots and outdoor herb beds sometime in early April.

Already the pea shoots in the greenhouse are ready for snipping to add flavor and fresh color to breakfast plates.  They were so easy to grow.  Just simply pushing a pea seed down into a small container of potting mix rewarded us with quickly growing pea vines.  We may start more this week to keep a supply going until time for the outdoor gardens to supply us with more.

Chives in The Garden at THe Speckled Hen Inn in Madison WI

Chives in April

A few warm days will awaken our chive plants and then guests at our breakfast table can look forward to Wisconsin Cheddar and Chive Biscuits to accompany their farm-fresh scrambled eggs.

The ramps will be popping up in the woods behind the house soon too.  Ramps, also known as spring onions, ramsom, wild leeks or wood leeks, and wild garlic are an early spring vegetable.  They are a perennial wild onion with a garlic-like scent and a pronounced onion flavor.  They have become very popular with many local farm-to-table chefs and you will find dishes featuring ramps on many of their April menus.  We like to serve them fried with potatoes and bacon or sauteed and creamed to tuck into puff pastry shells then filled with scrambled eggs.

Here is a little tidbit for our Chicago guests:  The city of Chicago takes it’s name from the native tribe’s word for the ramps that were found growing in dense clusters near Lake Michigan.  They called the plant “shikaakwa” (chicagou).  The ramp is also considered by many folk medicine practitioners to be a Spring tonic.

We will also be watching our garden beds for the first shoots of asparagus.  What we find in the local markets now is tempting but just can’t begin to compare with eating fresh local asparagus especially when it comes right from our garden to our kitchen.  I’m dreaming of asparagus with poached eggs and lemony hollandaise sauce and bacon wrapped asparagus.

The first fresh local fruit of the season will also appear in April.  Hidden under the quickly melting snow we discovered that our rhubarb plants were all ready to unfurl their crinkly leaves and send up those tart juicy stalks.

The End of Another Season

October 26th, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck

Dane County Farmer's Market supplies The Speckled Hen Inn

Dane County Farmer’s Market

There are only three more Saturday Farmer’s Markets before the market moves indoors for the cooler months.  Now is a great time to stock up on all the great winter squash and pantry staples to see us through the winter months.  My fall shopping list always includes honey and baby rice popcorn even though I know I can buy those in the later months.  This just seems like the right time to stock up and fill the shelves.  It is also the time of year when I feel the need to put together a hearty soup and let it simmer in the slow cooker while I tend to clearing off gardens and composting leaves.  But the project du jour is going to be a potato and leek tortilla.  Leeks should be harvested well after a frost to allow their natural sugars to develop.  The best way to test this is to make something delicious.  So, I guess our guests now know what will appear at the breakfast table at The Speckled Hen Inn tomorrow morning.

 

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.

Things To Do In Madison

March 1st, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck

Capitol Square in Madison Wisconsin

Wisconsin State Capitol Building

Folks who live in Madison, WI or who visited before know what a great city it is.  It seems like there is always something to do.  But visitors coming for the first time may not know what to do first so here is the list compiled by our staff at The Speckled Hen Inn.  There are the Top Ten Madison Experiences inside the city.  We will get to that long list of things to do, using Madison as a hub when you explore South Central Wisconsin, later.

  1. Take a tour of the Capitol.  Madison is the capital of Wisconsin and the building is truly a treasure.  Do take the tour because the wonderful guides know all those fun stories that bring life to the building and they also have the keys to all the locked doors that you will want to see behind.  Tours leave from the info desk in the rotunda every hour on the hour.  You will miss the school kiddies if you go late in the day.  Take the elevator to the 6th floor balcony for a bird’s eye view of Madison.  It is free, of course.
  2. Wander down State Street.  This is the pedestrian mall that connects the Capitol Square to the campus of the University of Wisconsin.  It’s a fantastic place for people watching and doing a bit of shopping.  Our favorite shops are the gift shop at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Little Luxuries, Tellus Mater, the Art Poster Shop and University Bookstore.  The little ethnic restaurants are wonderful too.
  3. Stroll through Olbrich gardens.  Our public gardens are nothing short of amazing for a city our size or for a city of any size.  There is a rose garden, a rock garden, herb garden and butterflies in the summer.  In the winter the structure of the gardens shine and provide a serene spot for a bit of exercise.  The indoor tropical dome will warm you to the core in the winter months.  Don’t miss the beautiful Thai Pavillion.  Everything but admission to the dome is free.
  4. You must have cheese.  Wisconsin is The dairy state so it would be unthinkable to not try our finest cheeses.  They are easy to find.  Fromagination on the Capitol Square is a great artisan cheese shop featuring many different Wisconsin cheeses.  Carr Valley cheese store in Middleton is goat, sheep, and cow’s milk cheese heaven.  Why, even most of our local grocery stores have a cheese counter devoted to just the WIsconsin cheeses.  Try, buy, and take some home with you.  You will be back for more.
  5. Visit the Memorial Union on the campus of the University of Wisconsin and have an ice cream cone for lunch.  The ice cream from the dairy at Babcock hall has a really high butter fat content that results in ice cream that is the smoothest and creamiest you will ever taste.  I think it is a meal all by itself.  Enjoy it on the Terrace overlooking the lake while listening to the musicians there and you have a memorable experience.
  6. Shop the Dane County Farmer’s Market.  It’s reported to be the largest true farmer’s market in the nation.  What is sold there has to be produced in Wisconsin and sold by the person who produced it  (let’s not quibble about tropical plants).  Every Saturday morning, rain or shine, year-round (check for location in the cold months) and again on Wednesday’s during the summer.  If fact, during the summer months there is a farmer’s market somewhere near Madison every single day of the week.  So, don’t despair if you can’t make it here on Saturday.
  7. Explore the Villas Zoo.  It is free, too.  Isn’t that amazing?  It is a great little zoo with much more than you would expect to find here.  Nice exhibits in great surroundings.  You can spend an hour or two here or the whole day.
  8. OK, this one will take a bit of advance planning.  Come go to a Concerts on the Square.  The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra plays on the steps of the Capitol building on Wednesday evenings for 6 weeks beginning the last week in June.  The music begins at 7:00 but guests start spreading their blankets on the capitol lawn around 3:00 for the largest picnic of summer.  This is the essence of summer in Madison.  Bring your own picnic or purchase a box supper from one of the vendors.
  9. UW-Madison Arboretum 11-03-2011 207Experience the UW Arboretum.  An Arboretum is a collection of plants rather than a garden and you will find a wide range of plant materials at the Arboretum.  The lilac collection in the Spring is amazing, a really fragrant experience.  The nature walks on a moonlit night in the winter are inspiring.  The natural diversity of grassy meadows, swamp, pine plantations, and the plant collections that the University has established combine to provide a great venue for biking , hiking, and exploration.
  10. Pedal your way around the city.  Madison is a very bike-friendly city.  A bike trail network connects all parts of the city.  Several local vendors provide bicycle rentals and not just some old clunkers either.  You can try out some of Trek’s latest developments at some rental places.  Just ask us for information.  City busses and Green Cabs have bike racks to help you out when the old legs are too tired to go another mile.  Many of the Wisconsin State Bicycle trails come very close to Madison too.

The Speckled Hen Inn in Madison, WI lists February events in the area

February 3rd, 2010 by Pat Fischbeck

There are many events in Madison Wisconsin this February that you will just not want to miss. 

  •  This coming weekend, February 6, is the big outdoor hockey event at Camp Randall stadium on the University of Wisconsin campus.  Will it be the largest crowd ever to watch a college hockey game?  The Badger women play at 2:00PM and the Hockey Badger men play at 6:00.  You will have to go to see how they created a level ice hockey rink on a very crested football field.
  • On February 11 Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love will be speaking at the Overture Center.  Her presentation is a part of the Wisconsin Book Festival.
  • Get ready for spring at the Midwest Garden Expo at the Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall.  Just catching the aroma of fresh dirt when you enter the building gets me in the mood to start planning and planting.  The show is February 12-14.  A great thing to add to your Valentine’s weekend celebration.
  • On February 19-21 all of Madison will be having a grand old time at Madison Winter Festival.  Enjoy all of Madison’s favorite winter activities and see how fast cross country skiers can move.  It’s downtown on the beautiful Wisconsin Capitol Square.
  • February 27 we will offer guests at The Speckled Hen Inn an extreme contrast in recommended activities.  On Saturday afternoon head on over to Middleton to Capital Brewery for the celebration of the release of this year’s Blonde Doppelbock (that’s a beer, folks!).  You can even try to catch a smoked chub (that’s a fish, folks) tossed from the roof of the brewery.  Have a rowdy good time and then completely switch gears when nighttime comes and head for the UW Arboretum for their nightwalk.  Hear the crunch of your boots in the snow and then stand perfectly still and listen for the great horned owls or just stargaze. Ahhh.  What a day!

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.