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Posts Tagged ‘Madison WI’

Best Biking in Madison WI

September 16th, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

Guests at The Speckled Hen Inn on Bicycles

Explore Madison by Bike

It’s true!  This is the time of year to enjoy the best biking in Madison WI.

The time of the year has finally come in Madison, Wisconsin that you can go for a bike ride without worrying if it’s going to be too hot and humid for a comfortable ride. Madison has one of the most complete system of bike trails in the state, they are easy to use and they well maintained. If you are in the market for a new bike or need to get the old one tunes up, Madison also has some of the most reputable bike sales and maintenance shops.

As a newcomer to Madison, it doesn’t take long to discover Madisonians infinite love for the bicycle. Throughout the city you see people running, walking and biking on the complex system of paths throughout the city. Despite the size of Madison, there is a bike route that will get you nearly anywhere you desire. Yes, it makes it easier to navigate through heavy traffic, it definitely saves money on gas and is a great form of exercise, too. But even more than that, it gives a lens to Madison that you just can’t get in the car. Just as in any other large city where the culture is found on foot, the culture of Madison is found on the bike trails. Some of the best restaurants, shops and parks are found via the bicycle making it a do-not-miss adventure for any visitor.

 

Before you head out to discover this great city, you want to make sure that you have all of the right equipment for the venture. Whether you want new, used or rented, there are a couple of places that can get you exactly what you need. For easy access to a trail, Machinery Row Bicycles is right on the bike trail along scenic Lake Monona. Their shop is one of the largest in Madison meaning they almost always have whatever you might need. Don’t let their size fool you though. They have always given professional, personalized service every time I’ve been there.

 

Revolution Cycles is a small shop that will get you the bike you want whether that be a brand new bike, a custom made bike or one made from recycled parts and materials. From my experience, they consistently exceed customer service expectations with product, Professionalism, and kindness.

 

 

The guests of the Speckled Hen Inn have the utmost advantage. We are located just off of the Madison bike trail system giving you access to nearly every location within Madison from our front door. In addition to that, we are also near a trail leading to Sun Prairie, a small neighboring community within the greater Dane County with access to additional bike trails. Come relax at the inn and soak yourself in a jacuzzi bath after discovering one of the great joys of Madison; our bicycles.

 

Civil War Sites in Madison WI

August 27th, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

As we are in the midst of the sesquicentenial years of the American Civil War, we have had a number of recent guests inquiring about Civil War Sites in Madison WI.  Many people are very surprised to learn that there are a number of Civil War Sites in Madison and there are a few that we pass quite frequently.

While reading through my grandparents autobiographies, I’m reminded of how fortunate I am that my family has remained dedicated to preserving our history. One of the many pieces of information that I found was that my great grandfather was a member of Sherman’s Army on their famous “March to the Sea” contributing crucial victories to the northern cause. Not only did it create an interest in the experiences and battles of Sherman’s Army, but also in finding out more about the Civil War, itself. Why? Because regardless of your position regarding the war, it has turned into one of the most defining moments in the history of the United States.

Camp Randall Arch

Camp Randall Arch

So, you might be asking, “What does this have to do with Madison, Wisconsin?” I am sure you will be shocked to know that Madison has a great deal of Civil War connections and historical sites. For example, Camp Randall, the stadium of the Badger football team, played an integral part for the Union Army. It was named after Alexander Randall, governor of Wisconsin at the beginning of the war and was a training facility for over 70,000 Union soldiers, a Union hospital and eventually a prison for 1300 Confederate soldiers.

The people of Wisconsin didn’t  just train and send their soldiers off to war; they also set aside distinct areas for their fallen soldiers. The local cemeteries provide constant reminders of Wisconsin’s dedication to the war efforts. One of the many is Forrest Hill Cemetery where many of those tho passed while at Camp Randall hospital are buried. You will also find the graves of 8 children orphaned during the war and several of the deceased Confederate soldiers that were held in the prison camp.

While you are visiting the Speckled Hen Inn there is another veteran cemetery destined to be on your itinerary. The Token Creek Conservancy and cemetery houses the graves of several Civil War soldiers in addition to soldiers and veterans of other wars. Since it is a short ride down the road, it is a convenience place to visit when working on a tight schedule.

In addition to the abundant Civil War structures Madison has to offer, another favorite place to visit is the Wisconsin Veterans Museum where you can find some of the most eclectic Civil War memorabilia.  Although the exhibit is small in scale, it focuses on the fundamental concept that led to a Union victory. Total War, a war tactic that reduces all civil limitations, was the hope that kept the soldiers fighting and has become known as, “The Last Full Measure”. This was Wisconsin’s decision to concentrate all energies (human and industrial) to winning what seemed an unwinnable war. The exhibit includes everything from gifts between soldiers for honorable acts during battle to grave markers, camp utensils, uniforms and medals.

Best Outdoor Dining in Madison WI

August 21st, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

Our guests at The Speckled Hen Inn often ask us to recommend a venue for the Best Outdoor Dining in Madison WI.  It’s a tough call because every year the list of possibilities grows.  Here are just a few of our favorites for the best outdoor dining in Madison WI that are pretty close to the Inn.

doolittles-woodfire-grillSummer vacations consist of lazy days: tanning on the beach, shopping down the boulevard, hiking through the woods or maybe even taking in some biking around town. To finish off the day, there is nothing better than a delicious dinner out. The problem? You have to make the choice about where to go and, considering the overabundance of Madison’s restaurants, that can be an intimidating decision. As a person that loves food, patio dining and well, food, let me shed some light on the subject. Madison offers some of the best dining Wisconsin can offer and many of them have outdoor seating allowing you to continue your Madison experience throughout the evening.

Of all the restaurants that Madison has to offer, the very first patio I would check out is the Ale Asylum.  Whether you are there for dinner or beer tasting, the atmosphere won’t disappoint. Where do you start? Beer. Given that it is one of the many local breweries in the Madison area, it has an assortment of craft brews including a delicious, thick porter, an IPA hopped to perfection and a smooth pale ale. With beer in hand, you can begin to scan the menu. It may not be extensive but they’ve taken great care to give a variety of quality appetizers and entrée’s.

If something more quaint is what you are looking for, Erin’s Snug Irish Pub might be your place.  While dining in one of the most prominent Irish pubs in Madison, you will not be disappointed by their traditional Irish fare. Every day, both new visitors and regular patrons relish in the robust flavors of Shepherds Pie and Erin’s infamous Guinness Stew. One of my favorite features of this restaurant is that, between the atmosphere and staff, everyone is made to feel like they are at home among friends.

Want a little history with your meal? Doolittle’s Woodfire Grill abounds in historic details throughout the restaurant. Located near the East Town Mall, it is a convenient destination but that’s just the beginning. The patio dining area was created with comfort as the primary concern spacing the luxury furniture for optimal relaxation. Much of the food here at Doolittle’s is cared for by quality professionals and cooked to perfection by rotisserie. How are the barbeque ribs? Falling off the bone. How about the prime rib? It melts in your mouth. And the list goes on and on through the remainder of the menu. Yes, this is the perfect place to finish a long day of fun in the sun or shopping until you drop.

It is nice to know that no matter what kind of food and atmosphere you are in the mood for, you can find it within a short drive from the Speckled Hen Inn.

 

Where to go Hiking near Madison WI

August 13th, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

Are you wondering where to go hiking near Madison WI?  We have some great suggestions for you.

Where could there possibly be hiking in the Madison area? When people visit Madison, they expect the urban landscape of the university, the well-known restaurants gleamed about in magazines and the water sports the Madison lakes provide. One aspect that is often overlooked is the wide variety of best walking and hiking trails enjoyed by thousands every year.

Where to go hiking near Madison WI

Devil’s Lake State Park

 

 

One of the best-known and highly anticipated hiking spots is a short drive to Devils Lake.  Whether you are a novice or advanced hiker, you will find trails to fit your experience level and remarkable beauty in the views here. The glaciers that dominated most of the Wisconsin landscape left rare geologic formations such as this for us to enjoy. From high peaked bluffs and rocky outcrops to grotto’s and wooded landscape, Devils Lake truly has everything to offer with trails ranging from .1 miles to 13.7 miles. After you have enjoyed your hike, you can save the afternoon for a cool down in the lake or even rent a boat or canoe.

 

For those that don’t have the entire day to spend out frolicking in the woods but still want to get some nature-time in, Madison also offers some shorter trails within its urban scenery. For example, Lakeshore Nature Preserve of the University of Wisconsin offers a variety of excursions that can be tailored to fit your desires. One of the possibilities is a favorite of Madisonians, Picnic Point.  It’s a short 1-mile walk on a peninsula out to the beautiful scenery of Lake Mendota where you can sit and enjoy the view or you can continue with your walk and add a few of the other preserve destinations to your route.

Here at the Speckled Hen Inn, the soft petals of the blossoming flowers, the blooming orchards and the thriving gardens are beckoning for you to come walking down our trails as well. Within our property, there are several trails that will accommodate a short stroll around the acreage including trails leading to Stark Weather Creek. We have the privilege of keeping our property private, which gives greater promise of wildlife viewing.

As you can see, even though we are nearing the end of summer, there is still time for some relaxation. Now is the perfect time to get one more trip in before the first day of school. There is plenty left to see, especially in the great outdoors of Wisconsin.

Hiking at Devil's Lake near Madison, WI

Hiking High above Devil’s Lake

hiking at Devil's Lake State Park near Wisconsin Dells and Madison, WI

View from the Bluff at Devil’s Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Happening in Madison WI at The Speckled Hen Inn

May 2nd, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

Katahdin lamb at The Speckled Hen Inn

I’m lookin’ at you lookin’ at me!

Check out what’s happening  in Madison WI at The Speckled Hen Inn right now. Our little flock of Katahdin Hair Sheep attract a lot of attention especially at this time of year when the new little lambs are so much fun to watch.  We have 8 little lambs this year and there is a video of them with their moms on our Facebook page. The first question that most folks ask is ,” What are those animals in the pasture? Are they goats?”  No, they are sheep but they are a different kind of sheep than you usually see.  Katahdin Hair Sheep are a breed that was developed in the 1950’s by a fellow from Maine whose goal was to develop a breed of sheep that didn’t require shearing.  He imported some African Hair sheep from St Croix, Virgin Islands and crossed them with several wool producing breeds.  In addition to not requiring an annual shearing his goal was to produce vigorous animals that didn’t require a lot of maintenance.  We think that he succeeded. Guests frequently ask us what we do with the wool.  Well first, it isn’t wool.  It is hair and it is a pretty coarse fiber, similar to the hair on a German Shepherd dog.  It is too coarse to spin to make yarn although it is possible to make pressed felt from the fiber.  The sheep will begin shedding as soon as the weather begins to warm up in the spring and they will rub against the fence posts and anything else they can find, including each other, to get rid of that itchy coat.  We do not collect the hair that they shed but we often see birds pick it up to build their nests.   It makes it easy to spot those nests in the fall when the trees lose their leaves.  What the birds leave on the ground quickly disappears when we mow the pastures. It is also standard not to dock the tails of Katahdin sheep.  They may also be any color.  Our flock has white, tan, and thanks to the introduction of a brown ram last fall, brown sheep.  Some of this springs’ lambs have patches of color.  It will be interesting to see if this changes as they mature. Katahdin sheep frequently have twins or even triplets after their first lambing and lambing for Katahdin sheep is nothing like the tales in James Harriot’s books.  Our ewes just go off to a quiet corner of the pasture and give birth without any assistance from humans.  The only problem we ever seem to encounter is that Mom will occasionally forget where she left the first lamb when she gives birth to a second one.  We sometimes need to intervene to get the family back together.  The ewes and lambs rely on scent to identify each other.

Sheep and Lambs at The Speckled Hen Inn

Katahdin Hair Sheep at The Speckled Hen Inn

The best rooms at the Inn for watching the lambs in the pasture are The Starkweather Creek Room, The Token Creek Room and the Rising Sun Room but no matter what room you choose, you are always welcome to stand by the pasture fence and let the sheep work their soothing magic on you.  “Hoppy Hour”, just before sunset seems to be the time that the lambs are most active and entertaining.  They play tag and chase each other around the pasture until their moms call a halt to the foolishness.  You can’t help but smile as you watch.

Wisconsin Wildflowers at The Speckled Hen Inn

April 7th, 2013 by Pat Fischbeck

In spring the native Wisconsin wildflowers at the Speckled Hen Inn are amazing.  The property has a wide range of growing conditions from the hillside covered with oak, hickory and hackberry trees to the marshy grasslands that border the banks of Starkweather Creek.  Spring has finally arrived in Madison Wisconsin so the snow is slowly melting into the earth and soon we will be marveling at how quickly things seem to pop up.

Wildflowers at The Speckled Hen Inn in Madison WI

Bloodroot Blooming at The Speckled Hen Inn

One of the very first wildflowers we expect to see are the Bloodroots.  I’ll notice little clusters of white flowers on the hillside in the wooded areas.  If you break the stem on the flower, you will see where it gets it’s name.  The red-orange sap is quite bright.  There is a nice cluster of these that are really happy to be a part of one of the flower beds just outside my office window.  The soil must be pretty fertile there because these are always quite a bit larger than the ones up in the woods.  The flowers open fully on a sunny day and close at night or if it is really cloudy.  Sometimes I will notice tiny little black bees collecting the pollen from the flowers.  The length of time that the flowers last depends largely on the weather.  If it is cool, they will stick around for a couple of weeks.  The clusters of leaves last much longer.  But, eventually they just disappear into the overall carpet of green.

The next wildflowers we will notice come quickly.  Suddenly we will notice Spring Beauties, May Apples, Bell Wort, and Jack in the Pulpits popping up everywhere in the woods.

May Apple wildflowers at the Speckled hen Inn in Madison WI

Emerging May Apples at The Speckled Hen Inn

The May apples will look like little green thumbs poking up out of the ground when we first notice them and than before you know it you will notice and entire bed of little green umbrellas.  Under the umbrella there will be a single white flower that will develop  into the “apple”.  Large areas of the woodland floor are covered with patches of these plants.

Not all of our wildflowers are welcome even though they may be pretty.  We have to battle the invasion of garlic mustard and dame’s rocket just like most of our neighbors.  We try to encourage the native wildflowers to flourish and ban the non-native flowers that threaten to overtake the native guys.  It is a never ending battle although every year we hake a little progress.

The very first wildflowers we discovered on the property are the State Wildflower of Wisconsin.  Soon after we purchased the land we were exploring the areas along the un-named creek and found several clusters of wild violets.  We have, since that time, found them all over the property.  The seem to have a pretty good tolerance for a wide variety of growing conditions because we find them in the dry shade on our wooded hillside and also mixed with the wild sedges along the creeks.  They thrive in my rock garden.

Trillium wildflowers in bloom at The Speckled hen Inn in Madison WI

Trillium at The Speckled Hen Inn

 

Madison’s Top 10 Things to do in Fall and Winter

October 26th, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck

Yahara Channel in Winter

The Yahara River in Winter

Madison Wisconsin is a lovely place for a spring or summer getaway but don’t forget just how charming this city can be in the cooler, even frigidly cold, months of the year.  Here is a list of the top or first 10 things that the innkeepers at The Speckled Hen Inn recommend to their visiting guests.

1.   The Dane County Farmers Market  The largest producer-only farmers market in the nation is a year-round affair.  In mid-November the market moves indoors to the Monona Terrace Convention Center and then after Christmas you can visit the market at the Mifflin Street Senior Center.  You will be amazed at the bounty of the market while the gardens sleep.  The markets just before Christmas are a wonderful source of supplies for decorating, gift-giving and holiday feasts.

2.   Madison’s Restaurant Scene  Creative chefs, farm-fresh ingredients, and the quirky spirit of Madison combine to present a dazzling variety and abundance of really fine eateries.  Visit one of the tiny ethnic cafes on State Street or one of the big boys with stars after their name and you will be very well fed.  This is why we always ask guests what they want to eat before we start recommending restaurants.  Guests could starve to death before we get to the end of the list of Madison’s great places to eat.  A favorite dining scene for us is a window seat at a restaurant on the capitol square on a snowy evening.  It’s pure magic.

3.   University of Wisconsin Campus  UW keeps things lively in the winter seasons with their sports and cultural offerings.  Take in a basketball or hockey game, men’s and women’s for both.  The Hall of Fame in the Kohl’s center is worth a visit even if the team is on the road.  Recitals, concerts, and theater really get going in the winter months and Sunday afternoon at the Chazen Museum is a seasonal delight.  Stroll through the galleries while listening to the live music performed in the atrium.  That famous ice-cream is available all year round at Babcock Hall or the Memorial Union.

4. State Street  Madison’s well-known pedestrian mall that connects the capitol square with the UW campus is always a lively place to enjoy a cup of coffee, ethnic dining, or browsing the bookstores, boutiques and galleries.  During the holiday season it twinkles with thousands of white lights.  State Street Posters is one of our favorites and is the source of much of the art work in the Madison Lakes room at the Inn.

5.  University of Wisconsin Arboretum  1,200 acres of nature right in the center of the city provide residents and guests with ample space to walk off some of that fine dining.  The prairie and woodland areas and Lake Wingra attract abundant wildlife.  Occasional night-walks conducted by the naturalists on staff introduce participants to the wonders of nature that we seldom experience during our daylight encounters with the world.  Can you identify an owl by its hoot?

6.  Madison’s City and County Parks  Golf, picnics, and tennis give way to sledding, skating and skiing in the coldest months.  Most parks remain open in the winter and are a great spot for walking and admiring the city without the crowds of summer.  The lakeside parks are occasionally decorated with nature-made ice sculptures and the ice-fishing huts on the lakes themselves are, at the very least, a photo-op that proves how crazy those folks in Madison really can be.

7.   The Lakes  There are 5 of them here.  Two of the largest are right in the center of the city and we managed to just squeeze the downtown area between them and then spread the rest of the city around the perimeter of them.  What is more relaxing than watching the sunset across the water?  Hearty fishermen bobbing about in their boats under the sometimes stormy fall skies amaze us.  Ice boats flying across the frozen lakes are awesome.  Locals judge the ‘coldness’ of the day by the width of the open water under the Yahara River bridge on the Beltline Highway.  The waterfowl there are beautiful.

8.  A Wright Place  Frank Lloyd Wright spent much of his youth in Madison and designed a Convention Center that was the inspiration for the one that the city actually constructed years after his death.  Wright also designed the Unitarian Society Meeting House, which is open for tours, and several area homes.  A concert at the Unitarian Society Meeting House is a treat for the senses.

9.   Wisconsin State Capitol  It’s simply a must see.  The architecture, the art, the history, or even the grandeur would be reason enough to go.  Tours are free and leave on the hour from the visitor info desk in the rotunda.  The tour guides have the keys to take you into the Supreme Court, The Legislative Chambers, and the Governor’s Conference Room but most importantly, they know all those fun little stories that bring the building to life.  Before the holidays local choral groups perform around the holiday tree in the rotunda.  The tree is lovely as it rises up three or more stories high and the acoustics of the performing musicians will give you goose bumps.

Overture Center in Madison WI

10.   Madison Civic Center  This is the Cesar Pelli designed home of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and the Overture Center for the Performing Arts.  It seems like there is always something going on.  The museum has rotating and visiting nationally acclaimed exhibits (and a very nice gift shop).  The Overture Center hosts everything from Broadway Shows, The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and opera to brown bag lunch performances.

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.

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.