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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 Cheese Curds Scramble

January 23rd, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

Our Wisconsin Cheese Curds Scramble was inspired by a recipe from the Spring Green General Store in Spring Green Wisconsin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA8 large eggs

½ cup half and half

2 Tablespoons butter

1 ½ cups Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese Curds

4 pieces of sun dried tomato diced

1 Tablespoon fresh dill chopped or 1 teaspoon of dried dill weed

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Baby Spinach leaves

Sautéed Asparagus

Toasted Beer Bread

 

Break or chop the cheese curds into ½ inch pieces and set aside.

In a blender combine the eggs and half and half.  In a ten-inch non-stick skillet melt the butter over medium low heat.  Add the egg mixture, tomato, dill, salt and pepper.  Stir the eggs and scramble them until they just begin to set.  Add the cheese curds and continue stirring.  When the eggs are done remove from the heat.  The goal is to have barely melted cheese curds at the point that the eggs have completed cooking.

To serve make a “nest” of baby spinach leaves in the center of 4 plates.  Arrange the sautéed asparagus over the spinach and the top with the scrambled eggs.  Add triangles of toasted beer bread to the plate and serve.  Serves 4.

Where to Celebrate an Anniversary in Madison WI

January 17th, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

Bubbly and fireplaceAre you wondering where to celebrate an Anniversary in Madison, WI?  I have an idea for you.

Yes, by all means, do the traditional celebration dinner at your favorite special occasion restaurant in Madison Wisconsin (we will be happy to suggest one, if you don’t have a favorite).  Then bring the love of your life to The Speckled Hen Inn Bed and Breakfast for a special Anniversary Getaway evening.  Select one of the guest rooms with a king-sized bed dressed with soft fine linens, a romantic fireplace, and a relaxing jetted tub.  The intimate setting of the Inn allows you to experience a romantic escape without the required time and hassles of travel.  And you can actually celebrate on the date of your Anniversary rather than waiting for a weekend to get away.  The Inn is located just outside the city of Madison on 50 acres of woodlands, wetlands, and gardens surrounding the Inn.  Awake after a refreshing sleep to a magnificent breakfast expertly prepared just for the two of you featuring items from the Inns’ gardens and other local producers.  We will be happy to accommodate any special dietary needs.

Mention that you read this posting when you make your reservation and you will find a well chilled bottle of bubbly waiting in your room when you arrive for your special evening.  Flowers, chocolates, and other goodies are available upon request and for a minimal additional charge.  Just give us a call (608-244-9368) to discuss the ways that we can make your upcoming Anniversary Celebration truly unique and special.

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 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.

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.

Photo of Downtown Madison Wisconsin

April 21st, 2010 by Pat Fischbeck

The Twins

Downtown Madison is one of the prettiest, most romantic, places a person will ever see.  The lighted capitol dome pictured here ,is like the centerpiece of a bountiful banquet table.

WBBA Cookbook is Here

December 11th, 2009 by Pat Fischbeck

The new Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast Association cookbooks, with The Speckled Hen Inn on the front cover are here and ready to wrap up for Christmas.  We have a good supply at the Inn and will hold one for you to pick up at the Inn or we can also ship them to you.

The cookbook is more than just the recipes that have been contributed by over 150 different Wisconsin B&B’s.  It could even be used as a travel guide because there is information about each B&B that submitted a recipe and there are lots of fun facts about the food scene in Wisconsin.

The contents are not just focused on Breakfast, although there is a wonderful array of breakfast dishes.  There are appetizers, soups, luncheon and dinner entrees and marvelous deserts.

 

It is a fun read and a great gift for the foodies or cookbook collectors on your Christmas list.