Friday, February 26, 2010

National Marionette Theatre Presents Hansel and Gretel this Saturday, February 27th

Sorry for the short notice, but I just learned of this special event. I have not seen this particular performance, but I have seen others and the National Marionette Theatre puts on an amazing show. NMT has not done a local show in quite some time – so check it out if you can!

The National Marionette Theatre presents two performances of Hansel and Gretel this Saturday, February 27th at 2:00 and 4:00 pm at the Hooker Dunham Theater in Brattleboro, VT.  Tickets are $10.  For  reservations and info call 802-254-9276

In their newest production, two master puppeteers, David and Peter Syrotiak, bring the most famous of the Brothers Grimm stories to life. Featuring exquisitely crafted marionettes, scrolling scenery and the beautiful music of Engelbert Humperdinck, Hansel and Gretel is sure to delight audiences of all ages!

National Marionette Theatre is one of the oldest continually running touring marionette theaters in the United States. Founded in 1967, this award-winning company has been entertaining and amazing audiences around the world for over forty years. The company specializes in adaptations of popular stories using marionettes as the performance medium. They travel with a fully self-contained theater complete with its own lighting and sound systems. The shows are suitable for family audiences of all ages.

David and Peter Syrotiak have been building and performing with the company since their teenage years. As the sons of artistic director David Syrotiak the two brothers have been around puppetry all their lives. Professionally they have over fifty years of combined performance experience between them. The two are dedicated to keeping the tradition of professional puppetry alive in the United States.

Just another one of the great local attractions that makes living and visiting our area so special! We hope to see you soon at the Inn at Valley Farms very soon!

The Inn at Valley Farms

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Maple Syrup Season Off to an Early Start in NH!

I know the groundhog saw his shadow just a few weeks ago predicting six more weeks of winter, but I think he just may have been off base this year! The start of the NH Maple Syrup season is the surest sign of Spring I know! Driving home last evening with my girls in the car, they both screeched out in unison as we passed our neighbors farm. What caused their melodious screeching was the sight of billowing steam from a tall stack tucked behind our neighbor’s barns – a sure sign that large vats of sap collected from area Sugar Maple trees are boiling away about to be turned into “liquid gold”.

Smoke billowing from the sugarhouse signals spring's approach. Our neighbors, The McGill family have been making maple syrup on their farm for generations and even today four generations participate in the making of the treasured liquid.  Known as Twin Spruce Farm, their farm (like most farms in our area) is quite diversified and dabbles in a vast number of farming activities including but not limited to raising dairy cattle, producing and selling square and round bale hay, cord wood, Christmas trees and wreaths, and of course, maple syrup production.

The McGill family manages several thousand maple taps each year, many of which are on maple trees in our own sugar bush. We encourage you to make a reservation at the Inn at Valley Farms during this special season so you can fully experience and enjoy the maple experience – walk our woodland walking trail and see the sap being gravity fed into collection tanks first hand. Then walk to the McGill’s sugar house to watch the gathered sap boiled into the golden sweet liquid, have a sinful taste right from the tap and of course have an opportunity to take some home to enjoy for months to come.

Since the McGill’s use sap from our trees in the process we exclusively use their syrup in our many delectable breakfast dishes here at the inn and also stock their syrup in a wide variety of sizes for guests to take home year round. There are many other sugar houses in our immediate area that offer tours and tastings during the maple syrup season as well. Take advantage of our current winter special, stay for a couple of days and tour several sugar houses to find your favorite!  We’ll be happy to give you a list of ours, just ask! One seasonal event of special notice is Stonewall Farm’s Annual Sap Gathering Contest scheduled for March 27th from 10-4pm in nearby Keene, NH. A unique event, fun for all ages. Don’t miss out, make your reservation today and create a special family memory.

Many of our  guests ask year round if they can go and see maple syrup being made not realizing that its production really only happens at a very special time of year. One never knows for sure when the maple sap will start to run or for how long as with most farming, it’s entirely weather dependent. For the sap to flow from the maple trees,  temperatures must be below freezing at night and above freezing during the day. It’s that freezing and thawing that draws the sap up into the trees. This differentiation of temperatures typically occurs in March so to have a run in February is truly a treat!

Mmmm... Good! My daughter Julia's first taste of warm maple syrup of the season! Do you think she likes it?
Of course all NH made pure maple syrup is delicious any time its eaten, but if you’ve never tasted maple syrup moments after it’s been made while it’s still warm… oh my, you’re in for a real treat! It truly is one of my very favorite things – something my family and I anxiously look forward to each spring. As we awoke this morning to snow flurries and threats of colder temperatures and continuous snow all week, I realize maybe I was a bit too eager in my hopes for Spring and that the groundhog may have been right after all!

The Inn at Valley Farms

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fedco Seed Order Complete!

Looking for heirloom vegetable and flower seeds? Organic seeds? Untreated seeds? New varieties? Detailed information on the history of a particular variety? It’s growth rate, taste, texture, viability compared to other similar varieties? Fedco is a seed cooperative (one of few seed cooperatives in the U.S.) located in northern Maine who sells cold-hardy varieties adapted to the northeast growing conditions. If you’re an avid gardener and have never seen this catalog, you’re in for a treat!

Submerging myself in the Fedco Seed catalog is without a doubt one of my very favorite wintertime activities! The catalog is a novel – there is so much information contained on its newsprint pages I once took a copy on a flight to Hawaii and back and didn’t finish reading it! I love reading the history on the heirloom varieties and the details and comparisons to other similar varieties. Fedco does not knowingly carry genetically engineered seed (GMO’s) and tests all of the corn varieties they sell for GMO’s. The catalog has a key telling what type of company grows each and every variety of seeds Fedco sells so you will not knowingly support a large conglomerate participating in genetic engineering. Another great feature – Fedco Seeds are not sold as “trendy designer seeds” – they’re sold in plain white paper envelopes without glossy pictures and are extremely reasonably priced even if you don’t buy in bulk. One of the packets of seeds I ordered this year cost a mere .70, before my volume discount!

Fedco encourages group orders to meet their generous volume discounts, which I did for the first time this year. I met with members of the Walpole Community Garden and our group total enabled everyone to get a 15% discount and free shipping. Meeting with fellow local gardeners gave us a chance to share left over seed from last year, stories of our past garden trials and tribulations and hopes and dreams for the upcoming growing season. The group order also gave me a deadline resulting in my earliest seed order on record! And a sense of accomplishment by checking off yet another thing off of my winter “to do” list!

You might wonder what seed catalogs, heirloom and organic seeds have to do with an Inn blog, but for those of you that have stayed with us during the growing season you know first hand we have extensive gardens. These gardens are a big part of the foundation of what we offer to our guests and absolutely add to their experience here even if they never walk through our many gardens. During the quieter, colder months of the year we plan and conspire to grow as much as we possibly can to use in our decadent three course candlelight breakfasts served in the inn. Our garden bounty is also available to our cottage guests if they choose to cook during their stay with us.

Many of our guests, although they appreciate and may even regularly purchase local and/or organic foods, have never pulled carrots right from the ground let alone seen a purple, white, yellow or red carrot.  They have never tasted Swiss chard or kale or an heirloom tomato much less had a taste test right in the middle of a garden – you can’t get any fresher or delicious than that!  An experience you’ll not soon forget. We encourage you to visit us throughout the growing season to enjoy our gardens at their many stages. We look forward to seeing you and sharing our wonderful bounty with you.

The Inn at Valley Farms