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April 11, 2022

Diary of a Mad Chick Mom

I grew up on a farm, so intellectuallyI knew that young chickens can be high maintenance and grow up into messy adults.  But when Jack suggested we get chickens, all I could seem to think of was cute little balls of fluff.

So we journeyed to the Smoky Mountain Farmers Co-op to select our little flock.  There are seemingly endless varieties of chicks.  http://Www.starmilling.com We chose three French Marans (black) and three Wellsummers (brown).  We named them Quiche, Omelet, Benedict, Scrambled, Poached and Hazel.  Why didn’t Hazel get an egg-dish for a name?  Because she quickly set herself apart as you will soon understand.

The Chicks Come Home

On the drive home I held the box of chicks on my lap.  They were all cheeping contentedly, except for Hazel, who complained loudly the entire trip.  We had a cozy brooder set up for them in our garden shed with soft bedding, a heater, water and chick feed.  The minute I set them in their new home, five of the chicks began exploring.  The sixth chick, Hazel, began flying at the other chicks, trying to peck their eyes out.  To my horror, I watched the other chicks try to hide behind Omelet, who had a large, bleeding gash beneath one eye, as Hazel flung herself at them again and again.

At about that time our poultry mentors, Jonathan and Morgan, arrived to see our new birds.  None of their chicks had ever been set on destruction like Hazel seemingly was.  They promptly dubbed her the Murder Chicken.

Hazel is the chick missing from this photograph.

Chicks are very cute when they are little.

I couldn’t let Hazel blind my entire flock so I did the only thing I could think of—I put her into solitary confinement.  Her cell was a cardboard box with bedding, food and water.  I put it near the heater so she could stay warm.  Hazel was very unhappy and kept flinging herself at the walls of her jail.  I assumed she would soon calm down.  So we left the brooder.  And  Jack left for a business trip to Chicago leaving me in charge of our little chicks.  I did some research and found that chicks sometimes mistake the eyes of other chicks for bugs and try to peck them.  Thankfully, they seem to grow out of this phase quickly.

The next morning Hazel was still disconsolate.  She had not calmed down.  By the amount of bedding in her water, it seemed as though she had been throwing herself at the walls all night long.  I cautiously returned her to the general population.  I watched for a long time, and she did not attack any of her brooder mates.  Perhaps everything was fine and dandy in Chick World?  It was not.

Chick Spa Setup for Hazel

When I checked on them in the afternoon, I noticed something odd about Hazel’s profile.  Again I turned to the internet and found that stress can cause a condition that the English call “Pasty Bum”.  Basically stress upsets their little digestive tracts and makes the chick’s droppings pasty.  The dropping  then clog the chick’s elimination vent.  Without care, they will die within a few days.  Oh dear.

I read about caring for this condition.  I didn’t like what I read, so I read some more.  Finally I realized there was nothing to do but follow the recommended protocol.  I held Hazel’s little bottom under a gentle stream of warm water and used a soft cloth to clean her backside.  I dried her with a fluffy towel.  And then I used my hair dryer set on low to dry her fluff.  It takes a surprising long time to dry a chick, so I had plenty of time to think.  My thoughts ran along the lines of “I used to be a CEO of a $40 million organization.  I used to attend galas and cocktail parties.  And now I am spending my evening blow drying a chick’s bottom.”

Apparently this is not a one and done treatment.  So Hazel and I developed a routine.  When I walked into the shed I could almost hear her groan.  She would try to evade me, but once caught would quietly submit to my ministrations.  Day two involved a sitz bath in one of my grandmother’s berry bowls.  By day three I was able to clean her with a wet cloth and apply the tiniest bit of Crisco to her vent with a cotton swab.

After a week of daily cleanings, Hazel was finally back to normal.  And Jack was back from Chicago.  I was eager to show him how much the chicks had grown.  He looked at them and said “Now that we are good at raising chickens, maybe we should get some goats.”  ???????!!!!!!!!!!

April 1, 2022

The Chicken or the Egg? The Chicken!

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  Well here at Buckhorn Inn, the answer is the chicken!  We are starting our own little flock of laying hens.  While we can’t produce enough eggs to satisfy the needs of our kitchen, we will be using our own eggs in your breakfast dishes and baked goods.

A happy, healthy chick grows into a healthy chicken.

Thanks to Brian David for the picture of these healthy and happy chicks.

We will be picking up our chicks from the Farmers Co-op this Saturday.  We are looking for a sturdy breed and will take our pick from the newly hatched chicks.  Baby chicks are so darn cute that I will have to exercise self-restraint…otherwise I will come home with all of them!

We have a brooder set up with a heat source to keep the chicks warm and safe for their first six weeks or so.  Then they will be transferred to our new coop.  Our coop will be outfitted with roosts, nesting boxes, food and water dispensers, and an outdoor yard.  Hmm, a bed and breakfast for chickens?  

I also plan to try out a technique I have read about:  Placing a few herb sprigs in each nesting box.  Aromatherapy for my flock?  Maybe!  But I have read that herbs may help discourage flies and mites.  And some herbs may act as laying stimulants.    So I will try some rosemary, basil and mint sprigs and let you know how the girls like them! 

Perfect Poached Eggs

In anticipation of all of those fresh eggs, here is a technique for perfect poached eggs.  You can find a video of Alton Brown poaching eggs on http://Www.food network.com

Heat enough water to be 1 inch deep in your pan.  Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 2 teaspoons white vinegar.  Bring water to a simmer over medium heat.  Crack a large, fresh, cold egg into a ramekin.  Use a spoon to stir the simmering water in one direction until it is spinning smoothly.  Carefully drop the egg into the middle of the “whirlpool” you have created.  Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and wait for 5 minutes.  Lift out the egg with a slotted spoon and serve immediately.

 

January 18, 2022

Planning the Buckhorn Inn Vegetable Garden 2022

As I write this, I am engaged in one of

Even a small vegetable garden can grow a wide variety of crops.

Careful planning helps to ensure a successful vegetable harvest.

my favorite activities—planning next season’s vegetable garden!  The brightly colored seed catalogs have begun arriving, tempting me to order old favorites and experiment with new varieties.

My first step in deciding what to grow is to consult with the Buckhorn Inn chefs.  Chef Frank provides key input on herbs that compliment his dishes and on vegetables he can showcase in soups and side dishes.  Chef Bob is a gardener himself, and so we coordinate our efforts.  Bob is well-known for the luscious heirloom tomato varieties he grows—in fact my mouth is watering just thinking about his lovely summer omelets!  We try to grow herbs and veggies that have the biggest impact in the Buckhorn kitchen.  We don’t want to repeat the mistake I made when Jack and I married and planted our first vegetable garden together.  I was perusing the seed catalog and asked Jack if he thought we should grow parsnips.  Thinking I must like them, Jack replied in the affirmative.  Thinking he must like them, I ordered the seeds.  We have never to this day grown anything that produced as well as those parsnips.  We harvested a bushel basket from our small garden.  As it turned out, neither of us cared for parsnips!  Our friends and neighbors were the recipients of our garden’s parsnips bounty.

Potential New Finds for the Vegetable Garden

As I leaf through the new Burpee catalog, here are some finds that are most intriguing.  http://Www.burpee.com. `
Mocha Swirl Hybrid Sweet Pepper—they ripen from green and white to a rich chocolate-red.  The compact plants would be perfect for our raised bed garden.  The Golden Egg Hybrid Summer Squash promises succulent flavor from the golden-yellow zucchini.  `Everleaf Thai Towers basil is container-friendly and grows up to 3 feet tall.  Kentucky Blue Pole Beans always do well for us.  Last year we also grew asparagus beans.  The 18” long pods have a delicious nutty flavor.  Kale is popular at the Inn for garden greens omelets, soups, and vegetable sautées.  We likely will grow a variety again this year.  Perhaps Dazzling Blue, Red Russian, and Tuscan kale.  We are saving space for some lettuce, so you can pick a few leaves as you go by to feed Bubble and Squeak!  Of course we will grow okra.  It is an ornamental plant, and we love Chef Frank’s fried okra as an accompaniment to a southern fish with remoulade sauce dish!  We had best success with Go Big, which produces flavorful dark-green 7” long pods.

In our veranda her pots we typically grow basil, chives, cilantro, mint, parsley, rosemary, and sage.  This year we may also grow borage for their edible flowers and lemon verbena to flavor fish dishes.

Decisions, decisions!  When you visit, please let us know what you are planning to grow in your garden!

January 10, 2022

Snow at Buckhorn Inn? Yes!!!

Have you seen Buckhorn Inn in the snow?  It is a magical sight.  Just imagine walking the nature trail as snow crunches under your boots. The quiet beauty is overwhelming.  Then you return to your cottage, warm yourself in front of the fire, and venture out again for dinner at the Inn.  

The Best Time to See Snow

Our elevation (about 1,280) can get as much as nine inches of snow a year.  While it is very rare, we occasionally have gotten snow in late October and in early April.  According to the National Park Service, snow is most likely in January and in February.  While the weather may warm and it may melt rapidly in town, you will still be able to see the fluffy white stuff in the higher elevations.  In fact, Newfound Gap (at 5,049 in elevation) can get as much as 69 inches of snowfall each year.  Nearly every trail will feature beautiful winter views, but some of the best are in the higher elevations, like Chimney Tops and Alum Cave trail.  The Gatlinburg CVB provides information on all things fun and snowy!  http://Www.gatlinburg.com

Be Prepared

Please be aware that our curving mountain roads can become slick and hazardous during and after snowstorms.  If it is a heavy snowfall, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park may close its entrances.  However, the entrances are usually closed to car traffic only.  We are close enough for you to walk to the Greenbrier entrance and enjoy a snowy hike.  All local businesses are concerned for the safety of their employees.  If employees are unable to safely drive to work, service may be slower than usual or some businesses may be closed.  Our area thanks you for your patience!

Winter is a lovely time to enjoy the Buckhorn Inn and our surrounding area.  And if you are lucky, you will enjoy a bit of snow!

When East Tennessee gets snow, the scene is magical.

Guest Kristin Shultz captured the beauty of a winter day at Buckhorn Inn.

January 25, 2021

To-may-to or To-mah-to: Thinking Tomatoes for the Garden

Tomatoes come in so many varieties.

Tomatoes are delicious and have wonderful health benefits.

It may be January, but the garden catalogs are full of photos of ripe, lush, delicious tomatoes!  We are deciding which varieties to grow in the Buckhorn Inn gardens this summer.  Looking at all the types of tomatoes got us wondering about this garden staple.

Tomatoes are actually the berries of the plant Solanum lycopersicum.  Food historians believe that the species originated in South and Central America.  Tomatoes were first cultivated for food by the Aztecs of Mexico.  The Spanish encountered the tomato  when they conquered the Aztec Empire.  They brought the tomato back to Europe.  The popularity of the fruit spread to European colonies worldwide in the 16th century.

The tomato is very versatile and can be used raw in salads or cooked for sauces and soups.  Tomato juice is a popular beverage.  Even green tomatoes are delicious breaded and fried.  They are also used in salsa and gazpacho.  I recently learned that tomatoes are best kept unwashed at room temperature.  In the refrigerator they quickly lose their flavor.

Tomatoes Are Health Powerhouses

A tomato is only 22 calories, but is full of nutrients with a variety of health benefits.  One tomato provides about 40% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C.  It also supplies vitamin A, vitamin K, and potassium.  Their red color comes from the antioxidant lycopene which is tied to heart benefits and may support vision.  And finally the liquid and fiber in the tomato may boost digestive health.  http://www.health.com

New Jersey selected the tomato as their state vegetable.  Arkansas was more determined to be botanically correct and named the South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato both its state fruit and its state vegetable!  Tomato juice became the official drink of Ohio in 1965.  

Be sure to watch this space for the final decisions on what we will be planting for the Buckhorn Inn kitchen!

September 21, 2020

Appreciating Petrichor In Any Season

Are you familiar with petrichor?  This is the earthy smell produced when rain falls.  The word comes from the Greek petros, stone, and ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in mythology.  Scientists speculate that humans enjoy the scent of rain because our ancestors may have relied on rainy weather for survival.

Most people find petrichor to be very pleasurable.

Rain releases a fresh, earthy scent.

Surprisingly, this common smell was not given a name until a scientific paper written in 1964.  The authors described how the smell comes from an oil exuded by plants in dry weather.  The oil is absorbed by clay-based soils.  When it rains, the oil is released into the air along with another compound, geosmin.  Geosmin is a byproduct of certain bacteria and is released from wet soil.

Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology used high-speed cameras in 2015 to record how smells move in the air.  When a raindrop lands on a porous surface, air from the pores forms small bubbles.  These bubbles release aerosols which carry the scent.  Petrichor is more common after light rains because raindrops that move more slowly produce more aerosols.  

If the rain is a heavy one, the scent can travel downwind and alert people that rain is on the way.  Farmers often talk about smelling rain in the air.

Petrichor Described Poetically

Scientist T.L. Phipson described the phenomena in somewhat more poetic terms in 1865.  His notes refer to “the fragrance emitted by thousands of flowers . . .” that were “absorbed into the pores of the soil” and only released by rain.   

This poem by Jayde E is entitled Petrichor.

The scent of rain on dry Earth.

Churning like seawater on a stormy day.

Rising from the ground like bluebonnets on a summer evening.

Petrichor is a delight.

Wafting about beneath soft grey skies.

Traveling on the cool breeze like fairy dust in the wind.

The scent of nature.  

As fresh and invigorating as a thing could be.

A promise of new life.

A promise of new days.

A promise of more nights.  http://www.powerpoetry.org

The next time you visit Buckhorn Inn on a rainy day, we invite you to sit on one of the porches and savor the petrichor!

August 3, 2020

Pittman Center Has Become A Bee City!

Our community of Pittman Center has joined communities across the country to call attention to an important issue.  Affiliates of Bee City USA  are working to protect pollinators.  So far 111  cities have signed up to raise awareness, establish and enhance habitats, and celebrate the efforts of volunteer leaders.

Pittman Center leaders are working to support our pollinators.

Honey bees are busy at work in Buckhorn Inn flower and vegetable gardens.

Honey bees and other pollinators are facing threats at increasing rates.  According to Bee City USA http://www.beecityusa.org one of every three bites of food that we eat is thanks to insect pollination.  In fact, 90% of all plants and trees rely on pollinators for the survival of their species.  That is why we must be concerned with bees disappearing because of loss of habitat, diseases and parasites, and inappropriate pesticide use.  Some experts estimate that U.S. honey bee populations are declining at an annual rate of as much as 44%.  

Pittman Center Approves Resolution

In May 2020 the town of Pittman Center approved a resolution naming the town an affiliate of Bee City USA.  The town’s Tree Board will oversee the Bee City USA program.  The town will host at least one educational event or pollinator habitat planting each year to showcase the community’s commitment.  There also are plans to create or expand a pollinator-friendly habitat on public and private land.  The Tree Board also will create and adopt an integrated pest management plan.  This plan will be designed to prevent pest problems, reduce pesticide use, and expand the use of non-chemical pest management methods.  

At the Buckhorn Inn, we are delighted with this new program.  This is the second summer for our honey bee hives.  We report that Queens Violet and Catherine and their minions are healthy and happy.  You can watch them at work in our vegetable and flower gardens.  When the nectar is flowing they are especially busy in St. Cordelia’s garden.  We hope you have a chance to watch them at work.

July 20, 2020

Bees Beard to Beat the Heat

Honey bees often beard in warm weather.

Our honey bees beard on the outside of their hive.

One of our guests pointed to our honeybees clustered on the outside of the hive and said it looked like a “beard”.  They wondered why the bees would do this.  We have an answer!

“Bearding” is the term which refers to bees accumulating at the front of the hive.  They appear calm and fan their wings in unison.  They are likely to do this on hot and humid days.  By clustering outside they provide more space inside the hive to keep the temperature and humidity within acceptable ranges.  Raising brood requires temperatures between 90 and 97 degrees F.  They remove their own body heat from the hive to lower the temperature.  They also use their wings to push cooler air into the entrance, lowering the temperature even more.    The proper humidity is necessary for nectar to evaporate and become honey.

Bee keepers sometimes confuse bearding bees with those getting ready to swarm.  But if it is a hot and humid day, chances are good that they are merely bearding.  Bearding bees also face the same direction as they fan.  This helps cool down the temperature of the hive. 

Healthy Bees Beard

According to Kelley Bees http://www.kelleybees.com/blog   Bearding is a sign of a strong bee colony that is in good health.  It is an indication that the hive contains a good number of bees and that they are preparing for winter by keeping the honey at the correct temperature.  

Bees may beard for weeks during the hottest part of the summer.  The workers are very skilled at temperature control.  Worker bees may also spread water on the rims of cells to set up cooling by evaporation.  They can create air currents by fanning their wings.  And they adjust the temperature by expanding and contracting the size of the cluster.  

We help the bees by providing a source of fresh, clean water.  A hive of bees can use as much as a liter of water in a day!  We also have painted the hives white so that the sunlight will be reflected, not absorbed.  

We are fascinated by our honey bees and are glad that our guests are interested as well!

March 30, 2020

The Lure of the Spring Vegetable Garden

Like many of you, we have been itching to get into our vegetable garden.  Our raised beds have been calling to us!  We already have transplanted a few plants and put in some early spring seeds.  We hope that by the time these vegetables are ready to harvest, you will be dining with us at Buckhorn Inn!

Vegetable Transplants

We transplanted some Redarling brussels sprouts plants.  The Burpee catalog http://www.burpee.com describes them as “marvels of flavor, serenely balancing bite and mild sweetness”.  The purple-red buttons will appear in our menus steamed, broiled, or roasted.

We started our 2020 vegetable garden.

One of our beds is planted with brussels sprouts and pole beans.

Seeds in the Vegetable Garden

We sowed a lettuce blend this year.  We will be growing six varieties of loose-leaf and crisphead lettuce:  Lolla Rosa, Royal Oak Leaf, Black Seeded Simpson, Little Caesar, Matchless Butterhead, and Salad Bowl.  These varieties are slower to bolt when the weather turns hot.  The various colors and textures are sure to make beautiful salads for our dinner guests.

The Prizm Hybrid kale will offer a rich and sweet flavor for salads when young, then add a nutty flavor to soups when more mature.

Do you like okra?  We do too!  This year we planted organic Red Velvet okra,  The 4-5′ tall plants will have red stems and will produce scarlet-red pods.  We can’t wait to use these tender pods in soups and stews.

This year we are trying Pusa Rudhira Red carrots.  This variety is very high in beta-carotene and lycopene.  So it is nutritious as well as beautiful and delicious!  This carrot was created to provide healthy and hardy vegetables for India’s subsistence farmers. http://www.rareseeds.com

Pole beans have been strong producers in our beds.  This year we are growing green Kentucky Blues, yellow Monte Gustos, and purple heirloom Trionfo Violetto.

Our Oregon Sugar P0d II snow peas will become favorities.  This variety stays compact, an important quality for raised bed gardening.

We planted a few hills of Country Gentleman sweet corn.  This is a shoepeg type corn.  Therefore the kernels will be in a zigzag pattern rather than in rows.  This variety is touted to be one of the best heirloom sweet corns.  We love sweet, milky, tender white corn!

Please let us know about your garden plans!  We love to talk veggies.

 

January 21, 2020

How Do Honey Bees Spend the Winter?

Our guests have been asking how our honey bees are spending the winter.  We thought that you might be curious as well.

They don’t fly south and they don’t hibernate–they have developed their own means for coping with the cold weather.  In order to stay warm the bees gather in a central area of the hive and form what is known as a winter cluster.  The worker bees gather around the queen.  The queen is at the center of the cluster.  Worker bees flutter their wings and shiver.  This constant motion generates heat and keeps the inside of the hive warm.  The worker bees shift from the outside of the cluster to the inside so they all have a chance to warm up.  The temperature may range from 46 degrees at the outside of the cluster to 80 degrees at the inside.  The cluster becomes more compact as the weather turns colder.

It takes a lot of honey to provide the energy for all of this fluttering and shivering.  A hive of bees may consume 40 pounds of stored honey over the winter.  On warm days, the bees may briefly fly out of the hive in order to eliminate body waste.

Honey bees worked all summer to build honey stores.

Hives can consume 40 pounds of honey over the winter.

Beekeepers Help Honey Bees Overwinter

The beekeepers’ role is to provide the best environment to help the bees succeed in overwintering.  Jack and Sharon prepped the hives for winter this fall.  The hives were robust with lots of stored honey for the winter.  They cleared away weeds from the hives so that predators would not have a place to hide.  They reduced the hive entrances so that mice and other small creatures cannot get into the hive during cold weather.  To supplement the honey the bees stored, they made “candy boards” out of sugar and pollen substitute.  The candy boards are placed in the top of the hive where it can easily be accessed by the bees.

They made sure the hives are adequately ventilated.  Ventilation is important to keep the inside of the hive dry.  The respiration of a hive full of bees contains quite a bit of moisture!   Bees can weather dry cold, but wet cold can be deadly to them.  Strong winds are common here, so they weighted down the outer covers of the hives.

We are hopeful that Queens Catherine and Sophia and their minions will overwinter in fine style.  We hope to be able to offer you a taste of Tudor Mountain Honey in 2020!