More snow is on the way, but there are some (early) signs of spring. The Witch Hazel is blooming, and has been for about a week and a half. Which Hazel normally blooms in mid-February, and despite the extreme cold we have had this winter, it was right on schedule with the mini- thaw we had the third week of February. We have also had some groups of bluebirds visiting our feeders, attracted by the suet. The snow geese and tundra swans are here, too, even though Middle Creek Lake is still frozen solid. I expect that more will move through in the coming weeks as it starts to (finally) warm up. By the calendar, spring is only 18 days away, but it will be much later until the piles of snow are gone. In the mean time, there are a few subtle signs that the end of winter may be in sight.
Bluebirds visiting the feeder in February
Witch Hazel – just about done blooming
Witch Hazel – Just about done blooming
The new sign is finally up! Here it is!
Our old sign at the end of our driveway was hand-painted by a good friend eleven years ago on some scrap pine boards that Ben fashioned together. It has served us well, but it will soon be time to retire that old sign. We have a new, professionally-made sign in the works, and in preparation, a new sign post is also in order. Phase 1 of the project is now complete with matching posts on either side of our entrance, mounted on boulders, and topped with lighted caps. For now, the old sign is temporarily fastened to the new post. The new sign should be ready in the next month or so. Stay tuned…
The chicks are now 15 weeks old. Only another five to ten weeks until they start laying. Then we should have plenty of eggs to fully supply our breakfast needs. They are integrated with the two older chickens (we lost one of the older ones to a raccoon a few weeks ago), and the pecking order is being established. As you can see from the photo below, they have come a long way from the two-day-old chicks we brought home.
After holding out for quite some time, Furnace Hills Bed and Breakfast is finally on Facebook! Ben is not one for social media (even though he is the webmaster and chief blogger). So Liz finally got her own Facebook page and then proceeded to set up the FHBB Facebook page. Check in for photos of our new chicks, friends and family, and fresh baked goodies.
Our three free range layers have been a hit with guests. Unfortunately, they are not able to keep up with our demand for eggs. So, we have eleven new chicks that should start laying sometime this summer. Of course, we like variety here, so we have six different varieties among the eleven chicks. They are now two weeks old and growing fast. And they are kind of cute. Of course the three “old” chickens are still here and still laying reliably.
Spicebush and Paw-Paw blooming, trees starting to push leaves, frogs coming out of the pond. These are things that typically happen in mid April. Our La Nina winter has translated into an unusually mild and early spring. The foliage is about three weeks ahead of schedule. The Redbuds and Dogwoods on our website background are just getting ready to bloom. The web photos were taken April 28 last year; we are expecting them to look like that in the next week or so. It will be interesting to see what happens if we get another cold spell. For now the flora and fauna in the woods are looking and acting more like mid-April than mid-March.
Every year at this time, thousands of bird-watchers flock to Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area to view tens of thousands of migrating Snow Geese and Tundra Swans. These migratory waterfowl winter in the Chesapeake Bay region and migrate north in the spring to nesting grounds in in the arctic region of northern Canada. They tend to move through quickly in late fall, but on their return trip north they stop over at Middle Creek for several weeks in late February and early March. Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area is operated by the Pennsylvania Game Commission and provides Habitat for a variety of waterfowl, songbirds, a nesting pair of Bald Eagles, and a host of other wildlife. This year there is estimated to be 65,000 Snow Geese and 2,400 Tundra Swans. The prime viewing area is at Willow Point, which is accessible by the short, paved Willow Point Trail. Geese can also be viewed along the driving tour route that is open starting on March 1. The Visitors Center at Middle Creek offers a great collection of mounted wildlife, a touch-n-feel bin and activities for kids, as well as other educational exhibits and song-bird viewing. An extensive network of hiking trails of various difficulty levels is available at Middle Creek and the surrounding game lands.
Middle Creek is located right over the hill from Furnace Hills B&B. It’s a scenic 5 minute drive or a nice hike on the Horseshoe Trail to get from here to there. The overlook on the Millstone trail (accessible from a spur off of the Horseshoe Trail) is less than a 1/2 hour hike from FHB&B and offers a view of the lake. When the geese are here, they can be heard all the way at the overlook on top of the hill. Of course the Geese and Swans give us frequent flyovers here at the B&B, so our deck can be a great viewing location if the timing is right!
The newest additions at FHB&B are our four chickens — two Rhode Island Reds, one Barred Rock, and one Gold-Laced Wyandotte. So far only one is laying eggs, but we expect the other three to start soon. Our guests will enjoy fresh, free-range eggs for Sunday morning breakfasts. Don’t worry, there’s no rooster to wake you up in the morning — just the smell of breakfast cooking. The chickens wander in the woods around the house during the day and tuck themselves into their coup at night. They are curious, and will come over to see what you are up to — especially when we take out food scraps for treats.
We were hit with two major storms in late August and early September. Hurricane Irene brought 6.7″ of rain in a day and followed that with heavy winds. The result was that we lost over ten mature trees — fortunately not near the house or driveway, but they did block our trail in several locations. Unlike many of our neighbors, we did not lose electricity. Some were without power for several days.
A week and a half later, Tropical storm Lee gave us an unprecedented 15.7″ of rain in four and a half days. Again, we escaped relatively unscathed — just a little soggy. Lee was responsible for major flooding in the area — closing many roads at stream crossings and flooding many basements.
At Furnace Hills Bed and Breakfast, we are very fortunate to have escaped these storms with only minor inconvenience.