It is Blackberry season again. We were expecting a good crop this year, but the recent lack of rain may limit the size and number of berries. One good rain, along with the hot sunny weather that we are having will likely make the bushes explode, so we are hoping for some rain soon. Our berries are wild Allegheny Blackberries, and we also pick wild wineberries (AKA foxberries or dewberries), which finished up a week ago.
If you visit us in late July, you are likely to have plump, fresh blackberries along with breakfast. If not, you can enjoy our berries in any season, as we use them to make a variety of jellies and jams (blackberry, wineberry, and various mixes of these and strawberries), as well as Liz’s famous pancake topping, muffins, crumb cake, pies, and other baked goods.
Liz enjoys trying new recipes, and over the last year she has experimented with several differnt types of granola. The peanut butter granola has become a regular menu item (and the family loves it too!). It’s good with milk for breakfast, on yogurt, or just by the the handfull. Almond butter granola is another good variety, made with chopped almonds and almond butter. We even have vegan granola (which Ben even likes) for our vegan guests. Liz was recently featured in the local newspaper in an article about granola. If you are staying with us and would like to try our granola, be sure to mention it and Liz will be happy to mix up a batch!
We have had two successful nests on our house so far this year. The Robins have nested on the log corners in the front of our house several times over the past few years, and were successful once again this year. More exciting, however, was the Phoebe nest above our garage window, which fleged two chicks this year. The Phoebes have attempted to nest in various places on the house the last three years, but had yet to actually fledge any chicks due to interference from Blue Jays or other disturbances to their nests. We watched hopefully when the mother started sitting on eggs, and the chicks finally flew last week.
Over the course of the summer, we typically see many fledglings at our feeders, or nearby in trees waiting for mom to bring a bit of suet or bird seed. The most common young ones we see are Catbirds, Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, and Rose-Breasted Grossbeaks. Come visit us this summer, and you will see, and hear, a host of songbirds in our back yard.
Middlecreek Wildlife Management area offers biking opportunites for all ages and skill levels. We took our five and seven year olds the other evening to practice in the parking lot and on the back roads on the north side of the lake. The loop around the lake is about 5.5 miles of flat to gently rolling hills and makes a nice leisurly ride on which you can watch song-birds and waterfowl. From Furnace Hills Bed and Breakfast, the ride over the hill, around the lake, and back again, is about ten miles and features a couple of fairly strenuous climbs on either end of the loop around the lake. For the more serious road cyclists, the area offers limitless routes on back roads through farmland and forests on level roads, rolling hills, and some of the most challenging climbs in the region. For mountain bikers, the horseshoe trail and other connecting trails offer moderate to extreme trail riding opportunites. Bring your bike, and we would be glad to help you plan a route that suits your skill level and interests. Of course, Middlecreek offers exceptional songbird and waterfowl viewing and the museum is a great stop for the family, but we’ll write about that in another post….
A sure sign of spring is the return of our Rose-Breasted Grossbeaks. So far we have seen one pair, and we typically get at least two pairs that stay for the summer. We also have a Phoebe who has been around for the last few years. This year she has built her nest on top of the garage window by the pond. We have also seen a lot of Gold Finches and House Finches, and our typical Chickadees, Titmice, Cardinals, Mourning Doves, and assorted Woodpeckers (Downey, Hairy, Red-Bellied, and Pileated) are all still here.
We took the family kayaking at Speedwell Forge Lake this evening. Speedwell is a PA Fish and Boat Commission lake and offers fishing and non-motorized boating and is located about 10 minutes from Furnace Hills Bed and Breakfast. The weather was good, but a little windy. We were fortuante to see a variety of birds, including an Osprey, many Cormorants, and a Tern that caught a fish right in front of us. Speedwell makes a nice quick evening paddling trip and almost always offers great wildlife viewing. We frequently see Great Blue, Green, and Black Crowned Night Herons, Kingfishers, Canada Geese, Red Tail Hawks, and turtles sunning themselves on logs. Occasionally, one of the Bald Eagles from Middlecreek stops by, and once I saw a beaver. If you are visiting the area, Speedwell Forge is definitly worth checking out.
It’s finally spring at Furnace Hills Bed and Breakfast. The calendar says it has been spring for a few weeks, but the thermometer is only now starting to agree. Flowers are starting to push and the goldfish in the pond are just waking up from a very long winter’s nap. Spring is a time for new beginnings, so it is appropriate that we have just launched our new website. This should be a big improvement over the old site that Ben wrote nine years ago (has it been that long??). Not only is the format new, but we now have a mobile site and a blog! Monthly newsletters are also in the works. Check back, as this will continue to be a work in progress.