While watching Jordan’s local Heimatfest Parade Saturday morning from Nicolin Mansion’s front porch, I turn to our innsitter, Cindy Nevins, and make an offer: you clean the room that’s checking in this afternoon while I finish my computer work and we’ll go on a Nicolin Mansion Fieldtrip to Crofut Winery for the annual Grape Stomp. Deal!
We head into the barn that serves as the usual tasting room and gift shop to buy our bottle of wine.
There’s also this fabulous iron piece outside the door that I’m convinced would fit perfectly in our courtyard, but of course it’s not for sale.
After purchasing our bottle, we were off to the arts and crafts tent. The artists’ selections are great: from jewelry to outdoor art, from candle holders to wine holders, the creativity is terrific!
But this is the Grape Stomp after all, so we find ourselves a table under the tent and sit down with our wine and a cheese plate to enjoy the festivities.
The groups of stompers start out a bit tame…
Then the grapes start sailing instead of just stomping…
Finally reaching full grape assult!
A definite must-see event! Stomping spots are snatched up pretty quickly, so reserve your spot early. If you miss getting to stomp, it’s definitely still worth it to stay, sip some wine, and see the stompers in action!
Crofut Family Vineyard & Winery
Open April – December (Check website for exact hours)
Friday: 2 pm – 8 pm; Saturday 11 am – 6 pm; Sunday 12 noon – 5 pm
21646 Langford Avenue Jordan, Minnesota 55352
A small town in summer packed with fun! That was this Saturday in Jordan, Minnesota. The summer celebration featured not one, not two, but four great events – the Jordan Art Festival, the Jordan Valley Bike Tour, Minnesota Kite Society Fly, and Jaycee’s Pork in the Park. Plus Sunday after second day of the art festival winds to a close, the Jordan Brewers will be playing baseball in downtown’s Mini-Met Park. And downtown storekeepers brought some of their best wares outside to the sidewalks. (So technically there are even more than four events!) There were artists demonstrating, bikers biking, kites flying, and pork roasting. There were musicians playing, children playing and baseball players playing. And for the Nicolin Mansion, it meant adding two more garden art sculptures to the courtyard – a wrought iron frog prince from Garden Designs & Sculptures, and a stained glass garden stake by Glorious Glass.
Fun times in Small Town USA!
I missed the large terraced raised 13-bed garden Kevin built for me at our previous house. Last year I was so excited when Kevin built a new raised bed vegetable garden for me. We chose the sunniest place in our courtyard, and I hoped there would be enough sun during the course of the day. It was an experiment. I planted peppers and tomatoes in one bed – lettuce, chives and spinach in the second – carrots, radish and onions in the third – and corn in the fourth.
The corn was a miserable failure, grew till about 6 inches and stopped. The rest of my plants grew and grew. But not like one would expect if planted in the full sun. The tomatoes grew tall, very tall, but very little fruit and not until just before the first frost. Same with the peppers. The root vegetables grew tall, but never developed much for roots underground. I let the radishes go to seed, hoping to harvest the seed pods. I got a few. The spinach was a total failure, even after replanting. The great success was the lettuce. It was perfect, tons of it, tons and tons of it. Didn’t plan that very well. More than we could eat before it went to seed.
Year one, lesson learned. I needed to learn a bit more about vegetable gardening that wasn’t in full sun. And as far as vegetables go, it seems that means shade gardening.
What I learned was there were several fruits and vegetables that thrive on less then full sun. From year one, I knew lettuce is one of them. But this year I’m planting rows every few weeks so we can keep up with what we harvest. Plus the chives came back from last year. Bed one, done.
Rest of the beds needed to be reinvented completely. I researched online about shade vegetables. Turns out bush beans, not pole beans, do grow in less than full sun. So planted in bed two, done.
I had hoped for a beautiful herb garden. I grew basil quite successfully in planters on the back porch last year, so I’ll try that again this year. And I had some in hanging baskets on the wall in the vegetable garden, so I’ll try that again this year. But I’d hope for something for tea. Mint is suppose to grow well in part shade gardens. So after visiting 3 nurseries, I found 12 different varieties of mint to plant in bed number three.
On to the final bed, where the spindly monster tomato vines grew last year. One thing we love to do is make jam and jelly. We have rhubarb growing out front by the gazebo, and raspberries by our back porch. So I researched what fruit would grow in part shade. Turns out currants, gooseberries and jostaberries are a perfect choice. So I chose currants. But they weren’t so easy to find. After 6 nurseries, I found black currants. I purchased one, for variety, but I really was on the hunt for ‘Red Lake’ Currant, which is a University of Minnesota hybrid, so I figured it should be easy to find. Nursery number 8, or 9, was Bachman’s, and they had an abundance of ‘Red Lake.’ So I bought three, and bed four was done.
So year two experiment in the shade is under way. The beans are popping up, and the lettuce has sprouted. Mint is spreading. And the currants are blooming. Looking forward to the harvest.
The beautiful bird cage terrarium planter sitting on the front porch has been begging to showcase something outstanding – and now it has a Fairy Garden!
Our guests often ask us “What got you into innkeeping?” Well, it was falling in love with Bed & Breakfasts as we celebrated our wedding and subsequent anniversaries. We honeymooned on Mackinac Island, Michigan, and stayed at the Metivier Inn and one night at the Grand Hotel. Though the Grand Hotel is incredible, and we chose Mackinac because of our love for the cult movie classic “Somewhere In Time” which was filmed at the Grand Hotel, we came away from that first B&B experience absolutely captivated. And thought, one day wouldn’t it be great if we could do this with our life? So now, here we are at the Nicolin Mansion.
Each anniversary, and some birthdays, we chose a new Bed & Breakfast. Among them have been the Cloghaun on Mackinac Island, MI; Spicer Castle in Spicer, MN; Nordic Inn in Crosby, MN; The Bohemian in New Ulm, MN; Asa Parker House in Marine on St. Croix, MN; Afton House Inn in Afton, MN; Cathedral Hill in St. Paul, MN; as well as each of our own guest rooms here at the Nicolin Mansion.
This year innkeeper Catherine Dwyer of the Bird House Inn in Excelsior invited us to spend our anniversary. What a fabulous retreat! We spent a great night in the Turtledove Room. And dinner at the Irish Pub Jake O’Connors Public House was delicious- from their menu we highly recommend the Beef Wellington and Dublin Boxty, a seafood dish in a lovely sauce over potato pancake. We walked along downtown Water Street and took in many of the fantastic shops the next morning, before lunch at 318 Cafe. We even found a beautiful urn to add to our courtyard garden at Gray Gardens. All in all, the perfect respite for a couple of innkeepers. We were short on time this trip, but next time we return, we have to take in a cruise on Lake Minnetonka.
The flowers in the courtyard continue to provide color even into the fall. The front garden is still blooming nicely, and the hanging baskets still have some color. They have done so well this year, but I can’t say that about my experimental vegetable garden in mostly shade. The heirloom tomatoes and peppers just now have blossoms, which probably will freeze with overnight lows coming in October before they even produce fruit. But it was an experiment, so will have to try again next year.
The lush courtyard garden has bloomed beautifully this summer. Sitting beside the pond, listening to the water fall over the limestone, and soaking in the beauty of the blooms has been a wonderful respite for the innkeepers and our guests. The Hosta take center stage this time of year, with over 350 plants throughout the courtyard, they are a living invitation to the garden.
I can’t believe summer is coming to a close, but we’re looking forward to cool evenings at the courtyard firepit – and there are still some courtyard flowers in bloom for the coming month.
The courtyard blooms continue to come early – some varieties of Hosta are already blooming! The blossoms on my largest leaf variety stand over 4 feet tall. The Sedum are blooming as well; I didn’t even capture a photo of the purple sedum in full bloom. Some are flowering longer than I expected – the Shrub Roses, Gaillardia, Yarrow, Veronica’s Candles, and Hydrangea are still in full bloom!
I love this time of year, everything is so lush in the courtyard, and shaded by the tall pines, it is a welcome respite from the hot summer sun.
Our first bounty of the season is herbs – Basil and Cilantro – and our first thought was Pesto. Friday night are pizza nights around here for the innkeepers, and in summer that means grilled pizza. So our plan was Pesto instead of pizza sauce, and it was a great success! It works equally well using Cilantro instead of Basil – think chorizo, chipotle pepper…
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
- 1/4 cup pine nuts (or walnuts or sunflower seeds)
- 2 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
After I posted this I just saw an article in the StarTribune about making grilled pizza like we do on Friday nights! Tip from us: after grilling the first side of the crust, we flip it over onto a cookie sheet, bring it back into the kitchen, cover the grilled side with toppings (and we DON’T skimp), and then grill on cookie sheet or pizza stone until cheese is melted and bottom of crust is browned. The quick assembly line grill-side, and few toppings (unless you like it that way) as they suggest, is not necessary then.