Farmstay U.S. Blog

Created for and by travelers and the farmers, these posts will cover a variety of topics related to farm stays in the U.S.

Monthly Archives: November 2010

Kinnikinnick Farm Collage 4

“Life follows the rhythm of the seasons."

This is not your ordinary campground. Located on a certified organic farm in the rolling hills of northern Illinois, Kinnikinnick Farm’s Feather Down farm tents (part of the Feather Down Farms franchise) offer guests a charming and authentic farm stay experience.

Kinnikinnick Farm Collage 2

From spring through fall, guests can stay in the spacious wood-floored tents and enjoy beds made with European style linens; wood stoves, along with kindling and wood to cook and keep warm; and fresh, local foods. With no electricity inside the tents, evening light is provided via oil lamps and candles. Hot showers and flush toilets are located in a nearby bathhouse.

Kinnikinnick Farm Collage 1


The farm was originally founded in 1849, and has been in continuous production since. David and Susan Cleverdon purchased the farm in 1987 and began their organic garden in 1993. Now, they sell their certified organic produce directly to farmers market customers and Chicago-area chefs, as well as partnering with a program that helps feed Chicago’s homeless.

Kinnikinnick Farm Collage 3

Food and Chores

Guests are welcome to help out with some of the farm chores, like collecting eggs, feeding animals, and harvesting crops, or they may choose to simply explore the countryside and relax.

Kinnikinnick Farm Collage 7

At Kinnikinnick Farm, guests can purchase meal components like meats, eggs, and produce, then grill outside or cook over their woodstove. The farm also offers “arrival meals” for the first night, and during particular times of year, the outdoor wood-fired oven is available for build-your-own pizza nights.

For folks who want to carry on the fresh, seasonal cooking back home, the farm has a recipe page on their website.

Kinnikinnick Farm Collage 6

To learn more about Kinnikinnick Feather Down Farm visit their listing here on Farm Stay U.S., then head over to their website to book next year's vacation!

Kinnikinnick Farm Collage 5


(All photos courtesy Kinnikinnick Farm; Coral VonZumwalt)

Livestock Guardian Dogs

Dogs in the SnowIf you visit a farm that raises livestock, you may encounter livestock guardian dogs (LGDs). LGDs aren't your usual pet dogs, which people don't always realize. We've heard stories of well-meaning neighbors accusing farmers of mistreating these working animals, or worse, threatening to remove the dogs!

We asked one of our Farm Stay U.S. members, Ruth Pepler of Dogwood Hills Farm in Arkansas, about her experience with LGDs.

Some of the things I have discovered about these amazing dogs over the years I have learned the hard way. Our very first Pyrenees, Maya, was given to us because she would not stay way out in the pasture with the goats. She kept coming to the farm house. Our set up was much more to her liking with our farm house in the middle of the hub of pastures.

At Home with the Livestock She was an excellent guardian and could be completely trusted with moms delivering, chickens and baby chicks, and our guests. She knew that the guests belonged there and watched over them as well!

They say it's not good to let them socialize with people or they won't do their job. We have not found this to be a problem.

When visiting a farm with livestock guardian dogs, it's always good to know the ground rules. These dogs have a very specific job to do, and you would not want to distract them. The rules at Dogwood Farm, for example, are:

  • Don't hand feed the dogs. Scraps can be given to them in their feed buckets.
  • Don't chase the chickens or any other animal, the dogs find that to be questionable behavior.
  • Listen to your parents... the dogs know they are your Alpha!

Nursing Puppies
Learning to Guard


LGDs may work alone, if the farm is somewhat small, or there may be several dogs working together.

At first, I didn't know that it's hard for them to be the only LGD if the predators are thick. Our dogs run 72 acres, not a large farm, but surrounded by numerous coyote, big cats, an occasional wolf, and bear. We now have a team of 3 adults and 3 puppies. They work very well rotating and training the younger ones.

One of the things I have noticed as the younger ones step up into a more active role, is that they will dig out a hole or several holes in prime locations for watching their charges. If I can't find a dog, the first thing I do is look out where the goats are, then check the opposite hillside and there, dug into the side of the hill, is a watchful dog.


Digging Cooling Off

Winter is a whole other topic. The barn is open on either end. The dogs have access to hay, heated water, and cozy goats to snuggle up with. Where do they sleep? Smack in the middle of the driveway, out in the snow, with a paw over their nose! We've discovered that ice blocks make great toys! They carry them all over the place.

Good Dog

Thanks very much to Ruth for sharing some great photos and talking with us about these special "farm hands"! Do you have questions about livestock guardian dogs? Leave it in the comments.

(Photos courtesy Dogwood Hills Farm)

Farm Stays: Not Just For Kids

Farm and ranch stays are generally a very family friendly vacation, and we tend to focus a lot of our attention on that. Travel Blogging Moms want to share the farm stay experience with their family-focused readers, and other writers often base their inquiries on the best places to enjoy vacation time with multiple generations of family.

But kids aren’t the only ones who can get something great out of a stay on a working farm. Whether single, part of a couple, or with a group of friends, there are plenty of farm vacation ideas for grown ups:

1) Wine Tasting & Tours


Rustridge Ranch and Winery, St. Helena, CA


Sakura Ridge Farm and Lodge, Hood River, OR

From well-appointed tasting rooms, to farms situated near world-class wine regions, wine and farm stays often go hand-in-hand. Rustridge Ranch and Winery is a rustic Napa Valley vineyard, winery, and thoroughbred racehorse ranch. Gather in the B&B kitchen in the evenings for hors d'ouevres and sampling Rustridge wines. During the day, learn about wine making and growing grapes, or about breeding and training racehorses.

Sakura Ridge Farm and Lodge in Hood River, Oregon, is located in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge. Cherry, pear, and apple orchards bloom and beckon, and you'll be in great proximity to wineries and tour opportunities in the Mt. Hood region.

Find more farm stays with wine tasting/touring activities.

2) Cheese Making or Tasting


Flint Hill Farm, Coopersburg, PA


Mountain Farm, Burnsville, NC

Cheese goes with wine, after all! Whether you want to learn how to make cheese at home, or just sample some farm fresh goodness, farm stays can hook you up. At Flint Hill Farm in Pennsylvania, the "Cheese Artist Package" will give guests a 2-night stay in their 1850s farmhouse, and hands-on immersion in the process of making cheese, from milking to packaging of the final product for sale.

Mountain Farm is the smallest certified dairy in North Carolina, and a member of the Western North Carolina Cheese Trail. They make unique aged goat cheeses, soft flavored cheeses and marinated Feta, and as they are only occasionally open to the public for special events, your stay will be peaceful and private.

Find more farm stays offering cheese making or tasting.


3) Cattle Drives or Cattle Sorting


Western Pleasure Guest Ranch, Sandpoint, ID


Horses N Courage Camp, Lennep, MT

Whether you're a bonafide "city slicker", or you've spent some time on horseback, authentic cattle drives or cattle sorting activities are experiences you won't soon forget. At Western Pleasure Guest Ranch in Idaho, put on your game face and participate in competitive team cattle sorting. They even offer five-night adult only getaways during select weeks in the summer.

At Horses N Courage Camp in Montana, you'll ride alongside the Hereim family while you herd and move cattle. Their cabin, tent, or teepee accommodations, along with camp cooked meals and songs around the campfire will give you a taste of Montana's backcountry.

Find more farm or ranch stays offering cattle drives or cattle sorting.

4. Cooking School


The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm, Skamokawa, WA


Bean Tree Farm, Tucson, AZ

Watching a chef (or even just a talented cook) prepare a meal is a delight. Taking it to the next level and actually learning from such a person is something really special. Hosts Don and Kitty Speranza at The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm in Washington owned and operated a successful catering company in Portland before turning to the farm life. These days, they will teach farm guests how to make artisan bread, pasta, and comforting country Italian meals. And then you get to feast on your hard work!

For something really different - and really interesting - check out Bean Tree Farm in Arizona and learn to identify, harvest, process, and pepare seasonal Sonoran Desert foods.  You might harvest and process barrel cactus fruit, saguaro fruit, dragonfruit, paloverde seeds, and much more. They even make a desert kimchi!

Find more farm stays offering cooking classes.

These are just a few getaway ideas that adults can enjoy, but almost any farm, ranch, or vineyard stay will fit the bill. From relaxing in a quiet farm cottage with a good book, to throwing yourself into farm chores, taking in the night sky, or learning some new skills - alone, or with a friend or partner - these vacations aren't just for kids!

Last week, National Geographic published a list of the top 10 most visited national parks in the United States. We have several USFSA members who have identified themselves as being near national parks or forests. So, if sharing a crowded campground doesn't sound like your cup of tea, check out these farms and ranches that offer a good "home base" for your explorations!

1. Liberty Hill Farm, Vermont

Liberty Hill Farm

At Liberty Hill Farm, you can walk out the door and have access to miles of cross country trails, surrounded by the beauty of the Green Mountain National Forest. Enjoy hiking, cross-country skiing, fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, horseback riding, mountain biking, or watching the wildlife... then head back to the farm for a homemade meal at the farmhouse table.

2. Montana Bunkhouses Working Ranches, Montana and Wyoming

Montana Bunkhouses

On the northern side of Yellowstone National Park, you'll find many of the ranches represented by Montana Bunkhouses. At 28,000 square miles, with tons of activities, there is a lot to explore. Go "be a Montanan" for part of your stay and experience the ranching way of life that so well defines this area of the country.

3. Thus Far Farm, South Carolina

Thus Far Farm

It's only a couple of hours from South Carolina's Thus Far Farm to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, making the farm a great lodging choice on your way to or from your park visit. After roughing it in the woods, see if you have what it takes to rough it on the farm with one of their "grid-down" weekends.

4. Lucky Goat Family Farm, California

Lucky Goat

Lucky Goat Family Farm is in Big Sur, surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest. Spend the night and enjoy the oecean views, take a goat cheese making workshop at the farm, and then hit the maintained forest trails - there are 1,257 miles of them!

5. The Cottage at Seven Oaks Farm, Virginia

Cottage at Seven Oaks

Seven Oaks Farm is situated in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, between both the Shenandoah National Park, and the sprawling George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. The farm is an ideal place from which to begin some fall leaf-peeping adventures; try Skyline Drive, with 105 miles and 75 overlooks from which to take in nature's splendor.

Want even more ideas?

Check out all of our farm and ranch members around the country who have identified that they are near national parks or forests, and see what they have to offer. You're sure to find a great combination for your next outdoor adventure vacation!

Netherfield Natural Farm, located in Fontana, Kansas, offers two types of stays in their restored 1882 Victorian farmhouse. You can opt for a traditional B&B style stay (which includes breakfast, of course), or a farm stay with all family style meals included while you're on the farm.

Up on a hill, with great views and plenty of privacy from neighbors, this rural farm has 14 acres, a fishing pond, two story barn (check out their BAR/N - a saloon inside their working barn!), fire pits, picnic areas, and walking trails.

Netherfield Barn


Innkeepers Scott and Matt have honored the history of the original homesteaders by naming the farm's four guest bedrooms after the Vance family. The accommodations are cozy and inviting, giving travelers plenty of private space while the shared living room and dining room spaces offer opportunities for visiting. The bedrooms have either queen or full-size beds; two with private baths and two sharing a bath.

Netherfield Farm Bedrooms

Netherfield Farm Interior


Other amenities include a full kitchen, laundry faciliites, library, internet with free wifi, fire pit, bbq, and a pond. During the summer months, enjoy the new swimming pool!

Netherfield Farm Activities and Animals


Netherfield Farm HouseAt Netherfield Natural Farm, guests can enjoy interacting with cows, free-ranging chickens, a turkey, a livestock guardian dog (LGD) and a "house dog", and barn cats. When there are animals that need to be bottle-fed, guests are welcome to pitch in and lend a hand.

Same goes for other chores around the farm, including the garden, where you can potentially help with planting or harvesting, depending on what's needed during your stay.

The farm's stated goal is to be, as much as possible,  a self-sustaining place for vacationers who are looking for a temporary rural agrarian experience.

Children under 12 are welcome at Netherfield, as well as parties, family reunions, corporate retreats, and weddings or elopements. If you want to bring pets or your own horses to ride, they can accommodate you! Check out their listing here on Farm Stay U.S., and start planning your Kansas getaway!

Netherfield Farm American Gothic Poses

Photos courtesy Netherfield Natural Farm

Yesterday, there was a terrible accident on the I-5 in Washington. No people were injured, thank goodness, but millions of bees perished when a truck carrying 448 hives - up to 14 million bees - overturned. Beekeepers saved about 128 hives before it got too warm and the bees started becoming agitated.

I literally cried when I saw the Tweet at the top of this post. I wasn't there, so I can't possibly say why that choice was made, but honestly, could they not have left out some bee boxes and made all the people leave the scene? I don't know enough about bee behavior, I guess, but I'd think if you could get them into a box, then collect them after dark and introduce new queens, maybe more could have been saved? I wish they'd tried just about anything else than spraying those bees with foam and water, killing them.

Our world can ill-afford more bee losses.

We have several wonderful members who keep bees on their farms or ranches. I'd encourage anyone who might want to get into beekeeping, or just learn more about the process, to visit one of these farms and see what a delicately balanced world these little creatures inhabit. You can also check with your local university Extension offices and see what kinds of classes are offered. Other avenues could be local feed stores or even some garden centers.

Save the Bees!


bees on comb Inspecting Hive

How Can Sheep Survive Bitter Cold Weather

This post first appeared on Kim Goodling's blog at Kim is shepherdess to a flock of Gotlands, the curly sheep from Sweden. She invites farm stay guests to experience rural living, sheep, and fiber art at her farm in Vermont. See her Farm Stay U.S. listing at Grand View Farm or visit her website.

We thought with all the challenging weather happening across the country right now, a post on how sheep can survive such cold temps would be interesting... enjoy!


I am often asked how my sheep can survive the harsh Vermont winter weather. Temperatures in our area often hover in the single digits with spells well below zero at times. Snow piles high around the barn, and cold winds blow frequently. With proper shelter and feed, our sheep have no difficulty with these winter conditions and cold temperatures.

Proper Housing

Visitors to our farm often think that a closed barn provides the best place for our livestock in the winter. In fact, that is the last thing that they need. Being shut in a barn, causes a build up of moisture and ammonia in the air, irritating their respiratory tract and causing infection. Sheep stay much healthier if they have access to sun and fresh air every day.

The thermometer registered 15 degrees below zero this morning, with wind chills between 40-60 degrees below zero. On days like this, our barn door remains open for the sheep to come and go as they please. The barn offers protection from the bitter wind, but certainly not much protection from the cold. This morning, all the sheep, as well as the llama, were hunkered down in the barn. With the gusty wind, we fed them their hay in the barn so they did not have to brave the subzero wind chill to eat breakfast. We also have a three sided shelter which provides a wind break for them. The sun shines into the shelter all day, giving the sheep a place out doors, with protection from the wind, without having to be inside the barn.

LwG - Drifting snow
Drifting Snow and Wicked Winds

Warm From the Outside In

Sheep have their own natural source of insulation all over their bodies. Their wool keeps their body heat in and the cold out. That is why you will see sheep with snow piled on their backs; their body heat does not reach the outer layers of their fleece to melt the snow. The lanolin in their wool also prevents moisture from getting to their skin. When doing chores, if my hands get cold, I will take off my mittens and bury my hands in the wool on one of the ewes to get warm.


Ema’s wool protects her from the snow.

Warm From the Inside Out

We do give the sheep lots of second cut hay during the winter to eat. Due to the fermentation of fibrous matter, the rumination process actually creates a great deal of heat. This warms the sheep from the inside out, thus the need for good quality hay throughout winter months. The more sheep eat, the more heat they produce. A pregnant ewe will also have added heat from the lamb growing inside of her. The shepherd may provide added energy to their diet during extreme cold weather. We give warm molasses water when the temps dip in the single digits for added energy.


Feeding Second Cut Hay


With shelter from the wind and proper nutrition-our sheep stay healthy and happy all winter.

We have reached the end of our 12 Days of Christmas posts. We hope you've gathered some good ideas for your vacations in the new year and that we've shown you what kind of variety can be found on farm and ranch stays. From romantic vineyards to kid-friendly adventures, all kinds of great food, activities, relaxation, and animals galore... there is truly something for everyone.

We've just rolled out a gift certificate program and are working to get our members signed up. It would make a great Valentine's day gift, and your recipient can choose which farm they'll visit!

We're looking forward to a great 2015, and we hope you are too! Spend some of it with a farmer, won't you?

come home rooster



Have you ever walked down the aisle of an orchard? Peaches, or apples, or pears... the aromas are like heaven. Orchards offer a shady escape on a hot summer day. How about touring an olive orchard, or picking fruit right off a tree to go with your breakfast or lunch. (Keep an eye out for opportunistic horses if you're walking around with apples. I'm just saying...)

12 Days of Christmas (on the farm) - Day 10

Are you curious about the milking process - for either cows or goats? Many of our members allow guests to participate in milking, or offer tours of their milking facilities. It's a great way to gain more understanding of what it takes to get milk to us, the consumers. (And... after milking, there might be cheese making!)

I always think that milking is one of those quintessential farm chores, along with gathering eggs and feeding chickens.

farm chores