Although it would seem that Olde Man Winter decided to go on strike for the majority of last year, we were lucky enough to have a wonderfully busy season what with the many new and repeat guests to our inn rooms, as well as the continued patronage of said inn guests, loyal locals, and every other much appreciated customer who walked through the doors to the Pub and Restaurant. With that being said, it is hard to deny human nature, and by the umpteenth round of snow shoveling and ice-salting (a.k.a February) one cannot help but to start daydreaming about what equally productive activities one could be accomplishing outside when the ground starts looking a bit more green… and one’s fingers start feeling a bit less frostbitten ; )
This may not be common knowledge to visitors of our lovely Mad River Valley who are accustomed to seeing it marketed as a 4 season resort destination, but year-round residents know the real truth of the matter. Vermont actually has SIX seasons- Spring, Summer, Fall, Stick Season, Winter, and Mud Season. This last weather phenomenon could also be referred to by many other pet names- “Dead Season” to Restauranteurs, “Wake up and raid the Birdseed” season to Black Bears, “Sleep/Recovery Season” to Snowmakers, “Hubcap Eating Season” to our dirt road dwellers, etc. And while occasionally a few of these monikers could, theoretically, be prefaced by some rather… ahem “colorful” language, here at the Mad River Barn we are choosing to view our Lawson’s glass as half-full and have decided on a more optimistic nomenclature- “Project Season”!!!
Another bit of lesser known trivia, is that sitting a little ways back on the upper field, hiding beneath the boughs of some lovely and established Pine Trees, there lives a tiny building formerly known as Poolhouse. Now, lest some people get all oddly excited at the prospect of a swimming pool hiding back there as well- perish the thought. That particular feature has long been retired and returned to the earth, and everyone knows that summers are for swimming in the Mad River.
Leave it to the ever present creativity of Joanne Palmisano to conjure up a vision for the next chapter in the life of the building (formerly known as Poolhouse). Anyone who is familiar with the history of design work at the Mad River Barn (and if you aren’t you should be!) will know that it physically pains Joanne to watch anything that still has use or value be discarded… and that encompasses pretty much everything she sees. With the continued popularity of DIY weddings, and the seemingly endless imagination with which one can create in an Etsy and Pinterest era, the Barn has amassed quite a collection of decorations. The only logical next step for Joanne’s mind to take was that of COURSE these materials should be given the opportunity to be further enjoyed, and what better use for our little building than to be re-incarnated as a centralized home for all of them? (Believe it or not, more than one employee had been heavily campaigning to convert it into a summer residence for their horse, and even WE… I mean… THEY have had to begrudgingly admit this was a much better plan)
Dubbing the idea “Rent-a-Shed”- the endgame objective is to have all of our decorations housed and displayed inside and it will become an option available to any prospective client. For a nominal fee they can “Rent” the Shed and have carte blanche to utilize as many objects as they desire in whatever way they feel would make their day most special.
In the meantime, however, one of the projects tackled so far this year by the Barn team has been a massive cleanOUT of said Shed’s interior, as well as a cleanUP of the exterior and surrounding land. The phrase “many hands make light work” truly proved itself accurate during this (rather daunting) endeavor and lucky Andy spent the better part of three days with a ragtag crew of Barn employees gittin’er done. This brings up yet another reason why Project Season has been proving itself to be invaluable this year beyond just the usefulness of the finished products themselves.
One of the ugly truths to living/running a business in a seasonal resort town is the unavoidable oscillation of tourism. During the slower shoulder seasons the pace dwindles tremendously. At this juncture you are faced with the difficulty of trying to figure out a way to maintain and utilize the employees that are so integral to running the business during the busier seasons when faced with a comparative trickle of revenue. It is nothing less than fortuitous that our kitchen crew is full of many multi-talented employees who are agreeable enough to work their hours elsewhere once the insanity of ski season dies down (and between the grounds, guest rooms, and multiple buildings on premise there is no dearth of jobs to be done). We were able to poach both Josh and Taylor and employ their skills in a plethora of tasks. Painting, touch-ups, landscaping, carpentry, masonry, chainsaw work, tree work, running an excavator, butcher, baker, candlestick maker.. and one can never discount the importance of sheer muscle (and my personal favorite- eye candy!).
When the first big renovation was underway in the central Barn Building one of the main concerns was how to keep the basement dry throughout the year- no mean feat with an older building that is happily situated at the base of a mountain range. The solution was a series of piping that leads underneath the barn and carries the runoff to the base of our tiered gardens and eventually travels through a culvert into the Millbrook across the street. While the basement has remained drier than British wit ever since its rehabilitation, the last lingering concern regarding our run-off was the ecological effect said water may have on the health of the Millbrook itself. Even with the filtering effect of the soil from the garden there was always the question of whether or not any temperature variation between the original stream and the water our business contributed would affect the natural order. It was during a pre-Mud Project Season walk around the grounds that Heather expressed yet again her desire for Peeper Frogs to take up residence on the property and the answer to both conundrums became clear- if we built it, they would come. Enter Project Lagoon.
The purpose of the Lagoon is multi-faceted. Besides the most important goal of becoming known as the #1 destination community for Peeper Frogs on TripAdvisor, it solves the ecological question by serving as a holding tank for runoff water from the Inn and allowing all the liquid to reach the same temperature before it continues on its journey under the road and into the MillBrook. The Lagoon will also figure into our longer vision plans of utilizing all the different areas around the MRB grounds and allowing them to play various roles during our Wedding weekends (and, of course, a spot where our non-nuptially motivated Inn residents could enjoy their stay). We envision hosting a reception or cocktail hour among the raised beds of the garden where guest could grab a libation and wander up and down the terraces, across the water on our bridge and back- just in time for a refill- before moving on to their next location for dinner.
We feel so very lucky to be a property with options for our Wedding Guests to enjoy over their entire weekend stay- Breakfast in the dining room, a walk or run on the Catamount Trail right outside the front door, maybe a hike up the 9th hole ski trail to explore Mad River Glen, a quick game of afternoon shuffleboard in the Game Room is an excellent way to bond with future family members, afternoon cocktails in the garden, Dinner and Dancing on upper field Landing, S’mores and a Bonfire around the fire pit, back to the Pub for an afterparty… The possibilities are endless!!!
Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you soon!
Meredith Marble, Assistant Innkeeper