Jim & Zee Are Heading Home

Our traveling Prez, Jim Hamm and wife Zee are heading home on Monday. Here's his latest installment of the Elderhostel tours.

"Hi...We've finished our Elderhostel tours, ending at the old, historic Brandon Inn in Brandon, CT. The Inn built in 1787, is filled with antique furniture, is a large, elegant structure in very nice shape. The owners, who have owned it for 25 years, say it is a labor of love to own an old building such as this. Any excess cash flow they have goes right back into the building. Maintenance is a perpetual chore. I can believe it. The husband is a chef by training and prepares the meals for their large dining room, and the wife tends to the administrative side. All four children help out—those that are left at home. They were booked solid when we were there, and had a another tour bus coming in the day we left. There is very little industry in Connecticut, and most places survive on the tourist trade.

"One of the interesting places we toured was a water buffalo farm—Bufala di Vermont. They have a large herd of water buffalos, which they milk twice a day, just like cows. The yield per buffalo, though, is only about 10-20 lbs. per day vs 50-75 lbs. for a cow. The milk is twice as high in fat content, and is used on the farm to make a variety of cheeses and yogurt—all very tasty, I might add. The yogurt is almost as thick as cheesecake, and darned good. The water buffalo are quite docile and friendly. About the same length and height as a cow, but they're much more stocky. They were eating in their stalls as we walked along, and they would stop and stare at us, let us rub their head, and seemed to listen intently as we talked to them. The farm gets male semen from Italy to impregnate the females, and Italy is developing water buffalo which will yield more milk. An interesting tour, and this is probably more than you ever wanted to know about water buffalo...(grin)...so I'll go on to something else.

"We toured a sugar maple farm, got to see how they harvest the sap, make maple syrup and, of course, got to sample some. There are four grades of maple syrup, from a pale, light color to a dark color. As the temperature warms up in March, the sap tends to run darker. They heated some syrup up to above boiling for a short while to thicken it up. Then they poured some in a cup and set a dish of crushed ice alongside it. We took a small stick, dipped it in the syrup, then rolled it in the ice. The cold ice turns the thick syrup into maple candy, which is quite delicious. They call this 'sugar on snow.' In the winter they would use snow instead of the crushed ice.

"We toured a cider mill, and learned all about how they make cider. Again, samples for all. We also toured yet again another winery, with, of course, samples of their wine and with a souvenir glass to keep. We're going to leave all these wine glasses in our room—too much of a hassle to bring them home.

"Other stops along our journey included McDuff's micro brewery, Wilbur's Chocolate Store, the L. L. Bean home store in Freeport, Maine, a couple of more lobster dinners, another farm where they make cheese, and other 'big' attractions...ha! Altogether, a very nice tour.

"Zee took many pictures as we 'puttered' along, and when we get home she will select some pictures, put captions on them and we'll post them to a website. Much easier to do this at home, when she has more time to do it.

"The weather continues beautiful, and we've returned to Newport, RI to tour some of the mansions. We'll do that this weekend, and return home Monday, October 13. Thanks for reading my blog, and hope this gives you a flavor of an Elderhostel tour.....Jim."

We look forward to seeing you soon.