The Chanticleer Flock of sheep

Before welcoming our first guests in October of 1993, we welcomed our flock of sheep.  With 30 acres of property, 15 acres of which were pasture land, we thought bringing a flock of sheep from home was a perfect fit for a county inn.  We raise Border Leicester sheep; an ancient wool breed, which originated in the “Border” area of Great Britain.  Border Leicester sheep are know for their long, lustrous wool, which is excellent for hand spinning.

Many guests of the Chanticleer ask, “What does it mean to have a working sheep farm”.  Our answer to that common question is we actually shear our sheep, produce lambs in the spring and sell lambs for breeding, and for market.

We try to shear our sheep in the spring time, before the ewes have their lambs.  Shearing at this time of the year helps motivate the ewes to lamb in our barn, out of the elements, which is both helpful to the lambs and the innkeeper!  Lambs are born in late March, or early April, and lambing time is the most stressful time of the year when dealing with our sheep.  Darrin goes out every couple of hours, day and night, to check on the ewes and to see if any lambs are being born.  While most often there are no complications, sometimes we have to help a ewe give birth, or motivate a lamb to start nursing.

Years ago, we used to ship our wool to a woolen mill and have our wool processed into yarn.  A good friend of ours would knit the wool into sweaters and we would offer them for sale at the inn.  The cost of shipping wool became extremely expensive and our friend married, so we stopped producing wool sweaters.  Now, the wool we shear is either given away, or we toss it into the woods for the animals to use for nesting material.  If any reader knows of someone who could use some raw wool, please send them our way!

Many of our guests come from large cities and rarely see livestock, such as sheep.  Although they are extra work, we thoroughly enjoy raising lambs and our guests seem to appreciate being able to watch them graze around the inn.  Please send us your sheep questions and check out the photos of our sheep on our website.

10 Reasons to Visit Door County

Although there are innumerable reasons to visit Door County, here are our 10 favorite reasons to visit the peninsula…

Natural Beauty.  From farm fields, to orchards, to shoreline and woodlands, we think the natural beauty of Door County is the main reason to visit.

The Arts.  With such a small population, Door County is blessed with such a wonderful variety of performing arts.  Third Avenue Playhouse, in Sturgeon Bay, and Peninsula Players and American Folklore Theater, both in Fish Creek, are among our favorites.

300 miles of Shoreline.  The most of any county in the United States!  You don’t have to travel far to enjoy the shores of Lake Michigan and Green Bay.

Galleries Galore.  Whether you are into ceramics, glass, pottery, painting or fiber arts, Door County has an artist’s gallery for everyone.

Delicious Dining.  From fine dining, fish boils or a burger and beer…if you like to eat, Door County is the place for you.

For the Birds.  Very few places in Wisconsin have more variety of birds to watch.  Summer residents include sandhill cranes, bluebirds, grosbeaks, wrens, hawks, orioles, just name a few.  We even have white pelicans as a summer resident!  Fall and spring migration bring swans and other waterfowl.  Make sure to bring your bird guide and binoculars. 

Cherry and Apple Picking.  Commercial orchards have been established in Door County since the early 1900’s.  They still exist.  However, smaller orchards allow visitors to pick their own cherries and apples. 

Shop ‘til you Drop.  There’s no shortage of shops, stores and boutiques on the peninsula.  Each town in Door County has their own quaint shopping district and what better way to spend a rainy afternoon.

Wine tasting.  There are several excellent wineries in Door County.  All offer wine tasting and several provide guided tours, which show the wine making process up close.  From California style wines to Door County fruit wines, you’ll enjoy sampling and taking a couple of bottles home.

Out on the Water.  Kayaking or canoeing give visitors an intimate view of the shoreline.  If you are not that adventurous, rent a sail boat charter, fishing charter or enjoy the relative luxury of the Harbor Lady dinner cruise ship. 

Whatever you enjoy doing, we know you will have a terrific time visiting Door County!

Recommended Restaurants in Door County

Most guests, of the Chanticleer, ask for dinner recommendations.  They often inquire, “Name the best restaurant in Door County”.  Our answer to that question, “it depends”.  We have two favorite restaurants, and both are excellent.  We enjoy them both so much, we promote them through our dinner packages. 

Donny’s Glidden Lodge Restaurant, in Sturgeon Bay, is a terrific restaurant if you enjoy steaks and seafood.  Located literally on the shore of Lake Michigan, it would be difficult to find a restaurant with a better water view.  Located in an old stone lodge, built in the 1930’s, you can see Lake Michigan from every table in the house.  Serving juicy steaks, fish and the best lobster in Door County, you’d have a hard time not finding something to satisfy your appetite. 

Donny’s also has a stone patio, where you can enjoy a drink before dinner.  Simply take a seat on the patio and Mary will come out and take your drink order.  When your table is ready, she’ll come out and let you know.  With wonderful food, terrific service and a beautiful view, Donny’s is one of the best places, for dinner, in Door County!

The Inn at Kristofer’s, located in Sister Bay, is our favorite fine dining restaurant.  The food is terrific and they offer a spectacular sunset view, looking out over the Sister Bay marina.  My absolute favorite dish isn’t even a dish. It’s a starter!  The Brie with Warm Brandied Fruit is so delicious; I have a hard time sharing it with Bryon.  New this year is an outside dining area, which is a welcome treat, since there are very few restaurants, in Door County, who offer outside dining.  They also offer cooking classes in the winter months.  Contact them quickly, since space is limited and the classes are very popular!

If wonderfully fresh food, paired with a terrific wine selection and a spectacular sunset view is what you’re looking for, then The Inn at Kristofer’s is the restaurant for you.  Please check out their website at www.innatkristofers.com 

There are a lot of excellent restaurants on the peninsula, but for a consistently wonderful dining experience, we highly recommend Donny’s Glidden Lodge Restaurant and The Inn at Kristofer’s!

The Migration of Door County Bluebirds

We remember our first trip to Door County, in the spring of 1993.  Our purpose for that trip was to come up and visit friends, and stop for lunch in Sturgeon Bay.  As we were driving, we saw a flash of blue beside the highway.  A bluebird had flown up from the ditch and perched himself on a wooden fence post.  We were so excited to actually see a bluebird!  Bryon is originally from Chilton, WI and I grew up in Brooklyn, WI.  I had never seen a bluebird, and Bryon had only witnessed one as a child.  That spring day in 1993 would be the beginning of our passion with bluebirds.

After purchasing the property that would eventually become The Chanticleer Guest House, we set out to bring more bluebirds to our little patch of Door County.  We installed 3 bluebird houses and waited for our little blue friends to arrive in flocks.  They didn’t.  Well, not right away.  We were too late in setting our bird houses and they had already found suitable nests.  While nesting, bluebirds are quite scarce, and in reality, we really were too busy renovating our farmhouse to be searching for bluebirds.  Summer came and went and all of a sudden, we noticed bluebirds on our sheep fence posts and in our bird bath.  We were ecstatic!  The bluebird parents had fledged their chicks and were busy flying down from our fence posts, plucking bugs to feed their hungry offspring.

That first autumn the flocks of bluebirds came in groups of 10 to 20 birds.  They would hang out, searching for food and then all of a sudden, vanished.  Without warning, they all had flown south.  We were so excited to have been able to witness not only a single bluebird that spring, but flocks of them migrating to warmer climates!  When, and how many, would return that next spring?

18 years later, and after countless batches of bluebirds popping out of our bluebird houses, we are still excited when we see those beautiful little birds.  While still not as common as robins, we seem to notice more and more pairs coming back to Chanticleer in the spring.  Our winter ritual of cleaning out bluebird houses has surprised us with some bluebirds staying until December, using our nest boxes as a cozy home.  We know spring is here when we hear the unmistakable melody of the bluebird’s song, floating over our barren sheep pastures in March.

For all you avid bird watchers, we would love to have you come in early spring to witness the spring migration of our Door County bluebirds.

The Chanticleer Garden A Work in Progress

I caught the gardening bug from my grandmother when I was about 8 years old.  Summer afternoons would find us pulling weeds and cutting fresh flowers that she would sell on her road side stand.  At the time it seemed like a horrible chore, but in reality, she was instilling in me a love of flowers, and gardening, that I still carry today.

When Bryon and I first drove up the driveway of 4072 Cherry Road, the yards were barren.  There wasn’t a flower on the entire property, except for a clump of yellow iris and a couple of variegated hostas.  With our energy focused on renovating the farm house to become a bed and breakfast, the beginnings of a flower garden would have to wait.  The Chanticleer Guest House opened it’s doors for business on October, 2nd 1993 and I promptly started the first garden that fall.  With boxes of perennials from my mother’s, and grandmother’s gardens, I began work on a small garden next to the front of the house.  Bryon and I had already installed a stone walkway, and the perrenials were a nice addition to our front entrance.

The previous owners had used the area inside our pool fence as a dog run.  It was a grassless mudhole that begged to be a flower garden.  After countless wheel barrows of manure, the pool garden took shape and we installed a fish pond behind the pool.  Peonies, day lilies, iris, phlox, perennial geraniums and seveal rhododendrons were planted.  I spent every spare moment either planning my next garden or working on an existing one.  My gardening hobby had slowly become a gardening obsession!  I was 24 years old and my plan was to transform the entire yard into one huge perennial garden!

My attention turned to our front yard.  Our front yard consisted simply of maples and a black walnut tree.  The perfect place for a shade garden!  Out came the tiller and before I knew what happened, I had dug up the front yard and started planting hostas, spring bulbs, dogwood trees, trillium and a variety of other shade plants.  That wasn’t enough!  The idea of having spring time weddings convinced us that we needed to construct a gazebo.  The gazebo was installed in 1995 and weeks later, the gazebo garden began to take shape.  We planted peach trees, which supply us with fresh peaches each August, and thousands of spring bulbs.  The gazebo garden was full in a matter of months.

I took a break from garden constuction in 1996 as we embarked on the project to transform our barn into a bed and breakfast.  The barn was converted to guests suites over the winter of 1996/1997 and we opened the guest barn in February.  I was free that following spring to add another garden, complete with fish pond and creek.  I was in heaven constructing the creek and digging the pond, setting stones and planting plants.  Shrub roses, perennial grasses, butterfly bushes, lavender and a myriad of other plants couldn’t be planted fast enough!

It’s now 2011 and last month I turned 42 years old.  I still enjoy gardening, but I haven’t installed a new garden in over 13 years.  I now garden for a couple of hours, instead of all day long!  Age has slowed me down a bit, but age has also made our gardens at The Chanticleer more beautiful than ever.  We invite you to enjoy our gardens, any time of year, and you’re always welcome to help pull weeds…