With the first snow, we're looking back on a few of our summer weddings and dreaming of warm, long days. Ah, summer!
From Curly the llama to the donut-loving pigs to the itty bitty chicks, we live the real-life Charlotte's Web at the farm and we love every minute.
Life on the farm is pretty sweet for these guys: all the leftovers they can eat; a lot of people to rub their noses and scratch their backs; and and the best caretaker ever, Judy, who keeps them fed, warm, and happy in their barnyard homes.
Here's a peak at our animals through the years - here's to you, farm buddies!
Thanks for visiting us this year to say hello to the barnyard crew!
With fall season just around the corner, we've been pretty busy picking pumpkins, transitioning the barn space, and setting up all the fun on the farm. But the fall season work doesn't fall completely on the shoulders of our crew - there are a lot of people who help make this crazy thing we call a fall season work, and they deserve a lot of love for their willingness to go along with our schemes and ideas, amazing ingenuity, and all-around awesome-ness.
Our first pals are the family we have up at Larry's Welding in Lancaster. Kyle's uncles Larry and Vernon and cousin Eric and their guys have helped with all sorts of bizarre and random projects over the years. From the very first kettle corn machine (for a full story on THAT Frakenmachine, see our donut and kettle corn piece a few weeks ago) to the iconic cows to the big wagons that haul people out to the pumpkin patch every year - if it has metal on it, chances are these guys have had a hand in making it.
Kyle jokingly refers to them as the modern-day local blacksmiths: guys who have it all, can do it all, have seen it all, and - most importantly - can fix it all. You can find just about anything at the shop (even parts for some of your favorite fall season attractions, like the zip line!), and the breadth and depth of experience these guys have with fabrication is bar none. In all reality, Kyle's joke isn't really a joke at all, but a compliment to people who are so instrumental in bringing the fall season experience to you.
Larry and his guys do get to enjoy the fruits of their labor sometimes, too. In fact, you can usually see Larry out helping Kyle with random projects - like moving buildings onto the property - or clearing tables during busy days in the fall, or on the golf cart with grandma, just taking it all in.
A few miles away is Stonefront Farms and our friend Andy Buttles. These guys are not only our go-to for equipment we don't have (post hole diggers, skid loaders - you name it), but they are also our source for animals for our petting zoo. Those sweet calves you pet and feed during fall season come right from their farm to ours. On the other end of the food chain, some of the hamburger we serve during fall season and at our other events is locally sourced right from their farm.
The staff at Stonefront also has the distinct honor of being our designated taste testers. When we started experimenting with pizza or when we add new menu items, the staff at Stonefront Farms are willing and discerning food testers. And they almost always get the first batches of donuts for the season, just to make sure we've got them exactly right. And they seem really okay with that!
Another local business that fills a niche in the cogs of fall season life is West End Salvage, Kyle's go-to place for hard-to-find, unique, odd, and off-the-wall items for his equally unique, odd, and off-the-wall projects. There he's found wagon axles and running gears and tons of other random stuff - his best finds being some parts for the air cannon (specifically the tank that holds the air and the car axle the cannon sits on). And just the other day he pulled out two stainless steel sinks from the piles. He doesn't need them, but he might use them some day. Their good eye and Kyle's passion for transforming discarded items has made for quite a few important pieces in the fall season experience.
Our last shoutout goes to John Edge and Edge Electric. Not only did these guys do all the wiring and electric in the new red barn, but John and his crew are always there for us when we need them. He pops over and fixes any problems we have and Kyle has used his boom truck (and John himself!) for projects like stringing up the lines for the zip line and putting up the windmill by the Windmill Shed.
John especially seems to find problems to fix at the barn when we're making donuts. He has what we all wish we had: a sixth sense for when those delicious little donuts are being made. And he always find the opportunity to snag a few. We don't care. We'd literally be in the dark without him.
Thank you, farm friends. We wouldn't be where we are today without you!
In the early years, operating the kettle corn machine came with very specific instructions:
Don't use too much oil. Stir frequently. And when it catches on fire, shut off the gas and go find Kyle.
Back in that day, the $5,000 price tag on a new kettle corn machine was a little out of Kyle's budget, so he rounded up some family members and they put their "sure, I can make that" farmer attitude to work. The very first kettle corn machine was a product of a conversation with a knowledgeable carnival worker, quite a bit of YouTube research, some spare parts in the barn, and a little welding, It was what Kyle calls "a little quirky," but it did the job...that is, until it caught on fire. (And, yes, the answer to your question is, it did catch on fire...twice.)
Today, Kyle has a less Frankenstein monster-esque kettle corn machine, one that our employees can operate without needing a fire extinguisher at arm's reach. And these delicious kernels are a fall season staple!
The origins of our apple cider donuts also started under unusual circumstance. The summer Kyle decided to add the Snack Shack onto the old white barn, donuts were high on the list for food offerings, but the machine to make them was difficult to find. At that time, he was working pretty closely with the Grant County Fair board and had gotten to know the carnival operator very well. Kyle mentioned he was looking to add donuts to the fall season during a chat with him one day...and wouldn't you know - the guy had an old donut machine lying around in a trailer that he was going to toss out.
So the old donut machine came to call Vesperman Farms home. It didn't make great-looking donuts - they were misshapen and uneven - but the staff couldn't keep up with the orders. And Kyle knew that they were on to something with these donuts.
Although maybe not as dangerous as that first kettle corn machine, a lot of problem solving when into that first donut machine. Twice in that first fall season Kyle had to overnight parts when the motor burned up. And because the thing was old, there wasn't even a motor that fit it, so he spent nights reworking the motor to fit the machine.
Since that forgotten donut machine, Kyle has since upgraded to two newer models that are much more efficient and precise. Now we make 75-100,000 donuts every fall season!
Later one of those same motors ended up in the kettle corn machine, running the first auto-stir function that saved Kyle and his staff from some serious burns from hot, popping sugar. (Kyle used to dress basically like a beekeeper to keep himself from getting burned while stirring the popcorn.)
Donut making then....
...and donut making now!
Both the donuts and kettle corn have found their niche at the farm, and oftentimes are the favorite part of fall season for many of our guests. It's been fun for Kyle to see both foods evolve and take their own special place in many people's fall season experience. These fall treats are available soon - fall season starts September 22!
Can I just wax poetic about loaded baked potatoes for a minute?
Okay, you said no, but I'm going to do it anyway. Sorry.
There's no food that says sweet summer nights to me more than a loaded baked potato in a cardboard boat. Grab it from a food truck and then dish up your toppings at the condiment station. Eat it with a spork (or eventually your fingers because the spork would always break) while walking through the lights and the noise and the carnival color. Just pure deliciousness in the simplest of forms.
Now, baked potatoes are saying sweet fall days because they are making their debut at the farm this season. And I am so excited because I didn't think fall could get better...but it did. Good hearty potatoes with good hearty toppings. I'll be first in line to get mine!
This is just your average premium-selected, dry-rubbed-in-a-special-blend-of-herbs-and-spices, and slow-smoked-for-eight-hours brisket sandwich that you can find pretty much everywhere.
That's a lie. This brisket is pretty special, and you can get it here on the farm this fall season. You don't even need the sauces. They're really just for show.
They are locally sourced. They are hand cut, hand breaded, and then hand deep-fried (just kidding...we do that last step with a tongs).
And then they are served up to you new this fall season: chicken strips!
Sure these are for kids. But more importantly, YES, it's socially acceptable to order off the kid's menu here at the farm.
For a lot of this off-season, Kyle and his food crew have been experimenting in the kitchen. The fruits of that labor are four delicious food and drink options that are new for fall season! And we're going to be featuring them right here on the blog. AND if you pop on over to our Facebook page, you could win a free meal or two...or in this case, a free drink!
Kyle's been making fresh-squeezed lemonade for Night on the Square and a lot of other events off the farm, but this year we're offering it during fall season. It'll be available in the Snack Shack, reopening this fall season in the comeback story of the year (for us at least...more on that in a few weeks). Chat with Judy or me (cause I'll be there on weekends sucking on lemon rinds and stealing donuts) while you watch us make this refreshing and delicious drink! And enjoy!
Looking at the bridal suite today, it - like so many things on the farm - does not reveal much about its previous down-and-out status. The bridal suite has come a long way from its previous incarnation as a home garage, set to be sold at auction or demolished, and it's shabby-to-chic story makes this little building all the more special to us.
The Bridal Room Then
While you were chasing down deals in department stores on Black Friday 2016, Kyle was securing this rough-looking garage. The local hospital in town owned this house and garage and wanted them removed to make room for their expansion. They put out an ad for sealed bids and when they were open, Kyle won this garage for $200.
Buying it was one thing; moving it was another.
In typical Kyle fashion, he was just going to move this building himself, but the state wouldn't grant him permits to move the building across the state highway. So instead he hired Heritage Movers out of Mt. Hope, who took only about 5 hours to load the garage, move it just over 2 miles, and deliver it to the farm. The garage sat on the farm over the winter while we figured out exactly what we were going to do with this thing. And let me tell you, I had my doubts. But like always, those doubts were unfounded. I still need to learn that this plucky farmer can really transform even the ugliest of things into useful and beautiful spaces.
In the beginning of this project, there wasn't even a plan to turn this garage into a bridal room. Kyle originally thought it would make a good food stand for fall season or even a good place for small groups to gather. But once we took a look at the building in the space, we knew what it should be used for.
The transformation is the result of easily hundreds of hours of labor: from pouring the footers and placing the building to all the shiplap and rebuilding the stairs to deciding how to furnish the space (still not done yet!). We finished the exterior in time for our 2017 wedding season and put a hold on all construction during the summer.
The interior construction and design has taken place over the last few months. We went all Joanna Gaines in there with white shiplap; painted trim and mirror frames during cold winter nights; and in the last few months have been refinishing and staining the floors, finding salvage furniture, and hanging up some of Bruce's wood artwork to give the space a personal touch.
We took out the old straight staircase and put in a new two-part staircase with a landing. This gave the first floor a little more footprint and, of course, it was really all for the photos.
There's just a little more furnishing left to do upstairs, but this room is ready for the girls.
The Bridal Room Now
To celebrate, we had some amazing people come out in July and we participated in a styled shoot of the bridal suite. It was such a fun day and we're so excited to share with you some photos from the day as we announce the opening of the bridal room, all dressed up and ready to party!
Hair and Make-Up: Tres Chic Salon
Photos: Christy Bee Photography
Dresses: David's Bridal
I'll answer your first question right off the bat: No, I'm not Kyle's dog. But he does love me (kind of). See?
I am the utterly spoiled pupper of our venue coordinator Morgan and our tractor driver/bartender/general handyman Eric. I live with my best friend and fearless leader Summit and my favorite person in the whole world: my tiny human Wakelin. And I spend most of my days sleeping on the couch, snagging table scraps from the baby, and enduring embarrassing photoshoot after embarrassing photoshoot.
Now I'll get to your second and third questions: Yes, I look like a boy dog, but I'm a girl (no matter how many times Kyle says otherwise)! And I have no idea what breed I am. I came up on a rescue bus from South Carolina when I was just a teeny pup. At about three years old now, I've since grown into my ears, but not my nose.
Best we can figure, I'm a little lab, a little boxer, and a little German shepherd. We know I'm for sure a lab in personality though, 'cause I'm a lover, a VERY loud barker, and I cannot stay out of any body of water larger than a postage stamp.
I love visiting with you guys every Monday, even though I'm not always the most cooperative when it comes to posing for my photos. Why should I sit around and do what they want when there are things to smell, goats to herd, and squirrels to chase? I LOVE the farm - there are good doggy things to do here - and I'll be coming back every Monday to show you my tricks and fill you in on what's happening on the farm.
Thanks for getting to know me a little better! If you have any doggo buddies, drop their photo in the comments - I love meeting new friends. Gotta go for now...it looks like they're setting up for a buffet...
Fun on the farm...in blog form!