February – Throwing off the Blanket

We are finally starting to show some signs of warmth around here. The snow is melting, temperatures are flirting with the 40’s some days, and it’s almost time to start my garden!

The blanket of snow on the greenhouse roof was headed south, so I started seeds. It’s  too cold in the greenhouse to give them a good start, so this year we are starting them on a germinating mat under a grow light in the basement. Things are starting to pop already.  By the time they are ready to transplant to larger pots and harden off under some real sunlight – the greenhouse will have warmed up – I hope!

Another sure sign of spring are the blue hoses attached to two of our maple trees. They aren’t sugar maples, but they are maples – so that’s close enough. Last year we started too late and got about one cup of maple syrup by the time we boiled down all the sap. This year I may have jumped the gun, but so far I have three gallons of sap – and the whole month of March ahead of me. Maybe this year we’ll get two cups!

Greenhouse with snow
The blanket of snow is on the move – spring must be on the way.
IMG_2145
If you look REALLY close, you can see some sprouts – spring MUST be almost here.
DSCN8407
How much maple syrup will we get this year?

August – Does size matter?

Things are a little topsy-turvy on the farm lately.  My zinnias are THIS BIG.

Zinnias

And my eggs are THIS SMALL.

IMG_1680

We’ve had so much rain this year that my plants just won’t stop growing!  It must be helping the granddaughters grow too – because they won’t stop growing either!

And the eggs?  We have six peeps that we got in the spring.  We’ve nurtured them through their teenage years and now — they are turning into real hens.  Their first attempts at laying eggs have been a bit meager, but I guess they will improve with maturity.  An egg that is only 1.5 inches doesn’t quite compare to what we are used to.  I’m not even sure how to use that in baking.  Do two baby eggs equal one normal egg?  Hopefully they will get their act together soon and start laying real eggs.

IMG_1681

 

 

July – How many goats does it take to build a picnic table?

It’s the 4th of July and we decided we need to build a picnic table.  Our new goats, Heidi and Peter, are rambunctious kids and they need something to climb on.  And we need something to sit on when we take our coffee up to the pasture after dinner to visit with them.  A picnic table seems to be the perfect solution.

We bought an unassembled one at Home Depot and Chris unpacked all the pieces and parts.  Heidi and Peter were full of curiosity.  I’m not sure how he managed to get it put together, what with all the help they were giving him!

They love jumping on it, sleeping on it and leaping from it.  And they aren’t the only ones enjoying it.

DSCN8687
Curious.
DSCN8693
Helpful.
DSCN8686
But not sure what to do with the power drill.
DSCN8701
Definitely fun to jump on and off.
DSCN8703
It puts the goats at eye level with the horse.
IMG_1540
It’s a pet picnic.
IMG_1554
And Hannah likes the table too.  Happy 4th of July!

 

June – The Ugly vs. The Beautiful

You never know what you’re going to find on this farm.  Sometimes it’s a pleasant surprise — something beautiful, or something useful – or maybe even both.  Sometimes, it’s disgusting, useless debris.  We’ve found some of both lately.

In anticipation of getting our goats, Heidi and Peter, we cleaned up a part of the pasture that is overgrown with brambles and shrubs.  Under the brambles we found some old construction debris – broken toilets, scrap metal and junk.  We worked most of the day pulling the stuff out and smoothing out the dirt so that it wouldn’t be dangerous for the goats.  Just as Chris thought we were done for the day, I saw a piece of ugly, green shag carpet sticking out of the dirt no bigger than a carpet square.  Four hundred and fifty pounds later, we had the back of the truck bed full of dirty, stinking, rotten carpet that necessitated a trip to the county dump.  Oh, and an old sewing machine that popped out with the carpet.

But, it was the same week that the violets were blooming all over the lawn – really beautiful, deep purple violets.  I picked a colander full, put them in jars with some white vinegar and created a violet flavored, slightly pink vinegar that has been a great dressing (with a little olive oil) on our home grown lettuce.

So you never know around here – dirty, stinky carpet or beautiful, purple violets.  It’s just another day around here.

DSCN8474 - Copy - Copy
A lot of junk in the pasture
DSCN8475 - Copy - Copy
More than we expected to dig up
DSCN8477 - Copy - Copy
And a sewing machine
DSCN8479 - Copy - Copy
We needed the front end loader to move 450 pounds of carpet to the pick-up truck
DSCN8481 - Copy - Copy
The violets were much prettier than the rotten carpet
DSCN8482 - Copy - Copy
A nice harvest
DSCN8491 - Copy - Copy
After steeping in white vinegar it took on a beautiful pink hue

May – Teenage Chickens

Remember those cute little fluff balls — baby chicks that we brought home from Tractor Supply.  They were so cute and cuddly, how could you not fall in love with them.  And, they were no trouble at all living in a small box in our living room where we could keep a close eye on them.

But they are growing.  I think they’ve hit the teenage stage.  They’re big enough to be a pain, but not big enough to put them outside on their own yet.  They stink, they make a mess and they’re noisy.

But, there is a chill to the air today, it’s threatening to rain — and it’s Mother’s Day.  What kind of parents would we be to push our “teenagers” out of the house on Mother’s Day?  so we’ll wait until tomorrow — and then it’s off to the coop.

DSCN8452
So cute and cuddly.
DSCN8556
Not so cute and cuddly.
DSCN8558
Messy, stinky, noisy and time to move to the coop.

April – (5-2)+6=eggs

We started out with five hens when we moved in to our farm.  Our builder gave them to us as a house warming gift and we’ve been nurturing them — and enjoying the eggs — ever since.  But apparently they are getting old.  We’ve had two of the chickens die over the last several months, I think from old age.  Apparently laying an egg a day can really wear you out.

After a trip to tractor supply, we ended up with six baby peeps — two Red Sex Links, two Barred Rocks and two Ameraucanas.  Right now, they live in our living room — under a heat lamp and keep us entertained with their peeping.

Arianna came to visit them and couldn’t believe her eyes!  Chickens in the living room!  In a house where we have NO indoor pets.  Even our cat is an outdoor barn cat — which is a good thing, because I don’t think an indoor cat and six peeps would get along well in the living room!

Once they grow a little bigger and get their feathers, we will introduce them to the “old” ladies in the chicken coop and they will all have to learn to get along together.  Until then, we have peeps in the living room!

DSCN8451
One trip to Tractor Supply and six chicks later…
DSCN8452
They are settling in to their box in the living room,
DSCN8450
With a heat lamp to keep them cozy.

March – Precious Drops of Liquid Gold

We’ve tapped our two maple trees – but I think we started too late.  Nevertheless, we got four gallons of sap.  It looks like pure water and taste like… water.  I expected at least a hint of sweetness or a tint of color.

We set up the outdoor burner, connected the propane tank and got out the turkey roasting pan.  I poured two gallons in and started boiling, adding more sap as evaporation would allow.  Six hours later, after sitting outside in the cold on the patio, I had two quart jars of lemonade looking liquid.

The next night I emptied those two quarts into a pot on the stove in the kitchen.  I figured by then most of the evaporation had already happened, and cooking it down further wouldn’t make my kitchen “that” sticky.  I boiled and simmered and boiled and simmered and kept measuring the temperature.  As more evaporated, I moved it to a smaller pan, and then to an even smaller pan.  And I kept boiling and simmering and taking it’s temperature.  Finally, after about three more hours of undivided attention – lest I burn the whole batch, I had SYRUP!  Yes, I tested it with the hygrometer and did some fancy math calculations that involve a chart and testing the temperature vs. the Baume scale and the Brix scale – but it was officially at the syrup stage!

I very carefully poured it into ONE of the 8 oz syrup jars (I bought a case of twelve, just to be optimistic) — and it filled it about two-thirds of the way.  Yes, four gallons of sap gave us about two-thirds of a cup of syrup.  But it’s really AWESOME syrup.   It’s thick and rich and tastes like maple syrup!  And the kitchen smells like a Waffle House.  I can’t wait to make some waffles to go with it!

DSCN8421
Cooking down four gallons of sap.
DSCN8418
Yes, there is snow on the ground – but it’s time to boil the sap.
DSCN8432
All we got was two quarts of boiled down sap.
DSCN8433
So we cooked it some more.
DSCN8435
And the put it in a little tiny pan and cooked it some more.
DSCN8440
Until we got about two-thirds of a cup of REAL syrup. The phone is to give you a perspective — this is not a very big jar — and it’s only half full — but boy will it taste good on our waffles!