Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Calm After The Storm

A couple of days ago we had a big wind storm with gusts up to 60 miles per hour!  I was in the sugar house boiling maple sap and every once in awhile a big gust would come down the chimney and blow smoke out the evaporator!  The building creaked and gusts whistled around and I was sure happy the building is strong and sound!

Last night we had a pretty heavy little snowstorm and now it's calm and clear outside... the calm after the storm...

I like to feed the chickens and ducks outside even after a snowstorm because I think, like people, a bit of sunshine does a world of good.  

Look at those skies - like an Aelbert Cuyp painting

This could be a postcard!

But the storm did leave behind a wake of damage

The roll-up doorway to my vegetable high tunnel twisted out of shape. 

The roof of the berry high tunnel blown off!

Funny story... during the windstorm I saw the roof blowing and snapping in the wind and in hopes of minimizing the damage I tried to grab it and tie it down.  Guess what happens if you try to hold a very large sheet of plastic in 60 miles per hour winds?  You go for a ride!  I managed to get it tied down, but the wind was so strong it tore the plastic at the knot and the roof continued flapping and tearing.  

Even the rabbit cage blew over!  Thankfully the cage was empty.

Now I'm starting to dream of ...


...and this!

and this!

...and this!

C'mon Spring!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

April Fools

We had an absolutely fantastic Maple Weekend with tons and tons of people coming to check out the sugar house and walk around the farm.  I think the children who came enjoyed getting out and running around to visit with the animals.  An impressive number of Maple Sweethearts came by to check out our operation.  Each one of them was adorable and knowledgeable.  

Right after the Maple Weekend, I headed to Florida for a mini vacation with family.  Check out the little 10-seat commuter from Bradford, Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh!  Yep, that's the pilot up there!


It was so very nice to warm up for a bit!  I even got to do some kayaking!  Ignore the plastic bag that was over my phone - enjoy the blue skies!

Then back home to maple season and cold weather.   Over the weekend we had some nice warm days and I was even able to feed my bees.  But when we woke up on April 1st.  This is what greeted us!

April Fools!

Winter is still here.  I sure am ready for warm weather and some digging in the garden!

But on a happy note, I know spring is coming.  Among a million other indicators, the days are longer, the robins, the red-winged blackbirds, and the bluebirds have arrived, the chickens are laying more eggs, and the horses are starting to shed.

Still no piglets!  I'm starting to wonder if she didn't "take".  We know she was bred and she hadn't had further heats.  In the past, this pig hasn't really shown signs of impending birth until she actually farrows.  One time I'll look at her and she seems pregnant with larger teats and belly and then I think "no she's not".   Maybe we'll have a surprise in the next few days.

I hope everyone had a Happy Easter.  I'm happy to have my whole family together with my daughter home from Air Force Basic Training and Technical school before she heads off to her assignment and my son finishing his final year of school before he also heads into the Air Force!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Maple Weekend Thank You!


What a great turnout for the Maple Weekend yesterday! Thank you, everyone, who stopped by and bought maple, honey, and Tadd's delicious barbecue! He sold out by 3:30! Tadd only came on Saturday this year, but plan on seeing him both days next year! 

Fitzgerald's Family Farm is open from 10-4 today (Sunday, March 18) for maple house viewing and a tour of our mini farm.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Now We Wait and Prepare For The Potter-Toga Maple Weekend March 17-18, 2018!

We lit the fire to our maple sap evaporator, and changed our vacation plans for what was going to be a great week of maple sap running from the trees... and then the weather changed.  It became freezing cold and the sap stayed right in the trees.  So now we wait for warmer temperatures!

But in the interim, we're preparing our sugar house for the big Potter-Tioga Maple Weekend!  Last year, we were on the tour, but we were too late to get on the map.  This year, you'll find us at #2 - right between Brydonson Farm and Sons of Dunn Farm.  

 Potter-Tioga Maple Weekend Map

Click on the image to download a PDF of the two pages of the map.

We're going to have a special guest set up at our farm - Tadd Ostroski of Bones and Banter will be set up with some of the best barbecue you'll probably ever taste!  He'll be creating sauces using Fitzgerald's Family Farm's maple syrup and honey.

Image result for barbecue sandwich

We're also doing something special with our maple syrup.  We'll be selling it in pint and quart glass bottles!  The old ways tend to be the best and we're trying to move away from plastic.  Food in glass always seems to taste a little bit better (think of canned versus bottled beer) and we're hoping you'll find the taste of the glass bottled syrup a little nicer.  (We'll still have some plastic bottles available for shipping purposes).

You'll notice beautiful new labels on our bottles.  My husband and I are both Air Force veterans and we've joined the Farmer Veteran Coalition.  The Farmer Veteran Coalition sponsors the Homegrown By Heroes label.  PA Preferred (The State Department of Agriculture launched the PA Preferred program to identify and promote food and agricultural products grown, produced or processed in Pennsylvania) has teamed up with Homegrown by Heroes to create a very stunning combined label.  

You'll find this label on our maple syrup and honey!

We sure hope to see you this weekend!  We'll be offering tours of our mini-farm as well and if we're lucky there will be some newborn piglets!


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Lighting Of The Fire

Last week, we ceremoniously lit the first wood for our maple evaporator.  

We're excited to start boiling maple sap and it looks like it's going to be a good season (knock on wood!)  The temperatures are going to be perfect for the sap to run over several days. 

LadyBird loves exploring while we tap trees.  Her breed, Viszla, needs a lot of exercise to not get crazy and a day in the woods is perfect for her.  

The sap is running out of the bottom of our lines.  We let the lines run free for a day so the gunk can get washed out - even though the sap will be boiled for many, many hours.  

An almost full tank of sap - a beautiful sight!

Sometimes, you see an arrangement of nature so beautiful it just takes your breath away. 

My bees have sugar patties inside the inner cover of their hives, but the warm weather prompted me to make up a sugar syrup to feed them.  Liquid sugar syrup is more easily usable to the bees.  The bees are flying on warm days and when I checked, I found that their stores of honey are getting low.  To make my sugar solution, I boil four quarts of water, turn it off, pour in four quarts of sugar, then stir to dissolve.  This creates a 1:1 sugar solution for spring feeding.

This year, with the wildly fluctuating temperatures I decided that I didn't want to put a top feeder on the hive because it would create a large space for the bees to heat and they may freeze in the hive.  

I punched tiny holes in the lids of canning jars and I'll put the jars over the hole in the inner cover.  The bees will lick at the tiny holes to get a drop of sugar water.  Always turn the jar over and let the syrup stop running out before you put it on the bees.  You don't want to soak the little girls!  It takes a second for the pressure in the jar to equalize.  

I put an empty hive body over the jars so that we don't start robbing behavior by other bees and any critters waking up from their long winter nap!  Then I put on the top cover.

The bees are enjoying the opportunity to get out and take a "cleansing" (i.e. pooping) flight!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentines Day!

I found this photo on the web.  Isn't that the most adorable calf!?!

Happy Valentines Day!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Spring Is Coming!

Yesterday, we started tapping maple trees because the weather forecast for the next ten days shows perfect maple weather.   

FEB 11
PM Light Rain
S 9 mph 88%
FEB 12
Mostly Sunny
NW 9 mph 61%
FEB 13
Partly Cloudy
SE 7 mph 56%
FEB 14
SW 11 mph 79%
FEB 15
AM Showers
WSW 13 mph 88%
FEB 16
AM Snow Showers
WNW 15 mph 74%
FEB 17
Partly Cloudy
WSW 12 mph 41%
FEB 18
Mostly Sunny
SSW 12 mph 47%
FEB 19
SW 9 mph 70%
FEB 20
Rain/Snow Showers
W 7 mph 69%
FEB 21
W 8 mph 64%
FEB 22
Rain/Snow Showers
WSW 7 mph 77%
FEB 23
Partly Cloudy
W 7 mph 74%
FEB 24
AM Rain/Snow Showers
WSW 7 mph 64%
FEB 25
AM Rain/Snow Showers
W 8 mph 64%

Temperatures will be mostly above freezing during the day and below freezing at night.  These are the perfect conditions for the sap to run!

Why does this make me so happy?  Because I know spring is coming!  Once the first few trees have been tapped it becomes an inexorable march towards weather that is too warm for collecting maple sap!

The very first tap of the 2018 maple season!

Some trees even produced a little bit of sap.

Lady Bird's first maple season - a great opportunity for her to wear off lots of energy!  (I told you she was  pampered!)

Behind the maple season comes crocuses and then there will be daffodils and green leaves and gardens and baby animals.

Spring is coming!