Friday, April 17, 2015

The New Garden Is Well Started!

You wouldn't think that one shelving unit of plant starts would fill an entire 26 by 96 foot high tunnel, but with the inclusion of a few other "straight from seed" plants like beans, it sure does!  

This is my plant growing shelving that we built last year.  I absolutely love its simplicity!  

We built it from very inexpensive shelving and plant and aquarium lights purchased at Walmart.  We drilled some holes and added some small "s" hooks and chains to make the lighting adjustable, then attached an outlet (I put a timer on it) and it is lightweight and easy to use!  At the end of the seed starting season I can pick up the whole thing and move it into the basement and at the beginning I just carry it back up.

This is such an improvement on the improvised lighting set up I'd had in the past with wood and concrete blocks, etc!  

What am I planting this year?  My dad got me started with a lot of organic seeds from Johnnyseeds.  Here's this year's garden listing: 

Beans: Fresh Pick, Yellow Wax, Royal Purple, Dragon
Broccoli: Early Green, Belstar, DiCiccio
Cabbage: Red Express, Farao
Swiss Chard: Flamingo, Ruby Red, Red and White Mix

Here's the BIG list!
Tomatoes: Black Cherry Tomato, Super Sweet 100, Sweet Olive, Smarty, Brandywine, Striped German, Green Zebra, Granadero, Black Prince, Big Boy, Beefsteak, Roma, Yellow Pear, And San Marzano

Peppers: Yankee Bell, Early JalapeƱo, Pepperoncini, California Wonder
Cucumbers: Corinto, Salt and Pepper, Pickle Bush
Summer Squash: Fordhook, Straightneck Yellow, Black Beauty, Lemon Squash
Onions: Ruby Ring, Copra, Cortland
Parsley: Curly and Flat
Pumpkins: Kakai, Small Sugar, Jackolantern,
Squash: Butternut
Eggplant: Black Beauty, Early Long Purple
Corn: Who Get's Kissed?
Peas: Sugar Snap, Lincoln

As well as Potatoes, Garlic, Jeruselem Artichoke, Horseradish, Dill, Radishes, Lettuces, Spinach, Chinese Cabbage, Nasturtium, Basil, Beets, Carrots, Parsnips, and lots and lots of flowers!

Let no one think that real gardening is a bucolic and meditative occupation. 
It is an insatiable passion, like everything else to which a man gives his heart.
- Karel Capek

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Maple Season: Short And Sweet

We've reached the end of our maple season.  It's been a wonky one with temperatures see sawing, but now it looks like we're staying consistently above freezing.  So that ends the season because the sap gets "funky".  There's a kind of slimy-ness to it.  

Pennsylvania has gone to a new maple syrup grading system.  Instead of Grade A Light, Grade A Medium, Grade A Dark, and Grade B, we now have "A" Golden Delicate, "A" Amber Rich, and "A" Dark Robust 

We ended up with a lot of Grade B syrup.  My favorite!  In the new Pennsylvania grading system it is labeled as "Dark Robust".  I like that.  I felt that "Grade B" made the syrup sound like it was inferior and oh boy it certainly is not!  "Dark Robust" definitely gives a better definition of this wonderfully rich-flavored syrup! 

I bottled some of our syrup last night. We put it into the bottles piping hot and turn the bottles on their side to cool.  This creates a vacuum seal inside the bottle.  

This is pint and quart jugs of Robust maple syrup (and one one-gallon jug).

We also have some Medium Amber syrup to bottle.  This is know as Amber Rich now.  Some people don't care for the richness of the Dark Robust and like a more mild maple flavor.  I don't get it, but everyone has their own tastes.  I find cilantro to be disgusting and other people love it.  Anyway, Amber Rich will suit people who like a more delicate maple flavor.  

Next. using lots of very, very hot water, we'll clean and then wrap all of our equipment in plastic until next year's season.  We'll pull the taps out of the trees and bring our tanks out of the forests and clean and seal them.  Another maple season will be over.   

Next up - beekeeping and gardens!   

Monday, April 6, 2015

And Happily, One Week Later......

The birds are singing, the sun is shining, the deer are browsing, and we're hoping for a high temperature of 63-degrees today!

Can you see the deer?

Spring, maybe?  

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Thursday, March 26, 2015

We've Got Bees!

There have been a few days with high enough temperatures that the bees are coming out to defecate.  Hurray!  

I've begun feeding the bees because there is absolutely nothing out there for them to eat!  I'm pulling a double pronged attack to address the roller coaster temperatures we're having.  I've put a bag of 1:1 sugar syrup on top of the hive for the warm weather and a patty of fondant for when the weather turns cold.  I'm pampering them, but it sure pays off if they make it!  

A friend posted this picture from Facebook.  Absolutely beautiful and chilling at the same time!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Spring Update...

I haven't written because I have a LOT going on right now.  Maybe I'll do little update posts here and there.

If the weather holds the way the weather channel says, we're going to have an outstanding maple season this year.  We've been working on getting our sugar house ship shape and we're still working on tapping trees because all the snow has made it very difficult to get up into the forest!  We hope to start boiling in the next day or two!  

I took the tarpaper off the beehives.  I don't want it to get so warm inside that they think it's warm outside and fly out and freeze to death.  I've seen the bees out flying for "cleansing" flights on the warmer days.  Bees will "hold it" all winter and then they go out when the weather gets warm enough.  Then they make mustard stains all over the snow.  A few good warm days do them well because if they can't get out, they can get nosema which is similar to dysentary.  I'm cooking some sugar fondant for the bees which I hope to throw on top of the hives today if it warms up enough to crack them open.  This will give the bees something to eat because by now they've got to be getting low on supplies.    

The little piglets are growing fast!  We castrated our little boar, so we plan on keeping him as a meat pig in the spring.  The purchase of the little gilt fell through, so we'll be keeping her as a meat pig as well - unless someone wants to buy her!  Sadly, I had named her - "Pumpkin" due to her gorgeous orange color.  I hate to name can animal if I plan on it becoming meat.  

We bred our other gilt and are looking at a farrowing at the end of June.  Sooooo, I'll be happy to supply if you're in the market for piglets!  

The chickens have started laying a LOT better.  I got 13 eggs the other day!  I went out into the coop and found a dead chicken yesterday.  I'm pretty sure it was an opossum because they always eat just the head.  We closed in the chickens and ducks last night and put a live trap out with the chicken carcass as bait.  I'll go out this morning and hope the live trap makes for a dead 'possum.

We still have a LOT of snow on the ground, but it is gradually melting away.  Mud season is starting and I'm so very happy!  This was a horrid winter and I know everyone is sick to death of it!

I love my little goats.  They put a smile on my face every day.  Violet looks like a puff ball right now. I guess she has an angora goat gene in her.  I thought about using the brushings to spin something and then thought, nah, there's not enough to make anything.  I thought I'd put out the mohair for the birds and they'll have lovely mohair lined nests this year.   

Onion seeds are started.  I'm starting artichoke seeds in a day or two when they finish being vernalized in the refrigerator.  Then tomatoes, peppers, etc. etc.  I don't want to start too early because in the past I've found that some of the plants get far too leggy.   

Now, it's time to get off the computer and get to work!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

To Little Boar's Dismay, I Learned A New Skill

Sorry, there will be no photos of this.  

Our little boar almost got a reprieve from castration yesterday as I received an e-mail from a farm in search of a breeding pair of Idaho Pastured Pigs.  

But, after talking with the customer, we decided that it would best suit her if she was first on the waiting list for a breeding pair from our farm and the farm we're working with in New York.  This way she would get summer piglets of about the same age. 

Then I got another e-mail today from a customer looking for a breeding boar.  She is looking for a boar to breed with her gilt in March.  Our little guy was too young to have been ready for breeding at that time.  I thought maybe we could figure a way to have her gilt serviced by our mature boar, Tigger.  We're still talking. 

So yesterday, my husband and I caught our little piglet and took him to our local large animal veterinarian.  I wanted to be sure I was learning the proper way to do castrations for future operations and our vet is fantastic about helping the developing farmer learn new skills.       

We almost would have been unable to do the operation because it seemed as if the testicles had not descended.  But the vet was finally able to locate and isolate them.  She showed me how to do this.  Then the incision was made and the testicles were removed.  

Boar to barrow is a quick process.  

I learned that I will definitely do this on boars when they are younger and easier to hold.  Our seven week old boar was pretty big for this operation.  I would probably do this when the piglets are a week old. 

Little Barrow is home safe and sound and recuperating nicely.