Monday, December 10, 2018

Comparing Wintertime Water Containers For Fowl

I recently had water run down to the horse barn and boy has it become a game changer!  Instead of hauling hoses from the basement and running them across the yard I have one hose hanging from the barn rafters so that it drains after use and I take that out to fill horse trough.  The water spigot puts me right beside the pig pen and filling their water dish has become a breeze too!  

But... I don't have water (nor electric) to the chickens and so I haul a bucket of water out to them every morning and evening to refresh their frozen water dish.  

Over the years, I've used many different kinds of water dishes and my current favorite is a metal pan that I get at the feed store.  It gets terribly beat up from being picked up and slammed on the ground to get out the ice.  But the ice comes right out and the dish is inexpensive to replace.  

A beat up, but functional, water pan of the type used for chickens, turkeys, and pigs

 I spent years using the traditional plastic chicken waterer in the wintertime.  I would have to haul a bucket of warm water down to thaw the container enough so that I could twist off the top and break out the ice inside.  You can see from the handle the amount of torque that was sometimes used to pull off the top!  Many a time the plastic itself would give way and destroy the container.  

Traditional plastic chicken waterer

Second, to metal water pans, I like to use heavy rubber pans.  They don't get as beat up, but they tend to have these little threads in them that make it more difficult to get out the ice.  Over time, the sides will split after being jumped on and manhandled in the process of getting out the ice chunks. 

Heavy rubber dish

I think everyone has their favorite way of handling their frozen water situation.  

What's yours? 

Friday, November 23, 2018

Winter Came With A Vengeance

The snow came early and hard to our little part of north-central Pennsylvania!

We won't talk about what fall cleanup chores remain undone!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Horse Talk

You have to love when you live in on a street where there can be a stray horse.  Not a dog or cat, but a horse!  

The mare outside the fence lives in the pasture next to ours with six other horses and she is a real Houdini at getting out of her fencing.  Luckily, we live on a dead end road and people don't drive too terribly fast.  We've become accustomed to her antics and she's rarely on the road.  Most of the time she goes to the lush grass in the field beside her pasture.  She is a chubby girl!  We either put her back in her pasture ourselves or her owner, who checks on her and his other horses multiple times a day, puts her back.  He constantly works on the fences to try to figure out where she's getting out.  

She loves to come up to visit my horses and the other morning I watched my two gelding boys "show off" for her.    

It's really funny how Sassy, the 30-year-old mustang, walks between them as if to say, "knock it off, boys!"

Yesterday was a super windy day and when I moved the horses across to their 10-acre pasture they were all wound up and running.  I got a few seconds clip of them running until they ran into the trees.  It's a lovely sight!

My husband always says that these horses hit the "horsey lottery" when they came to live here!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Just A Couple of Funny Tidbits

I returned from visiting my daughter, who is in the Air Force stationed in Germany, last week.  What a great trip and how awesome it was to spend time with her!  While I was gone, I talked to my husband and asked if he was taking care of the garden - mostly, keeping it watered.  He said he was.  And I asked if he was enjoying all the fresh tomatoes.  He said he didn't know why, but they just weren't ripening!  The weather had turned cool and rainy, so I suggested he put down the sides of the high tunnel to make it warmer inside.  Which he did.  Still no ripe tomatoes!

I came home from my trip and went out to the garden and this is what I picked...

Never ask a man who is color-blind and can't very well tell between red and green if the tomatoes are ripe!

A day later I was brushing down the horses and our dog, Ladybird, a young Viszla with boundless energy, was right behind my horse Loch and he pooped on her head!

Add dog bath to the list of chores!  

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Chicken Killer

You know there's something wrong when you go out to the chicken pen and there's a vulture sitting on that back tall fence.  Then, another vulture flies up as you walk towards the chicken yard.  

Sure enough, the vultures were after TWO chicken carcasses - I found the third one later.  Sometimes death comes quickly to the chicken yard and it's usually easy to guess what it might be....

...Skunks don't usually eat chickens - just the eggs.
Opposums usually eat only the chicken's head.
Raccoons eat everything.

We, thankfully, haven't had experience with rats, weasels, or bears.  (My neighbor had a bear tear apart his chicken coop and kill six chickens - all that was left were piles of feathers and a lot of building damage!) 

Something had eaten almost the entire chickens and I was pretty sure it was a raccoon.  We put out two live traps - one in the chicken pen and the second in the turkey pen...

...the next morning

Rocky Raccoon will be relocated far, far away from everyone!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Bee Sting? Here's What To Do.

This weekend I went into the side door of my horse trailer for a lead line that I had stored.

I didn't notice the big grey ball right beside the door.  Then realized I was getting stung!!!  I ran for the back door and quickly realized I would get stung a LOT more times while I fiddled with getting it unlatched.  So I quickly turned and ran past the hive again to get out the front door.


They got me three times: on the wrist, hand, and upper arm.  You could see right where the stinger went in and it was swelling fast.  

The first thing to do (after getting away from the bees - and losing your glasses in the process while you run madly like a wild woman!) is to look for broadleaf plantain.

This plant is magical.

"Plantains have wide-ranging antimicrobial properties besides being anti-inflammatory and analgesic. It can not only soothe insect bites and superficial wounds but prevent infections and accelerate healing. An active biochemical aucubin is mainly responsible for the antimicrobial action of the herb. Another substance allantoin in the herb helps with skin tissue regeneration."

If you look around any untreated lawn you'll find plantain.

Pick a couple of leaves and rub them around in your hands until they're kind of mushy (I've heard people will chew them and spit out the mush to use - I haven't done that.  Blecch.).  I rub them around until they look kind of wet.

Lie the leaves flat over the stung area like a poultice.

Leave them on for ten minutes or so.

I iced the area for five or ten minutes after I removed the plantain and by the end of the day there was a tiny mark where the stingers had gone in with no swelling at all - and by the next day, there was no sign of being stung!

I've done this with honey bee stings and other insect bites with the same excellent results.

If you're a person who likes to work and play outside, the broadleaf plantain is a very good plant to get to know!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Bees and Berries and Mow and.....

What do you do when you realize it's been a looooong time since you last blogged?  You just start blogging again!

So much to catch up on and it won't happen today because here is my "tentative" plan for the day....


So I hope to take a look at the bees, pick the bursting crop of blueberries and raspberries, mow some of the yard, pick up and vacuum the house, and brush and ride my horses.  Not much.  I know that it's not really realistic that it will all get done either.

The blueberry bushes are loaded! 

This is my "fight the Japanese beetles" plan.  Every year the beetles show up just about the time the berries are getting ripe and decimate my crop.  This year a put the sheerest row covers I could find over the plants and had no beetle destroyed berries.
(The dark shape is my labrador retriever, Daisy.  She finds a little shade by the row covers.  She has to be close to me but the old girl is really suffering from the heat)

I wait until the berries are bursting with sweetness and sometimes there are berries that get mushy.  Those go into a bucket for the chickens... or they're pitched over my shoulder into the turkey pen as the turkeys gobble at me and wait for these little treats to fall from the sky.

Time to get to it!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Summer Is Here!

Every single day I walk outside, sigh, and say,
"I love summer."  
We finally have beautiful summer weather!

Of course, this is a crazy time in the gardens and I'm so far behind! It seems like we went from having no grass to having grass up to my waist!

But I always love to take a few minutes to look at the birds and the insects.  I feel sorry for people who feel they have to clear every dandelion out of their lawn because they miss so many interesting insect sightings!  (Plus, it's a great first food source for the honeybees)

It's fun to see how many different pollen and nectar collectors one can find!

After the dandelions faded everything else burst into bloom and my Miss Kim lilacs are gorgeous!  The almost overpowering scent draws butterflies like a magnet!

I was a little sad to see this monarch, because monarchs, to me, are harbingers of autumn.  I did a little research and found that this is not a monarch butterfly, but the black line near the bottom of its wing tell me it's a look-alike butterfly named the Viceroy butterfly.

The gardens are calling.  Enjoy a beautiful summer day!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Whose Eggs Are These?

As I was working on my high tunnel yesterday, I came across this nest with the prettiest little blue eggs.  They're smaller than a robin's egg and I wondered from whom they may have come?  

I did some research, and my thoughts are they are either bluebird (good!) or starling (bad!)

Your thoughts?

(BTW, the electrical conduit isn't hooked up to anything)

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

It's Been A Tough Spring

Wintertime weather refused to go away this year and it was really tough to be optimistic when we had freezing temperatures right up until May 1st.  Everyone's topic of conversation began and ended with the terrible weather.  Now, finally, the weather has changed to decent springtime temperatures and things are starting turn green.

But also on the farm, we had some other failures.  The maple season was not good for us.  We didn't get near the amount of sap we had hoped to get and so our maple syrup levels are low.  Fortunately, we have a barrel left over from last year that we can bottle.  It was frustrating to put in so much work and just not get the return.

Our pig, Marmalade, from whom we anticipated a nice litter of piglets, never "took."  We never got a litter of piglets from her.  After a while, we gave up from having her in the barn and now she is back out on the pasture.  She's fortunate that we have a freezer full of pork.  She would have been made into bacon.  She's going to get one more chance to produce next year.  If she doesn't produce next year then she goes to freezer camp. 

And lastly, and most sadly, my horse, Lady Bella Mellini, died.  

She was lying down a lot and seemed off her feed and not pooping regularly, so I called the veterinarian and we gave her medication and treated her for colic.  She rallied and then went back to not being "right".  So Fitz gave her more medication and a really nice dose of mineral oil.  She acted much, much better - her normal self - and we put her out in the pasture with the other horses on Tuesday.  She happily grazed and walked around the pasture.  Wednesday morning I checked on her and I saw her walking around with her head down and far out in the pasture I saw her lie down again.  I thought, "I'm going to go get her and bring her to the barn where she'll be more comfortable".  As I walked out to her I saw her start pawing and when I got to her I could tell she was in the last stages of her life.  The veterinarian said that we didn't know her history and really were guessing at her age and there may have been some kind of internal growth or another type of failure that the medication and walking alleviated temporarily.  But, there may not have been any way of saving her.   

Lady was my first horse and even after being affected with an atrophied shoulder (and being unrideable) by lightning that killed another horse in the pasture, I was happy to have her as a pasture pet and let her live out her days in comfort and peace.  She'll really be missed.   

So it's been a really tough spring.


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!