Today was a beautiful day. We had temps in at least the 50s, and it was sunny. The snow is melting, and I planted a new bed full of perennial vegetables. Here are some pictures from this nice spring day:
We made maple syrup this year. We started collecting at the end of March, when we still had a bunch of snow. We ended our collection after a couple of weeks because we had run out of room in our freezer and fridge for gallon jugs of sap. The snow had been melting but then this last Thursday we got hit by the end of the Bomb-Cyclone storm that came up through the middle of the country – we only got 5 inches of snow here at the house though, but it made it look like winter again. Below are some pictures from before that snow hit us.
I planned on cooking the sap outside this year. I bought a big steam-table pan (I just searched for “maple syrup pan” on amazon) that would hold 22 quarts. We have a firepit already set up that I was going to set the pan over to cook the sap on; but then the day I planned on cooking everything up, it was pouring rain. I ended up just doing it on the stove using two big canning pots. It took a full day on Sunday and then the evening Monday after work, but it is now complete.
I also have some exciting news about chickens! Last April we got Bertram, our Russian Orloff rooster, from an ad on Craigslist. I was planning on ordering some chicks this year, but then I was contacted on Facebook by the lady I got Bertram from – she found me through this blog. She asked if I was interested in trading hatching eggs, since she still has another Russian Orloff and then we both get chicks from these roosters. So we traded eggs – I saved pretty much all our eggs for a week, and gave her 1.5 dozen, and saved 11 for us. I received a dozen from her chickens, as well as nine eggs for Partridge Chanteclers that she got from another lady. So I have 32 eggs in the incubator, they started on 4/6. I’m possibly going to end up with way too many chickens, but I didn’t want to waste any of the eggs I’d saved, or the ones I had gotten either. I looked at the 3 previous hatches I did with this incubator in 2016, and we usually get about a 50% hatch rate from the original set put in – typically I candle and end up taking out about 25%, and then at the end another 25% don’t make it, so I’m figuring that is about what we’ll end up with – approximately 15 or 16. We’ll have to figure out what to do with any extra roosters, but I’ll worry about that later this summer. We do need more hens since mine are becoming slackers – the youngest of my hens are 3 years old, from our 2016 hatches. From 16 hens currently, we are getting about 5 eggs per day if we are lucky. I am excited for new chicken friends – Fingers crossed we don’t get mostly roosters.
Our ducks are excited that it is finally spring – they’ve been searching for snow-melt puddles:
Spring is officially here, even though we still have a lot of snow outside. It’s melting though and our temperatures are getting warmer. The trees are producing sap and getting ready to bud. I did see a couple of daffodil leaves emerging near a tree the other day, so things are coming along nicely. I have been garden planning, ordering and starting more seeds, and getting ready for this year’s garden.
I had some seeds from last year but I had run out of a few things, and wanted to try some new vegetables and new varieties of old favorites. I had run out of peas, so I got a new variety of those. I’m growing some dry beans this year – a variety of chickpeas and a Jade bean variety. I am going to try growing some quinoa. I also am attempting peanuts – I had given up hope of ever growing them since they are traditionally a southern heat-loving crop, but I read an article (I think in Grit magazine) by a lady who owns Fruition Seeds in New York State – she has peanuts (for sale) that she received from a person who developed them to grow right here in the U.P! So I immediately went to their website and ordered some. Fruition has a lot of seeds for this type of climate – the U.P. has similar climate to a lot of the rest of the northeastern U.S. The original article I read was actually about growing things for your specific climate, and about finding seed sources for your specific climate.
I’ve been starting a few things – if you read my last post I had started onions in February. This past weekend I started my “April start” crops: Tomatoes and peppers, along with a few others. I also started some shallots – I was originally going to order starts for those but ended up ordering some seeds from Baker Creek seeds. I got a lot of really good seeds from them this year. They seemed a little pricey (which is why I hadn’t ordered from them in past years) but they have a lot of varieties of different things, and they are all Heirloom seeds. So far my sprout rate is awesome from their seeds. I ordered from Seeds N Such last year, because they had great prices, but I had a lower seed sprout rate, and a few things didn’t grow true to what they said they were (for one example, I had a cantaloupe that was more of a honeydew). Plus their seed packets were too general – for example, they’d have a name for the specific type, but the directions would be for “tomatoes, peppers and other nightshades…” on the back, not for that specific type of tomato, or pepper, or whatever. I did a small order of seeds from Baker Creek this year at first – they came within a week, and the onions and gogi berries all sprouted within a few days. Their seed packets are really big and colorful, have directions/info for the specific thing you are growing, and they actually send you free seeds as well with each order. I got a free pack of free tomato seeds when I ordered my first 3 packets. I placed two more orders (I broke my seed order into two from them, since I ordered a lot this year) and I got some free carrots and other tomatoes, and basil as well. That’s a nice bonus.
As you can see, I’m growing a lot of different onions this year. I have pretty much two whole spots in my double-dug garden set aside for them on my garden plan – there is still a foot or so of snow on the actual garden, so I’m waiting for it to melt before I can assess everything and clean stuff up.
I am going to try some perennial vegetables – sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) and crosnes (also called Chinese artichokes) – these are both root crops that are supposed to be relatively easy to grow and/or become a little invasive. I picked a spot near the garage that gets a lot of sun, good drainage, and just has been tall grass for these. They both are supposed to have nice flowers, and they will have plenty of space in case they do become invasive. I ordered tubers for these from a company called Norton Naturals out of Canada – they don’t ship till sometime in later April. In researching perennial vegetables I came across Walking Onions, which supposedly “walk” around your garden (their shoots touch the ground and grow roots) – you shouldn’t need to replant them to get onions. I think I’m going to wait until next year to get some of these though, but it’s an idea for later. I started looking into Perennial vegetables because it would be nice to have a bed or two of things we don’t have to replant each year.
I am going to attempt to grow Ginger as well – as you can see in the pic above I have some in a tray over a heat mat set to sprout soon; I think I’m going to grow them in bags like we do potatoes, only sideways. Ginger spreads outward instead of up – so you hill it like potatoes but very lightly (like an inch of soil or so at a time) and it will spread its rhizomes outward. I have a good spot in our back yard that I think will give them the heat and sun they want.
I’m planning on doing potatoes in bags again this year – we had an excellent crop last year (as long as the bags are protected from the chickens, they do fantastic in them).
Spring seems to be finally in full swing. We are tapping trees for sap and planning for new chicks soon, along with all the garden plans. Now that more is going on farm-wise, I am planning on giving you readers updates more often.