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:
We got hit with a big snowstorm yesterday (as did most of the upper Midwest, and other parts of the country). We probably got somewhere over 10 inches of snow, but it was very windy so it settled in drifts – some spots had no snow but in other spots there were swaths of snow that were over 3.5 feet tall. Because of the way it settled I really am not sure exactly how much we got, but it was a lot. And in mid April it is definitely unwelcome. I was looking back at old notes and realized that at this time a couple years ago I was putting my ducks in the pool outside to swim – it was 70 degrees that day. Last year I was putting in the onions. THIS year, I haven’t even seen my yard yet – there was a small bit of driveway exposed for awhile but that is all so far. This coming weekend we’re supposed to be up in the upper 40s, so this snow is all going to melt and become a big mudpile. What fun!
We also added a new rooster the other day, since my old roosters both are gone. The hens need someone to watch out for them, so I decided to look for a new one. I found him on Craigslist. He’s a Russian Orloff, and I’ve named him Bertram. The name stuck in my head when I got him, so that’s his name. It fits pretty well, actually. Here are some pics of the new rooster, and our yucky new snow:
Oh, so an update on my last post about syrup. I was still cooking it down when I posted that day; right after posting, I decided to put the sap into a smaller pan to finish the cooking. I chose too small of a pan, and ended up making maple sugar instead! The temperature got too high with the small pan. I thought I had made hard candy, but over a day or so it ended up crumbling. It’s quite nice in tea, but it was not what I was going for. After that day, we had some cold temps, so we didn’t get any sap for about a week. This past week (before the storm) was really decent – we were getting 1/2 gallon per day from some trees, and one tree actually gave almost a gallon per day for a few days. Temperatures dipped Saturday when the storm was heading this way, so I just pulled the taps in for this year. I ended up with about 9.5-10 gallons of sap through the week, and cooked them down yesterday:
I made sure to check the temperature this time and didn’t cook it to candy / sugar stage.
It’s officially spring, but here in the U.P. we are just starting to come out of winter. We still have a lot of snow, although this week we’ve had decent temperatures during the day (above freezing) so the snow is melting and turning driveways into mud. They freeze at night, luckily, so I was able to go to work this morning – my car wasn’t stuck in my muddy driveway. We are supposed to get a little bit of snow this week (3 inches, I heard) which is typical. Spring is usually like this.
This winter has been really hard – we lost both roosters. Big Red died in January, and The General died just a couple days ago. They both got really bad frostbite this winter – Red had it so bad his waddles got really swollen. General’s toes got it really bad. I’m not sure if they eventually both died because of frostbite complications, but it’s possible. They both seemed to recover (and be feeling better) before they died, so I’m not sure. With chickens it’s sometimes hard to tell. The frostbite came when we had a really bad cold spell in January. The ducks sometimes make it hard to keep the moisture out of the coop as well, which can contribute to frostbite in the chickens. Roosters with larger combs/waddles are really susceptible, and both of our boys had them. We are very sad about losing our roosters. Now we have 19 chickens (all hens), and three ducks.
Today we let the chickens out into the yard for the first time this year – there is actually a bit of grass/muddy driveway for them to hang out in, instead of just snow. The ducks found a big icy puddle to dabble in – they loved that. Here are a few pictures from today:
Spring is on its way, luckily. I’m glad to see this winter mostly behind us.
We’ve been up to a lot this last month – it still just keeps raining way too much, so everything tends to be sopping wet. Some veggies are finally starting to produce/ripen. I’m hoping the rains don’t hurt the harvest – I’m worried about tomatoes splitting. Oh, and we’ve also already had frost warnings – some areas near me actually had frost a week or so ago, but we lucked out at the house and didn’t get any frost. Here are some pics from the last few weeks:
Thanks for checking out our late summer pictures. Hopefully this rain will let up a bit and we’ll have a nice fall harvest.
After a pretty schizophrenic winter, spring appears to finally be here. We had big melts in January and February this winter, but I’m hoping the nice weather will stick this time. This is the U.P., so it’s very likely we will get some snow again, but I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts. The last few days were kind of crummy – cold and rainy. But today it was finally sunny, and in the low 50s. We got some things done outside, and the animals enjoyed the sunshine.
I’m hoping spring weather sticks around for awhile.
We are now getting tons of eggs. With winter we are somewhat over-run. We are currently getting at least 15-20 chicken eggs a day from our 35 hens. That doesn’t count the 5-6 duck eggs per day we get from the 6 ducks. In the fall we started selling the eggs at the local farmers’ market, but that only runs June-October. So for now, I sell what I can but we still have a LOT. So we eat a lot of eggs. The chickens are possibly laying less because it’s wintertime – in the spring their production may even go up. But the eggs are very pretty – we get all sorts of shades of browns, some almost pinks, some white eggs, and varying shades of greens. Here are some cool pictures of the eggs:
We were out feeding the chickens tonight, and realized one of our hens has a wound on her back. She is now in our makeshift “hen hospital.”
She’s one of my Production Red hens from our first batch of chickens, so she’s almost 3 years old. She has historically been one of the roosters’ favorites, so she tends to look a bit beat up, missing feathers from too much male attention. She happens to be molting right now, so with the roosters jumping on her, she developed a sore on her back, and then someone else started pecking at it. Chickens have a habit of pecking at anything that is red, which isn’t good if someone has a wound. I just noticed the sore tonight, and it looked really bad, so I figured we would take her in at least to clean it up. After taking a better look I decided we will keep her in for a few days to let her heal up and rest for a bit.
I’ll let her stay in for a few days, at least until she heals up. Then she’ll get to wear a chicken apron if it doesn’t seem to hurt her – sometimes with the molt it hurts them to wear one, or be touched at all. An apron will prevent the roosters from digging their claws into her back. She is a little small for the aprons I have, so I may have to resize one to fit her.
We had a pretty mild autumn this year. When I was growing up here, we were lucky if we didn’t have to wear snow suits under our Halloween costumes. Snow has come later the last couple of years. We finally got a couple inches the other night, the weekend before Thanksgiving. For most of my chickens, and the ducks, this is their first time seeing snow. The chickens are not very excited about it – the ducks seem to like it a little. I think they will enjoy it more when it’s deeper – we really only got a dusting.
We’ve had a busy fall – we are now down to 41 chickens, and 6 ducks. We took out 6 roosters a few weeks ago, and now we still have 6 remaining roosters. There are a couple on the short-list for freezer camp, but we may wait till spring to take them out. Below are some pictures of what our fall looked like, and of our new snow.
It was a bit chilly today, but the sun was out. We have had colder temperatures lately, and the garden is mostly done. We had a couple of watermelons that just were not growing anymore. My son asked if he could pick them today, so I said yes. I figured they weren’t ripe, but when we cut into the largest one (the one we’d set up a sling for, from previous posts), it actually had some pink to it. And it was surprisingly sweet tasting. So this was our first ever successful watermelon:
For some reason (maybe the sunshine), I got the bright idea to let the chickens and ducks out of their run today. We have had so much rain, and it rains so often, that we just haven’t gotten a chance to mow our lawn in the last couple weeks. So I thought, since they’ll eat grass, and they’re hanging around in a semi-wet / muddy run, maybe they’d like to hang out in the yard for the day. It wasn’t that unwise, I suppose. It was just a cluster trying to get them back in. They wanted to hang out in the woods, and they found the sand pile for some much-needed dust baths, and didn’t want to give that up so easily. They didn’t really do much “mowing” for us, but they enjoyed themselves. We got some good pictures:
We also moved the adult rabbits to their winter home, inside our entrance shed/mud room. We got some new cages, and my husband has been putting them together and setting them up for us. Last winter was really hard with our old setup, so we wanted to make it easier this year. Here are photos:
The cages are pretty nice, we got them from KW Cages. They have a slide-out tray for easy cleanup, which should make it really nice. The rabbits are getting settled in – they weren’t so sure at first but they seem to be relaxing more tonight. We have a gate to the shed, so we can keep the nosy dogs out (Especially Atat, who is almost as tall as the cages, and very curious). I think this will work well for winter. We’ll get them set up outside again in spring.