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.
Phew! We finally got the last three double-dug French-Intensive beds finished and planted tonight. We had a bit of a hiccup a few weeks back, when we hit the part of the garden that used to be a driveway. The soil in that bed was extremely rocky and we had to sift the soil to get all the rocks out. Once that was done things moved a bit faster. I also got the other gardens planted in the meantime. Here are some photos:
We are progressing on our garden plans for this year. We’ve had some really warm days, and the nights are starting to warm up now, so planting for some things has started, and other things will be put in the ground soon. We are almost done with our raised bed garden that we’ve been working on, and we are getting the other beds ready as well. Here are some pictures of the goings-on for late May on our farm:
The garden is coming along nicely. I’m really glad that we’ve had such a nice spring so far.
At my last post, we had gotten a whole bunch more snow in mid-April. Within 2 weeks of that, the snow was pretty much all gone. Now we’re well into spring, and I’ve been busy digging, and planting, this year’s garden. I started seeds inside for tomatoes, some herbs, and flowers at the end of April, and have started potatoes, onions and peas already in the garden.
I came across a book in our house (one of my mom’s, probably) called Backyard Bonanza, a little pamphlet book from the 70s; it’s about the French Intensive, double-dug raised bed method. It’s essentially doing double-dug raised beds, without using lumber to surround the bed – you have beds that are permanent, and double dug, where you don’t ever step on them again, surrounded by permanent pathways. The compaction on the pathways will eventually keep weeds down on them, and the double-dug method gives your plants enough room to put their roots really deep, so you can plant a lot more vegetables in less space. I’d read about double dug beds before and thought “that’s too much work,” but I decided to try it for my main garden this year after reading this book. It’s really not too bad, since I have time – I won’t be planting most things in there until June, so I’m doing a bed a day every couple days, to let my back recover between, and not work too hard. Here are some pictures of the garden and the farm this spring:
This garden will have 11 of these raised beds this year (it would be 12 but the garlic was already in for the year – I’ll re-do that one in the fall after I harvest the garlic). So far I’ve dug 3 beds, and planted two of them. I have 8 more to go, but most of those will be plants that will go into the garden in June. I also will have the herb garden and tomatoes in the back in other plots. I’m stealing some area back from the chickens for my tomatoes and squash this year, since they usually have the whole yard to roam in, minus the dog run. I’m excited for this year’s garden.
We got more snow yesterday. Which happens here in the U.P. We got an end-of-March storm, which only gave us about 4-5 inches of snow, but it came with a little cold snap. Our maple sap collecting has gone awry because the temperatures dipped. We went to get sap the other night before the snow started, and there were little icicles from the taps into our buckets. Tomorrow is supposed to be warm enough for the sap to flow, but otherwise the next week is not supposed to get much above freezing during the day. Ideally you want temps in the 40s during the day and 20s at night for optimal sap production. When I looked at the weather, it said those temperatures should come back around April 10th. I decided to cook up what I had today – we had just over 2 gallons collected so far. We’ll still leave the buckets up for now and see what happens.
Here are some new pictures from today:
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.
I’ve been planning this year’s garden for awhile, since sometime in February. Over the last few years I’ve learned some things about gardening in the U.P. We have a shorter growing season, so I can’t plant pumpkins or other things that need 110 days, because I most likely won’t get that long. Luckily there are a lot of shorter-season versions of those kind of vegetables out now. I grew some smaller, shorter-season pumpkins last year.
I’ve learned that even though our last frost is (usually) in May, it’s better to wait to put things in the ground. I used to garden in southern Michigan, and I could start my garden at the beginning of May. Here around June 10th is probably best (or after the first Full Moon in June – which is June 9th this year) – we are well past the last frost dates, but the soil also takes awhile to warm up – a couple years ago I put things into the ground mid-may, and my plants just languished there – some wilted from the cold, some died outright, and I had a lot of replanting to do. I’d rather just put the whole garden in once, than have to replace everything.
I doubled our garden space for this year – the last couple years I had a 10×30 bed, this year it is 20×30. I started my seeds in early May, and have some nice seedlings that are now hardening off on the back porch. I tilled the garden yesterday – there are some grass clumps that need to get taken out, and then I’ll re-till it again before planting, which will happen next weekend.
I have three flats of seedlings, and I am making seed tapes for small seeds like carrots, using newspaper. I cut strips of newspaper and then used a water/flour paste to glue seeds at the correct interval – I can lay the tapes down, cover with a bit of dirt, and then the seeds won’t migrate. I won’t have to thin them either. I also have a bunch of stuff that I will be seeding directly into the garden, like corn and beans.
I’m excited for this year’s garden.
We’ve had a lot of rain (with snow intermixed here and there). Today was a nice day, so we let the chickens and ducks out of their run. Our yard and the surrounding woods are made up of some rolling terrain – we have some lower spots that have recently filled with water because of the large amounts of rain we’ve had. The ducks found one of these spots (and I swear they made it a little larger with all their dabbling). Here are some shots of them enjoying their temporary pond in the woods:
A nice spring evening. The ducks really enjoyed it, and so did we.