“It’s Spring! April Fools!” – Winter

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:

boiling sap
Here is the sap pot. I had to boil down a bit before adding the rest of our sap – this pot didn’t hold all 2 gallons at once. We won’t end up with much syrup, but it should be delicious anyway.
more snow
Here is our driveway/side yard, which was grassy and chicken-y in my last post. The chickens were not happy that we got more snow.
more snow 2
Here is my car with snow on it – we really didn’t get a whole lot, but when you are waiting for it all to melt, getting any snow is a let-down.
buddy
My bunnies didn’t care about the snow, since they live inside. Here is my buck, Buddy.
marigold
Here is Marigold. I bred the two does last weekend, so hopefully we’ll have baby bunnies by the end of the month. Marigold was not happy about being bred. (She’s pretty skittish anyway).
Petunia
Here is Petunia. She seemed excited about mating, luckily.
wizard 1
I was taking pictures of the rabbits, and my cat Wizard started coming down stairs. He’s been hanging out more downstairs since we got him a cat tree. I’ve even found him sneaking around in the kitchen, which means he may start actually catching mice downstairs.
wizard 2
A close up of our Wizard. He is a great mouser upstairs, so we are hoping he’ll do his job downstairs too.
nova
Our Nova was curious why I was taking pictures, so I took one of her too.

 

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Coming out of winter into spring

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.

chickens_dorko and brown hen resized
Here is General on the right, with one of our hens a couple years ago.
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Big Red – our Black Copper Maran rooster, this picture was from last year.

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:

happy hens
Here are some of the hens out in the yard today.
chickens spring
There was really only a little bit of yard and the driveway for them to go in, but they enjoyed it.
chickens driveway 2
Another picture of hens in the driveway.
remaining pile
This is what remains of our snowbank in front of the coop.
ducks heading home
Here are the ducks heading back home.
sap buckets
We also tapped trees this week! Usually maple syrup time is earlier in March, but we didn’t have the necessary warm daytime temperatures till this week.
sap buckets 2
We’ve been getting just under a gallon a day of sap, with 8 buckets out.

Spring is on its way, luckily. I’m glad to see this winter mostly behind us.

 

December on the farm…

I haven’t posted in awhile – we’ve been really busy this fall.  Here are some updates:

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Here is our snowy yard today.  It took awhile to get this much – most of November we didn’t have any snow.  The chickens haven’t been coming out of the coop building much. I left the run open on days I was home until we got snow. Now the chickens don’t want to come outside anyway, and our white ducks might get lost if we let them out! They like the snow though.
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Here is Marigold, one of our female bunnies.
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Here is Petunia, Marigold’s sister. They were born this year in March.
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Here is Buddy, our male.
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The garden in winter. bleh. I’m already starting to plan next year’s garden!
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The back yard. The snow is pretty, but it gets to be tiresome after awhile. It’s nice through the Holidays and then I wish it would leave (it won’t for several months after, though).
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Our bird feeder is up, so the chickadees are happy. We kept it down in the summer, to prevent bears coming to our porch. The bears should be hibernating now.
specs resized
We lost our hen Specks a week or so ago. I thought she was egg bound or something (she was lethargic but still eating), so I treated her for that, but it didn’t seem to matter. We were very sad to lose her. She was a big personality in the flock. Very vocal about us coming in to get eggs. And very friendly -she liked being petted. We’ll miss her.
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This is a little older – here are a couple of pumpkins I ended up roasting. I made some pumpkin bread with the flesh, and froze some for later this winter.
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Here are all the tomatoes I canned this fall.

Oodles and oodles of eggs

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:

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A ring of eggs.
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The various shades of brown, from dark to white.
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Here are the green eggs – they come in khaki, and light green, and someone even lays khaki with dark spots.
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Various shades all together.

Wintertime in the snow

We’ve been really busy this winter with the holidays and other stuff, so I haven’t had a chance to post anything in a while.  We’re in the middle of a typical U.P. Snowy winter.  We get a lot of lake effect snow from Lake Superior.  Here are some pictures of the past several weeks.

front-yard-storm
The view from our front porch during a blizzard a few weeks ago.
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Here are our cars during that same blizzard.
finch-on-a-flower-stalk
My husband took this picture of a finch, hanging onto a old evening primrose stalk.
overhanging-snow-curtain
We have a metal roof. When we have warm-ups, we get curtains like this hanging down. We were wondering how long these would get – they didn’t get much longer than this before breaking.
overhanging-snow-curtain-feeder
Our bird feeder next to a snow-curtain. This did not deter the birds from coming to eat.
snowy-trees
Here are our apple trees covered in snow.

Duck Updates

Our ducks are getting huge.  We’ve had them for three weeks already.  I swear they have quadrupled in size. We have gone through I think 5 brooder boxes.  The ducks ruin the boxes after awhile, so they have had to have replacements. Here is the last box we made for them:

duck box 4
A large duck box

Here is my son posing in a weird pose, and Downey checking out the box, so you can get a sense of scale:

silly d and duck box
The duck box with my son, Daniel, and Downey

We had the ducks in a spare bedroom, and then that got too much. They are slobs, as I’ve said before. We want to get them outside, but the weather is not cooperating yet. Here is what our yard looks like today:

blegh
blegh. That is all I can say here.

So the ducks are in our shed, which has a cement floor and is on the way outside, anyway. Instead of making them another box, my husband created a duck corral of sorts:

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The duck corral.  The baby gate is to keep Atat from putting his face in the duck corral.
newest setup
The ducks enjoying all the room they now have to move around.

The ducks get really messy – they play with their water and then they stay wet and then they poop, and they stink. So we like to give them a bath (plus they LOVE the bath).  We started in this little tub (which is actually a cat litter pan):

duck bath

We had a leak in our bathtub so we had to use the pan the first time. We now use our actual bathtub – they all fit in at once, and we have been making the water a little deeper. They will dive under and swim around and splash – they love it.  The last time, instead of trying to dry them just with a towel, I put them on a pile of towels after the bath and then ran a hair dryer over them. They loved that.  I was dealing with a pile of ducks upstairs without a  camera, so unfortunately I don’t have pictures of that.

Today I gave them some pine shavings – we’ve been just using paper towels over the cardboard floor of their corral, and we are changing it every 2 hours or so, it seems.  I thought at the very least, the pine shavings will keep the smell down a little.

ducks with pine
You can see the pine shavings on the right in the corral here. On the left, the brown floor is their paper towel bedding after about 20 minutes.  A bunch of slobs.

We are supposed to have warmer weather this next week – they are calling for temps in the 60s next weekend.  So we will be able to get them outside then. We have an old dog shed, that was actually being converted to a clubhouse for my son.  Our plan is to use that for temporary duck housing until we can get them something built of their own.   We have a heat lamp we can set up if needed for if we get colder temps. The ducks are getting white feathers growing in under their yellow fuzz, so they should be ready to go out soon.  That is the plan as of now – we will have to see what happens on the weekend. Our weather has been so schizophrenic this spring that you never know…

Oh, and we have chicks due to hatch on Tuesday!  So bird-in-the-house season is in full swing.

St. Patty’s Day Pummelling

All of our snow was gone… I knew that we could still get snow, since it’s only March.  We got pummeled with snow last night.  This morning we woke up to a huge mess.  The weather people said that we were expecting 8-10 inches.  Today when I went out to feed the rabbits and chickens (who are NOT happy about this turn of events), the snow came over my boots. So I took a stick and measured it. At 8 am we had received 13.5 inches of snow.  And it was still coming down.  Luckily I don’t think we got much more.

treeline
This is what we woke up to.

In the night we knew we were getting some snow – we have a metal roof, and while we were in bed we kept waking up to strange noises. We realized that it was snow falling off the roof – snow that had piled up on the roof was falling off of the roof in little avalanches, since it wasn’t very cold outside.  We didn’t realize just how much snow we had gotten till we got up this morning.

Because there was so much snow, the trees were weighed down – which means that we lost power for most of today.  It’s back on now (which is why I can finally post this).  We dug the cars out and parked them across the street so my husband could plow the driveway. The problem is that under this snow, we had mud since it had been so warm. Our truck is currently stuck in the mud at the back of the driveway. So that’s another thing we have to do in the next few days – get someone to come pull the truck out of the mud. Here are some photos of our big St. Patty’s day snow.

buried cars
Here you can see our cars buried.  Yes, there are cars under that.
out front
Here is our street view this morning.
buried car
A view of our driveway from the front porch. The red bit is my car buried by snow.
fence
Our backyard dog run. It looks like the snow we got on Christmas, but I don’t think we got this much then.
snowy woods
Our driveway (and the rabbit hutches/wood shed) after our plowing attempt.
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Snow in the dog run. This comes up to my largest dog, Atat’s, belly. So the other dogs are buried when they go out in this.
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Our garage and our spruce trees. You can see how the snow is weighing everything down. The rose bush in the middle is very saggy.
back yard
Our back yard/woods – covered in snow.

I hope it goes away soon. I was so excited by the spring weather we had.

 

  • Update – we got our truck unstuck. We just had to wait for the mud to freeze, and it was easy to get out.

Indoor Winter Gardening

In winter I would go bananas if I didn’t have green things growing, so I have a lot of houseplants.  I have a few sunny windows in my house, most get partial sun. I have two windows in my bedroom that are south facing. Unfortunately, my cat Wizard likes to lay in one. He would eat any plants I have there, so I only get to use the other window, near my dresser, for plants. But when I start garden seeds inside in spring, he gets temporarily banished from his window.  Here are some pictures of my indoor garden:

onions 1
Here is a pot of green onions. I grew them from old green onions that I had bought at the store. I just left the roots on the bottom base, popped them in some dirt, and they are growing well.
onions 2
Here’s my other pot of green onions. It’s overshadowed by my Christmas Cactus which is now blooming.
cactus
Here is my fully opened Christmas Cactus flower.  I had one years ago that had red flowers. I got this one from my boss a month or so ago, and it’s now blooming. I didn’t know they could get this pale of flowers. They are very pretty.
sink plants
Here is my kitchen sink garden, which includes the onions and the cactus above. It’s a west facing window, so it gets sun in the later part of the day. I need to get some hanging baskets for the spider plants in this picture.
art room garden
Here is my art room garden. The window is a north facing window, but the sun does seem to come in in the early and later part of the day. There is also an east facing window off to the right, not pictured, so they get some light from that side as well.  These plants have seemed to do well in here.
dresser garden
Here is my dresser garden, in the south facing window. I usually keep this dresser full so the cat doesn’t jump up and eat the plants.  The spider plant on the right had a long offshoot for awhile, it was hanging almost to the floor. The cat thought it was a toy and wrecked the baby on the end. So now I make sure the offshoots aren’t hanging off the dresser.
tall plants
This super tall plant is a Mother of Thousands.  It was not nearly this tall when I got it, about a year ago. It has grown quite tall. It will need a new pot soon, and maybe a way to put it lower so it isn’t touching the ceiling.
mother of thousands
Here is the top of the Mother of Thousands. It is touching the ceiling of my bedroom.
tomatos
These are some House Tomato seedlings – they are supposed to do well and actually set fruit in the house, in a pot in a sunny window. They are about ready to go into their gallon pots.

 

Snowy Farm in February

Today it’s cold – about 4 degrees F.  It is supposed to get up into the 20s though today.  I thought it was a nice sunny day for some pictures of our snow.  It looks pretty but I can’t wait for it to melt away.  Our side door is under a spot where our metal roof drops snow.  From plowing that and the rest of the snow away from the door, our driveway is packed down enough where we have to go down to the door. If you’re standing in the driveway you are a few inches above where you would be if you were inside the house, if that makes sense.  I hope you enjoy my photo tour.

snowy side yard
Our snowbanks in the back as you’re heading to the chicken coop.
snowy coop
The snowbank in front of the chicken coop. We have a trail to the actual door so we can get in.  Our chicken yard gate is not closing very well right now, but the chickens don’t really come out – they don’t seem to want to walk in the snow. The building through the woods is our neighbor’s house.
snowy woods
The woods, beyond the snow bank
rabbit hutches
Our rabbit hutch in the woodshed. We have a blanket that usually covers the rabbits when it’s very cold, but there was no wind today so I let them have some fresh air. They should get some sunshine too once the sun rises more.
snowbanks
Our snowbank on the side of the house near the woods.
squirrel tracks
Squirrel tracks! They come to eat the seeds the birds knock out of our bird feeder.
snowy street
A view of the road. The old building in this picture is our old hall, across the street.
snow by door
The side of our house. The snow gets really deep around the house because of our metal roof – the snow drops off in little avalanches when the temps warm up. Sometimes there are chunks of ice in it – you don’t want to be standing there when it falls.
front porch
Our front porch full of snow.
birds under cedar
A view of our yard under the cedar tree. You can see a couple of birds on the ground. They are waiting for me to move so they can come back to the feeder.
yard under snow
Our side yard, under a foot or so of snow. In the distance under our apple trees you can see deer tracks – the disturbed snow – they come to try to find apples under the snow. We’ve had them try to shake the trees before also. There are still some apples up at the top.

Mid winter chickens

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The chickens venturing outside, waiting for me to come in and feed them.

We’ve had a couple of decently warm days.  Yesterday they were calling for a high of 37 degrees Fahrenheit, but we got to 48.  Today we were at least in the high 30s most of the day.  The days have been getting longer, and my chickens have been laying more eggs.  Their production had dropped way down in December, but it’s gone up now.  We were getting 3-5 eggs daily earlier this month, it’s now up to about 7-9 a day.

The chickens decided to venture out today a little. We also cleaned out the coop – it was easier with the warm temperatures. I had tried a couple weeks ago with highs in the 20s and their poop was frozen to the floor, so I just had to add bedding. Today I was able to actually scrape everything out before adding new bedding.  Getting the old stuff over to the compost bin wasn’t happening though; we have a huge snowbank in the way, from plowing our driveway. I have the old coop mess over to the side in a bin, and will move it once I can get over there.

I wash eggs on Sundays -we collect through the week and put them in the fridge until we can wash them up all at once.  I have noticed my “Escape Artist” chicken is laying again, we’ve had quite a few white eggs this past week. She’s the only white-egg layer.

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The week’s eggs.

I’m glad the days are getting longer.  I can’t wait for spring.