“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.
copper-maran-roo
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.

Early Fall Gardening

We’ve been harvesting tomatoes left and right. We’ve gotten a little bit of zucchini.  It’s funny how you plan for the year and things just grow how they want, with no regard for your planning. Last year I was overrun with zucchini and yellow squash, so this year I grew one plant of each.  They have not done well, so I’ve gotten 2 zucchini and it’s already October.  With the amounts of rain we had this year (and it’s not done) the garden has been a little hit or miss for some things.  Here are some newer pics of our garden:

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Some of our many tomatoes
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Some very tiny cherry tomatoes. These are very tasty, and super prolific. I even had some sprout from last year’s lost broken tomatoes (I call them rogue tomato plants).
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Some of our purple tomatoes. I thought these were Black Krim, but as I had others ripen I think these darker ones are actually blue beauty. I remembered Black Krim having a lot of green and these don’t.
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The largest pumpkin I’ve grown, shown between my feet. These were supposed to be pie pumpkins. This is more jack-o-lantern size.
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Another view of the pumpkin.
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A nice sunny sunflower. This grew in my yard (not in the actual garden bed) , in an area that didn’t get mowed this year. The chickens didn’t eat it before it had a chance to grow either, so that was lucky.  I think the deer have stayed clear of my yard with all the dog and chicken activity.
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The ducks enjoying a nice day in the back yard.
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Here is our garden at the end of September.
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Another view of the garden, from the porch.
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Another large pumpkin. This one was hanging from our fence but I picked it so it could finish ripening on the porch. I like how the leaves look still attached here.
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Downey checking out the porch. There are other pumpkins behind him.
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A bumblebee on a sunflower.
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A view from inside the garden in early October.
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We finally are getting some cauliflower heads! I had given up, but then a few days ago I saw a white head. I tied the leaves up on the plant, like you’re supposed to. A day later I found another of my plants has a head, so I did the same thing. This is my first year growing it.
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A pretty sunflower.
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Here are the rest of the tomatoes. We are supposed to get down into the 30s tonight, so I got spooked and figured I’d rather bring the large ones in. It was a little dark when I picked them, so there may be others out there. These will ripen on the table. There are still a ton of cherry tomatoes outside.
bee
Another Bee on a bright red sunflower.
butterfly 2
A butterfly on our zinnias. There has been a lot of bee and butterfly activity on all the flowers lately – I think some are getting ready to migrate somewhere, or store up food for winter.

The garden is starting to wind down a bit.  We still have a lot of stuff to harvest, but most of it will be ok if we get frost.  Carrots and beets are still getting larger, and I have some Kale to pick.  We also have peas and beans, but I’m letting those dry on the vines. I’m hoping I get enough peas to make a little bit of pea soup.  I usually don’t let them go that long (they are so yummy picked earlier) but I want to give it a try.

Late Summer around the farm

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:

late august
The garden mid-August. You can see the soaked muddy ground here.
sopping wet garden
Another pic from mid august.
toad
We found a visitor in the garden. He was huge! I wish the picture had turned out less fuzzy.
chickens
Here are the chickens coming to see if we brought them any treats.
bubble
A bubble – my son got a bubble wand from a birthday party, and we took some photos.
potatoes
Here is about half of the potato harvest. We harvested the last 4 (out of 8 or 9) bags. We really didn’t get a lot – I will try a different method next year (and keep the plants away from the chickens) – the food bags didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. I think we planted more seed potatoes, weight-wise, than we harvested.
fuzzy raspberries
A fuzzy picture of our raspberries. I put them in a couple years back, and finally got a decent crop, BUT they don’t taste like raspberries. One berry had a hint of raspberry flavor. I’ve tried letting them ripen more but those just rotted, so it’s not that they’re not ripe enough. I’ll have to research this variety more. They are good, just not what I want them to taste like.
cherry tomatos
Our first ripened tomatoes of the season, on one of the cherry tomato plants.
early girl
Early Girl tomatoes – these are the next to ripen – this pic is from a few days ago but I noticed one is a little pink today.
black krim
Black Krim tomatoes. These will get red on the bottom when ripe. They keep this nice dark color on top.
blue beauty
Blue beauty tomatoes. They are more of a purple tomato when ripe.
zinnias
Some beautiful Zinnias.
more zinnias
Another Zinnia.
uestion mark
A question mark made from potatoes – my husband set these up, using this silly shaped one we got.
large pumpkin
A large pumpkin waiting to ripen. It’s supposed to be an 8″ pie pumpkin variety, but this one is a bit larger than that.
small pumpkin
Here is a smaller pumpkin.
train depot
We sold some hens today – our 3 year olds and a two-year old. We’re trying to bring our food bill down for the coming winter. Here the ladies are waiting for their ride this morning. We now have 22 chickens (20 hens and 2 roosters). And 3 ducks.
early sept sunflowers
I took this really nice picture tonight – The sunflowers have some really nice flame colors.

Thanks for checking out our late summer pictures. Hopefully this rain will let up a bit and we’ll have a nice fall harvest.

Mid season harvest

Today I harvested my onions.  The onion bed got away from me for a bit, so they were entrenched in a jungle of weeds.  I went to weed tonight and realized that most of them were probably not going to grow much bigger – they didnt have much of a chance this year. I planted them and then the chickens thought the onion bed was a fantastic place to dust bathe, so I put up a makeshift fence, and then the weeds tried to take over a couple times, and then the chickens found a way in again, and I just decided better to harvest now and actually get some onions.  I’ll find them a better spot next year. This is actually the first onion harvest I’ve had – I tried growing from seed last year and they didn’t really take. This year I planted sets.  Here are my onions:

onions
My onions – I got about 12-15 of them, of varying sizes.

I am growing potatoes in chicken food bags this year. I planted 9 bags with seed potatoes, but I noticed some of the bags had fallen over.  One looked really bad, the leaves on the plant were a bit yellow, so I checked to see if they were ready:

potatoes
Here are the potato bags. The remaining 8 bags are doing great.
tiny potatos
Here is the harvest from one bag (3 seed potatoes originally) – this is a very small plate.
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Here is the largest of the harvested potatoes in my hand.

As you can see, they have some way to go before we should harvest any more.  I also have potatoes growing in the strawberry patch – I had planted some there last year and I guess we did not harvest all of them.  (Another reason I’m growing them in bags).  I may try tubs next year, it would make it easier to add more dirt as the plants grow.  The bags were a little hard to fold up higher, and if they get moved the opening can get too small to let rain in, which is what I think happened to the one bag before it fell over.

I also harvested a bunch of greens today – mustard spinach, which was a seed packet I bought for this year – it has a really mild mustard flavor; and some kale and chard.  I only have a few plants of each, but I harvest the outer leaves as they are ready, and the plant keeps producing all summer. It still gives us a lot of greens.

I also found my first bloomed sunflower of the season (growing in the onion patch, of all places – a re-seed from last year’s flowers).:

sunflower
My first bloomed sunflower of 2017. I had to take the picture from right next to the house so I could get the actual bloom – it was facing the house because the sun was over that way. The plant is about 3 feet from the wall.

We usually have a nice hollyhock patch growing next to our shed – this year I’ve let the chickens and ducks wander the yard, first because their fenced run was too wet, and then we continued because they didn’t destroy the yard like we were worried they would – we only let them when we’re home because they like to wander near the road – we need to be home to shoo them back.  Anyway, they’ve messed up the hollyhocks a little.  A few of the plants grew well before the chickens could get to them, but any that were low enough for them to munch on got munched. So we have about half of what we normally would.  Next year I’m going to put up some kind of barrier.  Here is the first bloomed hollyhock for this year:

hollyhock
Here is our first hollyhock of the year.

The garden is in full swing, and we’re starting to really see the results.

Zinnias and Garlic!

I harvested some wonderful garlic tonight.  Here are some pics of the harvest, and of the plethora of flowers in my garden.

garlic
Here is the garlic – it’s a little dirty still but it looks wonderful. I harvested 24 really nice bulbs.
garlic 2
This is the second time I’ve grown garlic – last time I just bought organic garlic at the grocery store. This time I ordered actual garlic bulbs. It made a big difference.
calendula
Some Calendula and nasturtiums. The flowers I planted in the garden really look nice this year.
melons
I’ve de-purslaned the melon area – there is still some growing in between the tomatoes, and I’m sure I haven’t seen the last of it here, but it looks a lot better.
sunflower top
Here is a sunflower head. This was just under my head level, so I’m sure it will get a lot taller before this flower finishes forming.
herbs and stuff
Some herbs and cauliflower.
marigold
Marigolds! I love these, but I’m really starting to enjoy my zinnias…
zinnias
More zinnias. I planted a big mix and they are really delivering this year. They are all different.
zinnia
Here is a close up of one.
zinnia 3
Another zinnia.
zinnia 2
A really nice yellow one.
flowrs and greens
Here is a nice shot of some of the greens and flowers on one side of the garden. I’m really happy with the flowers this year.
greens and flowers
Another shot showing more flowers.

My Garden is growing quickly!

I’ve noticed a lot of explosive growth of many things in the garden this last week. My tomatoes seem to have doubled in size – I have tomato cages around them but I need to tie up some of the branches.  I have a bunch of cool flowers starting to bloom. I planted a mix of different kinds of zinnias all over, and some calendula and cosmos – they are starting to bloom.  I love the different colors mixed in with the huge amount of lush green in the garden.  My carrots and beets are sprouting now.  And my weeds are getting large – this week my chores will include getting rid of a lot of them in the spaces I haven’t weeded yet. I have a ton of purslane still, even after picking some and making pickles.  I bough some ranch dressing and some cucumbers and tomatoes (since my plants aren’t producing yet) and am planning on some purslane salads this week.  It’s actually pretty good – we had it on tacos instead of lettuce the other day, and that was quite delicious.  Some updated pictures of my growing garden are below.  Enjoy!

escaping nasturtium
Right next to the entrance to my garden I planted a nasturtium. It is now escaping the fence. It’s about 2-3 feet away from the fence.
nasturtium flowers
This one has bright red/orange flowers.
nasturtium on the run
Here is the same plant. It has tendrils going out in all directions – here it is crossing the pathway.
zinnia
Here is one of the zinnias I planted. There are some reds and mixed colors too. I’m excited to see them all.
pumpkin plant
Here is one of my pumpkin plants – it too is escaping and climbing the fence. I planted it near the fence for that reason – it can climb the fence and save me space in the garden a little.
cosmo
Here is one of the cosmos I planted. I haven’t grown these in years.
calendula
A calendula.
cantaloupe
Here (in the middle of the bag, with some yellow flowers) is one of my cantaloupe plants. They seem to be doing better than my watermelon. They are surrounded by our new vegetable/weed purslane. There is another nasturium behind it.
mass of tomatos
My mess of tomato plants. I have both determinate and indeterminate varieties – the indeterminate are already branching a bunch, so I need to get in there and start tying stuff up.
tomatoes and greens
The greens area. Chard, spinach and kale. These are all getting large now too.
back of the garden
A view of the back of the garden. The sunflowers are getting bigger. I have a bunch along the back (north side) of the garden.
garden getting big
A view down the middle pathway. I like to take pictures from here to see the change through the summer.

 

 

The garden in Mid July

We had a very rainy June – most of the things I had direct sowed into the garden must have drowned. They did not sprout. So I had to replant a lot of seeds – beans, carrots, beets. Since the beginning of July we’ve dried up a little bit – we are getting more sun than rain anyway, so that is helping. The garden is finally taking off.  Here are some pictures:

nasturtium
Here is a nasturtium – it’s been flowering already and is starting to try to climb the fence.
peas
Here are my pea seedlings. I hadn’t planted peas originally, but my 4 rows of beans didn’t sprout in June, so when I replanted I put in some peas as well.
beans
Here are the new bean seedlings. I had originally planted yellow, green and purple. I ran out of purple at the original seeding, so these are just green and yellow. They’ll do.
beets and carrot
Here are the two beets and one carrot that managed to sprout out of all the rows I put in in June. I replanted seeds today. At least these three plants helped me figure out where some of the rows should be. Now I’ll have to thin everything when it sprouts.
garden long view
Here is the long view down the center of the garden. I have various flowers along the path – zinnias, calendula, and a marigold or two.
artichoke
My artichoke! I only had one come back this year, and it already has an artichoke. I haven’t decided if I’ll pick it – it’s not very big. Artichokes grow here but I haven’t had luck with them being very large. I only had one plant make it through the winter this year. (I had 3 last year).
lemon balm
My giant lemon balm plant. I actually split it, so this is half of the original plant. The other half is in my front yard. This half is about 2.5-3 feet wide. I keep finding babies in the garden where I had moved it from. I absolutely love it. It smells so good and makes really good tea.
tomato weeds
I have tomato “weeds” sprouting all over – they must have reseeded from last year – I don’t know what variety they’ll be. I did pick out some but there were a lot. I’m guessing they’ll be cherry – those were hard to get to (in the corn/sunflower jungle) and I lost a lot of them into the garden last year. So they are the most likely candidate.
purslane patch
My melon-turned-purslane patch. I have cantaloupes and watermelons in the middle of the bags, and then purslane have exploded between the bags. I found a recipe for purslane pickles, so I’m going to eat them. This is the part of the garden I reclaimed from the yard, so that is my guess as to why I have so much purslane. I have not had an issue with it in this garden before. Luckily it’s edible and tasty.
sunflower
I have a re-seeded sunflower (or two) growing in my onion patch. I have sunflowers all over the place! Very exciting! To the left you can see my potato bags. They are doing pretty well.
ducks
Here are the ducks. We recently sold three of them, so we only have three left. We were overrun with duck eggs. We are planning on cutting down on our chicken flock as well, to help with food costs through the winter.
backyard
Here are the chickens. We’ve let them run around the back yard a lot this year. Their run is still really muddy in spots from the rain, and they have been keeping the grass down but not completely killing the lawn, so it’s been ok. They enjoy foraging a lot.

 

A walk around the farm …

I took a walk around the property yesterday to see what flowers are blooming.  I took some pictures of what I found, and of some other features on our property.  I also put in some new trees today! I hope you enjoy the photos:

purple flower
These are in our yard – My mom planted them years ago, and has told me before what they are. I can’t remember the name though. These are some of my favorite flowers that come out each year. They’re like little purple fireworks.
Daisy
Here is a daisy. These grow all over the place.
Lupines
Here are some lupines. We brought a couple over to our yard from another yard years and years ago, and it must have been that a lot of other people did too. These grow everywhere now between our house and town (about 15 miles away).
Thimble Berry Flower
Here is a Thimble Berry flower. I have seen a lot (and large) flowers this year, so I’m wondering if we’re going to have a good crop. The plants are wild and grow across the street. I’ve tried to transplant them to our yard but they have not taken. Thimble Berries are delicious.
The unused plot
Here is the back view of our Across-The-street part of our property. When I was a child, my parents had goats fenced in here, but now I call it the “fern Jungle” – I’d like to reclaim it at some point, and put some more gardens and beehives in.
The hall
Here is a better view of the “hall” – our old building. It’s just an old storage building that is starting to fall in. We are planning on someday taking it down.
the homestead
A view of our house from across the street. Our property is on both sides of the road.
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And here are our new trees! We pulled them from across the street today. Some were growing behind the hall in the woods, and a few were growing right next to the hall.  They look a little sparse but I think with more room they may grow better.
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There are 6 trees – a few are spruce, and there are two that I think are Eastern Hemlock.