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 have been very busy. Last week I went camping. While I was away, it seems that my garden has exploded. (It tends to do that when you don’t see it every day). I hatched hatch# 3 of chicks a couple days ago, and we found our first duck egg today! Here are some pictures of the latest happenings:
One of our one month-old chicks is frizzled. I believe she’s from one of the chocolate/Maran hatching eggs I bought – when she was born she was black with a cool red/cherry colored head. Now I have no idea what kind of chicken this is – I read that the frizzle gene can show up in any breed. In the U.S. they don’t consider “Frizzle” a breed, but in Europe supposedly they do. She also has 5 toes instead of four, which I read is another genetic thing that can just happen. I used to think only Dorkings got 5 toes. I don’t know for sure that she’s a girl, but because of her uniqueness, she is safe from Freezer Camp if she turns out to be a boy. I’ll keep her around because I just love how she looks – I hope she’s a girl though. Here are some pics of my frizzled chicken:
I like having different breeds/kinds of chickens – it’s really interesting watching them change as they grow up – sometimes you get some really unusual things, as you can see here.
Today we put our older batch of chicks (this year’s “teenagers”) outside, into one half of the coop. They are still a little leery – they went from a cardboard box with a screen on top (to keep them from flying out) to a large open pen and half of a building. So they are a little overwhelmed. Plus on the other side of the fence are some large creatures that look similar, but are a little scary – the adult chickens. Everyone is settling in ok though. We’ll be moving the smaller chicks in a couple weeks, when they are big enough and have all their feathers. For now, here are the teens in their new home.
There has been a lot going on lately around here. After my last post, no more chicks hatched. We ended up with 22 hatched out of 42 for that batch. I candled the remaining eggs – 10 were empty, and 10 just didn’t hatch. And then a day or so later one of the chicks who had hatched died. So we now have 21 small chicks, and 4 larger chicks. I’m done with hatching for the year – we now have 43 chickens including our adults.
Here is one of our larger chicks, Escape Artist’s daughter:
We vaccinated the chicks for Marek’s last weekend. The older chicks were given it at the same time – may be a little late but it’s better than nothing. We only had the one vial and didn’t want to try to split it up, especially since this was the first time we’ve ever given it. My chickens from last year were all vaccinated at the hatchery. I don’t know if my 2-year-old chickens were vaccinated. Either they were or we don’t have Marek’s disease here, but I have heard that it is all over the place. I’ve read that it takes 2 weeks for the chicks to build up any immunity after being vaccinated, so next weekend we might move the older chicks outside. We were going to add another little chicken house for the youngsters, but we’ve decided we will do a split coop again – we have the room in the chicken house, with two separate rooms, and fenced runs on both sides, so we can keep them separate but all safe and comfortable. The smaller chicks will have to go out later – they are still too small. I’ll have to integrate them with the larger chicks when they do get moved, but there are so many smaller ones I think they’ll be able to hold their own against the 4 larger chicks then. Here is one of the smaller chicks:
We lost one of our ducks this week. We had a male (we think) who had some trouble with his feet – he wasn’t really able to keep up with the group when they were moving around, we had noticed. In their pen that didn’t matter so much, but earlier this week I was outside and noticed he seemed to be stuck in the pool. I don’t know if he got sick, or just got stuck in the pool and got too cold. I took him out and set him on the grass in the sunshine, and dried him off a little with a towel. I hoped he would get better, but he died a little while later. Here are our remaining 11 ducks:
The ducks always run away when you get near them. The chickens, much smarter, come running because they know people=food. Here are my chickens out today:
Our trees are starting to fill in. Springtime is in full swing, except we are in the U.P. So we got snow flurries today, and it didn’t even get in the 40s. It’s supposed to warm up in the next few days though. Here is our cherry tree in bloom:
Since spring is here, I’ve been planning the garden. We are using the same spaces as last year, and I’m making a new space for my son. He had a little flower-bed area last year but it didn’t get enough sunshine. I gave him a big square, about 8×8 or so, that used to have weeds and asparagus, and some old rhubarb. The rhubarb and weeds were the only things that really grew there. So he’s helping me clean it up. And we started our garden plans:
And we started seeds last weekend:
My strawberry patch is doing well. I put some new plants in this year. The old ones are growing well and spreading, and the new ones are doing ok. I need to make a cover in the next few weeks or so, to keep tiny creatures from stealing my berries this year.
My son and I were taking a walk last weekend and came across something extra delicious. I have been telling him and my husband about morels since we moved up to the U.P. and have not been able to find any. We found 4 in the woods last weekend. Not many, but it’s enough to show them what I was talking about, and let them have a taste. We haven’t had much rain this year, but now we know where we might be able to find them – I have been checking in that area again but haven’t seen much else, either because of the lack of rain, or because forest creatures are finding them first. Here are the morels we found:
I counted our baby rabbits tonight. Wind (our white Californian) had 10 live babies! Fire, our black Rex, had 7 total – 2 died the other day, but we counted 5 alive this evening. Wind’s babies are all different colors. Some are naked pink, some are black, and some are spotted.
For the chicks – we are still mid-hatch, and we are up to 22 hatched out of 42. I don’t see any more pipping at the moment, but from how this hatch has been going I’m not worried. Today was their due date, and they started hatching 2 days ago so I’m going to give any stragglers until Saturday night. So far we’ve gotten 11 Marans, 5 Easter/olive eggers, three bantams and three from our home grown eggs. Here are some updated pictures of our newest fuzzballs:
Our main hatch is due tomorrow – 42 eggs in the incubator. Our chicks started hatching last night. So far we have 8 in the brooder, and another one was just hatched a few minutes ago. There are a few more pipping now. So far, we’ve had 3 bantams, 3 easter eggers, and 3 of our homegrown eggs hatch. There is a maran that is half hatched as of the last time I looked. Here are some pictures:
Also, my rabbits have both had their litters – they were born yesterday and last night. I have not counted them yet so I don’t know how many each had. So we have lots of babies on our farm at the moment.
Our test hatch (or batch 1) chicks turned two weeks old today. They are doing well, and getting bigger. They are a little skittish. Also, one of them is Escape Artist’s child. Just like mom, this one, at less than 2 weeks old, figured out he can fly and perch on the brooder box. I have now been using a window screen to cover the box. We have to cover/uncover pretty slowly so the chicks don’t freak out when we go to clean out the brooder or feed/water them.
I attempted to take some pictures today – when I say I attempted, I mean that I was able to take them, but the pictures are not very good. The chicks did not want to cooperate very much, and I think they were a bit close up, since I had to hold the chicks so I didn’t have to go find them if I set them down. The brooder is in our spare bedroom and I can just imagine them taking off somewhere under the bed and us not being able to get them before they poop everywhere. Here are some (somewhat fuzzy) pictures of our chicks:
I love watching them grow up – it’s fun to speculate about what they will look like as adults, but with mixed breeds there is not really any way to know until their feathers are all in. I like having a bunch of different colors/looks of chicken. It helps us tell them apart also.
We had an extremely busy day (well, evening). First I worked all day at my job. Then I drove for an hour to meet with this lady to buy some hatching eggs! For our large hatch we are using some from our own chickens, but I saw an ad on craigslist for hatching eggs of Black Copper Marans and Olive/Easter Eggers. I went and met with her today and got a bunch of hatching eggs. She threw in some Bantam eggs. I’m not sure how that will go, since bantams are so small. Their eggs are very tiny. She said they should do fine mixed with regular sized chickens though. Here are the cool hatching eggs – you will see why I wanted them:
I got home after my egg-adventure, and the ducks, who are STILL in the house for tonight, needed a bath very badly. We are planning on getting them outside tomorrow – my hubby is off so he said he’d start getting their temporary outside housing set up, and I’ll help get them in there tomorrow when I get home. But with this bathtime, I finally got some pictures of the blow-drying ducks:
One other thing, actually kind of frustrating, that happened today – I ordered a bunch of trees and fruit plants this year (raspberries, strawberries, elderberries, etc) – I got a notice that they already shipped last week – We still have snow here, although it is supposed to warm up this week and stay warmer (fingers crossed). My plants came today. Which means I had to figure out what to do with them/get them set up. I’ve been saving milk jugs for most of the winter, so that I didn’t have to buy buckets or large pots. I plan on keeping most things in pots for a year or two, so we can keep them safe from deer and the lawn mower. Some things were dormant but most said to plant right away. Here are my new plants, all dressed up and nowhere really to go yet:
Oh, and also – an update on my test hatch. It turned out that of the last 4 eggs, 2 were duds (I candled last night finally, and they were completely empty). The other two had chicks that never came out. I opened them tonight and they were dead. I gave them till tonight to start pipping but there was nothing. So, of the actual fertile eggs, I ended up with about a 2/3 hatch success – 4 out of 6 eggs hatched. Those 4 chicks are doing very well. I cleaned and disinfected the incubator and set it to dry. I am not sure if I will start the “real” hatch tomorrow or Friday night. I will have to see how much work moving the ducks tomorrow night is.
After my post last night we had two more chicks hatch, and then another one this morning. There are four eggs left with no signs of hatching yet. Today is day 21 though (their actual due date) so I will give them some more time. Probably another 24-48 hours – if I don’t see any signs of pipping by another 24 hours I may give up. If they start to hatch before then I will let them hatch all the way. Here are some more pictures:
The chicks are so cute – I really like the little blondie one – I’m trying to figure out who everyone’s parents are. I know the smallest black one, that hatched this morning, is the baby of Escape Artist (my hen who lays white eggs). The other two black ones must have Australorp mothers, since they have black coloring. The blonde one I have no idea – it most likely is not my white hens (or not much genetic material from them) because it would be more yellow – yellow fuzz translates to white feathers as an adult, usually. I don’t have any other very light adults, besides my splash maran and my brahmas, but this chick does not have feathered legs. I will just have to wait and see how they look as adults.