Maple Syrup, and new friends on the way

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.

trees tapped
Here are some of the trees tapped this year. We only tapped three right at the edge of the yard, because there was a foot of snow around the trees when we first started. We collected sap for about 2 weeks. This picture was from right at the end of that time.
wizard
Here is our cat Wizard, venturing outside on a nice day last week.

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.

sap on the stove
Sap on the stove.
sap
A close up of the maple sap steam.
syrup
Syrup! We got 6 pint jars.

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.

incubator 4.6
Here are the new chicks on the way! We have 32 eggs in here – I expect after candling we’ll have 20-25, maybe. I will candle the eggs this coming week (after 10 days in the incubator). The left 2 columns are Partridge Chanteclers, the middle two columns are mixed eggs from Bertram’s old home, and the 2 right columns are from my hens.

Our ducks are excited that it is finally spring – they’ve been searching for snow-melt puddles:

ducks in a puddle
Our ducks wandered to the puddle at the edge of our property last week – you can kind of see them in the middle of this picture here – (the houses are our neighbors behind us). This area is low and it tends to fill up in spring. The ducks love it.
ducks in woods 2
Here they are heading back through the woods to the coop. They didn’t like that I came to take their picture.
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Test Hatch Chicks!

I’m doing a small test hatch (8 eggs) before doing my “real” hatch next weekend – we want to hatch around 50 chicks, so we will end up with a few more with my test hatch.  My eggs went in 3/22 – they were due to start hatching tomorrow.  Yesterday we took the automatic turner out of the incubator, so the eggs can get ready to hatch.

I heard some peeping last night, and noticed a little poked hole in one.  This morning there was a little more of a hole, and more peeping.  I got home this evening to 2 pipping eggs (Pipping is where the chick is starting to break through).

bit o cracked shell
Hard to see, but the middle egg here has some broken shell on the bottom – this is what one of the eggs looked like when I got home.
out pops the chick
The chick stretched and stretched, and broke through.  Once it seemed really determined to get out I think it took it maybe 5-10 minutes till it popped out.
wandering
The chick is very tired, and keeps wandering around the incubator and then passing out for a bit, then peeping, then moving around again.  He / she will take a while to dry off.
pip
Here the egg just above the white one has a hole – this is our other Pipping egg  – I have been hearing that chick peep also, and a tiny beak keeps coming out, so I expect this one to hatch in the next few hours or so.  On the left you can see the egg that the first chick hatched from.
wandering 2
Tiny chick – its eyes have been opening a bit too, but she is still so sleepy.  I think I will wait till we have at least 2 hatched before moving them to a brooder box. 

So far I think my test hatch is going well. I’ll give it a couple more days. I’m hoping to get at least 6 out of this batch of 8 eggs, in order to feel like I had a good hatch rate. I have not candled them though, so I will just have to wait and see if they all are viable.