Okay, the spring report is finally in! I'm sorry it's so late in coming. Perhaps after you finish reading it, you'll see why.
We've had a very unseasonably warm early spring thaw. So much so, in fact, that we had a week where we were worried that we wouldn't get a sap flow at all this year with how warm our night temps were! Thankfully (and I never thought I'd say this), we've gone back to some colder temps which is pumping the sap up and our flow is now back.
Anyway, so to back up and fill you in from the beginning here...
With the warmer temps, I was able to get out and get all our horses hooves trimmed which was a great relief, some of them were getting pretty long. I finished my last mare the day before the rains came, which was a pretty close call, as our pasture turned to mud after that and I haven't seen dry ground since. The rains greatly reduced our snowbanks and awoke the creeks from their slumber with a strong vigor. That whole week I slept with my window open and was lulled to sleep each night with the sound of their crashing and gurgling down their banks en-route to the lake...
So, we ended up tapping over 50 maple trees this year, which means a pretty good hike down our ravines to reach that many. Now that our temps have settled back to a normal average spring (which just means below freezing at night) the sap has started increasing. I think the boys and Dad have been bringing in 20 to 30 gallons a day. Dad and Michael have been doing that chore a lot. It's a good spring work out, hauling all that back to the house! We're drinking a lot of it fresh--it's sooo good! I drank almost two gallons myself one day. It's so sweet and full of minerals. It's really been 'hitting the spot' for me.
Goin' out to tap with our buckets:
We were disappointed to learn that our beehives did not survive the winter. We're not sure why, except that all the beekeepers in the area said it was a terrible year and most everyone lost theirs. Despite his loss, Andrew is trying it again this year. We got our order in for another two colonies and Andrew has been working on cleaning out the hive boxes and processing the honey that the bees left us. He estimates that we'll still get around four gallons after he takes some away for the new bees. So, not a total loss.
Processing some honey combs:
Pulling out the comb...
Packing it in the press with a cloth liner...
A wooden lid...
Crank the press down...
Andrew set up a miniature green house (that we'd forgotten we still owned,) on the porch. We butted the door up to a window of the house that we leave open during the day to keep the green house at an even temperature. We'll be starting plants in there this year, as well as wheat grass. Mom appointed Theresa the job of growing wheat grass out there as a supplement for the animals, and for us. Theresa did research online and totally took over that whole operation, which, of course, was a load off of Mom's shoulders. She was very happy for Theresa's initiative.
Mom and I took a walk in the soggy, brown garden a couple nights ago, plotting, planning, getting very excited, and trying not to feel overwhelmed at the same time. We're good on veggie seeds and actually did really well last year as far as growing all of our own veggies. In fact, we still have stuff in the freezer and root cellar! But we need work on fruit and nut trees and bushes this year because, as most of you know, our family can really put away fruit!
Which brings up a sorry subject... The kids went down in the root cellar for some carrots shortly after the thaw and rains, and were more than a little surprised to find at least a foot of water down there! Major bummer. Thankfully, we were able to salvage our remaining veggies. Dried them out and then packed them back up and stored them in the cold room. We've opened up the root cellar and are waiting for it to dry out before taking the necessary steps to repair it.
Last Sunday, the boys played around with a compound bow that some friends left us.
The practicing of their archery while keeping an eye on the sap boiling down nearby reminded me a great deal of my last years' spring report:www.homesteadblogger.com/AHomesteadDaughter/130661/
Okay, yes, he did actually hit the apple! (...but he was aiming for the target.)
Now that we can see the ground, the kids and I have been working on clearing out an area of yard that was/is woods. It is/was just loaded with garbage and rusty barbed wire from the farm that was here many years ago. It's nearly completely cleared and cultivated back now, so we're going to be planting some bushes and fruit trees there, now that we have the space. I'm vary happy to be making headway on that project, after working on hauling garbage out of there for three springs in a row now, (spring is the only time you can get in there and find the garbage).
After getting over a bucking issue with his mule, Stephen and Mae are finally enjoying their first rides out without incident. She's really come around with Stephen's patient consistency and now they both seem to be enjoying each other's company. And, don't tell him, but Stephen looks really cute while casually ridding his mule down the road into the sunset beyond....
Several weeks ago, the farm erupted in a bit of chaos, as it seemed like all of our animals developed a strange jumping habit. The goats were jumping incredible heights for a chance to get out and see the farm a little. Michael was repairing their fences higher and higher every day, and when they were still getting out, he was insisting that we had some valuable jumping goats on our hands.
Then, Theresa decided to switch animals that she was training and went from one of the mules to a mare. Well, the mule was a bit jealous to say the least, so she took to jumping the fence and going on their daily walks with them regardless of halters and lead ropes. When we raised her fence three times--until it was beyond chest high on her--and she was still leaping it with great ease (no running start or anything!) we were beginning to wonder about our mules too...
Then, the worst was when our ram started hopping his fence to get in with the baby cows. The boys dug out a HUGE moat in his pen to prevent him from getting over, but somehow be bypassed it one night and.... (you thought the deceased bees and flooded root cellar were bad...) he broke little Glory's leg!!
She's our only girl out of four babies last year. She's our pride and joy, so that was very upsetting. At the vet's suggestion, Andrew and I casted it in a PVC pipe so she can still get around and we moved her to a different pen. She seems pretty well now. She can get up and walk around on her own, thanks to her cast, and is eating and drinking well. We're still keeping a close eye on her.
Anyway, since the thaw, we haven't had any animals getting out, as the ground levels in their pens are decreasing.
Michael's incredible jumping goat:
Our incredibly annoying jumping mule:
Our incredibly irritating jumping ram:
Lizzy hasn't been kept inside since the warm weather hit. She's been outside, on her bike, in the tree, on the pony, falling in the creek, etc. etc. She had the good fortune of being born on a farm, and I think the pleasures and beauty of farm life were born right into her being.
With the long sunny days lately, the boys brought out their log furniture from storage and put them back out on the front porch. Then, Stephen finished building a swing bench that he'd started last fall and put that up. It is sooo cute! (Not to mention, comfortable, cozy, sturdy and incredibly sweet, knowing that my little brother made it out of wood off our land and an old pallet.)
Andrew is back to work on our solar shower now that the sun is back. He's just been playing with some tests and designs, so I can't give you any specifics at this point, but I'll let you know how it works once we start showering outside (in the shower room, mind you), under sun heated hot water. He's almost done with the shower room.
Mom has been slightly overwhelmed in the kitchen these days because, with the warmer weather, the boys have been bringing in four and a half gallons of milk at a single morning milking! She's been processing huge amounts of milk in the kitchen everyday, and has been busily stocking the freezer and cold room with our surplus butter and cheeses. The other morning, Andrew walked in with his brimming bucket of milk and Mom cried, "holy smokes! Where'd you get all that milk?!" to which he dryly responded, "the cow."
We had a couple birthdays these past few weeks... Johnny turned seven and got a homemade cape, a sheath for his sword and one amazing cake from his older sisters, as well as a little older camera from Dad that he can make his imaginary movies on. He's been running around the yard flapping his cap in the wind, drawing his sword with loud 'swoosh' noises and fighting imaginary bad guys for hours every day.
Two days later, Annie turned sweet 18 and I managed to finish editing my first novel in time to print it out and dedicate it to her on her birthday. She was definitely my inspiration and motivation through that project, as she has written several novellas before, and was able to assure me that it wasn't that hard a feat to accomplish (and it wasn't. I certainly learned a lot from it. Maybe now I can write something worthwhile! ). Now she's in the process of editing it for me (a big job for sure, as it's 500+ pages! ) and putting her professional flare on it. She also got a cute little memo book from Theresa with a wooden cover, which also had a sweet, sappy dedication written in the front cover. So, rather surprisingly, we can actually be a rather sappy bunch , iffin we want ta.
Donna is becoming more talkative every day, and has a surprisingly large vocabulary for her little age. She manages to convey the message numerous times every day that she wants "outside!". Playing with her toys and yelling at the animals from the porch used to be good enough, but since the snowbanks shrank away from the edges of the porch, it is not. Now she's not happy unless she's up close, petting the goat, riding the pony, chasing the chicken and holding the bunny. She's been climbing off the porch right and left and falling into more than one mud puddle, but it hasn't slowed her down at all. Farm life definitely appeals to her (though what baby wouldn't jive with farm livin?).
I have plans in my head and a desire in my heart for a hand washing machine this year. Something along the lines of a pump method and a plunger agitation... perhaps hooked into Andrew's solar hot water... Something that can be moved inside or out, because I want to do it outside by the laundry lines in the summer and inside, obviously, during the winter. I've been doing some tests, reading up on some plans and keeping my eyes open for materials. Once I can finalize my ideas a little, I'm going to get a brother to help me build it. Yay!
Theresa has bunnies coming out of her ears this spring. Despite her best attempts, somehow they always manage to get out of their cages, which results in more breedings and babies. She desperately needs to get rid of some before our garden starts to sprout. Anyone want a cute little Easter bunny? ...Cute being an understatement.
So, despite all these activities going on, the boys have still managed to find a little time here and there to make a couple new items for our online country store. Check out Andrew's hand turned honey dip and Stephen's new rustic log bird house, if you have a chance!
Alrighty then, there you have your annual spring report. That oughta catch you all up to date! Iff'in ya don't hear from me again for awhile, know that we're all doing wonderfully, just spending a lot of time playing and working outside these glorious days!
Thanks for readin. Have a beautiful week!!