Category Archives: NATURE

Spring peepers

Have you ever heard of petoots or spring peepers?  It’s those noisy little beings we hear every spring when it starts to get warm!  I love hearing them but I’ve never seen them or ventured out to see what they looked like.  I’ve always assumed they were little tiny frogs.  This year I found out!!!

I went with hubby one morning to feed the cattle and in our back field we have a small pond that’s never gone dry (yet)!    As we drove by the pond we could see the pond just wiggling with life and the noise was deafening.  We went to the back-end of the field and dropped off the hay to roll off the hills to the cattle and then drove back to the pond.  I had my camera with me and finally got pictures of hundreds of the little noise-makers and they weren’t a bit afraid as I took their picture!  You can click on the photos to enlarge and see what I’m talking about.

Petoots of every size!

Usually where there’s one, there’s two!

The noise was deafening and hubby says when he spring turkey hunts you can’t hear the turkey for the frogs!

This isn’t a very big pond but the entire pond was covered with the little buggers! So, my friends, spring petoots, means mating season for frogs!!!

Now all I have to do is find out why we don’t hear the whippoorwill anymore!!  I love listening to them as much as the petoots and grouse drumming in the spring!

It’s just about time . . .

This little fat guy came to visit in 2015 and we had almost thirty that year. I had five or six feeders out and had to fill them twice a day.

April 15th is my deadline for putting out the hummingbird feeders. Last year I was late getting them out and didn’t have near as many.  This year I’ve got the jump on them I hope by putting out two feeders on the front porch this morning. I’m early but they might be too!!

First feeder out and ready!

I’ll start with two feeders and always in bright red. That seems to be their favorite color and I plan to have red and purple flowers all over the porch and yard this year. I’ll be watching out for the first fuchsia plant to hand on the porch too. Their vibrant colors really attract them.

Last year the few hummers that I had loved the butterfly bush, geraniums, bleeding hearts and the columbine.

That beak looks deadly, doesn’t it?

We have the ruby-throated hummingbirds here at the farm.

We think they’re stunning birds!

This was last years batch and I think the most we had at any given time was 10-12 and that was toward the end of the season.

Get those feeders out this weekend and let us know how many you have and when you first sighted them!

Here’s my recipe for the feeders, all natural:  1 cup sugar to 4 cups of water.  I mix it up in a pitcher and put it in the microwave for 6 1/2 minutes to sterilize it and keep it from fermenting.  I let it cool to touch and then pour in the feeders.

 

Feed the Birds From the Garden

One of 27 of my hens that heads straight for the bird feeders as soon as the hen house door is opened.

One of 27 of my hens that heads straight for the bird feeders as soon as the hen-house door is opened.

Part of the bird feeding station.

Part of the bird feeding station.

I love feeding the wild birds in our back yard during the winter.  There’s just so many species that flock to the feeders all during the day including my chickens!

 

I have 10 feeders in the back yard and the wild birds depend on me during the winter months when they can’t find seeds and other food.  I use black oil sunflowers that we raise in our garden, wild bird feed from our local farm supply store, and saved grease from my kitchen which I save in foil pans and stick in the freezer all year round.  We also dry any leftover sweet corn from the garden.  I pick it, shuck it and air dry it in our grainery and then place in mesh bags which are stored in lidded trash cans until feeding time.  I put the corn on a squirrel feeder and the birds and squirrels love it.  We had such an abundance of corn leftover after freezing for ourselves and sharing with our family, friends and neighbors.  I hate waste and the birds love it and so do my rabbits.

Sweet corn dried from the garden and now feeds the birds and squirrels. They love it!

Sweet corn dried from the garden and now feeds the birds and squirrels. They love it!

 

 

 

Another feeder in the back yard.

Another feeder in the back yard.

The wildbirds scratch it out on the ground which the ground feeders love and so do the chickens!

The wild birds scratch it out on the ground which the ground feeders love and so do the chickens!  The bucket holds walnuts that I gathered in the fall, dried and de-hulled for the squirrels.  The bluejay like them too.  The metal feeder, box feeder w/gallon jar and the gourd feeder are all handmade.  At the back-end of the station is another handmade feeder with four sections which the wrens prefer over the others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The collection of birds grows with each year:backyard-birds-2016-7 backyard-birds-2016-6 backyard-birds-2016-9 backyard-birds-2016-1 backyard-birds-2016-14 backyard-birds-2016-17 backyard-birds-2016-19 flocking-to-feeders-01092017-3 flocking-to-feeders-01092017-8 flocking-to-feeders-01092017-9 flocking-to-feeders-01092017-10 flocking-to-feeders-01092017-11

The Beauty of our National Bird

The pictures say it all!

Bald Eagle 02272016 (10)

Bald Eagle 02272016 (8)

Bald Eagle 02272016 (7)

Bald Eagle 02272016 (6)

Bald Eagle 02272016 (5)

Bald Eagle 02272016 (4)

Bald Eagle 02272016 (3)

Bald Eagle 02272016 (2)We watched him and took the pictures from our front porch.  These were taken over a month ago but we saw it and a younger one that hadn’t matured with the white feathering last week.  We also had a golden eagle here most of the winter.

Walking through a wildflower garden

Fall is here and so are the fall wildflowers.  Here’s a few I took photos of just along the driveway from the house to the mailbox.

Wild touch-me-nots, blue mini daisies and more.

Wild touch-me-nots, blue mini daisies and more.

I love these but don't know what they're called and they remind me of liatris, I think??

I love these but don’t know what they’re called and they remind me of liatris, I think??

They're not bluebells but the bloom is somewhat shaped like them.

They’re not bluebells but the bloom is somewhat shaped like them.

Shaped much like blackeyed susans but different.

Shaped much like black-eyed susan but different.

Goldenrod, gorgeous but sure does mess with my nose.

Goldenrod, gorgeous but sure does mess with my nose.

These aren't as blue as they normally are and our neighbor has a field full of them.  When the sun hits the field in mid-afternoon the entire field looks blue.

These aren’t as blue as they normally are and our neighbor has a field full of them. When the sun hits the field in mid-afternoon the entire field looks blue.

Chicory is popping up everywhere.

Chicory is popping up everywhere.

These little orange jewels bloom and then have a pod that when touched pops open.  The driveway is full of the huge plants this summer/fall.

These little orange jewels bloom and then have a pod that when touched pops open. The driveway is full of the huge plants this summer/fall.

Tons and tons of bloom and full of teeny tiny  bumblebees.

Tons and tons of bloom and full of teeny tiny bumblebees.

Queen Anne's lace is huge this year and maybe due to all the rain we received spring and summer.

Queen Anne’s lace is huge this year and maybe due to all the rain we received spring and summer.

Goldenrod at it's most beautiful.

Goldenrod at it’s most beautiful.

I don't know what this is but most of it is white with yellow centers like a daisy but much smaller and abundance of bloom.  I've also found the same plant but blue with orange centers.

I don’t know what this is but most of it is white with yellow centers like a daisy but much smaller and abundance of bloom. I’ve also found the same plant but blue with orange centers.

Once the weather cools a little and I can get out in the sun there will be an abundance of wildflower and nature photo ops.

Enjoy the summer as long as you can because that cold weather is just around the corner.  How do I know??  My hummingbirds have left!  😦

Heat

Winter 2014 warmth stockpile to be completed.

Winter 2014 warmth stockpile to be completed.

On Sunday morning we took off to the woods and started cutting for the 2014-15 heating season.  We found two oak trees that had been dead from the gypsy moth invasion three years ago and put more than a ton of weight on the farm truck.  Here’s a view of the visit with nature.

IMG_0032

IMG_0026

IMG_0025

IMG_0018

IMG_0016

IMG_0014We were there for about one and half hours and Hubby sawed the trees up and loaded the heavy pieces which were way to heavy for me and then I loaded the lighter stuff and enjoyed being in the woods.

IMG_0022

IMG_0024

IMG_0023

IMG_0012

IMG_0006

IMG_0005

IMG_0004I enjoy anything that involves us being outdoors together and I love the smell of fresh cut firewood.  One of the trees was blown to the ground and heavier than the other because it soaked up the last rain.  The other tree was still standing but the bark had fallen off.  This will keep us nice and toasty next winter.  All we have to do now is split the big stuff and put it in the woodhouse.

IMG_0038

IMG_0037

IMG_0036

IMG_0034

IMG_0030

IMG_0027

 

IMG_0013

IMG_0012

IMG_0011

IMG_0010

IMG_0009

IMG_0008

IMG_0007

IMG_0004

IMG_0003

IMG_0021

 

 

 

 

Merkels or morels

Spring is definitely merkel hunting time.

Spring is definitely merkel hunting time.

What in the world?????

Morels are a type of mushrooms which can be found growing all over the world in a wide variety of habitats every spring. They are among the most prized of the edible mushrooms because they have a rich and complex flavor that goes well with almost any food. They also have a very distinctive appearance which makes them readily identifiable, assuming they can be found at all, since they’re notorious for being very elusive.

Like all mushrooms, the morel is only the fruiting body of a larger organism. Most mushrooms form a massive web of fibers underground called the mycelium. This web of fibers can be quite large, and when it decides to reproduce it sends up mushrooms, which release spores from the parent fungus. Mushrooms are quite appealing to humans because they are often fleshy and flavorful. Scientists have not determined why mushrooms fruit when they do, but mushrooms are usually linked with rain and heavy moisture. In the case of morels, spectacular growth patterns are also linked with forest fires.

We love to search for these delicasies every spring and this spring is no different.  When Mother Nature cooperates we feel like we located the “mother load”!!

During spring gobbler season every year, hubby and his friends make a day of searching for these tasty morsels in their secret honey hole.  As in years past, they did very well and these shots will prove harvest:

92 morels cleaned, halved and ready for the skillet!

92 morels cleaned, halved and ready for the skillet!

Some are golden, some are brown and some are white.

Some are golden, some are brown and some are white.

It's a beauty!

It’s a beauty!

Draining all of the water off so they'll last longer!

Draining all of the water off so they’ll last longer!

 

There is absolutely nothing better than country fried merkels, baked beans and macaroni salad for supper!!  Wish you were here to enjoy them with us 😉

 

Our hummers are back!!!!

You know it’s spring when the hummingbirds return.  For several years now I try to get at least one hummingbird feeder on the porch by April 15th.  I was a few days late this year and didn’t get mine put out until Sunday the 20th and boy was I ever glad.  Our first arrival was yesterday afternoon when we were sitting on the front porch enjoying  the warm afternoon.

Hummingbird feeder.

Hummingbird feeder.

 

First I sterilize my feeders.  Then I make their feed which is four parts water to 1 part sugar.  I mix this together and boil for six minutes.  Let cool and fill the feeders.  This mixture will fill two of my feeders.

First I sterilize my feeders. Then I make their feed which is four parts water to 1 part sugar. I mix this together and boil for six minutes. Let cool and fill the feeders. This mixture will fill two of my feeders.

 

After preparing the feeders, hang them where you want to get a good view of these little angels in action.  We usually have 4-6 feeders on our front porch out of the sun so the syrup doesn’t spoil as quickly.  If your syrup seems to have strings of film in it after several days it’s time to change the syrup.  I usually start out with two feeders to begin with and as the population grows I add more feeders.

One of the first arrivals.

One of the first arrivals.

 

Last year in June, I believe, we had about thirty at one time.  I had four feeders on both sides of the porch and we were refilling them almost daily.  We love watching them.  Here’s a view of last years group:

Feeding time at the Caldwells!

Feeding time at the Caldwells!

I try to grow as many of their favorite flowers as possible every year and add perennials to my garden that they love as well.  Most of these flowers also attract the graceful hummingbird moth as well.

Hummingbird Moth

Hummingbird Moth

 

Yoohoo, spring, where are you?

Our little neck of the woods has been filled with major low temps for the last six weeks with minor warm ups and like everyone else I am SOOOOOOO ready for spring.  Yes, this is another post about the weather and knowing we can’t do anything about but gripe I think we are all doing that quite well!!

We were just hit with our first major snowfall which started around 2:30 on Wednesday evening causing me to leave work early so I wouldn’t be stuck out on the roads with my family worried to death.  NO I’m not stupid enough to wait for the roads to get treacherous before heading home.  I have a wonderful job and supervisors that allow me to head out early since I live about 25 minutes from home which is very much in the country.  We had plenty of warning about the incoming storm and prepared well in advance.  By the time I pulled into our driveway the roads were getting white and the mountain in front of our house and the one behind our house could not be seen.

Just got home!

Just got home!

This is what it looked like about 20 minutes after I arrived home.

This is what it looked like about an hour after I arrived home.

Hubby had worked most of the day before feeding the animals heavy and cutting some extra firewood for the main stove and the one in the kitchen.  It’s a good thing he covered it as soon as he unloaded it.  We had prepared for the electricity to go out as well and had five gallon buckets full of water for the bathroom, pitchers full for drinking and cooking and gallon jugs full for the animals and washing dishes.  Thankfully the power only went out twice and it was during the night and only long enough to have to reset the clocks.  Here’s a pictorial of how the storm grew as the night went on:

Almost a white-out!

Almost a white-out!

Bird and squirrel feeders are full.

Bird and squirrel feeders are full.

Birds are feeding heavily.  They know it's going to get bad.Birds are feeding heavily. They know it’s going to get bad.

DSCN4629

DSCN4621

Ground covered good with about 2 inches.

Ground covered good with about 2 inches.

Snow accumulation just after dark.

Snow accumulation just after dark.

Still piling up and it's pouring huge dry flakes.

Still piling up and it’s pouring huge dry flakes.

Hubby cleared a path so Sassy could get out to relieve herself and it's filling in.

Hubby cleared a path so Sassy could get out to relieve herself and it’s filling in.

Here’s what we woke up to yesterday morning:

DSCN4654

DSCN4652

DSCN4651

My car disappeared during the night.

My car disappeared during the night.

Hope the roof can bear the weight and there's another roof above it just as full.  When it slides off we'll know the sturdiness of our addition.

Hope the roof can bear the weight and there’s another roof above it just as full. When it slides off we’ll know the sturdiness of our addition.

21* and holding.  Wind is starting to get up.

21* and holding. Wind is starting to get up.

We’ve muddled through with no major crisis and hubby has to start over this morning cleaning out the drifts to all the animals to feed.  I’m keeping the fires going and cooking.  Today is a good day for a pot of homemade venison/vegetable soup!!

2013 Honey Harvest

DSCN4297

Hubby is checking the supers for production and they’re just not quite capped over but he pulled the ones that were full and replaced them with fresh frames.
DSCN4293

DSCN4287

Smoking the hive a little to calm the bees so he can check this hive.  It’s never been real productive but swarmed a lot.  This year he added a brood box and an extra super and they working their little hearts out.  They swarmed one this year about three weeks ago and instead of leaving the farm they went into one of the hives that died last winter.  I guess when they were robbing the old honey out of it they figured it’s a nice new place to bring a new queen.

DSCN4281

He loads the supplies on the ATV and moves closer to the hives to work.  It works well and has room to work without bringing the bees back to the garage.

DSCN4278

This is the smoker he uses.  It’s old but still does the job.  I save all the worn out jeans and he tears them into strips, uses his lighter to set it on fire and stuffs it in the smoker and pumps the bellows to get it going good.

DSCN4276

DSCN4302

This fine, soft bristled brush is used to gently sweep the bees off the frames after removing from the hive.  Sometimes the bees are persistent about hanging on but soon leave for the hive.

DSCN4300

Last years honey!

Last years honey!

Now you’ll see how he prepares the frames for replacing in the supers.  The bees could make their own starter comb but this way it’s set in straight and they work from that foundation to make the smooth honey he cuts from the frame.

Tapping in the small strip that holds the comb straight.

Tapping in the small strip that holds the comb straight.

Gently placing new comb in the frames.

Gently placing new comb in the frames.

Bee super frames

Bee super frames

He took honey out of the supers a couple weeks ago and then took some more this week.  Most of the flowering they use this time of year makes darker honey.  We like the lighter, sweeter honey so he takes off what we want to use and sale now before they add the dark nectar to the frames.  We have mostly quarts right now of honey with comb and a few pints of strained honey.  I’m still cleaning up wax all over the kitchen.   We sell the quart with comb for $9.00 and the quart strained for $14.00.  The pints with comb are $7.00 and the pint strained is $9.50.  We lost five hives last winter and honey is in short supply and we had to raise the price this year to restock the frames and comb.  The supplies are so expensive but the end result is awesome!!

Honeybee nectar

Honeybee nectar

Heavenly honey w/comb

Heavenly honey w/comb

!! quarts of honey w/comb, seven quarts strained honey and four pints of stained honey.

11 quarts of honey w/comb, seven quarts strained honey and four pints of stained honey.

 

Golden nectar fall 2013

Golden nectar fall 2013

Groundhogs are taking over!

He's on the alert to danger!

He’s on the alert to danger!

 

This summer we have been overrun with groundhogs.  Normally, these varmints are out in the hayfields or the woods but this summer we’ve got then building their houses under every building on the farm and that’s a lot og groundhogs.  Hubby believes that there’s really not that many more than usual.  He thinks we just see them easier because they have moved out ot the fields and woods due to coyote pressure.  We even had on build a home under and between the apple house and the cellar which has a small garage attached to it.  This year I laid my onions on a board in the dirt floor of the garage  to dry some before hanging them.  The first batch did well and we got them hung but the second batch which was mostly white onions were eaten by the creature and hubby found out before they eat the whole batch.

This is the two pieces of thin plywood that I dry the onions on in the garage.

This is the two pieces of thin plywood that I dry the onions on in the garage.

This is the hole he dug out in the garage for his home.

This is the hole he dug out in the garage for his home.

 

IMG_0002

IMG_0001

Youngster living under the barn.

Youngster living under the barn.

Then there were two babies under the barn.  We finally saw four kits from that litter.

Then there were two babies under the barn. We finally saw four kits from that litter.

Alert at all times.

Alert at all times.

Time to nap in the sun!

Time to nap in the sun!

Baby groundhogs everywhere 2013 (11)

They’re  destructive little creatures and will  eat up a garden in a heartbeat!

 

 

 

 

Butterfly Saturday

IMG_0047

IMG_0011

IMG_0010

IMG_0009

IMG_0004

IMG_0050

IMG_0049

Sucking up the nectar

Sucking up the nectar

Gorgeous

Gorgeous

Smaller than a hummingbird

Smaller than a hummingbird

Swallowtail

Swallowtail

Butterflies enjoying the butterfly bush

Butterflies enjoying the butterfly bush

Smaller butterfly, brown, white and yellow.

Smaller butterfly, brown, white and yellow.

IMG_0059

Dainty moth

Dainty moth

IMG_0051

IMG_0002

IMG_0060

Hummingbird moth

We have a new visitor to the farm.  Not only do we have about 30 hummingbirds this year but we have a hummingbird moth.  I love these little creatures as much as the hummingbirds.

Working the bloom just like the hummingbirds

Working the bloom just like the hummingbirds

Dainty moth

Dainty moth

Camouflaged in the bloom

Camouflaged in the bloom

Smaller than a hummingbird

Smaller than a hummingbird

Gorgeous

Gorgeous

IMG_0010

Sucking up the nectar

Sucking up the nectar

Hummingbird moth

Hummingbird moth

Photo page

There’s lots of new beauty on my photo page.  Click the button on my homepage and see some new nature shots.

 

DSCN4229

Raining again

I left work this morning with it raining again.  The weatherman says there a possibility of flash flooding again.  We still have less than half of our hay put up but already have almost as much hay as we did last year rolled.  I keep telling my kids that if we have as much snow this coming winter as we had rain this summer that we should all be preparing for lots of quiet time at home by the wood stove and possibly without electricity.  I think I’m going to prepare both of them an emergency weather kit for their homes just in case.  It’ll be up to them to fill the food cabinets and prepare for some kind of heat.   Here’s the rain guage as of last Sunday:

7 1/2 inches as of July 28, 2013

7 1/2 inches as of July 28, 2013

I know it’s hard to read but we’re just 1/10th of an inch from 7 1/2 inches for July.  We got 6 1/2 in June and 5 1/2 in May.  Rained expected today, all day should put us up to the 8 inch mark and more rain expected the first day of August.  What will we get if hurricanes come up the coast in September and October like they normally do?  Do I sound like a “worry-wart”??  The sunshine sure did feel good Monday and Tuesday.  Keep those umbrellas handy!!

I’m so pleased with my flowers this year.

DSCN4066

DSCN4064

DSCN4063

DSCN4062

DSCN4061

DSCN4051

DSCN4049

DSCN4048

DSCN4047

DSCN4041

honey and july flowers 2013 067

honey and july flowers 2013 073

honey and july flowers 2013 066

honey and july flowers 2013 065

honey and july flowers 2013 064

honey and july flowers 2013 063

honey and july flowers 2013 053

honey and july flowers 2013 051

honey and july flowers 2013 060

honey and july flowers 2013 047

honey and july flowers 2013 039

honey and july flowers 2013 044

honey and july flowers 2013 023

honey and july flowers 2013 025

honey and july flowers 2013 026

honey and july flowers 2013 042

honey and july flowers 2013 022

honey and july flowers 2013 020

honey and july flowers 2013 009

honey and july flowers 2013 005

Hay harvest slow but moving along

I wanted to share some photos my daughter took last week while helping her Dad harvest some more hay!  I think they’re beautiful!

IMG_0302

IMG_0301

IMG_0299

IMG_0298

IMG_0297

IMG_0296

IMG_0300

IMG_0303

IMG_0304

IMG_0305

IMG_0306

IMG_0307

IMG_0308

IMG_0310

IMG_0311

 

 

Jippy decided to take a nap!!

Jippy decided to take a nap!!

Everyone was enjoying the day on the farm!

Everyone was enjoying the day on the farm!

 

IMG_0314

IMG_0315

It was such a beautiful day to be on the farm!

Hummingbirds

We started out with six hummingbirds in mid-April and then it got cold and up until two weeks ago we only had one.  I kept the fresh nectar out for him and finally we have five which I hope will multiply soon.

IMG_0017

Normally I have five to seven feeders on the front porch by now but they’re only using the two and I’m refilling the feeders about twice a week.

IMG_0015

I love these little guys and could watch them for hours.  I make sure they have plenty of their favorite flowers in the yard as well.

IMG_0014They’ve been very busy this weekend and I’ve heard their courting rituals several times today.  The dipping dance they do is quite something.

IMG_0013

They’re quite territorial at the moment and they whizzed right in front of my face and caused Sassy to change positions on the porch for fear of getting “hummed”!!

IMG_0012

Frost and the fruit & nut crop

Apple blossoms

Apple blossoms

Apple bloom full

Apple bloom full

Bluberries bushes

Bluberries bushes

Blueberry bloom

Blueberry bloom

Grapevines blooming

Grapevines blooming

Pawpaw bloom

Pawpaw bloom

Pawpaw trees blooming

Pawpaw trees blooming

Leaves coming out on the pecan trees

Leaves coming out on the pecan trees

 

Everything was either coming out with bloom or full of bloom and we had two nights of frost around the 15th of May.  The English walnut and pecan were burnt bad.  Some of the apples, peach, cherries and pears were blooming really full and got the frost but we may still have a little fruit.  Last night we had frost but not heavy and it didn’t hurt the tomatoes but hubby expects it again tonight.

Peace of driving to work

On my way into work this morning was much cooler than the last few days but the beauty I saw was so peaceful.  Try to imagine this without pictures.

  • Fields of orchard grass waving in the wind and looking like waves of green water.
  • A sky so blue that you think you’ve never seen that blue before.
  • Small, scattered, wispy, white clouds trying so hard to invade the blue sky.
  • Full grown brown rabbits sitting along the road enjoying the warmth of the sun.
  • Flocks of barn swallows flitting together overhead like aircraft gracing the skies in formation doing their intricate stunts
  • A huge United States of America flag gently waving in the wind.
  • Gorgeous orange poppies in flower beds bending gracefully try to touch one another.
  • A long legged doe gently grooming her fawn while trying to hide in the tall orchard grass.
  • Green leaves fluttering like butterflies in the tops of the trees.
  • Quiet country road with no traffic but me until I come to the main roads.

Country life is so precious, peaceful and quiet!!

The honeybees

Like several farmers we’ve spoken to, our honeybees didn’t fair well this winter.  We had eight hives and lost all but two.

Bee house and time to check the hives spring 2013.

Bee house and time to check the hives spring 2013.

One of the two hives is very active and the maple tree pollen is heavy this year.  The other hive has never been real strong and swarms itself to death every spring.  We are going to try a couple of changes this year, one of which, is bringing in a new queen.

 

The first hive is weak but alive and the third hive is strong and working hard.

The first hive is weak but alive and the third hive is strong and working hard.

Time will tell but we have to work fast since the orchards are full of apple buds and will blossom full in the next week to 10 days.

The bees are cleaning house much like I do in the spring.

The bees are cleaning house much like I do in the spring.  This is one the hives that didn’t make it during the winter.

Hubby has cleaned up all the hives that didn’t make it and have them ready to try to catch some swarms a little later.  The hives that made it will now have two chambers for raising brood and when the right bloom pops out in the forest fresh supers will be placed on each hive for honey making.

We have so many honey customers that depend on us each year to provide the liquid gold that is a big commodity these days.  I’ve been asked to place it in our local artisan center but it doesn’t last long enough to get it there.  Now, we sit back and wait and pray that we will be blessed with lots of the sweet nectar.

 

2012 Gold

2012 Gold

Beautiful quart jars of honey and honeycomb straight from the hives.

Beautiful quart jars of honey and honeycomb straight from the hives.

New Year of Maple Syrup

 

Sugar maple tree with a beautiful blue sky background.

Sugar maple tree with a beautiful blue sky background.

 

We could not have picked a better time to start tapping the maple trees.  Saturday morning after feeding the cattle and cleaning up from breakfast we got started.  It was clear, sunny and still a chill in the air.  First we gathered the bucket and cleaned them and then we cleaned the 210 gallon water tank.

All the gallon buckets have been washed and ready to hook up to the taps.

All the gallon buckets have been washed and ready to hook up to the taps.

Nice and clean gallon buckets.

Nice and clean gallon buckets.

 

Shiny and clean tank.

Shiny and clean tank.

It holds 210 gallons and it was specifically purchased just for sugar maple processing!!

It holds 210 gallons and it was specifically purchased just for sugar maple processing!!

A regular garden/water hose will attach to the fauce when we're ready to fill the pans.

A regular garden/water hose will attach to the fauce when we’re ready to fill the pans.

 

From here we gathered the portable drill, wood bits, hammer and taps and headed for the maple trees in the yard.  From there we tapped the trees behind the garage and then went to the mansion and tapped the tree that we know has been in the family since the 1800’s.  She is still producing and we tapped with six buckets on her and from there went to our daughter’s house on the farm and tapped two trees at her house.  In total we nine trees in all and as tonight at 7:00 p.m. the tank is full.  We’ll hold it in the tank in the garage until Friday morning.  It will stay ice cold in the garage.

 

26 taps sterizied and ready to put in the trees.  Eddie likes using the plumbing tees best because they stay in the tap hole better.

26 taps sterizied and ready to put in the trees. Eddie likes using the plumbing tees best because they stay in the tap hole better.

Metal taps were used in the tree at the mansion and at our daughter's house.

Metal taps were used in the tree at the mansion and at our daughter’s house.

Drillling the first hole about a 1/2 inch in diameter and about  1 inch deep.

Drillling the first hole about a 1/2 inch in diameter and about 1 inch deep.

These trees are not being damaged.  The one inch hole heals within a few weeks and as I said before the tree at the mansion is in a photo we have of the family back in the mid-1800’s and it’s still living.

Tapping the tee in the tree good and tight so it won't leak around the hole.

Tapping the tee in the tree good and tight so it won’t leak around the hole.

Up close view of the hole drilled into the tree.

Up close view of the hole drilled into the tree.

Tap, tap, tap!

Tap, tap, tap!

Three buckets on this tree in the yard and the taps are dripping away.

Three buckets on this tree in the yard and the taps are dripping away.  This tree is at our daughter’s house.

 

Around 1:30 Saturday our son joined us and he was kept busy emptying the buckets into the tank and was glad to have the ATV for collecting.  He won’t be still long enough for Mom to take his picture.  But sometimes we have to do what we can and here’s a picture helping at the sugar house in years past.

Our son, Shawn, manning the pans in the past.

Our son, Shawn, manning the pans in the past.

From the tree to the straining bucket.

From the tree to the straining bucket.

By Saturday night we had 100 gallons in the tank and the high temperature at the farm on Saturday was 49*.  Sunday morning we got up to 27* temps, the buckets were running over with ice and the sap had even pushed out of the top of the tee.

Beautiful Sunday morning.

Beautiful Sunday morning.

Icy buckets and frozen hands.

Icy buckets and frozen hands.

Bucket of ice from the cans which we thawed and poured into the tank.

Bucket of ice from the cans which we thawed and poured into the tank.

Ice frozen all down the tree.

Ice frozen all down the tree.

Ice coming out all over the tee.

Ice coming out all over the tee.

Sap running over onto the ground!  The honeybees enjoyed it once it warmed up.

Sap running over onto the ground! The honeybees enjoyed it once it warmed up.

On Sunday we got another 75 gallons and the sap has slowed a little.  The temperatures got up to 52* and at 9:30 p.m. it was still 49*.  For the sap to run really good the temps MUST get below freezing at night.

Today hubby filled up the tank and the trees have slowed down immensely but the tank is full of 210 gallons of pure sugar maple sap.  The cooking will begin on Friday and finish up on Saturday around noon if all goes well.

Here’s a few of today’s photos:

Last bucket to empty for the day (Monday).

Last bucket to empty for the day (Monday).

 

Hard to see the water line on the tank.

Hard to see the water line on the tank.

Stainless steel bucket with lip and strainer.  Every bucket on the tree is emptied into this bucket and then strained into the tank.

Stainless steel bucket with lip and strainer. Every bucket on the tree is emptied into this bucket and then strained into the tank.

Straining into the big tank.

Straining into the big tank.

Better view of the full tank!

Better view of the full tank!

Hopefully more pictures of the process when completed on Saturday!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring is in the air and it’s almost sugar time!!

It is almost sugar time.  Hubby announced this afternoon that if the weather cooperates we’ll tap the trees week after next.  I wanted to share with you some pictures we took at the Highland Maple Festival a couple years ago.  This event is a two weekend all about maple syrup fun time.  The pictures I’m going to share are from one the operations we visited that work on a much, much larger scale than we do.  Here we go and hope you enjoy the ride:

007_7

 

maple syrup trip 2010 002

 

maple syrup trip 2010 037

maple syrup trip 2010 038

 

maple syrup trip 2010 035

 

maple syrup trip 2010 025

 

maple syrup trip 2010 030

 

maple syrup trip 2010 029

 

maple syrup trip 2010 039

 

maple syrup trip 2010 007

 

maple syrup trip 2010 026

 

maple syrup trip 2010 017

 

maple syrup trip 2010 036

 

 

maple syrup trip 2010 022

 

 

We drove for miles and miles that day and found one family that makes the syrup, taps the trees, and made it fun for the guests viewing the process but the rest of the journey was looking at miles and miles of plastic tubing running through the woods and into big tanks.  Trucks emptying those tanks and taking it to a main processing building where it was cooked off in a big evaporating tank heated by propane.  It was all so commercial and kind of took the fun out of the entire process.  I think we’ll stick with our little sugar house and making enough to keep our friends and family happy while making enough money from it to pay for hubby’s time making it work.  Hope to see you in a couple weeks at the sugar house licking our lips!!!

 

Cleaning up the orchards

Storm aftermath June 29th, 2012

Storm aftermath June 29th, 2012

June duratio takes down several apple trees.

June duratio takes down several apple trees.

 

In June of this past summer, we had lots of tree and fence damage from the “duratio” that hit our farm.  I’ve never seen such wind and we were very lucky that we had no more damage than we did.  We did loose several apple trees and hubby has been working hard since that wind storm to get things back in order.

Hubby started the clean up in the orchard today and got all but one of the downed trees cut up and hauled off.  It looks kind of bare now but hopefully we’ll fix that.  Here’s a picture of the cleaned up orchard as of this afternoon.

Fallen apple trees removed and sun shining on the remaining.

Fallen apple trees removed and sun shining on the remaining.

Lots of replacing to do for the orchard at the house.

Lots of replacing to do for the orchard at the house.

 

We won’t be able to replace those trees with the same type because they were trees grafted by the family years ago.  Luckily there are several of the same type in the orchard and I have 30+ apple stock in the cellar that are two years old and ready for grafting.  I need to get out soon and cut scion from the trees we have left and when spring truly breaks I’ll get that new stock in the ground, grafted and wrapped and shielded from all the wildlife that love tender buds.

I’m looking forward to another try at grafting myself.  Hubby is a real pro at it!  I’ve taken the classes but think maybe I try to hard.  We’ll see how they fair toward the end of summer and look for new sprouts on the grafts.  I LOVE FARMING!!!

New girl on premises

She’s five years old and a beauty.  My hubby just brought  home a new coon hunting dog and her name is Roxy.

She’s a beautiful dog and very vocal when we’re near.  She sounds like she’s really talking.  Hubby did a trial hunt with her before bringing her home and planned to take her hunting last night but the weather didn’t cooperate.  We have one other redbone but he (Dan) hasn’t been hunted at all.  We have one other tried and true coon dog and she’s a Walker (Brandy).  Brandy was trained as a bear dog but had a stroke a few years ago while with her previous owner. She’s somewhere around 10 years old and the stroke has definitely slowed her down but she’s quite a  beautiful dog.   Hubby has hunted her several times and wanted to get a new dog started and hunting with Brandy before she’s too old to hunt or has another stroke.  He plans to hunt Roxy here on the farm a few times before running the two dogs together.

Roxy - Pretty girl.

Roxy – Pretty girl.

Roxy checking out one of our cats on the haybales.

Roxy checking out one of our cats on the haybales.

Lady Brandy - Walker hound

Lady Brandy – Walker hound

 

My daughter would say we are dog poor but when you love to hunt, you have dogs.  My son-in-law doesn’t much care for keeping dogs unless you can let them run free.  It’s important to keep hunting dogs chained/pinned to keep them from being taken or learning bad habits.  We love our dogs and take good care of them.  Our granddaughter even loves coon hunting and wants a dog of her own but her folks tell her she’ll just have be part owner of PaPa’s dogs.  We welcome our new lady, Roxy and hope she proves to be the dog hubby has been looking for quite some time.