Tag Archives: work

Seasoned Firewood

Although it’s been cold here this winter it’s been nothing like last year and the before.  We only had a total of six inches of snow the entire winter.  That being said we still have a woodhouse two-thirds full of seasoned firewood.

The woodhouse holds six ranks of firewood from one end to the other and almost to the rafters.

From this position you can tell we can put two more ranks in the woodhouse for next season.

From several downed apple trees and locust trees we think we have enough cut for next year.

This is about six or seven tractor dump loads.

This is our woodhouse which sits in the southwest corner of our back yard.

All of this wood will need to be seasoned. By seasoned I mean, we will split the wood and stack it to air in the open air behind the woodhouse so that the moisture will dry out of the wood. Unseasoned wood is the main culprit of flue fires in our neck of the woods. If you’ve not had or heard of them it means that the creosote from the wet wood builds up in your stove-pipe and chimneys and when it gets hot enough it blazes and a blazing fire in the pipes and chimney sounds like a tornado or a big train rolling down the tracks!! Scares me to death and we’ve only had about two in our 45 years of marriage.

The smaller sticks on top are from the maple tree that I posted about earlier in the year.

Close up of the wood we gathered from a maple tree, two apple tree limbs and several locust trees.

Some of the wood in the pile is from limbs on the main tree and don’t have to be split but do need to be seasoned just like the split wood.

This is our “Wood General” wood splitter which we’ve had for several years. It has saved hubby’s back and shoulders from lots of pain!

This is a closeup of the engine on the Wood General. Gas engine with a pull cord to start it.

The hardest part about using this woodsplitter is the cranking when it’s cold!! So we usually work on the wood on sunny days after the splitter has sat out in the sunshine!

He has split a very little bit of this pile of wood for the time being and says on sunny afternoons he should be able to finish it in a couple of weeks if he splits an hour or so while I fix supper. I call that a “win-win situation”!!

Apple wood is a good wood if it’s dry for getting a fire started.  Most of the wood in the woodhouse is oak and from trees that have died on the farm and were already seasoned.  If you need a hot fire that will last overnight we use seasoned locust and there are times it has run us out of the living room at night because it heats up so fast and lasts so long.

Locust, apple and some maple split from the big pile.

Another neat thing about having the splitter is all of the kindling that builds up under it while you’re splitting.  I gather all of it into feed bags and store it in the woodhouse for starting our fires.

Splinters of wood from the main block make great kindling (fire starter) to start your fire.

Bark from the wood also make great kindling.

REMEMBER:  Season your firewood!!  No one needs their home to burn down at any time but especially in the middle of winter.

 

 

Spring Prep

Warm weather has us in the mood to clean even though we know there’s probably still some winter weather ahead of us.  I’ve worked in the yard several day and got some help from hubby to get those maple leaves out of my flower beds and around the house.

Maple leaves were in abundance but protects a lot of my perennials during the winter.

We have cleaned out all of the yard except for the corner of my rose garden.

This is the rose garden in the east end of our yard and the most colorful, I think, throughout the summer.

The rose in the very corner and tallest stems you can see is an old-fashioned rose planted by our ancestors shortly after the house was built.  The bloom is white with a hint of pink around the edges and they’re about two inches across.  It blooms most of the summer if I keep it pinched back (faded blooms).  Another one just like it but much smaller is at the entrance of the front gate.  I have to clip it back  all summer long.  The fragrance is divine!!

This corner will soon be cleaned up and I’m hoping to add a couple new roses to it during late spring.  I don’t have a lavender or a blood red rose in that bed and think it’s time.  I had a hibiscus in the middle of the bed and it just towered over all and lots of pretty bloom was missed unless you walked through the bed.  Last year I planted some sweet william in the front row and they have survived the winter.  I hope they will add some color while waiting for the roses to bloom.

Here’s a photo album of the rest of the yard clean up:

Both sides in front of the house/porch are all cleaned up and hostas that get as big as bushel baskets cover that area.

The flower bed in the corner with the dinner bell is full of perennials such as day lilies, poppies, primrose and lots more.

I forgot to get a photo of the backyard but it was the quickest and smallest area to clean up.  All I have to do back there is hang our swing and wait for the hostas, shasta daisy and daylilies to spring up.

Tree limb cleanup-this is what came out of the front yard from the maple tree. It’s been hauled away now!

Now I need to take care of the outside of the yard including some new planting at the gazebo at the pond.

The gazebo is another “getaway” spot. I love to go there right before the sun goes down and listen to the spring peepers and birds going to roost, watch the mallard pair that spend the night and wait for the fish to do their evening feeding and the frogs start croaking!! There’s peace all over the farm if you’ll just watch and listen!!

Surveying Cellar Food Stores_Preparing the Garden Site

The Cellar

The Cellar

I just took some empty jars to the cellar and took an accounting of what is left from summer 2016 canning.

Full shelves from canning season 2016!

They were completely full in October but now supplies are dwindling!

We have a huge pile of potatoes leftover and will probably sell them in the coming months.  I’ll can about 15-20 quarts but the rest will go in the garden for seed and we’ll eat some more until they start sprouting.  They’re bakers and peeling size and have been so good throughout the winter.

Hubby has plowed the garden and we’re hoping we’ll get some spring rain on it before we disk it up for planting.

We use the Kubota tractor for plowing.

Our garden site has very rich soil and always produces more than we can eat and preserve.

It also seems to get bigger each year!!!  This year we’ll plan the usual crops of green beans, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, broccoli, brussel sprouts, melons, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, and in the fall some turnips and field greens.

Hope your planting season is grand and praying we have an abundant season this year.  In the coming weeks I’ll be cleaning off the various asparagus patches we have and watching the rhubarb show its sprouts already.  I had six grape vines started new last year and they all survived but one.  I bought this red grape to replace it.

It’s a red seedless grape and I love them. Hope they get as large as the one’s we buy in the grocery but know it will be a couple of years before that happens.

We also went to Food Lion yesterday and bought three dwarf apple trees for the orchard at the mansion.

Dwarf red delicious – once this starts bearing fruit we’ll take cuttings from it and graft to some new root-stock or some wild apple trees we find every year on the farm that we’ll transplant to the orchard.

Dwarf yellow delicious-dwarf trees don’t last as long as standard trees but they give you fruit quicker.

This is a dwarf McIntosh which is hubby’s favorite. We have one tree in our large orchard but it’s really old and we lose an old standard about every year.

This is the mansion orchard where the dwarf trees will be planted. The pond is close by and a mountain spring runs through it to make for easy watering.

Last years grape arbor is where the new red grape will be planted and is right beside our garden.

 

 

 

Adding To The Flock

This year I’ve decided to raise some chicks into egg layers. I let three hens hatch last year and out of nine hatched (30 set) we got five hens and four roosters. This is not a good plan!

I went to Rural King with hubby last week and picked up six Barred Rock chicks (hopefully hens) and six Black Sex Link chicks (also hopefully hens). I have them in a tote in our family room for the moment and they’re growing like weeds!

The day we brought them home I placed them in their first home which is the largest tote I had. I scrubbed the tote, placed newspaper in the bottom (easier to clean), and filled their one quart feeder and water bottle. As I placed each chick in the tote I held their beaks in the water for their first drink and boy were they thirsty!!!

Here it is a week later and they’ve been introduced to a new feed trough.  The little buggers were scratching the feed out of those feeder holes and wasting more than they ate.  The feeder below doesn’t allow that as much and the quart water bottle was replaced with a half-gallon jar so they don’t run out of water during the night.

New feeder holds the same amount of feed but the holes are smaller so they can’t dig the food out into the floor.  I feed them medicated feed to begin their life to boost their immune system.  I lost one chick the second night and not sure why but the others seem to be doing quite well.

A half-gallon glass jar is heavier and the water will last through the night. The old one had to be refilled and clean three times a day.

They have almost doubled their size from last week and they can actually fly up to the top of the water bottle.  I will upgrade to a taller tote over the weekend instead of putting them in the brooder box because of the cold temps and their size.

This hutch is being used for my rabbit does. I have taken Marigold from her side of the hutch and placed her somewhere else (post to come later) and put this chicks in her side of the hutch.

The interior of the hutch is divided into two sections. Cleome is in the other section. Both sections have a light fixture in the top for using heat bulbs. I will have to enclose the bottom of the cage to keep the chicks warmer but have access for cleaning underneath. All of my animals are taken care of in all aspects of their growth and life.

The interior will be cleaned/scrubbed in the next few days and before Cleome has her litter later this month. I’m expecting the chicks will be moved into the hutch by the second week of April if not sooner, depending on the weather.

When these chicks are 6-8 weeks old, I plan to start another clutch of them so that next winter we won’t have a few weeks without eggs.  These chicks should start laying at 6-7 months of age and lay for 190-220 days before they molt and take a egg-laying-break for a month or so.

Love my chickens!!!

The brownish-red hens with white tail feathers are my babies from last year. Great brown egg layers!

You just can’t beat fresh farm eggs that come from free range chickens!

 

Preparing for Spring

We’ve had some glorious three weeks of spring-like weather and now the cold and wind is back!!

Crocus are blooming and the jonquils and daffodils are up.

Crocus are blooming and the jonquils and daffodils are up.

Along with building a new cattle holding pen, hubby and I have been cleaning up around the farm while waiting on our lumber.   We had lots of trees come down during the fall and winter and we’ve been cutting them up for firewood and piling the brush to be burnt (if the wind ever quits blowing).  Hubby plowed the garden this week so if we had any cold weather (which we are experiencing now) the freeze and thaw would be great for the disking when we get ready to start the garden.

Starting to plow the garden.

Starting to plow the garden.

Dark rich soil for a promising 2017 garden crop.

Dark rich soil for a promising 2017 garden crop.

While he was plowing I started cleaning up the yard.  We have beautiful maple trees on three corners of the yard which provide us maple syrup in the spring and wonderous shade in the summer but in the fall and winter they shed their beautiful coats into our yard.  It takes lots of time and strong arms to rake it all up and pile on the compost pile.

Before the cleanup my yard and flower/rose beds are covered with leaves which protect them from the freezing cold.

Before the cleanup my yard and flower/rose beds are covered with leaves which protect them from the freezing cold.

 

 

 

After the cleanup, the yard starts looking like this before the  grass greens, the roses sprout leaves and the perennials show their pretty faces:

In front of the front porch after cleanup

In front of the front porch after cleanup

East backyard after cleanup

East backyard after cleanup

Front yard after cleanup

Front yard after cleanup

 

 

 

 

 

Now, all I have to do is the rose garden and the new perennial bed we made last spring.

We just have to wait for another warmup which we hope is on the way next week.  We’re also hoping that the warmup we had and this freezing weather doesn’t have any adverse effect on the honeybees because they sure were working hard to find food last week.

Spring means new life on the farm and we’re expecting 20+ cows to start calving in the next two weeks.  My hens have picked up on their production and I’m getting a dozen eggs a day now.

You just can't beat fresh farm eggs that come from free range chickens!

You just can’t beat fresh farm eggs that come from free range chickens!

The brownish-red hens with white tail feathers are my babies from last year.  Great brown egg layers!

The brownish-red hens with white tail feathers are my babies from last year. Great brown egg layers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My rabbit does were bred this week and we should have kits around the 30th of March.  They’re all lops and last years babes were a huge assortment of colors.  I think the first batches this spring will go to new homes and the second mating will be meat rabbits.

Marigold visits Sebastian.

Marigold visits Sebastian.

Sebastian was glad to see his ladies.

Sebastian was glad to see his ladies.

 

 

 

 

 

Cleome waiting her turn.

Cleome waiting her turn.

Baby chicks and ducks will probably join us in April and our next big project is to get rid of the old chicken house which is in bad need of repair.

Chicken house is ancient and chickens should love their new abode which is a cinder block building that way back in the day was a hog house.

Chicken house is ancient and chickens should love their new abode which is a cinder block building that way back in the day was a hog house.

The hog house is bigger, has electricity and will be warmer for the chickens. We have lots of cleanup to do to the outside because the wild blackberries are surrounding it.  There's a no-freeze water spigot beside it and there's storage for feed on the inside.

The hog house is bigger, has electricity and will be warmer for the chickens. We have lots of cleanup to do to the outside because the wild blackberries are surrounding it. There’s a no-freeze water spigot beside it and there’s storage for feed on the inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Bucket List

My Bucket List for 2017

1st and foremost, meet my baby grandson that lives in New Jersey!

Declan Bryant on his first New Years Day!

Declan Bryant on his first New Years Day!

2nd Finish the snowman quilt and sampler quilt in my sewing room.

Block for Snowman quilt

Block for Snowman quilt

Blocks for Sampler Quilt

Blocks for Sampler Quilt

3rd  Dinner once a month for my kids at our house.

I love family meals!!

I love family meals!!

4th  Paint or have my living room renovated and painted.

5th  Clean up and clean out my laundry room which used to be the pump room/milk house that our ancestors used to keep the milk products really cold.

6th  Build up my rose garden.

The rose garden isn't very pretty in the winter time.                                  The rose garden isn’t very pretty in the winter time.

7th  Landscape my gazebo and put in a fire pit at the gazebo for nightly star-gazing!

Gazebo summer 2016

Gazebo summer 2016

8th  Move my chickens into their new abode.

9th  Have one more yard/estate sale at the mansion with my daughter.

Image may contain: indoor

2016 sale went quite well and we’ll have just as many treasures in 2017!

10th  Take a one-day road trip with hubby just to get away!

This doesn’t seem like a big list but finishing it within 12 months will be a huge undertaking.  Wish me luck!

Did I Say Canning Season Was Over. . . NOT!

Nope, canning season is not over and believe it or not I’m glad. I’ve been canning half-gallons of apple juice all morning!

Twenty half-gallons of fresh apple juice canned and sealed.

Twenty half-gallons of fresh apple juice canned and sealed.  There’s only 15 jars showing here because the last batch is just about ready to come off the stove.

Our orchards did not bare much for us this year due to the frigid spring and heavy frost when the trees were budding and flowering. I love a glass of juice when I first get up in the mornings and apple juice is one of my favorites right up there with grape juice.  We decided we would have to purchase some apples to make me some juice.

Eddie and I ventured over to Botetourt County last week and picked up six 70-lb. sacks of their cider apples.  The day we arrived to pick them up they were sorting Red Delicious and they were beautiful  Out of 420 pounds of apples we may have found a dozen with rotten spots.

Six bags of red delicious apples

Six bags of red delicious apples

Beautiful Red Delicous apples for eating, juicing, cooking and baking.

Beautiful Red Delicious apples for eating, juicing, cooking and baking.

On Tuesday, our daughter was off from work and came up to press apples with us.  We cleaned up the cider press, washed the apples, and started pressing all of the wonderful juice out of the apples.

Cider press is cleaned and ready to make some juice.

Cider press is cleaned and ready to make some juice.

Pouring in the first bucket full

Pouring in the first bucket full

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Cider Mill

American Cider Mill

Sassy watches close by and freezing since she got a haircut and cold air gets in her old bones pretty quick but she won't miss a family outing.

Sassy watches close by and freezing since she got a haircut and cold air gets in her old bones pretty quick but she won’t miss a family outing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We finished the seventy pounds with two 12 gallon milk cans full of juice and a bowl full of apples left over to eat and make some apple bars.

We use all of our milkcans here on the farm for cider in the fall, watering our plants as we put them in the garden and for maple syrup in the spring

We use all of our milkcans here on the farm for cider in the fall, watering our plants as we put them in the garden and for maple syrup in the spring.

Heather presses.

Heather presses.

Mom presses.

Mom presses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family fun

Family fun

We stored the cans in our garage until this morning so it would stay ice-cold and so the settlements squished into the juice would settle to the bottom of the can.

I washed up all of the half gallons jars and sterilized them for the juice.  Eddie went to the garage and  poured the juice gently into large stainless steel pots and brought them to the kitchen.  I heated the juice just to boiling and poured it into the hot jars. placed the lids on and tighten them for canning.  The jars were too tall to fit any of my canners so we used our turkey cooker for the job and it held five half-gallon jars.

Turkey deep fryer hasn't been used a lot but it sure came in handy for this job. I rarely use half-gallon jars for any canning.

Turkey deep fryer hasn’t been used a lot but it sure came in handy for this job. I rarely use half-gallon jars for any canning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After placing the filled jars in the “canner”, I filled it with hot water almost covering the jars, turned the heat up to high and waited for it to start boiling.  Once the boiling started, I timed the process for 25 minutes and when completed I turned off the stove and let the boiling stop.  I then picked up the jars and placed them on a heavy towel on my kitchen table (away from drafts) so they could seal. We have twenty half-gallons which should last through most of the winter.

The difference in the quart and half-gallon jar is shown here.

Half-gallon jar compared to a quart jar.

Half-gallon jar compared to a quart jar.

 

I love these tongs because they're so strong and easy to handle when removing full, hot jars.

I love these tongs because they’re so strong and easy to handle when removing full, hot jars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We saved the sacks the apples were in to use next year when picking our own apples if Mother Nature cooperates, bagging onions, drying walnuts or anything else we may need them for.

These green mesh sacks held 65 - 70 pounds of apples and we save them for other uses. Recycle is a big word at our place!

These green mesh sacks held 65 – 70 pounds of apples and we save them for other uses. Recycle is a big word at our place!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The apple peelings filled up one big galvanized bath tub and four five gallon buckets.  We feed them to each of the three herds of cattle and our bulls.  The extra milkcan of juice will harden to cider which we also love.  If there’s any that gets too hard, I’ll let it turn to vinegar and store it in jugs in the cellar.

Leftovers after the juice is pressed out. They're unbelievably dry at this point. I'm sure the squirrels will be raiding the barn until it's all gone. I'll also put some out for the wild rabbits that hang around the house.

Leftovers after the juice is pressed out. They’re unbelievably dry at this point. I’m sure the squirrels will be raiding the barn until it’s all gone. I’ll also put some out for the wild rabbits that hang around the house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just put some apple bars in the oven and I’ll share the recipe if it turns out well since it’s a new one for me!

There’s rarely anything that goes to waste on our farm.  This does NOT end the canning season either!!!!  I killed a really nice 7-point buck yesterday and the hams will be cubed and canned early in the next week.

Our chestnut season is over though and we sold 35+ pounds of those this week and saved about 10 pounds for ourselves to snack on.

The chestnuts were few this year but the ones we picked up were huge and so sweet.

The chestnuts were few this year but the ones we picked up were huge and so sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until next time. . . .

News Update. . .Lost in Time

Please forgive my silence. Between the garden, animals and the issues unforeseen, I’ve just been inundated with work and only open the computer a couple times a week.

The garden is full!!! With so much rain this summer, our pantry is running over.

The garden is full!!! With so much rain this summer, our pantry is running over.

Our granddaughter graduated from high school in June and starts college in a couple weeks.  Where has the time gone!!!

Victoria and proud Uncle Shawn

Victoria and proud Uncle Shawn

Parents, Victoria, and maternal grandparents.

Parents, Victoria, and maternal grandparents.

On top of that we have a brand new grandson born three months early and he’s in New Jersey (450+ miles from Virginia). He’s in a neonatal unit at Children’s Hospital in New Jersey. His mother had some major health issues which caused toxemia and the baby had to be delivered early on July 8th. He weighed 2 pounds and 2 ounces and 14 inches long. He’s a little fighter and gained some weight and now weighs 3 pounds and 15 inches long. Declan Bryant is his name. He’s having some serious issues this week and the little guy is exhausted. Shawn, our son, is in New Jersey this weekend to see him for the second time and he’s keeping us updated.

Shawn's first visit with his son.

Shawn’s first visit with his son.

I’ve been canning and freezing green beans, broccoli, cabbage, pickles, squash, apples, rhubarb and Eddie told me last night that I’ll have more beans in the coming week and corn after that. We’ve pulled the onions and waiting on the brussel sprouts. We have a crock of kraut fermenting now and hope it’ll be ready before anything else comes in.

Pickles, pickles and more pickles!

Pickles, pickles and more pickles!

Squash pickles

Squash pickles

Canned fresh squash

Canned fresh squash

Green beans and we're not done yet!!! I think we'll sell the ones coming in now.

Green beans and we’re not done yet!!! I think we’ll sell the ones coming in now.

I’ve taken on two part-time jobs working on websites for two sisters and working away from the house on one of them 2-3 days a week. The other one I do from home. It’s a little extra spending money. Our big yardsale/estate sale was for one day and we cleaned out one house on the farm and made around $2500.00. I’m in the process of filling it up again from the other buildings and we may have one more sale next spring just to get rid of it all.

This is enough news for now but will catch up again later. I haven’t touched my blog in some time but haven’t given up on it.

One more bit of news, neighborhood dogs that aren’t watched after cleaned out our duck population in one night back in June, I think, and another one got in my chickens this week. I’m down to 21 hens and two roosters at this point.

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This is just a quick catch up and I’ll hopefully be back soon! Love you my friends and want to ask you all to keep our grandson and son in your prayers.

Sugar Time at Caldwell Farms

You know spring is really on it’s way when the Caldwell family fires up the sugar house and loads the maple trees with sap buckets.  Eddie and I tapped our maple trees last week with the awesome help of our son, Shawn.  It was a spur of a moment decision because of the unpredictable weather situation.  We tapped fourteen trees with 1-5 buckets depending on the size and condition of the tree.

Sugar maple tree with tap

Sugar maple tree with tap

This is one of the sugar maples in our front yard that provides us with plenty of maple sap in the spring and glorious shade in the hot summers.

This is one of the sugar maples in our front yard that provides us with plenty of maple sap in the spring and glorious shade in the hot summers.  This tree held five buckets this spring.

We gather the sap every two hours so by the time we had all of the taps drilled, plugged and a bucket hung on them it was time for Shawn to start making the rounds to each of the trees.  The sap was running like a heavily dripping faucet and soon the buckets were running over.  We had a total of 52 buckets hung and we hauled it in milk cans from the trees back to the 210 gallon storage tank.  The tank was filled well past the holding mark giving us about 225 total gallons of sap in 2 1/2 days.  On Tuesday afternoon we pulled the taps and buckets, cleaned them and put them away for another year.

These are some of the tools we use to start the process of making maple syrup.

These are some of the tools we use to start the process of making maple syrup.

Stock water tank holds 210 gallon at the top ridge of the tank.

Stock water tank holds 210 gallon at the top ridge of the tank.

At this point we stored the tank full of sap in our garage where it would stay below 40* until we were ready to make the syrup and would be okay for 10-12 days as long as it stayed cold.  We now waited for weather that was cool, dry and not too windy to fire up the sugar house.

On Friday, Eddie hauled in the firewood to use for the fire.  It had to be dry and a sturdy wood that would stay really hot.  We had a stockpile of old locust post that came from replaced fencing on the farm so he brought in two loads and placed them on top of three other posts laid out on the ground to keep the wood dry in the event it rained again before we started the fire.

Friday night we made the decision to make the syrup while we had at least one good day.  I emailed the kids and we set the syrup vat on the fire pit. The syrup vat is a stainless steel vat with four sections.

Cooking tank has four sections. The first two on the right have a opening so that the sap runs from one side to the other. The next section is the first thickening section and the narrow section on the far left is the last section before straining off. The pain has grown dark over the last few years and each year our syrup gets a little darker and sweeter.

Cooking tank has four sections. The first two on the right have a opening so that the sap runs from one side to the other. The next section is the first thickening section and the narrow section on the far left is the last section before straining off. The pain has grown dark over the last few years and each year our syrup gets a little darker and sweeter.

We put the vat on the firepit around 9:00 p.m. Friday night and we thought we had everything ready. The sawed up fence posts were in the pit along with kindling and we don’t put the sap in until right before lighting the fire.  (Don’t want no varmints sucking up the water or worse walking through it.  The lights for working in the dark first thing in the morning were set up and ready.  The hose was hooked up to the tank, buckets in place, and all we had to do was try to get a good nights sleep because it was going to be a long day.

The next morning Eddie got up at 5:00 a.m. and got the vat filled with sap, started the fire and when I got out of bed at 6:00 I could see the steam coming out from under the sugarhouse roof.  It had been cooking good for about half an hour and Eddie was going to add more sap and the waterhose from the storage tank to the vat was froze.  We were really doing some hustling trying to unthaw it.  First he tried a small propane torch but that didn’t work and would have melted the hose.  Then we tried running hot water from the house to the hose and that didn’t work.  Finally we ran straight hot water into the hose, whipped it against the ground to beat up the slush and ice in the hose and finally after thirty minutes and almost scorching the syrup in the pans it broke free.  At this point we filled the vat sections quickly again but this time we kept the hose off the ground by placing it on several milkcans from the garage to the sugar house.

The sugar house sits down over the hill from the garage about 50 feet and it was warmer down there than it was up the hill at the garage.

The sugar house sits down over the hill from the garage about 50 feet and it was warmer down there than it was up the hill at the garage.

After this things went pretty quickly and I left him to go to Covington at 9:00 to visit my younger brother.  This was a short trip because he wouldn’t get out of bed and didn’t want to talk.  I got back home a lot sooner than I expected and our daughter, Heather, had joined her Dad around 10:30 and things were going pretty good.  Only about 75 gallons of sap had gone through the vats during my absense but I had about two gallons of syrup to strain and process.  It was beautiful and so sweet.  You have to remember though that when we collect that sap from the trees it looks and tastes like clear water.

First pot off the firepit and it's ready to strain once more, heat to boiling and put in the sterilized jars to seal.

First pot off the firepit and it’s ready to strain once more, heat to boiling and put in the sterilized jars to seal.

Cheesecloth for straining the syrup. I use about four layers of cloth when I strain the syrup and it's strained twice once it's cooked. We also use a bucket with a straining net to pour it in the storage tank.

Cheesecloth for straining the syrup. I use about four layers of cloth when I strain the syrup and it’s strained twice once it’s cooked. We also use a bucket with a straining net to strain from the tapping buckets and pour it in the storage tank.

Regular and wide mouth jar lids

Regular and wide mouth jar lids

Sterlized pint jars

Sterlized pint jars

We had a very successful day ending up with 53 pint jars and 6 quarts.  We’ll sell the pints for $8 and the quarts for $12.

Pints and quarts of heavenly fresh maple syrup.

Pints and quarts of heavenly fresh maple syrup.

Caldwell Farm labels include the date made and the ingredients.  We do not add any preservatives or other sugars.

Caldwell Farm labels include the date made and the ingredients. We do not add any preservatives or other sugars.

Here’s some of the pictures shared throughout the day.

Frosty morning started at 29* at 6:00 a.m.

Frosty morning started at 29* at 6:00 a.m.

At times the steam in the cool air made it impossible to see what was going on in the vat.

At times the steam in the cool air made it impossible to see what was going on in the vat.

Boiling maple sap to scrumptious maple syrup.

Boiling maple sap to scrumptious maple syrup.

Our daughter Heather after a steamy day of fun!

Our daughter Heather after a steamy day of fun!

Mr. Caldwell considers himself the "sugar monster" at the end of the day.

Mr. Caldwell considers himself the “sugar monster” at the end of the day.

Jared and Crystal joined in the afternoon. This was Crystals first trip to the farm and she also got to feed the baby calf, Miracle.

Jared and Crystal joined in the afternoon. This was Crystals first trip to the farm and she also got to feed the baby calf, Miracle.

Jared hanging out in the sugar house.

Jared hanging out in the sugar house.

End result!

End result!

Sassy guarding the woodpile from mice and voles.

Sassy guarding the woodpile from mice and voles.

Undescribable smell in the air!

Undescribable smell in the air!

Vats are full and boiling.

Vats are full and boiling.

Boiling sap almost maple syrup.

Boiling sap almost maple syrup.

He's stays busy during the entire process.

He’s stays busy during the entire process.

Sugar Monster fueling the fire.

Sugar Monster fueling the fire.

Crystal and Jared enjoying the day.

Crystal and Jared enjoying the day.

Jared and Eddie catching up on everything and planning their spring gobbler season.

Jared and Eddie catching up on everything and planning their spring gobbler season.

Red hot coals from old locust posts keep things hot and sap boiling from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm.

Red hot coals from old locust posts keep things hot and sap boiling from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm.

The steam makes the whole area smell like maple syrup.

The steam makes the whole area smell like maple syrup.

Firepit in sugar house

Firepit in sugar house

Our granddaughter, Victoria, and her new beau joined at the end of the evening just in time for french toast and sausages.  Fun and hard work was had by all!

 

Hay Season 2015

It will take me weeks to catch up on all of my blog posts that I want to complete from the summer and this fall.  Thought I would start with the wonderful hay season we had this summer.  I don’t help much with the hay production but I do make sure there’s plenty of refreshment for my two hard workers, my hubby, Eddie and our daughter, Heather.

Eddie decides what fields are cut down first and does the cutting with the haybine and the baling with a round baler.  Sometimes, we do square bales but later in the summer as a second cutting of the crop.  Our hayfields have orchard grass, red clover and timothy.  This summer we had bumper crops and more hay was baled than ever before due to the wonderful spring and summer rains.

Heavy crops

Heavy crops

Beautiful orchard grass and clover

Beautiful orchard grass and clover

Haybine hard at work.

Haybine hard at work.

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We have a large Massey Ferguson tractor and by looking at the back wheels you can tell how high the grass was.

We have a large Massey Ferguson tractor and by looking at the back wheels you can tell how high the grass was.

One of the last fields harvested.

One of the last fields harvested.

The season left us with over 800 bales this year.  I just hope we won't need to use it all because that will mean a "winter monster"!

The season left us with over 800 bales this year. I just hope we won’t need to use it all because that will mean a “winter monster”!

Moving hay from Snead line 07192015 (1)

Moving hay from Snead line 07192015 (3)

Moving haybales 5th day 2015 (4)

Moving haybales 5th day 2015 (5)

Moving haybales 5th day 2015 (9)

Moving haybales 5th day 2015 (15)

Moving haybales 5th day 2015 (18)

View from the truck while moving haybales 2015 (8)

Moving haybales 5th day 2015 (16)

I did get to drive the big truck when it was time to move it all off the fields and that took quite a few trips in several days.

Moving hay with a 1970 truck.

Moving hay with a 1970 truck.

Moving hay from Snead line 07192015 (5)

 

Half full

Half full

I ove this old girl.

I love this old girl.

Eddie stacks six bales on the truck and carried two on the tractor each trip to the haylot.

Eddie stacks six bales on the truck and carried two on the tractor each trip to the haylot.

Eddie would have moved all of it by himself if I had not been retired and home to help!  I’m starting to feel useful again on the farm.

Two month anniversary

I cannot believe it has been two months since my retirement began!  I’ve been so busy that I am rarely in front of my computer which is why I’ve not posted any new stories.  This morning before I head out on the farm I’ll give you a pictorial view of my life since leaving public work and before I do let me just say that I am in heaven!!!

Laundry day

Laundry, cooking, cleaning and gardening just about every day.  I’ve been off the farm less than 10 days in two months because I am in heaven!!

Moving haybales 5th day 2015 (9)

I helped Eddie move hay off the fields and we had over 725 bales rolled this year.

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Gardening at least twice a week.  My daughter has a friend that clearing out flower beds and I’ve been gifted an abundance of perenials.Cavitini w a twist (4)

I have my kitchen back full time and cooking breakfast and dinner  every day.  Trying new recipes and perfecting old ones.

1st sunflowers 2015 (2)

I’ve harvested all of my mammoth sunflowers which grew over eight feet tall.

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I have three new orphans to care for now and there will be numerous stories to follow about them.

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Fall calves are starting to arrive and this was one of the last ones.  More stories about them later.

Cuddles aggravating Sassy 082015 (4)

Sassy is really starting to show her age and becoming white on the muzzle.  Cuddles is her best friend and aggravates her to no end.

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This is “Miracle” orphan number three.  More to come.

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This is Roscoe and orphan number two.  More later!

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This is Cindy named after a friend of mine and she is orphan number one and a spoil rotten brat!!  More to come!

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I finally completed my bathroom re-do and it will be my next post.

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I went to Covington to visit Dean and watch him bowl.  He’s received another Special Olympics metal for his bowling.

The cellar is full except for the potatoes and meat.

The cellar is full except for the potatoes and meat.

The Cellar 2015 (3)

Canning started my first day and I just finished last week.  We’re digging potatoes today and the meat will come during deer season.

Have a blessed day while I celebrate at home on the farm!!  What a blessing!!

Had enough. . . time to retire

I’ve been working at Virginia Tech since April 2011 and last July moved to a different department on campus. I loved the job, especially loved the students and worked hard for my department.
I will be 62 in December and my workload and the stress have been getting worse over the last couple months. By the end of most days I would have a headache that seemed to build until I started home.  And no matter what anyone says, you can’t leave at the office.  I would dream about my job and work issues.

I used to love my job but on Tuesday of last week I decided I just can’t take this anymore!  It’s just not worth it!!  I worked all day and when I prepared to leave for the day, I decided then it would be my last day.  I packed up my personal belongings, locked up the files and left my office and file keys in the desk with no intention of coming back.
I came home and talked to Eddie about my decision and he’s behind 100% and was surprised I stayed as long as I did. I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders!!
I drafted a resignation letter that night and attached it to an email to my supervisor and department head of the center where I worked. I copied my children and best friends on the note!!
I slept better that night than I had for several months and consider myself one of the luckiest women in the world.
I will have to find some odd jobs to help pay for the “dreaded” health insurance because ours will run out on the 31st of July and we can’t be without health insurance living on a farm.
The odd jobs I’m looking for will be light housekeeping (including washing windows, I love doing that) and home/office organization jobs. Organization seems to be my forte and I did housecleaning when my kids were growing up for extra cash.

WISH ME LUCK!!!!

Chilling Weather and Orphaned chickens

It was still dark when I left for work last Thursday morning at -5* and Eddie said it would drop more as it became daylight.  He had both stoves going when I got home that night, extra bedding in the dog boxes, extra hay left in the woods for the cows, wood boxes filled to overflowing, made sure new chickens given by a friend of his were settling in and he’s taking them warm water several times a day.  The house was a “toasty 81*” when I got home but the wind was howling and made it feel like 75*.  We even threw on an extra blanket and the bedroom window was closed.  Even though my waist isn’t thinning I believe my blood may be!!  I think the winter is just getting started this year and we’ve lots more cold, wind and snow yet to come.
As for the new chickens, a friend of my husbands had to get rid of them because they were eating his neighbors cat food everyday.  This has caused my usual 3-5 eggs a day to  jump to 12-18!!!  French toast in the making!!  Custard pies on the horizon (to heck with the weight)!!  Egg salad for lunch!  I could go on and on and of course we can’t forget the infamous fried egg sandwich w/cheese!!​  Of course, our benefactor will receive free eggs for a time.

I think he is a crossed Americauna, small but handsome!

I think he is a crossed Americauna, small but handsome!

Barred Rocks

Barred Rocks

Different breeds but beautiful eggs.

Different breeds but beautiful eggs.

Got to think of a name for him.

Got to think of a name for him.

Very pretty hen and very friendly.

Very pretty hen and very friendly.

They stay together most of the time and don't mingle with my old girls.

They stay together most of the time and don’t mingle with my old girls.

The new chickens and my old chickens fought each other most of the day and the rooster that came with them is thankfully one of a kind and will not be with us long.  I want a Barred Rock, Buff Orpington, Black Orpington or a Dominique.  Sussex and Americana are beautiful and good egg layers.  I’ll check around in the spring when some of my girls tend to get broody!!
My older hens stick close to the hen-house and aren’t ranging out very far but there’s a very good reason.  A couple of weeks ago a bird hawk, smaller than my hens, decided to invade the inside of the henhouse and killed two of my hens and the day before we found Ms. Crow dead in front of the door.  We have a feeling the hawk got it as well but couldn’t carry her off.  The hens are still skittish and stay close to buildings they can get under fast.  They quit laying for a couple of days or are dropping the eggs outside of the nesting area.
This winter is the first in a long time that I’ve had to buy store-bought eggs and glad it was only for a couple of weeks.  There’s nothing like fresh eggs from the farm.  The eggs are coming more generously now and I can start selling them again but we’ve decided to raise the price on them to $2.00 per dozen because the  is needing a new roof and we’ve had to supplement their feed with scratch grains because of the very cold winter.  Keep them fat and the cold won’t hurt so bad!!  We don’t believe in heated and lighted chicken houses.  We keep everything as natural as possible.
On another note, Fuzzy is missing!!

Fuzzy, my orphaned cat.  She was dropped at our home long before we arrived and survived wild until I finally coaxed her to my lap!!

Fuzzy, my orphaned cat. She was dropped at our home long before we arrived and survived wild until I finally coaxed her to my lap!!

I haven’t seen her since last Wednesday when she came to meet when I got home from work.  I fed her that evening and haven’t seen her since.  She left once before for about four days but this has been over  a week and I’m so afraid a coyote pack got her.  I hope I go home today and she has returned.

Winter stockpile

2014 final wood split and ready to store in shed.  Wonderful oak that has been dead for at least a year.

2014 final wood split and ready to store in shed. Wonderful oak that has been dead for at least a year.

We’re ready for a cold winter after this load is put in the woodhouse. I believe it’s a total of three pickup loads full. Hubby split it in three days while I was at work. Now we need to put it in the shed to keep it dry for winter use.

Wood General wood splitter has saved a lot of sore muscles and pain the back!

Wood General wood splitter has saved a lot of sore muscles and pain the back!

This will all go in the big stove in the living room. We’ve not brought in anything for the wood cookstove yet.
Heating oil tank on the backside of the woodshed.

Heating oil tank on the backside of the woodshed.

This fuel tank was used for heating oil when hubby’s aunt & uncle lived here. The back side of the tank was against the wood shed and years of rain off the roof, onto the tank and draining against the wall has rotted it badly and it was placed against a door to the back side of the shed.  This is what it looks like after years of rotting.

Rotting wood

Rotting wood

Woodshed needs repairs.

Woodshed needs repairs.  A hole and major damage is at the bottom of the door and a short board is holding it shut for the moment.

We’ll replace the door and use it to throw the wood in for stacking. It will be easier to back the truck up to that opening.  Always something to repair or replace but this door will make it easier to throw the wood in the building instead of the window.

The shed is already two-thirds full from wood we didn’t have to use last year.

Two-thirds full

Two-thirds full

We will surely be warm in the coming winter months!

UPDATE

Hubby repaired the rotten door today and did an amazing job.  He plans to paint the entire building with a old time mixture to preserve it the rest of OUR lives.  Here’s the results and it was the first door he ever made from scratch.  He’s so amazing!

 

Repaired with lumber cut from the farm.

Repaired with lumber cut from the farm.

First time he made a door from scratch.

First time he made a door from scratch.

 

TOTALLY AWESOME!

TOTALLY AWESOME!

Mansion craft room

We have a beautiful old house on the property that was the families original home in the 1800’s.  Right now it’s used mainly for storage, has no heat and no electricity within the house.   It’s been in the family for at five, maybe six generations.

 

"The Mansion"

“The Mansion”

The Mansion

The Mansion

It was and still could be a beautiful home if we were rich!

It was and still could be a beautiful home if we were rich!

Back of the house and looking into the kitchen window where the playing will be done!

Back of the house and looking into the kitchen window where the playing will be done!

I’m in the process of turning the kitchen into a crafting/DIY room for all of my projects that can’t be done in my quilting/sewing room.  Electricity could be used for small hand tools and some lighting but first I need to clean it out and get it organized.  I may have to call a friend in the fair state of Maryland for this undertaking.   Everytime we get together we find “treasures” in the mansion.

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From this picture you can tell I’ve started the clean out and still have some more junk and treasures to move.

 

Great table for working on and storage underneath.

Great table for working on and storage underneath.

Wood cookstove and chair that has possibilities.

Wood cookstove and chair that has possibilities.

Junk and treasures.

Junk and treasures.

Other side of the great work table.

Other side of the great work table.

Table and a cart for storage!!  YIPPEE!

Table and a cart for storage!! YIPPEE!

Kitchen sink covered with junk and treasure.  Storage under the sink in the way of shelving and drawers.  I see it coming together!!! :)

Kitchen sink covered with junk and treasure. Storage under the sink in the way of shelving and drawers. I see it coming together!!! 🙂

Through the door in the last picture is an enclosed porch where I start my plants and “greenhouse”!!  In the back of the room is a place for a woodstove but that would take up too much room.  This would be used mainly in the three warmer seasons of the year, when I’m not doing ANYTHING else!  RIGHT!!!

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This window is going to be one of the first projects I’ll be working on but that’s will be in a couple months, I expect!!

 

Looks like I got some great things to work on this summer when I can’t get out in the sun!!  Updates on my progress will be coming soon!!

 

 

 

 

It’s never too late to set some goals for the year

I’ve been thinking about posting my 2014 goals/resolutions for two months and procrastinated long enough so here they are:

2014 GOALS

  • Finish making the quilts I started in early 2012 & 2013
  • Teach myself to knit
  • Finish two cross stitch pieces I started more than five years ago
  • Make a baby quilt for a friend of mine and a friend of my son’s
  • REALLY clean my house
  • Build new bird/squirrel feeding station in the backyard this spring
  • Repair work to chicken house
  • Raise 24 new baby chicks
  • Read a book a month (I’m already behind on this one)
  • Write a letter to someone once a month
  • Organize and catalog all of my books and DVD’s
  • Re-upholster a wing back chair
  • Work/post more on my blog
  • Crochet new scarves and cowls
  • Re-pot all of my blooming cactus
  • Lose 10 more pounds
  • Weatherproofing on the gazebo
  • Clean up/out a house on the farm that’s used for storage
  • Learn how to weave on my new loom that I’ve had for three years.

With this said, I have enough to keep me busy all year and no time for being lazy.

LAZY or Busy!! Excuses, excuses!

First, let me apologize for being to involved in my life, busy, lazy, tired, and just plain “not in the mood” to post new blogs but I will try to make up for it in the next two days.

I have so much to tell everyone and rather than a long post, you’ll be seeing lots of small ones.  I’m off from work yesterday and today due to the snow storm that hit Virginia and we got almost 20″ by the time it was all over.

Watch for the new posts coming today and throughout the weekend.

Stay warm and dry!!

Rita

My car disappeared under the snow during the night.

My car disappeared under the snow during the night.

2013 Hay season has begun

It’s official-the first hay is down and rolled.  It’s so pretty and the bales are so perfect.  First he cut and baled some pasture that had some beautiful grass on it and even though it got wet , it dried really good and he got 27 rolls off one small area you’ll see here:

First 27 hay rolls for June 2013.  Baled and stored in the house orchard.

First 27 hay rolls for June 2013. Baled and stored in the house orchard.

This was completed week before last and now look  how pretty and green the pasture is where it was mowed.  You can see how tall the grass was along the edges of the pasture.

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Thursday another part of the same pasture was mowed and Friday & Saturday hubby and Heather tetted, raked and rolled it.  Today hubby hauled it off the pasture and I hitched and unhitched the wagon on the pasture and at the haylot.  He’s trying to get it moved and stacked before the rain rolls in and so he can move the big herd of cattle to this pasture.  There’s a back field connected to this pasture that we can’t get the equipment in this year because of downed trees in the roadway through the woods.  The cattle will definitely be fat and sassy when they get in it for about a week.  We’ve got three months to get the calves fat for fall sales.  I’ve included a up close picture of the grass to make my point.DSCN3999

Pasture grass taller and thicker than whats in the hayfields.

Pasture grass taller and thicker than whats in the hayfields.

Rolled and ready to haul to the haylot.

Rolled and ready to haul to the haylot.

Talking with Jane and posting

I’ve just replied to a comment from one of my favorite bloggers, Jane Fritz.  I’m having a time finding time to post on my blog so I usually post two or three things in one day to make up for lost time.  I’m hoping  you are enjoying the posts and I’m trying to figure out when I can best put more posts on the blog.

My weekdays start up at six everyday, get ready for work and wake myself up good before getting behind the wheel of my car. I work from 8-4  each day about 35 miles from home and home by five.

We eat supper which my wonderful hubby has ready when I walk in the door and then we head outdoors for chores and work or enjoy the farm until dark which is around nine and then I’m in the shower and off to sleepyland!!

Weekends are my best posting time and I don’t get much of that. I am trying though. I hope you all have a marvelous weekend. The rain has stopped here for the moment and sun is bearing down. Too wet to do much outdoors so I’m starting my spring cleaning.

I’ll leave you with a view from my front porch and a some of the wildlife we see from there!!

 

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Wildlife and cattle (8)

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Working the cattle

Tuesday morning was the first time in years that our cattle were worked and I wasn’t in on the fun.  Hubby did have some help though.  Our daughter and two of his friends came to take care of business.  This was for our spring calving herd and there was only two calves that had not had their calves yet but the work needed to be done now.  The other two will be taken care of later.  The work entails eartags for the moms that are missing tags and there were a lot of them.  The moms also get their tails trimmed and if any are having issues such as runny eyes(possible pinkeye infection), thin bodies (usually a symptom of worms) or limping (foot evil lurking around)  all of these are taken care of in the spring.  The calves get their ears tagged, baby shots, banding if they’re bull calves and general care for any thing else that might show up.  This may not sound like a lot but when you have 40 cows and 30 calves going through the working chute it takes several hands, patience, and time.  They had a great day without me and had it all done in about 2.5 hours.  I thought I would show you a couple pictures that one of the guys took during the process and a couple pictures of the herd.

 

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Calf in head chute to keep from hurting them.

 

Jimmy Taylor manning the head chute 05212013

Ears tagged before leaving the chute

Banding calves 05212013

Little bulls become little steers

Babies scattered everywhere!

2013 Spring calves

 

JOB WELL DONE!!

Spring To-Do List

I consider myself a pretty organized person.  I also consider myself a pretty hard worker.  AND, a lot of people that know me think that I’m a cleaning fanatic.  I don’t.  I clean a lot but if I don’t have a list to go by and check off, I only do a fair job.  I have lists for everything.  I have Christmas lists, shopping list, gardening list, spring cleaning lists, spring chores, fall chores, and the list goes on and on and on.  I thought I would share two of my lists today.  First is my spring cleaning list and I start preparing this list during the winter when I can’t do much outside and sitting in front of the TV at night, thinking about the things I should be doing!

SPRING CLEANING & OTHER CHORES

In each room:

Dust all decor, furniture(under & around), ceiling fans & lights, walls

Wipe down walls and baseboards, interior and exterior doors

Take down curtains and wash

Clean/shampoo furniture

Wash windows and ceils, inside and out

Clean all trashcans

Clean all fixtures, doorknobs, switch plates, ceiling lights, paintings (including behind)

Clean/replace blinds

Sweep/vacuum

Mop floors

 

In the kitchen:

Purge and organize kitchen

Clean kitchen cabinets and drawers & replace shelving paper

Clean small kitchen appliances

Clean stove top and oven

Clean refrigerator and freezer (new this year, shelving paper on refrigerator shelves and drawers)

Clean all decor on shelves and all wall decor (and behind)

Clean kitchen table and chairs (don’t forget the chair rungs)

Replace kitchen chair pads
In the bedrooms:

Wash bedding

Air the mattresses for several hours and spray w/Lysol

Clean bedroom closets & purge clothing & shoes

Clean Sassy’s bed and replace mattress in her bed

In the bathroom:

Clean bathroom cabinets

Wash shower curtains and liners

Purge medicine and toiletries

Clean the toilet tank, bowl and outside
Special chores to complete during the late spring or during the spring clean:

  • Paint mantel bolts.
  • Make new quilts for bedrooms.
  • Make new hassock covers.
  • Re-finish master bedroom floors .
  • Put down corner round in guest bedroom.
  • Build bookshelves in guest bedroom.
  • Rebuild closet in Master bedroom.
  • Clean out downstairs closet.
  •  

    OUTDOOR CHOIRS  

    • Put water spigot at back of house.
    • Clean up old herb garden.
    • Clean up game feeders.
    • Clean up bus houses & repair.
    • Move lilies, peonies & roses.
    • Board up the back of the milk house.
    • Stack wood in milk house.
    • Fix roof on sugar house.
    • Clean cellar and apple house.
    • Clean up smoke house.
    • Clean out boat house.
    • Clean up  paddle boat.
    • Replace plug in paddle boat
    • Clean up all lawn furniture.
    • Make new pillows for lawn furniture using old denim jeans.
    • Transplant peonies from mansion & red house.
    • Clean up front porch and mop.
    • Refinish & paint exterior doors from porch.
    • Clean up small chick room in hen house.
    • Tar paper interior walls of chicken house.
    • Paint the chicken house roof.
    • Clean up and store the bird feeders
    • Make more birdhouses.
    • Prune all shrubs & roses in yard.
    • Clean up flower beds.
    • Transplant more garlic to large tire planter from haylot.
    • Set up another tire planter for more rhubarb.
    • Set up another tire planter for asparagus.
    • Move furniture out of tractor shed.
    • Cut out and spray all pawpaw sprouts in back yard.
    • Put dinner bells up (corner of front yard and at gazebo).
    • Paint front porch columns.
    • Stain front porch and waterproof.
    • Clean up yard.
    • Put up solar lights at Gazebo.
    • Replace wire over chicken house windows.
    • Put new bedding in chicken nest.
    • Hang chicken water tank from ceiling near food bin.
    • Put new supers on bee hives.
    • Change batteries in solar lights.
    • Clean off potting table in yard and fill with flowers.
    • Transplant white orchid iris, oriental iris and peonies.
    • Prune and tie up raspberries.
    • Clean off tree limbs in apple orchard.

As you can see I have plenty to keep me busy inside and out of the house.  I think I need some elves or get myself cloned about three or four times.  Oh well, if it gets done, wonderful, and if it doesn’t, it’ll be there another year.  As for my clean house,  if visitors come to see my house instead of me, they can pitch in and help!!  Guess I better get off this computer and get busy!! 😉

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:

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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!!!

 

Saturday with Hubby

It’s been a good while since Hubby and I spent the day together in the woods.  The weather was nice enough (40* and sunny) for me to get out with my fingers crossed that the bronchial problems wouldn’t re-surface.  It was the last day of deer hunting season and hubby had killed two does and one buck with his muzzleloader in the last three days to complete his big game tag.  The front porch firewood supply was getting low (even though the wood house was fuller than it had been for three years) and it had been a long time since we had cut firewood together.

Porch wood stack getting low.

Porch wood stack getting low.

 

After breakfast was over, I washed up the dishes, fed the chickens and turned them out, and started the laundry while hubby fed the cattle.  Then we headed for the flatwoods with the chainsaw, gloves and a smile on my face.  We saw several deer run as we entered the woods and a squirrel took for the tree tops.

Within a hundred feet we found three dead locust and and a downed oak so we stopped the truck and I waited for hubby to bring them down and within a hour the truck was packed with wonderful fuel for the woodstoves.  We headed back to the house with the pickup full.

Truck full and some has to be split.

Truck full and some has to be split.

Notice the handmade wheelbarrow that hubby made last spring.  That thing is the best tool we own as far as I’m concerned.  It’s balanced just right and I can go anywhere with it.  Hubby decided to use the splitting maul to quarter the larger pieces and while he did that I unloaded the smaller sticks to the wheelbarrow and he pushed it to the porch for me and I unloaded it.  It was good quality time together and even though it’s calling for temps to be in the 40’s this coming week, we’ll still have to have a fire day and night.  We’re saving the wood in the woodhouse for hardtimes (snow to deep to get to the woods) and we’ve talked about doing this for the next few Saturdays together, weather permitting, and fill up the entire three sides of the front porch.  We like to do this because it blocks the winds from the front door and we will have those nasty winds.  Here’s the finished work about thirty minutes later.

One load fills up a pretty big gap!

One load fills up a pretty big gap!

From this point I returned indoors to work on laundry and other chores while hubby skinned and quarted the venison.  We had a very productive day.


HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

I want to wish everyone a healthy, prosperous and happy 2013!!

I’m not sure where 2012 went but the goals I have for 2013 will keep me just as busy as in 2012.  Gardening, crafting, quilting, photography, family (most important) and our way of life guarantees I”ll stay busy.  I also hope to post a lot more than I did last year but feel pretty good about my blog.  I started it last year and I have 73 followers and 4,204 hits so far.  I’ve become friends with some pretty spectacular friends/bloggers across the United States and the world.  My goal was to promote farming and our way of life.  I sincerely believe that we all need to slow down and learn to take care of ourselves and our families.  The current situation with our government and the status of our economy should be a wakeup call to all that they need to be more dependent upon ourselves and learn to become dependent as soon as possible.  I don’t mean to bring a cloud over the day but I do want everyone to prepare for what may be in our futures.

ANYWAY, HAPPY NEW YEAR AND BLESSING TO EVERYONE!