Hurricane Farm

  (Scotland, Connecticut)
A view of life on our farm
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Winter Continues

It was "supposed to, maybe, probably, it could" snow all week here in Connecticut.  We had rain.  But...Friday came and so did the snow.  Finally!

The maple buckets are in the woods and there is a fresh layer of clean, peaceful snow on the ground.  Perfect conditions for woods-walking and maple sugarin'!

The ducks and geese love it.  They take this opportunity to escape from the mud and clean their feathers.

Even the hogs like the snow, since it gives them something new to dig in.  This one is almost ready for market.

This is Butch.  He seems to be the current ruler of the barnyard.  He doesn't mind the snow, and is the first one out of the barn despite weather conditions.

The Sugaring Hut...now fully piped, roofed, and ready to keep on sugarin'.  We'll be adding some tin roofing in the Spring time.  As it was, I was barely able to finish it to this stage before the sap started flowing!  It works great, though, and now we can sugar in all sorts of nasty weather.

Here is one of our "snow plows" hard at work.

Another shot of the new Sugarin' Hut.

Here's Liev heading out to "plow" the "bridges" that we've put out to get us across the small streams and into the woods.

With all the rain, the water in the woods is flowing quite rapidly!  In fact, some of the jugs that we set out on some the trees are now inaccesible.  The larger brook has swollen beyond its banks and we can't get to some of the maple trees to retrieve the sap.  Paco the Cat, however, does not seem bothered by this.

We use milk jugs to gather the sap once we run out of metal buckets and 5 gallon pails.  You can see a couple of the jugs on some trees that are now in the midst of the brook.  We'll have to wait to collect from those for a while...Or else brave the bitter cold water?  I think we'll wait...At least until my Dad comes down and is loking for a job to do!  Bring your waders, Dad!

Another tree now in the middle of the brook...

Finally, here is a cool tree bound by wild grape vines.  Pretty neat find out there at the edge of the woods.

 
 

The Sap Flows!

It took only a few hours and a sunny morning to get about 100 taps in.  We dug out the buckets, lids, tools, and spouts, loaded up the trucks, and headed across town to the sugar bush.

The owners of the land that we use have been hard at work clearing out the brush, thinning the trees, and making the sugar bush more productive.  You can see in the above photo some of the smaller trees that they had cut down to allow the larger trees room to grow.

The darker hole in the photo below is the hole from last year.  To the right you can see the a new hole with fresh sap already dripping out.  We generally put two taps per tree.  This works out well as the two taps will generally fill a five-gallon bucket each day during the sugarin' season.



The first step once we make it to the woods is to lay out the buckets at each tree we plan to tap.  We put out about 50+ buckets today.  We still have at least 50-60 more spouts to set back at our farm.  Hopefully we'll get to this in the next day or two.

A few slight knocks with a hammer and the spout is set!

One a sunny day like this, the sap starts to flow before the drill bit is removed from the hole.  It starts with a steady stream, but then slows to a pulsing drip.  Those drops sure do add up, though!

Once again, everyone lends a hand.  First we loaded up the trucks.  Then we unloaded them in the woods and set out the buckets, covers, and spouts.  Finally, we drilled and set the spouts into the trees.

It takes some focus and concentration to score a direct hit with the hammer!

The old-fashioned hand drill (brace) works better than an electric drill, in our opinion.  Less noise and more elbow grease makes for some contemplative moments in the woods.  (The more keen of our readers will notice something about the photograph below.  Examine last year's photos...any takers?)

Teamwork all around makes quick work of the trees in the sugar bush.

The buckets are set, the trees are tapped, the sap is flowing...Maple lovers prepare to have your taste buds tantalized!

 

 
 

Bringin' In the Wood...Maple Anyone?

With the roof on, the trees tapped, and SNOW in the forecast, it was time to bring in some of our dry firewood.

Our design of a post/pole building leaves plenty of open room for the sunshine, for fresh air and ventilation, and for stacking wood!  We started with the remaining slabwood from last season and then moved on to some of our super-seasoned hardwood.  To get the sap boiling, you need as hot a fire as can be mustered.

The stacks of wood will also make a nice windbreak.  An added bonus!

Every one in the family lends a hand at maple time.

Once we get all four walls stacked, it will be as if we're in a bear den.  And...once the evaporator is firing, it will be nice and cozy...

It's almost SUGARIN' TIME...

 
 

Work on the Sugar Hut Continues...Frantically!

We've been planning for a couple of weeks to tap the maple trees today (President's Day).  So...for the past couple of days we've been frantically working on getting the sugaring hut finished up.

Erica and I were able to move the evaporator--about 1 foot at a time--all by ourselves.  We removed the pan, the smokestack, and even the doors.  We were able to get the whole thing down to what seemed like only 1 ton.  Nicely done!

But...the sugar hut still needed a roof.

First we needed to add the chimney pipe and make a cupola for the steam to escape.  We're going to extend the pipe 2 feet up from where it stands in this picture so that it gets sufficient clearance over the cupola.

Have I mentioned how I do not really like ladders?  I must have back when we were posting the pictures of the meat chicken coop.  Anyhow, I've been getting better, but I still don't "prefer" the task...

Meanwhile, Liev was stacking milk crates.  Then knocking them over.  Then stacking milk crates...

Here is the cupola just about finished.  We'll still need to shingle the roof, but that will have to happen after this year's sugarin'...the sap is already flowing!

We used double-insulated Class A chimney pipe to connect to the evaporator's smokestack.  When researching smokestack installations, I learned that most sugarhouses seem to go with single wall galvanized roof jacks (which cost WAY too much, by the way).  Also, they tend to incinerate the roof, making yearly replacement a tradition.  Not cool!  So, we opted for more of an "interior wood stove" installation.  Better safe than charred!

Perched like (an uneasy) bird.

Soon to come...we move in the wood and tap the trees.  Stay tuned!

 

 

 
 

Maple Sugarin'

It's just about time to pull out all of the equipment and head out to the woods!  This week we have lots in store at the farm...

100's of buckets, lids, tubing, and spouts will need to be rinsed off, loaded into our truck, and driven across town to the sugar bush.  I need to sharpen up the drill bit on the hand-drill, or brace as it is called, and grab a hammer as well.

This weekend I have been working on the roof to the sugaring shack.  Chimney piping has been ordered and I hope to have the roofing up and ready before the piping arrives.  Today I will be working on the venting system (like a long cupola) and then the rest of the roof will go up.

Perhaps the toughest task of all this will be to move the evaporator into the sugar shack.  It is only about 12 feet away right now, but this is a very heavy piece of equipment.  We can take some of it apart, but the 50 or so firebricks that are cemented in place inside of the arch will not be removable.  We'll be enlisting anyone nearby to help with this, I'm sure.  Luckily, the ground is still frozen and icy so maybe we'll be able to slid it as we move it.

And, of course, there is a ton of wood to be split into small, quick-burning pieces...

We plan to set out the supplies in the woods this week and hopefully tap the trees next weekend.  It's still a bit cold here, but things could change at any time here in New England and then the sap will be running!

 

 
 

Winter and Snow

Winter has set in and we have a solid covering of snow.  Looks like we'll be covered until the maple sap is running in March!  It snowed earlier than usual and has been colder than usual.  Such a combination has resulted in a nice white blanket throughout the state.

Neither the cold nor the snow seem to bother plant and animal life here in Scotland, CT, however.

The geese are still strolling around as if they own the place...That is, until the turkeys emerge from the wooded wetlands and take over.

The turkeys still "free-range" all winter, but there is little for them to eat so we offer them some grain each day.  This helps to keep them from "running away," as well.  In the summer and fall they eat entirely what they find in the woods and the fields, but the pickings are a little bit slimmer this time of year.

Even in the middle of a cold winter, the poultry prefer to remain outside.  The turkeys can enter the barn and roost within, but unless it is snowing outside, they still would rather sleep in the trees and atop the barn and sugar-shed.

These heritage toms and hens will be our breeding stock and hopefully provide us with all the poults that we'll need for this year's Thanksgiving.  We'll see how their production is in the late winter and then determine if we need to supplement our needs.  We're once again planning to expand our turkey operation and raise more birds.  We've been selling out faster and faster each season!

Here's Bertrude:

Here's Hiram:

Even though it's frigid and the water for the animals needs to be changed and dethawed several times per day, it is NOT too cold for a RED SOX cap!

And speaking of the cold:  check out what Erica and Liev dug out of the snow in the garden.  The kale is STILL growing, even in 20 degree weather!  This stuff sure is hardy!  It's now officially a year-round crop for us.  Hooray!

I can't believe that this stuff can still make it through this weather.  AND it's tasty!

 
 

A Visit to the Winter Farmer's Market

We'll be at the Coventry Winterfresh Farmer's Market in Coventry, CT this coming Sunday, December 20.  The market has been running for a couple of weeks, and we will be making our first appearance on the first Sunday of Winter! 

The market runs from 11am-2pm at the Coventry High School at 78 Ripley Hill Road (just off Rt. 31) in Coventry, CT. 

We'll have tons of free-range eggs, grass-fed beef cuts, heritage pork products, and more.

 
 

Just In Time To Beat the Snow

A couple of weeks back we had about what seemed to be non-stop rain for days on end.  The farm had become a mud pit.  Almost like Spring, but without the flowers, grass, and other plants popping up and sucking up the excess water.  So...we had mud, in some places several inches deep.

Just about this time we determined it was time to move the hogs into their winter home attached to the barn.

When we first moved the hogs into the garden for their "Fall tilling excursion," we had all three of them in the same cage.  Not so anymore!  They grew quite a bit while removing all the old roots and grubs and other bugs from the garden.

We were able to get the first two up onto the trailer wihout a problem.  The third one almost broke out of the cage, so we had to wait to move him until we got these two guys settled in.  Check out the rooster along for the free ride!  He rode in on the trailer all the way from the garden.

We backed the tractor right up into the barn and then...

...unloaded the hogs.  A couple of curious hens accompanied the rooster and came out to watch us try to lift, drag, push, and pull the cages down the length of the barn.

It seems we got the hogs moved just in time, for that rain gave way to some snow and we were graced with our first plowable snow of the season.  Moving these guys in 4-5 inches of snow would NOT be fun!

Glad to see we got the "thumbs up" from our little supervisor! 

 
 

Some (Re)Assembly Required

A while back I was stuck in the mud with my Farmall Cub tractor.  I was furiously running the throttle up and down, back and forth trying to get enough momentum to break free and get the tractor moving forward instead of downward into the mud.  I eventually drove out (with the help of some come-alongs), but I had bent the throttle rod slightly.  I thought that I could bend it back, but when I tried the throttle adjusting lever that connects the rod to the governor broke off.  Ooops! 

The solution at the time was a washer and some cold welding compound.  I used J-B Weld, which seems to always do the trick.  The first two photos show the piece with the welded washer. 

This worked for a while, but I knew that I had to get in there and put a new piece in before the snow starts to fall and before it gets too cold to want to mess around with small parts under the hood of an antique tractor.

The unfortunate thing was...I had to remove the hood/gas tank to get the old part off.  After unhooking the lights and a few bolts, off came the hood.

While I was in there I was able to tighten up a squeaking belt by adjusting the alternator, so I was able to get two tasks done at once.

I wanted to replace the belt on the alternator, but that required removing the fan, the main drive belt, and a bunch of other things that were in the way.  Simply tightening the belt, however, worked out in the long run. 

Once I had the hood off, I thought that I could easily slip off the broken piece on the throttle lever/governor unit.  No so.  I had to take off the entire governor.  I was a bit nervous, but it went right back together.  I snapped several photos to be sure to have evidence of where everything went in case I got lost on the re-assembly.

I wish I had the luxury of having the hood off when I was wiring the tractor up for lights, switches, and the amp meter...everything is so easy to get to!  I remember bashing my knuckles trying to remove the manifold with the hood on.  It would have been alot easier with the tractor like this!

Here is a close-up of the welded piece.  It served its purpose, but I didn't think it would last the winter with the workout that plowing snow puts on the tractor.

Below is the new piece all attached and ready to receive the throttle rod.  They don't manufacture this piece anymore, but I was able to find a used one, all sand-blasted and painted, from a used tractor parts dealer in Texas.

The next shot shows the extent of my dismantling...I had to remove lots of parts--parts that were not even near the area that I was working on.  Amazing engineering on these little tractors.

Here is the governor just about to be pushed back together.  It was a perfect fit, lucky for me.

While the throttle rod was unattached, I was able to straighten it out.  Now that everything is back together, the throttle travels the full range perfectly.  Also, no more alternator belt squeal! 

Bring on the snow!

 
 

Cedar Posts, Part 2

Just got word today from a wood-cutter friend several towns over that he has 76 more cedar logs for us. 

Perfect timing for some of my upcoming building projects.  I was starting to use up the first load with all the fencing that we put up in our satellite field and with the construction of the sugaring pavillion.

Now I can build pole buildings in each of the pasture areas for the livestock who stay out all summer as well as a nice lean-to alongside the brook out in the woods.  Everyone should have a nice quiet place in nature to which to escape--even if for a few moments.

If I have enough larger logs, I might even get a start on the hay shed and the machine shed (my Farmall Cub would surely be happy to be in out of the elements!).

 
 

Shearing Sheep -- Finally!

We finally found someone to shear our sheep.  We'd placed an ad and had several reponses, but people tend to get busy, time slips by, and before you know it the sheep are sporting dreadlocks.  (And not the nice ones like Erica's!)

We eventually found a "shearer" through our friends at Terrabyte Farm in Canterbury, CT who was not only willing to come over, but who was interested in bartering for some of our meats as well.  Nice.

We ended up with a couple of usable fleeces, and the rest went to various other uses, including bedding for the cat, nesting for some birds, and unknown uses by whatever animal dragged it off into the wetlands (whatever it was left a nice trail, though).

I won't go into the details of our own attempts to shear the sheep in the past.  Suffice it to say we used the old-fashioned hand shears and took about 1000% longer than we should.  We gave it our best, a couple of times even.  But now that we have so many other tasks to keep up with on the farm it was not practical for us to spend so much time at what ended up taking a "real shearer" only a few minutes.

Our "shearer" will return in the Spring to take care of the fleeces on the lambs.  And so the cycle continues.

Is there a term that I should be using instead of "shearer"?  Maybe.  But I kind of like the sound of "shearer."

Hello electric shears!

 

 
 

Hurricane Farm Returns to NPR

Erica returned to WNPR, Connecticut Public Radio, on Monday, November 9th.  Find the link to a recording of the interview segment here.

She was involved in an engaging discussion about the feasibility of eating meat with author Jonathan Safran Foer.  The discussion of his new book Eating Animals provided an opportunity to juxtapose the sustainable practices of local farmers with the ecologically unsound practices of large factory farms.

 
 

Hurricane Farm visits NPR

On Friday, November 6th, my wife Erica was a guest on the Colin McEnroe show on WNPR, Connecticut Public Radio.  She discussed our farm, the farming life, and locally raised meats. 

You can find the link to stream a recording of the radio show here.  It went well and she was invited back for a segment with Jonathan Safran Foer, author of the new book Eating Animals.  They had an engaging conversation that aired today.  Link to follow.

                            

 

 
 

Shorter Days and Pumpkins

The days are getting shorter.  So much in fact that we had to carve our annual Halloween pumpkins by lamplight at 3:00 in the afternoon!  Overcast conditions coupled with Standard Daylight Time makes for some early evenings.

The kids and I worked hard to open up and empty out the squash while Erica was at the smokehouse picking up the latest round of bacon and ham.  The kids were especially attentive to the separation of the meat from the seeds.  They love roasted pumpkin seeds.  Amost as much as the hogs love the rest of the pumpkins!

We grew many different types of pumpkins this year, including a unique heirloom "Cinderella" variety.  The sugar pumpkin that Violet is working on in the above photo earned me an "I told you so" upon Erica's return.  It seems that we were saving all the sugar pumpkins for pies.  Violet had mentioned something about not carving those...ooops. 

The pumpkin scrapers that the kids are using above were given to them for Christmas by their Aunt Julie.  I had no idea where they were but Violet and Liev found them on their first attempt.  Maybe I'll get the two of them to organize my sock drawer.

We carved a few on our own, and then when Erica returned the fancy carving began.  Erica has made some elaborate carvings in the past, including a sweet "PHISH" logo (google it, it looked just like that!), a pumpkin that sported our name, HURRICANE FARM, and a scary witch this year.

The kids have their own carving tools and they did an excellent job on their very own Jack-O-Lantern designs.

They worked for hours on about 10 or so pumpkins.  I think that they have me licked on this.  The one that I carved pales in comparison to the masterpieces the rest of the family created.  Spooky!  Scary!  Funny!  Check out Liev's with the four square eyes (bottom right below).  The witch on a broomstick is in the top right.

And there they are, hard at work keeping evil spirits at bay, welcoming wayward trick-or-treaters, and serving as the sole beacon of light in the ever-increasing darkness of Standard Daylight Time.

 
 

Construction Continues on the Sugar Shack

Last weekend we started to put the roof together for our sugar shack.  It will ultimately be an open-walled pole structure to house our maple syrup evaporator.  We'll be able to make much more syrup once we're able to get a roof overhead the whole operation.  No more standing around in the cold drizzle!

The first task in getting up the roof was to set the ridge pole over the center of the framing.  I got the longest 2 x 8 available, but I still wish it was a few feet longer so I could have an nice overhang on the end.  I have an idea as to how to make an overhang in a slightly different way, so it will still probably work out.

Next we had to measure out the angles for the rafters.  I personally do not enjoy doing math, so we measured out the first rafter while holding it in place.  We got the perfect angle on the second try.  Not too bad.  This rafter became the "cookie cutter" by which we measured and cut all the others.

Measuring out the first rafter was a two person job.  Luckily, we have enough ladders.

As a side note, the weather is starting to become hat-weather...Nice.  My favorite time of the year!

A cluster of turkeys watches our progress from the background, while their constant gobbling urges Erica further up the ladder.

The first rafter is measured and set.  We ended up completing 1/2 of the rafters.  Today the plan is to finish up the roof and get ready to put on some covering and make a cupola from which the steam from the evaporation process will escape later in the week.

Did you know?  Rafters make great race-car ramps!

 

 
 

My Four-Legged Tiller, Part 2

The frost has hit and the squash is done.  Sadness creeps into the picture as one looks around at the dying plants.  The sqash was commanding the garden mere days ago, but its leaves are now turning a sickly dark color.  The frost sneaks in and kills quickly, just as quickly as the early morning sun whisks it away.

While we are short some squash patches, we have gained some pig areas.  The hogs have been moved into the garden and will be rotated throughout in order to clean, till, and manure the spaces that will hold next Spring and Summer's crops. 

Even though the entire garden is fenced in, we set up some movable hog panels (16 foot long rigid fence sections) to encourage the pigs to keep to a specific area as they work.  We have many crops remaining that do not need the help of the pigs at this time.  They might like the strawberry patch or the kale rows, but we do too!  Pigs keep out, please...

We'll let them work their wonders in the squash patch, then move them through the corn and other crop areas in the coming weeks.

Did I mention that they work for free?

 
 

End of the Season Cattle Wrangling

It is come upon the end of the season for our borrowed field down the road.  The cattle did a wonderful job clearing out the overgrown field and we have high hopes for superior hay next season.  I'll be brush-hogging the remaining saplings and whatever else may be left.

To that end, we spent an afternoon moving Fuzzy back up to the field behind our barn.

Liev decided that he would be responsible for the rope.  The trailer is a bit high off the ground, so we end up roping the cattle to help coax them aboard.  We use the rope as a sort of leash and aboard they climb.

Erica decided that she, too, would be a "wrangler."  We're lucky to have neighbors that allow us use of this 5+ acre field.  We plan to fence in a second pasture next Spring as well as put in a large pumpkin patch (right where the truck is parked just behind the cowgirl in the photo).

And here we are backing the trailer up in order to unload our passenger, Fuzzy.  It was hard to tell whether he was pleased to be back at the farm or if he missed his summer home. 

After the weekend, we loaded him back up again and Erica took the long trip to deliver him to be harvested.  I think it is great that our children, and the children who visit the farm, are aware of the sources of their foods.  What could be more natural than a connection to the very essence of life that sustains us all?

 

 
 

Holiday Meat CSA - Shares Now Available

Hurricane Farm in Scotland, CT is currently offering a Holiday Meat CSA. 

Many people inquired about and have been on a waitlist for our Summer Meat-Based CSA.  We are now pleased to be able to expand our CSA to a second season and we welcome new members.

Members have the opportunity to get fresh meats straight from the farm.

 

Each member's share will include the following: 

End of October: 
Pork Chops ($9/lb)
Sausage ($9/lb) 

Early November:
Nitrate Free
Bacon ($11/lb)
Ham ($11/lb)

Thanksgiving:
Turkey 20-30lbs ($100)

Early December:
Grass-Fed, Dry Aged Beef ($7-20/lb)

Plus:  Eggs, Swiss chard, Spinach, Lettuce, Peas & Kale

CSA with Turkey: $300
CSA without Turkey: $200 We are now accepting a $50 deposit with 2-3 weeks to pay the remaining balance. 

Get involved with your food and get it straight from the source!

Contact us at:
hurricanefarmmama@gmail.com or 860.465.9934

 

 

 
 

Fresh Veggies and a Stuffed Pizza

Here are a few shots of some veggies fresh from the garden.  The frost is still only threatening, so we're sure to have a few more meals on the table right from the garden.

A little veg.  A little dip.  Yummy.

Once the frost comes, there will still be plenty of colder crops left, like the kale below.  We have three kale patches, though we recently turned out the new piglets into one of them.  They like fresh veggies just as much as we do!

There are still plenty of squash to bring in.  We have some heirloom varieties of winter squash that are weighing in at over 30 pounds!  They are much too large for the basket below...My favorite, though, is butternut.

And of course, let's not forget the homemade stuffed pizza!

 

 
 

Who Loves the Rain

Who loves the rain?

 
 
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