A view of life on our farm
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Spring is alive at the farm and the surrounding woodlands and wetlands. The frogs have been peeping for weeks, and now after their loud rituals we are finding egg sacks in the "frog pond" and along the banks of the brook and stream.
Soon, the eggs will be hatching and tiny tadpoles will swarm the waterways that surround Hurricane Farm.
Even though there were seemingly thousands of frogs at the start of the "peeping," they are hard to spot now that the mating is all over. Here's one of the little guys. Who would expect something so small to make a sound so large?
In addition to the creatures, the plants are also popping up all over the place. Here is a Skunk Cabbage making its way up through the muddy bottoms of the stream.
And of course manure needs to be hauled. We started moving some up from the back manure piles, but there is still much more to move. We'll be tilling the gardens soon and we're also eagerly awaiting the next batch of "four-legged-tillers" (or piglets) who will be arriving in a couple of weeks.
There is still a lot to clean up from sugaring season, though. And both Erica and Violet spent hours working on this task. Gathering and hauling empty buckets from the woods, cleaning and scrubbing buckets, pails, spiles, and tubes, and getting it all packed away for next year takes more than an afternoon!
It was so sunny and warm that Violet felt compelled to break out not only her sun hat, but the sun-screen too! The finished Sugaring Pavillion is there in the back, still awaiting its roofing job...soon to come...
We also disassembled the bee hive, cleaned it out, and got it all ready for its new inhabitants. Hopefully we'll have better weather this coming summer and the bees will be able to prosper.
And, let's not forget, the arrival of the new farm animals. Just hours ago we welcomed our first lamb of the year! As always, it's busy busy busy here at the farm!
Posted by Chris
@ 06:40 PM EDT
At last! Click, click, click. Tap, tap, tap. Peep, peep, peep!
Hey, what's that sound in there?
Hey look! That one is trying to escape! Quick, catch it!
Here is our nice, clean, and organized brooding area. It stays nice, clean, and organized for about 36 hours once its new tenants arrive.
We ended up adding another section to keep the goslings from wetting everyone else as they splash around in the water. The dividers worked great--for three days--until everyone thought it would be great to mingle with their neighbors. I've been finding countless uses for what little excess sawmill cut-offs we have left from sugarin' season. They make great "poultry dividers."
Believe it or not, those little guys number somewhere near 200 birds--I think!
They grow fast, too. We have spaces already established elsewhere around the farm for the geese, turkeys, and egg layers, but I'm hard at work completing a new outbuilding to house the meat birds.
Here the kids and I have set out the sill to see how big this thing will be when it's done.
The next step was to do a little excavating...
I can tell you, the first block is a piece of cake. The next three...not so much. But we managed to get it all leveled out eventually.
I think that I bought way too many blocks. But we used them to make a much needed (and curiously missing) step for the workshop doorway.
Next we added some floor joists and cross braces and finally put on the floor.
And here is where our construction stops for the time being. Next we'll put up some walls...but, as mentioned before, it was a busy week. Did I mention that the silo came, the bees are just about set up, and loads of firewood have arrived?
Posted by Chris
@ 07:26 PM EDT
With the end of the maple sugarin' season come and gone, it is time to start cleaning up the pails and buckets and taps. There is lots of equipment to dismantle, carry in from the woods, and clean.
Yesterday, Erica spent 6 hours at least scrubbing, washing, and rinsing the buckets, pails, spouts, tubing, and holding tanks. We'll have some photos of that later. For now, here are some shots taken by Liev and Violet of Mom out in the woods gathering all the maple gear.
Not bad shots for a four and five year old!
Yuck! Look at those critters in that bucket. Always a sign that the spring is really here and the winter is gone.
It sure looks different out in the woods without the snow and ice. I almost forgot what it looked like out there. Actually, we moved in here last May, so we never experience the "naked" spring woods without all the growth of the late spring...
Check out the size of that oak tree!
Posted by Chris
@ 09:46 AM EDT
We finally cleared out the space for the orchard and the bee hive! We pulled out some great firewood for next year and have cleared out a nice sloping area for our fruit and bees. Unfortunately, there are still tons of roots from grape vines and remnants of prickly bushes all over the area.
Solution: Bring in the rotor-tiller. But this is not your average gas powered machine. This one (four of them, actually) runs on weeds, grubs, and whatever else you put in the path of its powerful snout.
We purchased four more piglets and they are busy at work in a movable pen that will eventually clear out the leftover mess in the soon-to-be-orchard.
They are hard at work tilling up the soil, eating the roots, and also composting the soil with their manure!
We picked up an old calf hutch that was for sale on the side of the road and it will be a perfect movable home for these little guys. We can also use it later when we start letting the lambs and their mothers out into the pasture.
Here are our little ones trying out the hutch.
Here I am admiring the fine work that the pigs are about to do. We used 4 livestock panels, some old metal posts, and a handful of zip-ties.
Now, along with the 5 gallon pail--as our readers already know of--the zip-tie is an indespensible item on the farm.
See how handily they fit into one's upper pocket? And oh, the colors! They can't be missed when dropped into the muddy ground (like screws, nuts, and bolts always are).
Even a four year old can master the zip-tie. Above we can see Liev attaching one of the livestock panels to a post.
Fine work was done by all. Including the pigs (eh hem...tillers) who have just about cleared out that area. We are planning to move them over today or tomorrow. The bees arrive in a week or so and the plan is to have the pigs finished in this area and moved over to the garden by then.
Posted by Chris
@ 09:35 AM EDT
No, this is not a recipe for a mouth-watering chicken dish, but a brief snapshot into how animals keep their own time.
It is a sure sign that Spring is not too far away when you find this in the barn...
The ducks, not as keen as the chickens, have also started laying. They, however, drop their eggs all over the yard. Some in the garden. One under the tractor wheel (oops). I think, though, that if the past is any indication, they will settle down and find a secure place any day.
The sheep are about to lamb and the rabbits are nesting as I type. The few turkeys that remain are also laying a surprising number of eggs. The next month here at the farm will be full of new additions!
OK, OK...Here is a recipe!
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 tsp. salt
4 c. thinly sliced potatoes
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. milk
1/3 c. chopped green pepper
1/4 tsp. pepper
8 oz. sausage
Combine soup, milk, onion, green pepper, salt and pepper. Place half the potatoes in a 2 quart casserole. Add half the sausage. Cover with half the soup mixture. Repeat layers. Cover and bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 1/4 hours. Remove cover. Sprinkle with cheese and bake, uncovered, 15 minutes longer or until the potatoes are tender. Serves: 4.
Wait! No chicken? I guess that's the surprise.
You can find anything here on the internet...
Posted by Chris
@ 04:33 PM EST
So we started out our farm life several years ago with a rabbit. Then we had two rabbits. Then, well, you know how that works.
We progressed to a small chicken coop with funky little diamond-shaped windows. We had two chickens. Then four chickens. Then...
So, this past summer here at the new farm a customer asked if we could build a chicken coop for her backyard. Recalling our first coop, we put together some plans and I built the coop. Another customer stopped by, saw the finished product, and put down a deposit on the next one that I could build. Pretty soon, I was building two at a time to meet the demand. Who knew backyard chickens were so hip?
Well, that was in the summer and fall, and now it is -1º F here in CT. A little cold to work on coops outside, but I will be beginning to fabricate the framing pieces, sides, and nesting boxes in the workshop (right next to the woodstove). I've set my limit for Easter at 6 coops and 6 rabbit hutches, but depending on the demand and the incoming deposits, I may have to build more.
No, she does not come with the coop. But could I interest you in a "nice" and "friendly" rooster?
Posted by Chris
@ 03:16 PM EST
People have been after us to start writing about our farm, so here goes....
As the cold season makes its presence known across Southern New England, here at our farm we embrace all the weather has to offer. Our kids, Violet and Liev, have found a great sledding run in our pasture and have outlasted me out there several times already. We've had several measurable snow events, and I for one am delighted to be plowing it all away in my "new" 1963 Farmall Cub. What a great father's day gift. And to top it off, my wife travelled up to VT to get the snow plow for me! I have to put a new carburetor on the tractor, and I'll update this blog when that time comes. (It will have to warm enough for me to feel my bare hands for that job.)
We've been fighting the dreaded "icing of the waterers" battle for some time, and found out that we have some faulty wiring in the barn. We'll have to rent a small digging implement (sweet!) and run some new power lines out there this summer. For now, we've been using the woodstove in the workshop, some well-placed heat bulbs, and a rotation of waterers to fight the ice battle. Who knew how much water cattle take in each day!
Our progress on firewood this year is not as productive as last year as we're finding the new farm offers endless other chores, but we've still made a dent in the large pile of logs out in the front.
On the other hand, our CSA membership is almost full and there is lots of book-keeping and calendar "figuring" to do to ensure all the meats are ready for each pickup date.
We are currently debating between getting a silo to store delvered grain and picking it up ourselves. The latter option requires that we construct some sort of smaller grain storage system...More on that as we decide what we will do. There are several used silos available somewhat locally, but they still must be moved with semi-heavy machines.
Posted by Chris
@ 02:01 PM EST
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