Fitzgerald's Family Farm, LLC

  (Coudersport, Pennsylvania)
Fitzgerald's Family Farm
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White Out Conditions Called

The kids don't often get days off from school around here.  This morning a two hour delay was announced for "white out conditions." 






These photos are from my front and back windows.  I'd say the two hour delay was a good call.  

While drinking my morning coffee I morosely contemplate the sideways blowing snow.  "Oh boy, I'll be going out in that in a few minutes," I think.

To be fully prepared and I pull out my "really bad weather" gear.  

Hat, scarf, heavy padded Shmidt coat, and Schmidt overalls, heavy gloves, and snow boots.  I'm prepared for the snow and especially wind.  


The wind froze enough to make me turn away and cover my face.  I quickly found that all the clothing's extra weight and slogging through the deep snow actually made me too warm!  

In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.
~Albert Camus

Ha!

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Coats On Goats

We've made a new addition to our menagerie.  Two gorgeous little goats. The doe with the droopy ears is a mini boer and the one with the upright ears is a mini boer-alpine cross.  

Meet Rosie, our droopy eared girl.  When my son walked in he took one look at her and said, "She's a Rosie (thank you to our dear friend, Rosie!).  We decided to stay with the floral motif and named the girl with the upright ears Violet.   

Aren't they so stinking cute? 
(except for the devil eyes from the flash!)


Rosie and Violet

Why are there coats on the goats?  

Last night about 10 p.m. I watched the temperature drop and drop and I worried and worried.  The temperature was below zero and still dropping!  

The chickens, ducks, and turkeys have nice down and feathers to keep them warm and they were closed up in their coops.  The pigs have a deep nest of straw in their hut and each other to snuggle up beside.  The dogs and the cats have house heat.  But the poor little goats, even with their big hay pile, had only each other to snuggle with.  So I dug out my miniature schnauzers' sweaters and my husband and I went out and dressed the goats in an extra layer.  

They didn't complain a bit!  

 


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Cuteness In A Box

 

Just a Reminder!

Ship Date:

6/1/2011

Ship To:

SHARON FITZGERALD

144 SNOWMAN RD

COUDERSPORT, PA 16915

Your poultry order has been shipped today. You should expect delivery within 72 hours. If you have any problems, please report them within 4 days of arrival. We appreciate your business and are looking forward to providing you with "Ideal Poultry".

Ideal Poultry Breeding Farms Inc.

PO Box 591

Cameron, TX 76520

254-697-6677





To see what I ordered, go to my previous post:  2011 Chicken Order


Cuteness in a box is heading my way!




P.S.  We had a frost advisory here last night.  I'm glad I don't have anything outside quite yet!


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Digging Ditches

Yesterday evening, I said to a friend, "I feel like I've been digging ditches, oh wait, I have!"  And while I haven't exactly digging ditches, I've been preparing the high tunnel, finally, for planting. 

While I've been waiting for the temperature to stabilize enough for my delicate tomatoes, peppers, melons, and eggplants; the weeds have been growing lush and tall.  There's been so much moisture (ie. rain!) that the ground under the high tunnel must be wet enough for great weed growth.  So I'm pulling  and digging up all the weeds I can and putting down four feet wide lengths of black plastic as part of my back saving weed control plan.  In a few years,  as I get the weeds eradicated from the high tunnels, I plan to use more natural mulches, such as chopped leaves.

The chickens are happily (I imagine) laying lots of eggs.  I brought in 19 eggs yesterday. Free range eggs are very different from store-bought eggs.  The egg yolks are a richer yellow, the white stands up nicely, and the shells are much thicker. 



Speaking of eggs, I hope to check the bees today and look for bee eggs.  If the queen is doing her job I should see what looks like a tiny grain of rice stuck into the bottom of each cell.  

Back to gardening, I don't know who said this, but I love this quote:

How do you tell if a plant is a weed or a valuable plant?  
If it pulls easily out of the ground it's a valuable plant.

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Air Raid Warning

We have one guinea hen.  Thank goodness.  Guinea hens make more noise than all the other farm animals put together.  I'm not sure if my guinea hen perceives a threat or if it's just bored, but the guinea starts its squeaky door "eeh er" sound and calls over and over and over for up to half an hour!  You can hear it here.

Why do I keep such an annoying bird? 

Guinea hens are known for their excellent tick control abilities.  Also, they have the prettiest spotted plumage, and it's difficult to see in these pictures, but guineas have these strange growths on their heads and look positively prehistoric.   





But the absolute best reason for having a guinea hen is for their air raid calls.  

Yesterday, I was working in the high tunnel and the guinea hen started avery loud buzzing/screeching sound - a sound it only makes in times of high danger.  I bolted out of the high tunnel and saw a red-tailed hawk just flying up from the trees after it had tried to swoop down on the chickens.  That buzzing/screeching acted as an air raid warning!  You can hear ithere but imagine it much, much louder!  

I pictured how the attack would look in an old time cartoon - the guinea hen would be cranking up the air raid warning and the chickens would be putting on their little metal air raid hats and running helter skelter for cover!  

I don't know if the guinea hen's noise scared off the hawk, but it didn't get any chickens yesterday!
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Bee Success(ful)!

Today the weather warmed up enough that I could check on my bees and see if the queens got out of their little boxes.  I didn't get pictures because although the weather was "warm" - meaning slightly above 60-degrees, it was windy and threatening rain.  I wanted to get in and out of the hives as quickly as possible. 

Success!

Six out of six hives have released their queens.  They are building tons of comb.  They all got to get outside and poop.  You can see the streaks on the sides of the hive.  Did you know that bees will not pooh in the hive?  They'll hold it for months during the winter while they wait for a day above 40 degrees so that they can go out. 

I sat right up next to where the bees were buzzing in and out (we have their usual hive entrance reduced to about an inch wide) and watched them work for a few minutes to see if they were finding anything to eat.  They were bringing in loads and loads of pollen on their back leg pollen baskets! 

Thank you to everyone who has planted flowers in town.  I hope you get to see lots of the bee ladies visiting your gardens and pollinating your vegetables! 

In Maple News:  The holes on our maple trees have closed up and we have stopped getting sap.  This next week I'll be pulling all the taps out of the trees and flushing the lines.  This will help cut down on the amount of gunk in the lines next season.  I'm already looking forward to next year when we'll be boiling our own sap!
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Bees' Happy Home

After spending a toasty evening in my dining room (see my previous post), we anxiously waited for the temperatures to warm up above 40-degrees and at about 9: 30 a.m. we loaded up the bees in the car's trunk and took them to their new home above Jennigan's Auto Repair.  


 We had placed the boxes the previous weekend and so we carried up the bees and supplies.  (Be sure to enlarge the picture and see how pretty the hives are decorated!)  The decoration not only makes the hives pretty, they help the bees tell which hive is their own after a hard day of visiting flowers.


Fitz gets the smoker loaded up and ready to go, because smoked bees are more docile, happier bees!  


We open the boxes.  The queen is in her own little box with a few attendants to feed and care for her.  The white stuff on the left side of the box is a candy plug that the hive's bees will chew through to get out their queen.  This way she is slowly introduced to the hive and her pheromones have filled the hive before she comes out.  The hive better accepts her with this process.  We hang the queen box in the top of the bee hive...    
Queen cage


... then dump the thousands of bees out on top of her.  The silver can you see at the corner of the hive is the sugar water that had been in the box to nourish them throughout their long trip up from Georgia. 




 After we dump out all the bees, we squirt some smoke over them to make them go down into the hive.  Then we put a feeder with some sugar water and Honey-B-Healthy essential oils on top of the hive and close it all up. 


Now we wait while they get accustomed to their new home!


“Most people don’t have any idea about all the complicated life going on inside a hive. Bees have a secret life we don’t know anything about.”

                   ~From The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
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48,000 Italian Honeybees

This is what 48,000 Italian honeybees look like.




The six two-pound packages spent the night in my dining room after a long trip up from Maryland yesterday and all the way from Georgia the day before!  We had low temperatures last night and they couldn't stay outside.  So they came into the warm house and had a little misting of water on the outside of the box for a cool drink.    

When the bees came, most of them are inside the boxes and can't get out.  However about 20 honeybees were hanging off the outside of the boxes and came into the house with the rest.  Now, with the sun coming up, the litter buggers are getting active and I can hear them buzzing around the room as I type.  They're pretty much heading for the windows and looking for a way out so I'm not too concerned about getting stung.  Italian honeybees tend to be pretty docile and usually won't sting you unless they're provoked.   

Later today, when the temperatures get above 40-degrees, we are installing the bees on the hill above downtown Coudersport.  Take a look up on the hill the next time you're driving past Jennigans Auto Body and you'll see four of our hives.  Rocky, the owner, has a lovely little fenced-in orchard up there.  We've added a secondary solar power electric fence around the hives to help keep the bears away. 

Once these bees get working, they'll be pollinating all of downtown.  So if you see a honey bee, don't hurt it!  It might be one of mine.  
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48,000 Italian Honeybees

This is what 48,000 Italian honeybees look like.




The six two-pound packages spent the night in my dining room after a long trip up from Maryland yesterday and all the way from Georgia the day before!  We had low temperatures last night and they couldn't stay outside.  So they came into the warm house and had a little misting of water on the outside of the box for a cool drink.    

When the bees came, most of them are inside the boxes and can't get out.  However about 20 honeybees were hanging off the outside of the boxes and came into the house with the rest.  Now, with the sun coming up, the litter buggers are getting active and I can hear them buzzing around the room as I type.  They're pretty much heading for the windows and looking for a way out so I'm not too concerned about getting stung.  Italian honeybees tend to be pretty docile and usually won't sting you unless they're provoked.   

Later today, when the temperatures get above 40-degrees, we are installing the bees on the hill above downtown Coudersport.  Take a look up on the hill the next time you're driving past Jennigans Auto Body and you'll see four of our hives.  Rocky, the owner, has a lovely little fenced-in orchard up there.  We've added a secondary solar power electric fence around the hives to help keep the bears away. 

Once these bees get working, they'll be pollinating all of downtown.  So if you see a honey bee, don't hurt it!  It might be one of mine.  
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Spring, Spring, Spring!

The crocuses are up!

"Spring, spring, spring!" sang the frog.
"Spring!" said the groundhog.


So reads the early lines of one of my daughter's favorite children's books from her toddlerhood. 

 Home for a Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown.

It's catchy phrasing and wonderful illustrations have stayed with us ever since. 

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Egg A Palooza!

There has been so much going on that I haven't had time to post my blogs.  I'm happy to be back!

My chickens have taken off running in the egg laying marathon.  We're getting 19 to 22 eggs each day with a record breaking 25 eggs laid on one day. 




There are  only so many ways you can serve eggs before your family revolts and I would like to make the chickens pay for their own feed, so I'm happy to announce that my "eggs for sale" sign has gone back up! 

I made this sign last year and regular customers began showing up.  It's a win/win situation.  I make a little bit of money with my eggs and they get phenomenally good eggs at a decent price!

First, the signs needed a little freshening up after spending a winter thrown in the corner.




Then I put the big sign out by the main road.  When it's open I have plenty of eggs and when it's closed I'm out - which doesn't happen too often!



Then I put a little sign by the end of my driveway.



C'mon up and ring the bell!
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Surrealism

Planting in the high tunnel has become a surreal experience.  I walk down to the high tunnel in this:





Set up and plant in these beautiful beds in a gentle, fairly warm environment.






And walk back outside to this!


Today is April 5th.  As one friend quoted, "If April showers bring May flowers.  What does April snow bring?"
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No Winter Maintenance

I'd had never seen this road sign until I moved here to Potter County.



No Winter Maintenance. 

In the summer, these are beautiful secluded little country roads perfect for taking walks, picking blackberries, and they're a great short cut from here to there.

But, these roads don't get plowed in the winter.  The only things that drive down them at this time of year are snowmobiles and occasionally big farm tractors.  If you drive down these roads in the spring, your car could sink in the mud up to it's axles!

There's a funny thing about these "No Winter Maintenance" roads - GPS and other navigation systems in your car don't recognize them as impassable. 

A few years ago, we had a group of friends come up here for the spring Maple Weekend and one of them was sent by their GPS over a road named "Black Hole Road."  There's a reason it's called Black Hole Road.  On this road there's no cell phone service and they hit mud so deep that it even kicked up onto the roof of their little SUV! 

They were lucky - they made it out.  But now I always tell friends that if GPS sends them over Black Hole Road - Don't Go!  
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Homemade Seed Tape

When shopping for this year's garden seeds, you've probably seen seed tapes for such things as carrots and spinach.  The tiny seeds are spaced evenly on a biodegradable tape and you just lay it out in the garden.    


Seed tapes look like they would save a lot of back-breaking work and a lot of bending over to fiddle with teeny-tiny seeds in the garden.  It always seems like when I'm sowing my seeds I end up planting twice as much as I need and then I have to thin out a lot of my baby plants.  But, because the seeds on the tapes are evenly spaced, you save on the amount of seed you use when planting.  Then later, you can cut down on how much time you must spend thinning out your plants.  Seed tapes can save time and money!  

One problem with seed tapes though, is that there are only a few varieties offered, and if you want to plant organic or heirloom seeds you're pretty much out of luck.  

I've been reading about homemade seed tapes in the various blogs I follow and I thought I would give it a try.  I've read about different variations such as using paper napkins as a base, or using Elmer's glue to stick the seeds onto the tape.  But after some research, what looked best to me was using a very biodegradable toilet paper because I could lay out the long strips that I needed and then I used a simple flour and water paste to stick on the seeds.  

So I gathered my supplies: toilet paper, my flour and water "glue," a ruler, a Burpee seed dispenser (very helpful!), a pen to write what I was planting, some toothpicks, my seeds, and went to work.  



First, I laid out the toilet paper and then measured the distances apart for my seeds.  I planted Burpee's Organic Onion Evergreen Long White Bunching down one side and Burpee's Organic Lettuce Buttercrunch down the other side.  I hope to lay the tapes out and run the drip tape down the center.  I planted the seeds at a distance where I would thin every other plant - if they all germinate.  

Using a toothpick, I put a dab of the flour glue, and then, using the seed dispenser I tapped one seed onto each dab.  

I waited about half an hour or so for the glue to completely dry, and then rolled up the tape.  Voila!  



I was happy with the results.  When I'm planting dark colored seeds directly into the dark soil, it's often hard to see how much I've tapped out of the seed dispenser.  But planting dark seeds onto a white background made very visible every dropped or extra seed I planted.  

Creating these seed tapes is something you can easily do in the evening while watching t.v. or listening to the radio.  To make the work go faster you could even recruit the kids to help out!   

We're planting in the high tunnel tomorrow and hopefully I'll save my back a bit! 
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Snow Farmer


Yesterday, I woke up to these temperatures in the high tunnel: 


And today I woke up to this: 


I've decided I'm going to become a Snow Farmer.  I'll
 grow snow and send it to Florida in the summertime!    


Although the high tunnel's morning temperatures are teeth-chattering cold, by afternoon, with the sun shining, the temperatures climb into the 70s!   It's a very strange feeling to walk down to the high tunnel dressed in a heavy coat, scarf, and gloves - and start working in a t-shirt!    

There's lots of work going on in there - cleaning it up and preparing the beds for this weekend's planting of spinach, lettuces, green peas, and sugar snap peas.    

"It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily. "So it is." "And freezing." "Is it?" "Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately." 
~A.A. Milne

It's all a matter of perspective.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


For some really great reading, head on over to Bee Haven Acres and check out her excellent essay on sustainability.

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