Monday, March 31, 2014


Yesterday it rained all day,which was great for getting rid of some of the snow we have. Of course,we still have 2-3 feet,but it's a start!

This morning we have freezing rain. I am surprised that there wasn't at least a two hour delay for school,but it started on time. Our local channel is calling for some ice accumulation. All I have to do look outside-no one had to tell me that!

Ice hanging off the branches:

The deck is a wee bit slippery:

Ice everywhere!

You can hear the freezing rain hitting the roof and deck outside.The salt truck has been going back and forth. It's a good day to look over my seed stock and make some more laundry soap. Guess I will wait until tomorrow to go grocery shopping!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Buy Hay While The Sun Shines

Since we don't have a hay field,we have to buy feed hay and bedding hay for the sheep. It's a far cry from the chapters in the "Little House" books where Pa is out in the sunshine cutting his hay and putting it up for the animals for the winter,and in the case of "The Long Winter," used as a heating source to keep them from freezing to death.

We called one of our local farm,Top of The Hill Farm, in Wolfboro. We got their contact from Colonial Acres Farm,where we purchased the sheep.Admittedly,we had been buying our hay from our small local hardware/farming store where we buy our chicks and chicken feed,but a few weeks ago they ran out of feed hay,and we needed some,so we pulled out Top of Hill's business card and gave the Frederickson's a call.

Thankfully,they did have some feed hay left,so we made arrangements to go over and get some bales. Rick hitched our trailer to the truck,and Zach,Richie,and I piled in to the truck. It was a family excursion,which made it really cool.

The first thing you notice about Top of the Hill's on top of quite a hill. I would liken it to more like a small mountain. I loved their set up-greenhouse,barns,lots of acreage,and a gorgeous view of the lakes and mountains. Rick noticed the farm equipment first (of course!) The second thing you noticed was how cold it was! Being that high up,there is usually a good breeze blowing,and that day it was pretty bitter,coming off the lakes. It must be nice in the summer,though,to keep the black flies and mosquitoes at bay.

Alan (Dad),Erik(son) and Anna (daughter) were all outside doing various chores. The chickens were walking around the yard,the cattle were talking amongst themselves,and there must've been a hundred songbirds in chorus.  We chatted with Alan a bit,then drove the truck over to the barn to load up the hay. Erik went up into the hayloft and threw down the 20 bales we wanted. Rick and Zach loaded them into our trailer. Alan was apologetic-he had had surgery recently and couldn't lift anything heavy for a while. Anna was busy with the cows. Alan proudly told us that Anna's steer won Grand Champion Market Steer last year at the Fryeburg Fair in ME,and her Spring heifer had won in 2012 in as well. I stood by,chatted with Alan,and just took everything in. 

Once we were loaded up,we asked Alan about his beef (they sell grass-fed beef and pork!) and we went into his garage to look over various cuts of meat. We bought  a slab of bacon and a London broil.( Both wound up being the best we have ever tasted).

The hay was a dollar cheaper a bale and better than the ones we had been buying.Plus,we it felt better helping out a local farmer!

When we got home,it was time to unload the trailer:

The Ladies were waiting:

The chickens have begun laying again,and lately we have been averaging four- five eggs a day. Hopefully we will be able to start selling eggs again soon.

We are still buried in snow. Thankfully a snowstorm that is hitting MA today is staying to the south of us. This March has been much colder than normal,and I think everyone is ready for some warmer days. We have been getting some sap,but nothing like we should be. I doubt we will even get half a gallon of syrup this year.

 I needed some cheerful color,so I bought a handful of daffodils to bring some Spring into the house:

I enjoy watching the birds out my kitchen window. So far I have seen Robins,Cardinals,Chickadees,Mourning Doves,Slate Colored Juncos. We have also had White Breasted Nuthatches,like this little guy:

Today Zach is home recovering from the flu. He was very sick on Monday night into yesterday,and spent most of the day sleeping. Today he feels better,but is very tired and is still running a fever,so we kept him home again. Rick was just outside walking the dogs,and The Ladies were calling to him. It's so cool to hear them bleat. They chat with us every day! Time to go feed them and the chickens.

Stay warm!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sap Is Running! No Wait,It's Not.....

It has been a couple of years since we tapped our trees,and this year we decided to give it a go again.

We sure picked a year with mighty strange weather for it.

If you are not familiar with making maple syrup,let me enlighten you! Maple trees,as you know,carry sap,which when it's boiled down,creates maple syrup. However,the weather dictates when and how long the sap runs. Usually sap season is about 6 weeks long,and tends to begin near the end of February-early March. Ideal weather is sunny,with daytime temps at  40-45 degrees and night time temps below freezing,though we have had sap run in the past with temps in the upper 30s during the day.This time of year, upper 30's-mid 40's daytime temps is fairly typical. However,this year is anything but.

The weather forecast at the end of last week seemed to predict pretty consistent day time temps of upper 30's to  low 40's,and the day we decided to tap the trees was balmy for this time of year in NH( it was in the upper 50's in the sun by our thermometer) so we knew the sap would be running.

We washed all our buckets and spouts with boiling hot water-you don't want to use any soap. Rick got his drill and trusty old 7/16 bit drill with a 3/8 shank,and I carried the buckets and spouts (oh,and the camera!)

We only have Red and Silver Maples on our property,but you can still tap them. The syrup is lighter than what you would get from a Sugar Maple,but we still find it quite delicious. We had to make sure that we we kept a ways from the old holes from previous sap collection years ( at least 6 or so inches)so we had to find the old hole areas first. Trees 18"- 20" in diameter can take one tap;anything over can take 2. Some folks say to use no more than two taps per tree.

The hole should be about 2 feet from the ground. It was a bit tricky figuring that out,since we still have 3 feet of snow in some areas,but we did the best we could. The south side of the tree is best,but if you have more than one tap you should put move it to another area of the tree. 

Here is Rick drilling a hole. It should be slanted upwards,to help the sap flow. It's also good to do over a root,if you can see the root! Not in our yard. We could walk across it in some spots,in others we sank down almost to our knees.

See the sap pouring out of the hole? The sap is running!

Tap your spout into the tree with a hammer. You can tell if you have seated it in the hole enough if the sap runs down the spout. If not,the sap will run on the sides of the tap. Sometimes,the sap will not run,and you have to seat the spout a bit more to get it going.

Place your hook on the spout,then hang the bucket on the hook. I tried to get a photo of the sap dripping into the bucket,but couldn't. It was great to hear the tap-tap-tap sound of the sap landing in the metal pails around the yard.

Place a cover over the bucket. This will keep rain,snow,and assorted debris out.

Ta Da!

It certainly was a gorgeous day!

Unfortunately,the weather turned and we got a day with strong winds that made temps go below freezing,which stopped the sap flow,then a warmer day came,and the sap started to run again. Maple syrup producers have been less than happy with our colder than normal temperatures.It is making the season shorter. Sap season ends when buds start coming out on the trees-usually the end of March-beginning of April. When the buds come out,the sap will turn bitter.

We have 12 buckets going. We will see what happens!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Teaching An Old Dog A New Trick

I love to learn. I love to read about history,and how to do things that I have never done before. I am more of a cerebral learner,though,meaning that I am all about reading and thinking about what I have learned,but doing things hands on that I have never tired before really intimidate me. I tend to think about something for a long time before I can bring myself to attempt it. It doesn't matter what it is. I have to be mentally prepped for it. Strange,I know,but I is who I is!

I finally decided to buy a sewing machine. Zach and Rick both needed  new scout shirts,so all their patches need to be transferred over from their old shirts. I can do a bit of hand sewing-I can sew patches on a shirt,but it takes a long time and I usually wind up with the shirt sewn to my pants.I can sew a button back on,but I usually cross my fingers to will it  because I never know if it's going to stay put. Rick is an excellent sewer,and faster than I,but he has enough on his plate.It's something I have wanted to learn,because I would love to make my curtains,quilts,etc.

I bought the machine a couple weeks ago. I took it out of the box,and read the manual and found what was what and what goes where. That was enough for me for one day.

I figured out what thread I needed to buy,and that was an experience in it's self. Who know there was different threads for different projects! I thought thread was thread!!

Yesterday,I finally worked up the gumption to work the machine. I had my instruction book,and the red thread for the first patch. Was I actually going to sew the patches? No way! All I was ready to do was operate it and practice a simple stitch.

I put it on the table and eyed it for a couple of minutes. It sat there,mocking me. What? You afraid of me?? Wimp! !Come on,thread me,I dare you!!! 

I breathed deep,read the instructions for threading a bobbin,and began.

I did mess up starting the bobbin at first. I didn't thread it correctly,but I figured out my error and started over.

What do you know??? I actually began sewing. I had an old t shirt that I used to practice the basic stitch with. Lennon decided to get in on the action:

I was so excited by the simplicity of it,that I tried a few other stitch patterns-ones I didn't have change the foot for.
Take that,Brother CS6000i!! You did not defeat me!! Your mocking tone and Mean Girl vibe did not put me off!