So it begins again! The temps are forcasted to be below freezing at night and above freezing during the day for at least the next 7 to 10 days. So I started tapping trees today. I have added about 10 new trees to the rotation, going to give some of the trees we have tapped the last two years a little time off. No particular reason, just that I only have 24 taps, but there is a chance I wont make it another couple days without ordering some more. 🙂 Click right here if you want to know How to Make Maple Syrup
I usually just collect empty milk jugs starting in the fall to use as sap collectors. This year my son decided to bring home his empty juice containers. They are 1 gallon also and clear, which is a bonus. So we will see how that goes. If not, I have extra milk jugs waiting to be rushed into service.
The other change for this year is I am attempting to go back to only use wood fuel in the evaporation of the sap. Last year I used propane and while it made for a more consistent outcome, it was a little to expensive. The problem with wood is you have to keep up on filling the containers while it evaporates or else it will scorch the sides of the pan. Then you refill with more syrup that scorched sap causes the maple syrup to have a burnt taste. So I will be doing smaller batches (5-10 gallons at a time) so I can watch them more closely. You just get tired after 10 hours of filling sap and stoking a fire.
Here are a couple pictures from the start of the 2017 season:
Summer is coming to a close, but things on the Ridge go on.
The garden finally got a break from intense dry heat to constant rain. The tomatoes made the best come back.
That was until these guys showed up
Yup tomato hornworms. Now the top of all my tomatoes look like this
Nothing really to do except go out each morning and pick them manually and stomp the juicy little suckers!
Lily pads in the gold fish pond are blooming
Then there are the bees
This one hive beards ever evening regardless of the weather, have all summer.
So as the days grow shorter, there is still plenty to do. Hunting season quickly approaches so we have a tree stand to build. Fall crops of lettuce, carrots, and cucumbers have been planted. There are chicken eggs in the incubator to raise our layers for next season.
I will leave you with this picture of the trail to the river bottom.
Since if finally stopped raining and the sun came out I think I can actually call it a garden. The tomatoes have gone crazy and I had to stake them. I cut a few small cedars to build a structure to stretch string across.
Other things are doing ok, but not great. Peppers, artichokes, lettuce, corn, egg plant, and squashes. I am trying a new short season corn, supposed to harvest in 55 days. Well it is about 8 inches tall and I can already see tiny ears of corn.
The bees appear to be doing great. I say “appear” because my mantra this year is “leave them alone”. They are coming and going in good numbers and still finding pollen. I won’t go into the hives again until July 3rd and yes it is killing me!
We processed our meat chickens last weekend. 11 out of 11 survived. I didn’t weigh them, but would put them up against anything in the local store. After cooling them for 24 hours, we vacuum sealed them all, freezing 5 whole, parting out 5, and cooking one immediately.
There are also still 6 out of 6 Jr. Roosters. This last week they are taking turns trying to roost under the coop instead of in the coop. I chase them around in the dark cursing until in the end they sleep IN the coop. Like little rebellious teenagers. UGH!
No changes regarding the rabbits. They are NOT enjoying the heat. On the 90+ degree days I give them each a frozen two liter bottle of water around noon to get through the hottest part of the day. Still looking for a pedigreed American Blue doe or two, if any one has them for sale.
The house was in great shape when we bought it. But since my last update post we have replaced the roof and installed an attic fan. Next up in early fall is geothermal heating and cooling.
Well as a new bee keeper I figured there would be some loss, but I also expected to find out about it next spring. We purposely started with two hives in case of a loss and good thing we did. I had been noticing on the warmer days there was some activity at only one of the hives. I gave it a while thinking it was just not warm enough. Well it finally got back into the 70’s (go figure in early November) so I popped the top off the hive to find nothing, well almost nothing. The was not a single bee alive or dead, but what there was turned into a full out invasive of hive beetles. They were in every nook and cranny!
While I knew I had hive beetles in both hives, I believed to have them under control. I was fogging the hives every 10 days until the cold started and I had beetle traps in the top boxes. Not really sure if the beetles caused the evacuation or if they just took over after the bees left, the result is the same. After disassembling the hive further I found honey stores in the top box and nothing but empty comb in the bottom box. If anyone has any insight besides the beetle infestation please share in the comments.
So now we baby the remaining hive and hope they are still here in the spring. Specifically we will be adding a candy board in early December to make sure they have enough food and adding a pollen patty in mid to late February to get them though to first bloom.
Feel free to share though s on what happened or your own stories of hive losses.
When we built the chicken coop last winter, one feature we added was a loft for storage. We had a couple of random things up there at first, but a couple of weeks ago I bought 4 bales of hay to feed the rabbits. The loft was the perfect place to store them and keep them dry. I knew the chickens would eventually figure this out, but I stacked them in the loft so that it made it difficult to access. Earlier this week I noticed a missing hen and when I went looking realized she was in the loft. I chased her out and found 2 eggs. So I reshuffled things to try and keep them out and told me wife we need to build some sort of door or something to keep them out.
At this same time I have noticed a change to less and less day light and the expected drop in egg production. As the days get shorter the chickens naturally slow down laying eggs as nature intended. So much so that over the weekend we were actually out of eggs at the house, we only had whatever the girls had laid that day. Turned out to be a good day, 8 eggs from 12 layers. Side note here, there is an argument for either letting nature take its course and give the chickens a rest period from laying over the winter months. The other side is the by providing 12-16 hours of artificial light they can continue to lay through the winter. I have done both at our old house, but since we are here and in this for the long term we will let them rest this winter. There are breeds that are better winter layers than others like the Buff Orpingtons and Leghorns. I have also read that most breeds will continue to lay well the first year, but will molt and lay less the second winter. The fix to this is to stagger the age of your flock so you always have new layers going into each winter.
That leads us to this morning. I went to let the girls out and offered up some scratch. Then I proceeded to use one of the roost as a ladder to check the loft for any more random eggs. At first there were a couple near the edge, so I decided to rearrange the hay bales again to try and keep them out. This is when I discovered the mother-load on top of a hay bale. Ugh! There ended up being 27 eggs in the loft (that I found, might be more if I do a through cleaning). Good news is the egg shortage is over, but this does move up the schedule to build an access door to the loft.
I so look forward to fall! I love to watch football and deer hunt. When I say football I mean Nebraska Cornhusker football. Go Big Red! Being born in Omaha and raised on Nebraska football by my dad’s side of the family it is in my blood. Whether they are doing good or bad I wear my red “N” covered clothing with pride. While I am not so much a NFL fan I will occasionally watch and specifically the Super Bowl because it comes with good food and funny commercials.
Deer hunting is a whole other deal. For me it is really about spending time in the woods. For example it is opening day and I am actually writing this from my tree stand. The sun is just coming up and filtering through the trees, the birds and squirrels are active, my rooster is crowing in the distance, just a wonderful time of day. The truth is I am not very good at deer hunting. In the over 30 years of trying I have only bagged two deer. My son did that in his first two years. I really do enjoying just being out in the woods. Then there is the little adrenaline rush you get when you hear something that might be a deer, but never is. I am hoping for greater future success now that we own the land and I can hunt literally in my own back yard. Once the leaves fall I will be able to see the house from here. I am hoping I can see and recognize the patterns of the deer and use them to my advantage. If not, well I will still enjoy the time spent in the great outdoors. Here is a shot of my view this morning!