Friday, April 5, 2013

Spread Thin...

We are hustling in a lot of directions all at once right now, trying to get ready for what promises to be a very busy year for Old School Farm.

Well, we did such a good job of setting up our gravity feed sap line from twelve sugar maples on the hill above the house, that we have not been able to keep up with the flow rate.   Currently there are over 200 gallons of sap in food grade drums waiting to be cooked down in our antique cast iron cauldron.

So far we have produced about 6 quarts of "kettle" syrup and expect to make quite a bit more.  Keep in mind it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.  So we have really only cooked down about 60 gallons of sap so far!  Next year we will be setting up a large stainless steel evaporator pan so we can spread the sap out over a much larger surface area and cook it down much faster.  We need to cook down as much as we can as fast as we can now, for if it sits too long it begins to ferment!  Here is a short video clip showing the sap flowing into our kettle via the syphon/gravity feed line:

Our chickens are averaging close to an egg a day and we are giving them away as fast as we can.  So far finding regular customers for our free range organic eggs has proved challenging.  We hope some area restaurants soon begin ordering, as we distributed some samples recently.  Our flock is now up to 27 birds since we acquired some speckled sussex hens from a farmer friend.

Our barn will soon be wired with electricity and plumbed with water - we are finalizing our contractor selections now.   A small food prep. area will then take shape in one corner of the barn near the earthen oven. We will be prepping food for our Family Farm Getaways and summer workshops for area summer campers from this location.

Twenty five more fruit trees are arriving in mid-April, and the boys and their dad along with Dave have been hard at work installing a virtually invisible deer fencing system for this new 1/2 acre orchard area.  Watch the video clip here:

Al and his sons Owen and Coleman recently took a 1.25 hour drive north to Binghampton to visit their friend Mary Thomas - now 95.  As you may recall, Mary was one of four children who grew up in the Walter homestead that the Benners now own.  It was a great visit - Mary treated the Benners to lunch in the dining room
of her very nice retirement community, and then Al and the boys enjoyed a swim in the indoor pool.   Thanks Mary for a great time!   Note: Unfortunately the box of German chocolates that was sent along for Al's wife Deena was pilfered by the two youngsters, who proceeded to eat the entire box the next afternoon.

Back to the farm...    Seeds are sprouting under the high pressure sodium grow light.  The hay/farm tour wagon that Dave has been
working on for several days now is nearing completion, with the hemlock decking going down.  All that remains to do is to build the sides.  This is one heavy duty wagon!  Owen and Coleman can't stop talking about all their plans for a haunted hay ride come fall...

Cold weather and frozen ground have kept us from erecting our 100' x 28' high tunnel (greenhouse) -  a grant from the USDA.  We expect to be focusing on this work in the coming weeks.

Our four ewes all appear to be very pregnant.  We are anticipating the births of several lambs sometime this month - it's very exciting!   Congratulations to our young and very friendly ram, Uncas for making good use of all his free time this past fall!

Thanks to our neighbors Jim and Pat Sanders for all the firewood we have been getting from their property and for the four bluebird nesting boxes that Jim so kindly set up for us on our fence posts around the garden.  These are essentially predator-proof, as they are installed above an electric fence.

Bee update:  This winter was very hard on bees for some reason, with many area bee keepers losing large percentages of their hives.  Fortunately one of our two hives pulled through and we hope to re-colonize the other hive later this spring.

We  have an awful lot going on, but spring is in the air and it is all very exciting.  We even have a new sign for the farm - made by local artist, Joe Kluck.  Joe has also put some of his artwork on consignment at Old School Farm for guests to enjoy (and possibly purchase).  You can see some of Joe's art here:
Joe will also be on hand May 19th at the farm for the first Family Farm Getaway to offer a beginner's painter workshop.  Sign up here for the workshop:

Old School Farm will have a booth at to promote our farm workshops and to display raised bed systems from  Stop by and say  hello if you happen to be at the show - it's at the Philadelphia Convention Center on Sunday, April 14th from 11 - 4.

Until next time, soak up that early spring sunshine and keep those seedlings moist...and enjoy the rest of the photos below...

Your Friends at Old School Farm
Watercress transplanted into spring pond

Boys at Cooperage with Mike - guitar & vocals for Great Party Band

Coleman in "jail" for candy thievery 

Great Party Band at the Cooperage

A quart of "Old School" Kettle Syrup

Al's friend Frank in from Chicago for a visit

Gravity sap line to 55 gallon drums.  Six year old with maul.

Fresh sap - what could be better

A boy on his favorite moss covered boulder

Coyote scat with deer hair

Being six

One of four of Jim's Bluebird houses

A boy-size bonfire kept the little fellas entertained for two hours burning up scrap wood

The Sap Man, or is that Grizzly Adams?...


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  2. I love the picture caption "..Six year old with a maul". I have 6 year old twins too and I want to have them to have an appreciation my Grandparents farm. I've helped my Uncle renovate the farmhouse for my cousins family who just moved in. She is wanting to eventually reestablish it into an "Old School" homestead so hopefully will be lucky enough to help with projects when they get spread thin. Thanks for the inpirational posts, and sharing your vision and property and family with others.


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