Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Taste of Spring

The new evaporator pan receives it's inaugural pour of sap
Finally a warm day - Saturday, March 23rd to be exact.  We hit somewhere between 55 and 60 degrees for a high and the sap (a favorite of 8 year olds - see above) finally started to flow as the snow and ice were melting.  It has been a LONG winter and it was great to be outside in the warm sun even if it was a bit muddy in places and very short lived (it was 10 degrees the next night!).

The chickens are laying at a brisk pace now - just shy of one egg a day.  We are currently selling 6 - 8 dozen per week through the local co-op that we are members of.  The chickens have been creating some "chicken highways" in the snow - turning these paths
The chicken highway
into muddy runs that freeze at night and thaw again the next day.  They have since been moved to the other hillside so our grass can come back in April.

To Al's disappointment he found one of the hens underneath the steps that lead into the turkey coop - recently deceased with no visible cause.  Such is life - thin margins between life and death on a farm after a long, cold winter.

With the ongoing cold temperatures and some snow still on the ground, Dave continues to focus his spare time on getting the kitchen area in the barn completed and ready for the PA Dept. of Ag. inspection later this spring.  Right now the piping has been re-installed (a plumber did not do such a good job), and soon a floor drain that prevents backup from the waste line will be installed into the floor beneath the three bay commercial sink. Butcher block counters and wainescoating for the ceiling will soon go in, along w/ a urethane coating on all the walls and ceilings so they are washable. (thanks to Dave for a lot of sanding of the hemlock siding and timber framing in this area)

The bread bowl/serving stand sits on our
veggie wash sink, while it gets routed out
with an "arbor tech" grinder attachment
Depicted in this update are a few photos of a bread bowl/food serving stand that Al is making out of a chunk of White Oak from a tree that was at least 500 years old.  The "Columbus Oak" was a famous tree in Bucks County, PA that collapsed about ten years ago.  Al's dad, Dave gave him this section that contained the only burl on the tree, and the bread bowl/stand is taking shape - the boys even pitched in with some sanding, drilling and gluing.

The teepee planned for the spring has been crossed off the list and replaced with a 12' x 14' bunkhouse/cabin.  Canvas teepees need to be replaced every 3 - 5 years, and given the magnitude of the expense for the material and the associated labor, it has been decided to go with a more permanent and weatherproof structure.  This will house two interns this coming season.

We will also be constructing a compost shelter, and a small animal cart to move our sheep out of the floodplain and up to the middle pasture come May or early June.   Dave is also currently completing an outdoor shower for our summer workers.

Our seedlings are growing (some better than
The sap collection barrel and gravity feed line
others), our cold frames are being set up later this week, and we continue our search for an "old school" plow and disker for our old Ferguson tractor.

We hope to do some haying of our lower pastures this year and we are going to be expanding our vegetable growing areas and cultivated areas this season.   We have a very busy season coming up and will be posting more regularly all our activities as we move into April and May.

Oh, and our bees made it through the winter!   We were very pleased to see them buzzing about this past Saturday.  It appears leaving them the lion's share of the honey for this long winter has paid off.

Until next time, think spring- it will come - it has to!  

Your Friends at Old School Farm
(scroll down for a lot more photos!

A warm glow is cast by the high pressure sodium seedling grow light in the sunroom. 
Coleman Benner inspects sap line

Finally we can see our ground!

Owen feeds the flock
The big hornet nest that had to go (above our moss growing area)

Some rocks and a large stick, and not much remains

Bee activity - YES!

Desperate deer...eating Christmas Ferns

Loading the incubator for this  year's flock replacements

Moss on felt mats - moss loves snow.


What's left of the "Quinzee" shelter

Dark leaves absorb heat and leave prints - maple here

We have a few sap buckets near the house for the boys

The new sugaring location

Chipmunk tunnel exposed by melting snow

Owen Benner sands a leg for the bread bowl/stand

The still frozen frog pond offers entertainment for almost eight year olds

Don't worry mom, it's not running (yet :)

The evaporator pan set up

A winter's worth of mice tunnels exposed...

A boys life in March on the farm