March 17, 2009 – Washer Broke

A few days ago, our relatively  new front-load washer started making bad noises on the high spin cycle.  I called the appliance store and over the phone they said it sounded like a bad tub bearing.  They also said that the tub and bearing where integral to each other and that the tub would also need to be replaced.  Needless to say, I was not pleased at the prospect of throwing $400.00 into a two-year old washer.  Long story short, after a long time on the phone complaining, they finally agreed to pay for the bearing and tub.

However, when the tub got in the shop, they discovered it was a chapstick container that got caught between the drum and tub.  Curiously, now no one in the house uses or has used the particular brand of chapstick that was found in the washer!

Until the washer was fixed, Claire got to do one load of laundry in the tub.

one year ago…”First Bouquet of the Season”

March 16, 2009 – New Electric Fence

Although it’s a bit hard to see in this photo, I finally got the electric fence across the cement pad outside the barn.

This will give us much more flexibility to segregate animals as needed.  Because the fence was on cement, I needed to make the fence have alternate hot and ground wires so animals can complete the circuit (the cement acts as an insulator and they don’t create the circuit to ground through the cement.

one year ago…”Happy St. Urho’s Day!”

March 15, 2009 – Prunings

Now that the pruning has been completed, it is time to haul away all the leftovers. Rather than many trips with the two-wheel cart, I thought I’d fire up the old garden tractor and use the small hay wagon.

Of course, by the time the battery gets charged, then the drive belt slips off the tractor and takes lots of knuckle scraping and colorful language to get it back on, everything worked fine!

one year ago…”Maple Sugaring”

March 13, 2009 – Getting Bees Ready for Spring

Another sign of spring is removing the winter protection from the bees.

Here the black cardboard box that slides over the hive is removed.  The black helps warm up the hive whenever the winter sun comes out.  It is rather amazing to think of the bees surviving through the -20 lows and long cold days in the hive.

Now that the temps are in the 60’s and 70’s some days, but the flowers are not yet out, the bees are out and about and here they get a dose of sugar water to tide them over and some mite protection.

Finally, a check to see if the queen is still alive and all we have to do now is wait for the spring pollen and flowers to arrive.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #109″

March 11, 2009 – More Pruning

I discovered last weekend that fruit tree pruning is a great complimentary activity to boiling maple sap.  I can prune a tree for 15-20 minutes, take a needed break by wandering over to the stove and throwing another chunk of wood in the fire, and so it goes.  Today it was frightfully cold, down to the single digits – I’m hoping this is the last stretch of lows in the single digits for the season.

What remains on these fruit trees is to pick up the branches and haul them off to be burned.  I must admit, it gives me great satisfaction to see a well-pruned tree.  Even when passing by another farmstead, seeing a pruned tree engenders a feeling of care and competence on the part of the owner.  Likewise, when I see a fruit tree is disrepair, reaching towards the sky in a tangled mess, it makes me sad that the tree does not have a caretaker.

one year ago…”Thermal Imaging”

March 10, 2009 – Maple Syrup at Last!

OK, the results are in and the maple syrup gets five stars! It is amazingly good, and even has a bit of a buttery taste.

Here Martin shows off the pint of syrup (minus what was poured one morning’s worth of buckwheat pancakes) that boiled down from the first five gallons of sap! Getting your own sweets in northern climates is a bit of a challenge, but we can now add maple syrup to honey. We’re going to keep on keeping on, but now the weather has turned frightfully cold, so the sap will not run until it warms up again.

one year ago…”Chicken Feed”

March 9, 2009 – Boiling Sap

Well, today I started to boil the sap down.  After 8 hours of heating, five gallons of sap evaporated down to about a gallon and a half before I stopped for the day and put the sap in the fridge to wait for another day.

I’m not sure if it was the weather or the stove that prevented a boil – it was a foggy, very windy, cold day and the pan never did boil, although you could see the vapor escaping all day.

one year ago…”12 Feet!”

March 8, 2009 – Sunday Afternoon Class

The last eight Sunday afternoons Linda’s been part of a team that is teaching a class for aspiring new farmers.  It is designed as a quick start/introduction as opposed to a two-year degree program.

After completing this class, the graduates will be able to rent a portion of the college farm to start their farming enterprise.

The class attracted a wide range of people, including Anglo, Hispanic, Sudanese, and Meskwaki members.  The class has already started planning some cooperative marketing and looks forward to the planting season to put into practice some things they’ve learned.

one year ago…”Faith”

March 6, 2009 – Maple Sugaring Part 1

Today was a wonderful day – in the 60’s sunny and a father-son task that was delightful to both of us! We borrowed some equipment from morning sun farm, so we were ready to go.  Martin had just read about sugaring in one of the Little House on the Prairie books he’s ready, so he was pumped!

Since this is the thrifty way, we’re using washed out milk jugs to collect the sap.  Here I’m drilling a hole that will slip over the tap.

I’m putting a small cut at about 10 o’clock.  That notch will help the jug slide over the notch in the tap.

Martin is drilling the hole about 2 inches deep into the tree.

Insert the tap.  Notice the round shape of the tap and the ridge on the top of the tap.  That ridge is what the extra cut at 10:00 in the jug was made to accommodate.

The spile pounder inserts in the tap and get pounded until the ridge on the top of the tap has enough distance between the end of the tap and the tree to slip the milk jug behind.

Martin puts the jug on matching the ridge on the jug with the notch cut in the jug at 10:00.

The jug is twisted to upright once the back plastic of the jug is between the tree and back of the notch.  I also put a bit of the sticky saran wrap on the top since I didn’t have the lid to keep rain and other things out. Now we wait!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #108″

March 4, 2009 – Tree Pruning

It seems like the fruit tree pruning time has snuck up on me this year. It’s just been so cold, I haven’t been able to get out.I always think I should be able to get it done in one day – but I keep planting more trees and they keep growing, so it is more than a one day job – besides, the hand begins to hurt after a few hours of pruning and sawing.

Here’s a peach tree before the pruners take to the limbs.

And the tree after its annual haircut.  Looking at it now, I see a couple more cuts I need to make!

one year ago…”A First Melting”