Sunday, March 24, 2013


I looked out the window this morning and saw a couple inches of white stuff blanketing everything. Ah...spring in Illinois! It's days like these that makes my southern heart depressed. So, with that feeling overwhelming me, I got up and got dressed and trudged out into the white oblivion.

Collecting sap in the snow is okay, especially when it is a little warm. Today wasn't very warm but it was pretty anyway. The worst part is having to chip ice out of the bucket in order to pour the sap out...then getting my gloves wet. My nose was running with the cold and I refrained from wiping it on my sleeve. Not because my Mama told me not to do that as it is nasty, but because I was afraid of my nose freezing to my sleeve.

We collected about 150 gallons of sap today. Another couple of days of boiling to go. If the weather warms up a little it might run again and give us another day of collecting. We have some helpers coming on Tuesday so we hope to have something fun for them to do. But, we just have to see what Mother Nature provides.

Now we are back inside in the warmth, tea brewing and wool socks on my feet. Marty, who is still blowing his nose and coughing from his cold, is downstairs planting tomatoes in flats. I look at my little cacti in the window sill and try to be patient for warmth outside. It is hard sometimes.

view from the window this morn

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sick day

Good morning everyone! It looks like a beautiful spring day outside. But it is about 20 degrees. Oh well. Thankfully the cold weather has our syrup season going longer. We have bottled about 40 gallons now. And today we are on hold again as the sap isn't running again. This has been happening about every four days. We boil for four, wait for four. Tiring.

As usual, I had some pictures to show you but can't get them loaded. I know we are in an internet hole here. I can see the picture, click on it, and nothing happens. At least I got to being able to see it this time. So...maybe later I can try again from the library in town or somewhere that has a stronger signal. Or...I'll just try again...

Marty  at his desk
Okay, call me a liar. So, here is the pic for today. I'm only trying this one pic since it just took me another ten minutes to get it here with a caption. I just love living in this black hole.

The story of the pic is that it is a sick day. Everyone here is sick (not just of the internet connection). Will has had a runny nose and Marty has a fever today. So, as you can see in the delightful pic above, he is sipping orange juice and looking at seed catalogs. I'm okay so far and plan to hold out as long as I can. I'm just sick of the internet connection.

I was able to take an excellent class last Saturday called "Beyond the Farm Gate" Social Media for Farmers. It taught us how to create a new website and blog on Wordpress, do a facebook page, learn to tweet on Twitter, and how to connect it all using Hootsuite. The instructors were great and I learned a ton. Got all started and set up. I'm really looking forward to getting it all up and running.

Now if I could just get a darn signal that was strong...(they didn't teach us how to do that!)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spring happenings at the farm

Spring is really in swing now. The daffodils are popping out of the ground and the chickens are scrounging for grubs and tiny greens in the mud. And, it is muddy...a sure sign of spring.

We got the outhouse in place and today bought a toilet seat for it. Yippee!
But we didn't get to boil any sap today as we ran out yesterday and there wasn't enough in the buckets to collect. It should run tonight and we should have full buckets tomorrow. So, we will be off and boiling again soon. So far we are at 36 gallons of more than last year. And, it is to be cold again/warm again for the next week so that should push our season another week. We hope it will anyway.

We are still patiently waiting the arrival of piglets from Tea. The babies of Maggie were separated a week or more ago and I have been working with them. I call to them in a high piggy voice "piggy, piggy" or "here, babies" and they are coming up to me now. Usually I give them a treat when they come. But sometimes I just rub their ears and noses.

Today we came home from getting our toilet seat and found Bernie out of his pasture again. He got out a couple of times the other day and was put in time out in the barn, which he hated. We saw him out today eating by the other beeves so put him in with them. At first they wouldn't let him eat. I put some food further away from them and he came up to me and I "protected" him so he could eat. He puts his head on the side of my leg to say thanks. Then we just stood outside their fenced area and watched. Surprise and Budley pushed Bernie around some and they all sniffed each other for a while. But no one was really aggressive. So, we will see how they do over night and might leave him in with them. I'm sure he will begin to miss his blue barrel and bucket and ball after a while tho.

Today was also a very nice day outside. Even tho it wasn't real sunny, at least it wasn't raining, snowing, sleeting, freezing, or windy...the usual for Illinois this time of year. We noticed the pussy willows are beginning to get their little paws. I am also enjoying hearing the robins, killdeer, and cardinals in the morning. Last night I even heard a Barred Owl. That was a treat.

Friday, March 8, 2013

My spring request

Mother Nature is still playing tricks with us and there is no sap running for the last five days. We hope to be able to collect tomorrow and begin to boil again. Thanks to all of the great friends who have come to help so far!

So, what do we do when our main crop is not happening? Well, we got our soil in the trays and are waiting for our peppers to sprout some more. Then we also started our tomatoes, same way as we did the peppers in baggies. I cleaned up one of the hoophouses today. We are trying to get them to dry out enough for us to plant. The snow and rain ran down and seep in from underneath so it has been too wet to do anything in them yet.

Today we all worked on a project that I am very much looking forward to outhouse for the syrup area. I hate having to walk all the way up to the house to go to the bathroom, tromping thru snow and mud. The guys got the base put together first, then we put up the front and back wall, connected the walls, put in a half floor, then installed a "seat" box, and then siding and a roof. Will and I decided to put pieces on the inside over the cracks between the boards to keep the draft out.

I found a coffee can for covering the toilet paper (keeps the mice from getting into it), and later on I plan to decorate the inside. I think Rich is looking for a Montgomery Ward magazine for it too. And thanks to Mike Herrara (hope I spelled that right!) for his help.
Mike and Will working on the roof panels

Almost finished!
We will have to wait until the ground gets hard again and then we will put the outhouse on a small trailer and take it down to the woods. I can't wait to decorate the inside! Maybe some fun chili pepper lights, streamers, paint on the walls, outhouse pictures, and more!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Spring Update

It's a calm winter day out today. The snow is gently falling and melting in some places to form puddles for the ducks to swim in. The guys are down in the woods trying to fix our broken tractor. And, I've been playing garden in the basement, setting up the grow lights and seeing how much soil we need for starting our seeds.

We have pepper seeds in moist paper towels in ziplocs on the radiators to start them. We are starting about seven different kinds, some rare and requested. All in all, if we get all the plants we are trying for, we will plant almost 1000 pepper plants in the field this year. Crazy sounding, but it still probably won't be enough. We are trying a couple of new ones from Mexico this year and hopefully they will do okay so I can save seed from them. Some day I hope to have a fancy dancy seed starting contraption. But, the ziplocs work okay for now.

Yesterday the guys rearranged the pigs. They brought Tea (real name is Swee Tea, daughter of Swee) into the barn as she is due to have piglets around the 13th. But, in order to move her in to the best stall for farrowing, we needed to move Maggie (our new sow) and her babies out. We weaned her babies from her a few days ago even tho they aren't eight weeks old. They were eating on their own, really plump, and it was straining the mom and making her too skinny. So, they were moved to their own stall inside the barn with Maggie in a stall next to them. I like to keep them in just in case of a cold snap again.

Syrup is on hold and that is why we are catching up with the seedlings and the tractor. The sap ran for a few days, then stopped for 10, then ran for a few, and now stopped again. We have bottled around 21 gallons of syrup so far, into jars and gallons. But, we ran out of sap on Sunday at noon so are awaiting the weather to warm up again so we can get some more collected. It has barely been above freezing today so far, but maybe it will flow some. We hope for another couple of weeks at least and one great big flush at the end. The guys were
hoping for over 100 gallons. I'm more critical so just want over 50.

Well, good news! The tractor is fixed. We really rely on that old girl. This time of year it is good to have her for hauling sap across the woods and pulling the trailor to get firewood. The truck will work, but the tractor turns in tighter spaces between trees. Then it is always nice to have something to pull our truck out of the mud! And, mud season is here!!

Hopefully I can have some more pics later. I have found that the picture loading and the writing is all depending on signal...and unlike most of you - we hardly have a signal here. Yes, we live in the boonies. So...all for now! Happy Spring to you!!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Syrup Pics

Keeping an eye on the boiling
Marty adding wood to the evaporator
Will drying gloves