Spring Is Coming Again

The past two days were near 60 degrees and quite beautiful, although breezy. We’ve tapped some of the maple trees near our house, and the sap is flowing like crazy. Typical to the temperamental Western NY weather, though, it rained all night last night and isn’t going to break 40 degrees today.

It’s alright, though. Mostly seasonal, temperate conditions help to ensure that trees don’t break dormancy too soon. Last year was a big disaster when 70s and 80s in March followed by several hard freezes in late March and April destroyed not only our own fruit crop, but the crops of many major orchards and vineyards in our area. Many people without any agricultural interests might be begging for the summer to begin, but those thinking like us are more likely to welcome the cold now, because soon the sun’s warmth will stay, and the leaves, blossoms, and greenery will return with more vigor for it.

Leeks will be one of the earliest, most vibrant editions to the spring forest floor, and we’ll be sure to be out gathering some up. We will also be utilizing our big new Excalibur dehydrator to preserve some. Those who might be interested in fresh or dried leeks can let us know at any time and we will notify you when they’re available. The price will depend on how the wild crop is, because we harvest very selectively to preserve the colonies of plants for the future, but we anticipate a good year.

The chickens never stopped laying all winter, though they were down to 2-3 a day at some points. Now they’re back up to 7-12 a day, and we’re starting to sell their eggs on Wholeshare. 🙂 While convenient for some in town, Wholeshare does charge a markup to our prices cover their own costs. If you come out to us to get the eggs, you will be charged a flat price (currently $3/doz.)

We bought six new chicks – 2 ‘Commercial Black’ layer crosses, 2 Dekalb Amberlinks, and 2 red pullets that could end up being Rhode Island Red, Production Red, New Hampshire Red, or Red Sex Links. Unfortunately, as I tend to do, I chose an odd one – the only grey one out of the batch of blacks. It was small to begin with, did not seem to be growing, and it stopped eating and drinking. We segregated it and tried to force some sugar water into it, but it passed away overnight one night. The others are all feathering out and appear healthy, and hopefully in a few weeks they can be integrated into the outdoor group.

Having been diagnosed with work-related ulnar neuropathy that is most likely Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, I’ve had some time off. It hurts me to be online, so I have been neglecting the updates here and everywhere else.

I’ve bought all the seed I need for planting this upcoming season, and we’re working on trying to build a homemade outdoor evaporator while I persistently stove-boil my maple sap and steam up the house (I do have finished syrup for sale by the pint or half pint).

I’m hoping to get more done with the ‘orchard’ area this year too, especially since rodents killed a few of the trees over the winter.

Always somethin’.

Quick Update

Just decided to post a quick update to show that I’m still thinking about this place. 🙂

Over the summer and fall, I was getting 10-13 eggs per day from my 14 hens! Now, though, the winter’s low light has dropped them back down to 2-6 per day. Still, I’ll take it. They’re a joy to have and provide endless entertainment value. The roosters have become a bit more crotchety and protective, but they’re still not bad boys on the whole. You just have to keep an eye on them if you’re really close to them and wearing big, scary boots.

Our little kitten is no longer so little, although she’s small for an adult cat. She still enjoys rampaging throughout the house, mixed with periods of extreme cuteness.

This year’s deer hunt resulted in a nice doe. Prior to that, I bought a trail camera for getting wildlife photos on my property. We got a lot of nice ones, but it was also pretty promptly stolen by someone trespassing in our fields. People seem to continually disappoint me in such matters. A police report yielded nothing so far.

Somewhat happily, though, the winter has been mild thus far, which makes it easier on the animals and me. Lower bills, less worrying about the chickens, more greenery to lighten my mood… I’m sure ski resorts and snowmobilers hate it, though. It remains to be seen whether we’ll have the same (nonexistent) winter of last year, or if it will get more gnarly as the season progresses.

The growing season mostly ended a bit early this year. Many crops were done in mid-September, either succumbing to disease or falling victim to a light, early frost that came on Sept. 16th. Most of the rest finished in early October, when a killing freeze claimed them. For now, I still have plenty of eggs and maple syrup for sale. I’ll be making new syrup in another month or two, though last year’s has been stored cool, sealed, and dark, and is just as good as it was when I made it. I also have red and white potatoes still, as well as some onions.

The kale is still going strong out in the garden, shrugging off temps in the high teens and low 20s as it always does. I highly encourage growing this plant. It’s so tough, and so nutritious besides!

I no longer have beets, because rodents got into them and apparently ate around 2 bushels worth of them.

There are always little troubles, but oh well – we keep on. Such is life.

First Eggs

I got the first egg from one of my Gold-laced Wyandotte hens a little over a week ago. Now another unknown Wyandotte has joined her in laying, and two of the Easter Eggers have as well. Yesterday was the best day for eggs so far – we found 4 in there, 2 brown and 2 blue. I have yet to find out exactly who the other 3 layers are. My Silver-laced Wyandotte rooster, Sigurd, gives an antsy, squawking alarm when a girl is about to lay, causing us much amusement. They’re all little pullet eggs right now, but they’re already getting a little bigger compared to the first ones.

Harvesting is in full swing. Zucchini/summer squash and green beans are overwhelming me as usual. I just dug the Red Norland potatoes today, and while yields were poor compared to what I was expecting (I blame the drought), I still ended up with more than last year, so I’m not too displeased. Broccoli also did well. I have harvested all the first heads, so now only side shoots remain, but one of the first heads was measured out to be 14″ wide. This is 3″ wider than my old record, which was itself a gigantic head of broccoli. They were truly something else.

The pot is a 3 gallon tree pot.

Tomatoes are also coming ready fast, and I’m picking more and more every day. I’m impressed with Cherokee Purple, but I’m also eager to see how my heirloom Mr. Stripeys look when fully ripe. Other veggies like peas, lettuce, and cucumbers are also producing, though the former two are on their way out. Watermelons seem really good looking this year, and I can’t wait to try some of the orange-fleshed ones I planted. Acorn squash are forming on their vines, and I’m still hoping for a good-sized pumpkin, too.

So far, roadside sales have been poor this year, and I’ve had trouble moving my produce. I’ve joined up with Furniture City Foods to offer some of my stuff online, and I got my first order this morning. I’ll fill that, and maybe business will pick up. Maybe not. I’m also dabbling with possibly getting into a produce market in Jamestown, but I don’t know if that will happen or not. I think the best thing for my sales will be to have a shed/stand to sell out of. Maybe next year.

The trees and gooseberry/currant bushes are all still alive, though some look better than others. The heat and dry weather have been hard on them. I lost some of the raspberries, but if some survive that will be enough to do cuttings from, or they’re cheap enough that I can just replace them if need be. I do hope that all the trees make it, though.

Hay season is complete, with enough extra bales made to get the chickens through the winter with plenty of bedding.

So far, so good. Now to get back to blanching and freezing…

4th of July

… and my corn, happily, beat the old saying by a long shot. They say you should shoot to have it knee high by the 4th of July. Well, mine is around chest-height in some spots, but all of it is over my waist. It is thriving in the hot weather, and now that we got a good soaking from a ‘gentle’ thunderstorm last night, I am sure it will shoot up even more.

The tomatoes are approaching 5 feet in height and vining profusely. Some are so heavy already that they are already close to knocking over their cages, so we will probably have to do like last year and make a framework for them to lay on.

Radishes are all ready, and lettuce is getting there. Herbs are getting ready as well. It won’t be long for zucchini, as they are in flower. It won’t be long for early tomatoes either. They are loading up with green fruits in huge clusters of 8. I can’t wait to see what they look like when they ripen.

The Wyandotte rooster has been named Sigurd. He has started to crow, but doesn’t know the whole song. He sings ‘Ca CAAA caa’ instead. :] So far, he gets along with Chanticleer for the most part, but he seems to be getting really out of control and rough with the girls so he may end up in a stewpot yet. I hope he improves – he is a pretty boy and would be great for producing more chicks.

It’s been overall dry and very hot here. Some things are loving it, like the peppers, but others (beets, carrots) are despising it and are struggling. Hopefully it all evens out in the end.

Some more young trees have sprouted from pits. There’s a plum and 3 more peach trees now! The big trees we put in have taken some bad deer damage but are still holding on. Hopefully they can establish and come back next year for some good growth.

Our fields have been fully cut. The biggest customers are satisfied, but we don’t have enough for the last ones, so we have had to find fields in other nearby locations to cut and bale. Good problems, I guess.

I project that I can start roadside sales in another 2 weeks if all continues as it is. Might be sooner, might be later, but I think that that is close to what should be expected.

Haying Season

Haying season started last weekend here. We made over 500 bales of good hay and delivered it to our first customer. We have more cut down that should be ready to bale tomorrow and Saturday. That will finish the first customer and move on to a second.

From that second customer, we will probably be getting some Chinese Silkie chickens. I am hoping they will give us some hens, but if they are all roosters, then we will most likely just be adding to the freezer.

The chickens are growing nicely. They’re enjoying having some sweet hay to scratch in, and I let them out to free range for the first time just the other day. They enjoyed it, hopping around and testing their wings. Chanticleer started crowing a few weeks ago, and now he crows every morning, in the middle of the afternoon, and sometimes rarely at other times. He is a good guardian, too, sounding the alarm when a cat saunters by or a sparrow flies over, and herding the girls back to safety when he feels he needs to.

The garden is doing reasonably well. The potatoes look really nice, and some of the tomatoes are setting small fruits. I had some trouble getting the beans and peas to come up due to root rot fungi in the soil, but now there are plenty popped up from the replacements I put in. There are still some issues with the lettuce being spotty, which I am hoping that a little more water will solve. Radishes are going to be ready soon, and kale and turnips not too far behind that. Zucchini/squashes are getting some of their big true leaves, so they should start to grow very fast now. We also planted potatoes, broccoli, and a few onions in a ring around the base of the old silo, so we’ll see what those do!

Garden 2012

The garden for the 2012 season is fully planted, and most things are coming up well. The primary weed appears to be nutsedge again, which we are fine with because this plant is very easy to pull. Some tomatoes already have blossoms. This is despite the fact that most of my tomatoes got many of their outer leaves frozen off after an unexpected frost on their first night in the ground. The only ones that were untouched were the ones I got from Mellow Phone/Good City‘s porch party.

I have so many extra seed potatoes that I also planted them in a ring around the silo, and I have been selling them on Craigslist as well. I sold 16-17 pounds of reds to someone from Frewsburg. I listed them at .50 per pound, but changed $7 and threw in some extra, because this arrangement benefits everyone. They get to grow food, and I get a few dollars and don’t need to dump the potatoes into the compost.

I had to throw in some new sunflower seeds due to an unfortunate tiller accident. Thankfully I still had some heads saved from last year’s crop. I now grow my own variety of sunflowers, ones that grew wild in the place my barn fell after the fire of 2010, so it’s not as if I could go to the store to buy new ones. The Stillwater Valley sunflower is a medium-sized, yellow flowered, stout variety with small, very tasty/sweet seeds.

It looks like we might have to replace some beans, because for some reason we often have a hard time with fungi rotting or damaging the seeds during the initial growth process. Last year we also had a problem with one of the varieties of root rot in the first few weeks. I am giving some additional time for things to sprout before I resort to replacement, though. There are very few squash and cucumbers showing above the surface at this time, but I dug down below the soil before yesterday’s rain and found the seeds swollen but almost dry. That would explain it. Hopefully they start popping up now that the ground has had a good drink.

The hot (high 80s to 90s) days with no appreciable rain for a few weeks takes its toll. It was seriously stressing some of the trees and fruit plants I put in, as well. The currants and gooseberries seemed oblivious, but a couple of the trees needed almost daily watering, having started to abort leaves, and a couple of the rasberries seem to have died despite the babying.

My seedling apricot trees are doing well, having been repotted to 3-gallon containers. I anticipate that they will be ready to go into the ground this fall. I also picked up 5 blueberry bushes that were already producing. I couldn’t resist – at $4 apiece, it was a bargain. They’re potted up, mulched with pine needles and soil acidifier, until I can pick and amend a suitable place in the ground for them.

The radishes will be ready first, followed by things like herbs, lettuce, and kale, and then turnips, beets, and zucchini. The rest follow that – beans, cucumbers, etc. I hope to start selling a few things by the end of June, and maple syrup will also be offered at that time.

We might get to start the haying earlier this year if the weather continues like this. We are having two haywagons rebuilt, and we may rebuild a third on our own. The equipment is home, and is being prepared for work. I’ve ordered a used exhaust manifold for our 1950s Case DC, and that should arrive soon.

The chickens are getting bigger all the time. They are almost completely done feathering out, except for the males – two of them are cockerels, and are just starting to get their ‘roostery’ feathers. Our big red chicken is one of them, and we’ve named him Chanticleer. The other is a silver-laced Wyandotte. As long as the two of them don’t fight much, we’ll keep them both, but if they start to go after each other, Chanticleer is the keeper. His temperament is exceptional.

Orchard Happenings

I purchased and planted 10 gooseberry + currant plants from Mike’s Nursery in Lakewood, NY. There are 2 Pixwell, 2 Poorman, 2 Red Lake, 2 Crandall, and a cross called the Jostaberry. I also mail-ordered bareroot Hinnomaki Red and Tixia gooseberries and Pink Champagne and Blanka currants from Nourse Farms in Massachusetts. This was done after a recommendation from Abers Acres, and also to fill out the row better because it looks pretty short compared to the tree and cane fruit rows. The new ones are supposed to be here within the next day or two and will be planted immediately, weather permitting.

All raspberries and blackberries have been planted (25). 1 appears to have died, but will be left and given a chance to regrow if it is in the cards. If not, it will be replaced at a later date. Another previously thought to have died has recovered since the rain came. The rest all seem vigorous and are sending out new growth. The ‘Jewel’ black raspberries are doing especially well.

I have obtained 6 more grape vines in a mixture of Himrod, Canadice, and Concord. I still have 2 vigorous Red Caco from the last batch, and most of the frosted-off ones (Fredonia and Concord) are also regrowing buds. They are waiting in pots until the time of their planting.

Trees I have put in so far include:
1 Golden Delicious apple (brutally attacked by deer the same night)
2 Empire apples
1 Macintosh apple
1 Jonathan apple
2 North Star tart cherries
2 Lapins sweet cherries

I have 2 italian plums and a 5-in-1 grafted pear that are waiting to go in. I will be getting more in the future, and probably at least a few more this year, but this is a good start. They are fenced with 4-foot chicken wire or welded-wire garden fencing which seems to strongly deter deer, even though the tops of the trees stick out much higher than 4 feet in all cases except the North Stars.

I also have 4 baby apricot trees that are 1 year old, and a new plum just sprouted. These will go into the ground once I raise them for a few more years. If they grow anything like the 4 peach trees I grew from pits, the 1-year-olds will be ready to go into the ground in another year or maybe 2. I have many other pits in the dirt and am waiting to see if any sprout.

The chickens have a wire run now, and they love it. I am waiting until they are closer to being full-sized before I let them out in the lawn proper, but the run gives them a good, safe alternative for now. I did the first full cleaning of their coop a few days ago, adding to my compost pile.

Sunbathing

The garden is disced up and will soon be ready for planting, once finishing touches are put on it and the weather dries up for a few days.

Progress

I’ve been selling a few jars of maple syrup here and there, waiting for the growing season to begin. I am looking at a mid-May planting date, like I usually do. I could put in some crops earlier, such as kale, peas, or onions, but it is easier for me to simply cultivate the land and plant it all in one go. The seeds are all purchased for the most part. I will just be purchasing some started plants for things like tomatoes and broccoli.

I picked up 16 more raspberry starts, 8 black and 8 red, at the Frewsburg spring consignment auction. This is added to the 5 raspberries and 4 blackberries we already have, so we should get a pretty good little bush of them established if they all survive and so forth. I also purchased 8 grape vines, but they were severely nipped by a hard freeze on a night it wasn’t expected, so they have yet to recover. I will have to just wait and see on those.

I plan to order some other small fruits like gooseberries and also some fruit trees to put in if everything permits. It may get partially put off to next year, but it will happen.

The chickens are still growing fast! They are around 6 weeks old now, and are getting fully feathered. These are pictures from a little over a week ago, so they’re even bigger and more feathered now.

Their coop has also seen big progress. They are outside in it now, and have been for around two weeks. We still have yet to put the wire run on the front of it, and the next boxes onto the back, but it is secure and liveable for them, which is the main thing. They won’t start laying for another 3-4 months, and we have a little time before the run becomes more necessary, but they are definitely way too big to be in the house anymore!

Chicks! (Part II)

Those little buggers in the previous post look a lot different now, and they’re still growing… fast!

and they really love kale.

REALLY.

Which is fine with me, because it’s the one vegetable that was hardy enough to survive the entire winter with no protection whatsoever, and can be harvested fresh and given to them as a treat a few times a week. They go nuts – the little gal in the above photo will even run up to me now.

Wild Leek Season

The season for wild leeks/ramps is now here. I picked a bag full of small plants last week so I could sample them. We made some nice leek-y mashed potatoes, with plenty of leftovers. The flavors got much stronger the second day, as leeks can do! They’re versatile, and the whole plant can be used like onions or garlic. We’ll be using them for a while, munching them on our woodland walks, and possibly drying some for the off season.

Plants are now getting to be of better size and are available by the pound to those interested. Just contact me. $10/lb. currently, but price will vary depending on the size and quality of plants at the time of order. It will fall as leeks get larger. Yes, I can do half pounds, or quarter pounds. A little does go quite a long way. Sold uncleaned/as dug condition (clumps of dirt removed, but roots and clinging small debris/surface dirt may remain). Leeks have a nice little ‘skin’ you can slip off, though, which takes care of most of the cleaning!

They are sustainably harvested by using a dandelion digger, taking only a few plants per group. They are available only for a limited time and quantity. I will never shovel up huge clumps or pick from any of my dozens of colonies to the point that they look sparse. This is only offered for enjoyment – I don’t intend to make a big profit off of it!

Pick up on farm only. Please contact me with your interest, and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Leeks are picked fresh upon order; no stock is maintained. Sorry, no delivery or shipping.