Saturday was spent weeding – yes, the weeds are poking through already! Followed by mulching the flower beds around the house as well as the herb garden. Seems that we had a great opportunity to get this done much earlier than in past years, and just in time for Spring to arrive. Actually had to double check when the first day of Spring happens in the Mid Atlantic region – found the answer on the Farmer’s Almanac website. It happens at 12:30 am on March 20th, 2016.
Jens and Tina each took a day off work to attend one day of the Eastern Winery Exposition – which is held in Lancaster every other year (the odd years are held in Syracuse). We split up for the educational sessions, so that we could cover the double track of seminars. Luckily we did, as there was a lot of good information! We also had time to walk through the exhibit area and talk to a lot of vendors.
Sessions that were especially useful were a track dealing with the chemistry, processing and fermentation of fruit wines; and a session devoted entirely to Chardonel,
which is a variety we recently planted. Other sessions dealt with filtering protocols for winemakers, and fungal disease prevention in the vineyard.
We ran into several winery owners we knew, met new ones and also met several of Tina’s former “classmates” from the HACC enology/viticulture program. Definitely a worthwhile day!
Our baby chicks finally got big enough for their move into the newly renovated chicken coop. We had to clean out the shed near the clothesline and bring it back to its intended purposed: to house chickens. We had used the shed mainly for archery equipment storage and storing extra flower pots, all of which we cleaned away. We fixed the holes in the floor, rebuilt the windows and doors and then partitioned off about a quarter of the shed for the little chicks. The floor is now covered in straw and we got a large watering station and a larger feeder. We are still using a heat lamp for them, since the are still little. Hopefully they’ll stay warm and save tonight.
Jeff had the brilliant idea to try and make his own maple syrup ever since he saw the sugar maple trees on Zach & Rachel’s Farm. So he researched the process in more detail, ordered the necessary supplies (tree taps, hoses) from Amazon…yes, they have that too! And we bought some more food grade buckets with lids. Then Jeff and Lars tapped 5 trees, hooked up the hoses and started collecting sap in the 5 gallon buckets. They checked the buckets every day and over the course of 2 weeks collected nearly 100 gallons of sap.
The first weekend we used our pig roaster, which has a stainless steel trough, to boil down the sap until the 50 gallons were reduced to about 3 gallons. We transferred the 3 gallons to our largest stainless steel pot and reduced those even further, to about 4 quarts. We used a thermometer to measure the exact temperature of the sap at all times. Our water boiled at 211 F, (we double checked it to calibrate the thermometer), and we boiled the sap until it reached 218 degrees. After this, we transferred the syrup into 2 half gallon jars and let it cool down and settle, to allow the clear syrup to separate from the “sand” (the left over mineral residue). We used our wine equipment to “rack” the clear syrup off the residue.
The following week, we collected the sap more frequently, and all of it was boiled down in our large pot. All that yielded another gallon.
In textbooks style, our chicken eggs hatched exactly on day #19. We have had fertilized chicken eggs in an incubator on our kitchen island most of February. Just in case we might forget, Jeff labeled the incubator with the start date 🙂 Throughout the month, Jeff and Lars have been checking the content of the eggs with a very bright flashlight – watching the embryos grow and grow into tiny chicks.
Yesterday, the first chick emerged, and as of this evening, they all are officially hatched!! The chicks are now in an old tin washtub, lined with old sweatshirts under a rather intense heat lamp. In my kitchen! They have water and chick feed as well; and a thermometer, to make sure they are just warm enough. Seriously thinking of changing the name of this blog to “the chronicles of the farmer’s wife”. Chicks in the kitchen…really…