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…
We are planning a big bonfire…as soon as we have our grapevines pruned. As of this weekend, we think that we are one third done with the initial pruning (which is where the massive amounts of vines come from). As we prune, we keep the cut vines on several piles in the center of every other row. This eliminates driving the tractor through every row, which cuts down on soil compaction by the heavy tires, and makes it altogether faster.
We attached the pallet forks to the tractor bucket, and then scooped up a pallet. Jeff drove through the row, and Lars and I lifted each pile of vines onto the pallet. Toward the end, its more of a rolling, rather than a lifting effort :).
Lars then jumped on top of the whole pile, in a belly-flop sort of fashion, and his weight kept the vines from falling off as Jeff drove toward the “burning pile”. (it’s quite a balancing act for him).
We have been dumping all the vines on one huge pile, which we’ll have to light on a calm, wet day.
We have not put the food dehydrator away, since Christmas! It is used several times a week and thus has been taking up a lot of my kitchen island space. We finally decided to move the small wine-rack out of the kitchen (who needs a SMALL wine-rack anyhow) to create a permanent spot for the dehydrator. Luckily we found a clearance kitchen cabinet a Lowes – exactly the right dimensions – and voilà… we have a dehydrator spot
The latest and greatest use of the food dehydrator?
Drying home-made noodles!