Sunday, January 31, 2010

Boiling - Day one

Our first day of boiling sap was cold and not very productive. The wind whipped around our kettle so bad that it took forever (and the deconstruction of a metal shevling unit) to get it up to boil. We had a nice fire going but the wind kept the kettle from holding enough heat to boil, so after hours of no luck, Mike found an old metal shelving unit and took it apart to use as wind breaks and insulators. Once that was set up around the fire pit the fire blazed and the kettle held a rolling boil. We are still processing the sap, so we are at the sweet water point. Hopefully by the end of the day we will taste the sweetness of victory. Here are some pictures before the shelves.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The sap is flowing!!

The sap was flowing last weekend, then we had horrible rain and wind. When we checked the buckets after the storm we thought they we full of rain water but we tasted it and it had some sweetness to it. Then is was warm enough again for the sap to run even though the wind chill was incredible. We got such a harsh wind it pulled on of our taps out. So we have to fix that today.

We have collected over 16 gallons of sap to boil down. The fire is started and the kettle is set, We'll let you know how it goes.
The pictures here are one of the taps, 10 gallons of sap and our little investigator checking out on of the buckets.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tapping the Maple Trees - Syrup ahead!!

On our walk around the yard yesterday, we noticed that some of our smaller maple trees had already went to bud. Oh no!! That means we missed the sap run. We have been having the right kind of weather for the sap to start running but we are 2 to 3 weeks earlier than any of the suggested tap dates.

Luckily, when we came home from work on Friday, our box from Anderson's Maple Sugar had arrived. Since we had the equipment, we decided to tap one and see. The drill went in and before we could get it out the sap was running down the tree!!! We hit the mother load.

We tapped 9 trees with 11 taps around 11am on Saturday morning, by the time we checked the buckets at 4pm we had 1/4 of a bucket of sap from several of the taps. So I guess it was ok to tap, I think it's a combination of the weather and the fact that we are further south than most sugar shacks.

Thanks again to Grit magazine, Martha Stewart Living, and the PA Maple Syrup Producers for letting us know how easy it is to tap, collect, and make our own maple syrup!!!

On a different note, we finally got the Christmas Tree out to the goats. They love pine trees. There is a goat farm in town that sells trees at the holidays and what is left over they give to the goats. So we thought we would try it. They loved it. The sheep tried it but they weren't into like the goats were.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Awesome Seed Stand - Grit Magazine

Ok we finally finished our seed starter stand with the help from Grit Magazine, Jan/Feb 2010 issue, page 82. ( ) We were looking at several stands out there but they are all so industrial. This article makes a stand/bookcase.
It's not overly fancy but it is nice wood and the lights are hidden for year round use I guess the key is to not fill it up with junk in the off season.
It's funny how we came across this magazine, it had goats on the front and one of the pictures inside had goats in a tree. If we had a tree close enough to the pasture, I know Athena, the pygmy devil would be in it. So I wanted to read about other peoples goats. Then we stumbled onto this article about the seed starter stand and maple syrup making.
In Martha Stewart Living this month ( Feb issue) It also mentions how easy it is to tap your maple trees. So I looked into it and Mike spent some time with the PA Maple Growers Association at the PA Farm show last week. It seems like we understand the whole process and our supplies are on their way. We ordered them from Andersons Maple Syrup,
On another note, we had a hard time finding dry bean seeds. We don't eat alot of green beans but our diet is full of kidney beans, chick peas, and black beans. I came across this wonderful seed company: Vermont Bean Seed Company, . The seeds were shipped quickly and as soon as we get them planted this spring I'll update on how they are doing.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What do we do now?

Well, we were lucky enough to gather about 11 different varieties of pumpkins from friends and family to save seeds from. They are interesting one like the fairy tale variety and a handful of white ones. So, the beginning of December we are slicing through pumpkins gutting them and drying seeds. The seeds laid to dry for 2 weeks, it was getting close to the holidays, I wanted the counter back. The seeds felt dry and they were bagged and tagged just like the one book suggested - plastic bags.
I always thought seeds kept best in envelopes, but into plastic they went.
We received the purchased seeds, and while looking through the collections to map out a plan, we open the box to find this, a bag of moldy pumpkin seeds. Crap, now what??? It's not a vital thing to save these seeds. We were just trying to see what would grow from saved seeds. So off to our books we went, one suggested that you should disinfect your seeds with a bleach to water solution. So far it looks like it worked. The seeds are mold less.

I guess it will be spring until we see if they grow or not.

On a happy note all of our purchased seeds have arrived from Johnny's Seed and Reimer Seeds.

Friday, January 08, 2010

The New Year with a New Focus

We have successfully set up our farm as a business. Dusty Bottom Acres, LLC. We have a goal for the year and that is to plant, grow and harvest some of the oddest and coolest veggies and pumpkins in the area. We have redirected our blog from being just our crafts and everyday life to what we call confessions of a first year farmer. See, we have no experience with growing much of anything. So, this is going to be our diary as we learn, grow and mess up.

Our farm includes fiber animals, so we have plenty of wool and mohair for sale. We are currently working on the Etsy store now.

The Blacksmith might find some time to post a project or two, but who knows because of his ambitions to grow the largest pumpkin. It looks like the largest is over 1600 pounds!!! I think he will be happy with anything over 200 pounds. But still that is a huge pumpkin!!!

Join us in our adventure for 2010!!!