Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I've been working on getting many, many seeds planted and in the greenhouse to get started on the season. Below is a quick shot of some of the many tools I use in the process. Finely sifted soil mix covers every seed.
Yesterday, in the rain, I pulled all of the taps and collected the buckets from the trees. The weather got warm too fast to have much of a season and it doesn't show signs of being prime for sap anytime soon. Below is a shot of the sap boiling down on our wood stove.
For a couple of days the trees were really pumping out sap so I had to build a little 'sugar shack' to keep up with the boil. Our wood stove at the house can only handle so much! Here is the quick, improvised shack in all glory. It worked like a charm.

I constructed the 'building' of hay bales from the garden mulch pile, covered it with some old aluminum roofing that was headed to the dump after being blown off the barn roof and covered the front with a tarp to keep the wind and rain out. Straw and hay bales have been used for hundreds of years to build dwellings throughout the world. It's an amazing building material and could go a long way in solving many of the problems faced at the intersection of global warming and deforestation. This was my opportunity to utilize the technology crudely and ensure that it poses little to no fire danger (as is stated in nearly every book on straw bale building that I've read). No fires to report even during that very dry 'dangerous' spell we had and Em, Lizzie and I will be enjoying homemade maple syrup for some time to come!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sun, chickens, rasberries and syrup.

The chickens got a new home today. Well, not really. I moved them back to the farm for the summer. I recently (yesterday) finished their new coop which is much bigger to house the entire group when the new chicks arrive. This morning Jim (a gentleman that helps me on Tuesdays) and I fenced off an area just adjacent to the greenhouse. The chickens will clean it up for me, I'll reshape the beds, install the track and move the greenhouse over it when the things in it now are more established.
They seemed to settle down after a while. They didn't care for the ride, or being put in their travel crate at 4 am today. (For those who don't know, when chickens are roosting for the night they become docile and very easy to handle. Nearly impossible to catch heritage breeds like these during the day.) I had to put up a sheet of cardboard on the north side to protect them from the wind.
A couple of weeks ago I went through and pruned the raspberry patch. I removed all of the old growth. This allows for more fruit and the air circulates better. This is especially important when the summer is like the one we just had.

I also moved our picnic table to the farm this weekend. Her it is in the sun. As you can sort of see (being there really does it the justice it deserves) it's the best seat in the house.

Finally, I tapped a few trees at the farm on Sunday afternoon. I brought home my first batch of sap tonight and it's currently evaporating on the wood stove.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

In like a lion...may as well post a blog!

We've been very busy over the past few weeks and have a down moment tonight as some things opened up for me tomorrow as I don't have to go to Augusta to talk to the legislature. So I thought I'd post a blog. Here Lizzie and I are posing as Em takes our photo at the CSA fair I helped organize in Bangor Last weekend. We had a great turn-out and made all the local news outlets. You can barely make out our new tee-shirts. I had them partially designed (I designed the logo but they had to tweak it for screen-printing) at Liberty Graphics in Liberty, ME. This is the same company that produces the shirts for the Common Ground Fair every year. I wanted a local company to get me shirts that are organic cotton, made in the U.S. and printed with soy based inks. Liberty Graphics did great work.

Here is a shot of what we've been working on recently. Onions, onions, onions...and a few other things, have been started in blocks and put out in our new seedling house on our new heat mats. As you can see, I have already run out of room but I'm trying to cycle some things out. For instance, tomorrow I plan to put some of these flats into the ground at the farm under row covers or in the greenhouse. I actually have two tunnels within the greenhouse for added protection. I move things off the heat mats once the seeds have germinated. Below is a photo of the tunnel with the mats. It's very warm in this tunnel and I only open it to water things each morning. The other tunnel has no additional heat other than that generated by solar radiation.

Thought I'd give it a try. Why not when the end of February was like April this year. If I can keep it going it will be awesome to have early basil. We'll see.
Finally, since constructing the new tunnels in the seed house, the chickens have less space. However, that's ok because the weather is warming up so I let them out for longer periods of time each day. Here they are scratching around in a gully behind the house. Actually, the other day I let them out, went inside for a while, came out and couldn't find them anywhere after looking for an hour. Finally, Em got in the car and drove around the neighborhood. They had wandered over to the neighbors lawn. I took her a dozen eggs, apologized and walked them home. No harm, no foul but it was scary to be missing 4 chickens (one had stayed put to lay an egg!).

Here is Lizzie looking back at me innocently as I called to ask what she was doing. She wants desperately to touch a chicken. I can't seem to convince her that they are quick as lightening and the chances of that happening are very small. It's fun to watch anyway.