Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Asparagus Saying Hello

Ok, I know it is almost microscopic,
but I was excited.  I am looking forward
to 2012 to be able to harvest any.  Yum!
Yesterday afternoon when I got home from work, I decided to do some weeding of the die hard weeds that seemed to grow over the winter and discovered that my asparagus plants have poked their little faces out of the soil to say hello.  That was a wonderful discovery.  Now I just hope that they don't freeze tonight as it is currently snowing (again) and it is supposed to snow into tomorrow.  Yuck!  I guess that is what I get for living in Wisconsin and northern Wisconsin for that matter. 

All of my raised beds but one are ready to plant.  I do have to move my fence for my peas to climb over to the other side of the bed, that way I can make a pea tunnel between two beds.  Hope it works out.  Last summer the peas grew out of vertical climbing space so hopefully this will fix that. 

This weekend my sister told me that our tomato seedlings are doing well.  She always has great germination.  Between the 2 of us we have about 140 Roma seedlings.  I know I wanted lots of tomatoes for my spaghetti sauce and what not, but 70 plants for me will be a lot.  Good thing I can take some to work and let the day care kids plant some outside to watch them grow.  We also have cherry tomatoes and another slicer.  Holy tomatoes!  My pepper seedling are slowly coming along in my sun room.  Each day I find another one that has sprouted.  The pumpkins are going wild, had to pot them up about 2 weeks or so ago and my squash that I just started are also starting to sprout.  My sun room smells like a green house.  I love it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Music of the Morning

The last 3 mornings I have been up at 4 AM and in the woods before 5 AM in search of the elusive gobble of the wild turkey.  That sound is the coolest thing to hear just before sunrise as the turkey wakes from its perch high in a tree.  Wednesday morning we were greeted with 1 1/2 to 2 inches of snow and we parked right under the tree that the stinking bird was in.  That bird sat and gobbled in the tree for more than 2 hours and did not want to come down.  Thursday morning was beautiful and perfect for them to gobble, but yet again we parked right under the tree they were in (different tree from the day before) and it was right next to a blacktopped road.  Crazy birds.  Today we had a calm damp morning following a night of rain and there were no gobbles to be heard. 

I did get my shot at a nice tom mid morning on Thursday as he and his 3 hens sauntered down a snowmobile trail right into out set-up.  I aimed, took my shot, rolled him over and he jumped up and ran away.  I sat there and thought, what just happened.  I know I didn't miss.  These things rank up there with geese in the "hard to kill" game bird list.  They are not like your average grouse.  Oh well, at least I got to take a shot, which is more than I have been able to do in the past years that I have been hunting, and I was able to go hunting with Scott and his best friend Steve which hasn't happened since pre-children that all 3 of us have been out together.  We also got to see two wood ducks fly up and land in a tree.  That is something you don't see everyday.  Scott's turkey season was last week and he was able to get a jake.  Better eating than an old tom.

Despite the fact that I was un-successful at bagging my first turkey, I did have the pleasure of listening to the world wake up and the beautiful music of the morning.  As I sat on the edge of a small field under a scruffy bunch of brush with the sun starting to peak over the tree tops and the frost shimmering and sparkling, the world began to awaken.  The constant beat of the woodpeckers that surrounded me and the rhythm of the grouse drumming on their logs looking for their ladies set the back drop to the tune.  The deep rumble of the owls calling, the coo of the morning doves, the honk of the geese flying overhead added their parts.  We also had the solos from the swans and the loons on a far off lake, the song birds as they flit around looking for seed and a random rooster saying good morning from somewhere across the river.  The new green blades of grass peeking up through last years brown and dry blades greeting the sun and showing that spring is truly on the way.  It was truly a beautiful symphony that I know only us few crazy people get to experience as we sit in the woods before dawn.  It is a moment that calms my heart and spirit especially on this Easter weekend as I remember what this time means in my life and I am truly thankful.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dirty Hands are Here

I have been waiting for this weekend for a really long time.  The snow is gone from the garden and the soil is no longer frozen in the raised beds.  Things have dried out a bit and my hand were able to get dirty.  It was a complete rush to be able to get in there and dig, to feel the soil between my fingers, to smell that sweet smell of freshly worked earth.  So relaxing and stress relieving.  Oh how I missed that.  No longer.  I have a good number of my beds cleaned up and weed free.  The kids were out there digging in the soil also.  I'm not sure that they actually pull out any weeds, but they had fun. 

Our over wintered carrots, just as crisp as last summer.

We harvested the remaining carrots from last year, about 8 lbs worth.  The kids couldn't wait until we got them in the house to wash them and munch.  I was amazed at how wonderful they are.  We did find some carrot mush out there also.  That was nasty grabbing hold of those carrots.  Yuck feeling.  I am going to keep some whole just for snacking, slice some for blanching and freezing and shred/freeze some for muffins.  I am excited to use my new food processor.  Oh and maybe I'll make some carrot juice also.  The possibilities are endless.  Can you tell I'm a tad bit excited to be back in the garden?  I know....I am obsessed.  Forgive me.

My compost barrel is looking snazzy in it's new spring style.  Isn't a fresh coat of black paint a wonderful thing?  Now I just have to get my other barrel (newly acquired) added to the system.  It has been painted and is awaiting holes and a longer pole to be threaded.  Once things dry out even more I will be painting the posts the same dark brown as the garden fence so it all looks nice together.  I think I might even add flower pot post toppers to beautify the compost system. 

This weekend I also starting ripping up my lily bed next to the west deck.  We used to have a split rail fence there, but it was a tad bit rotted out so I took it down.  I think it took me maybe 2 minutes to take it down.  Now it really looks strange there, but I'm expanding the bed also so that will hopefully help.  I left two of the fence posts, because they house bird houses and until I find other places to put them, I'm leaving them. 

Scott and I set up a temporary kennel for Freya for during the day.  That pup just doesn't get life in the house.  I know that she is a puppy and I know that she does know right & wrong, she is just choosing to not behave, much like our 3 year old twins girls.  Funny.  She will get to come in at night, so it isn't all bad.  Scott did some moving of cut up wood and some turkey scouting.  His turkey season starts this Wednesday and mine is next Wednesday.  So here starts the season of "Turkey Reports" between our house and Steve's.  (Steve is Scott's best friend and Adin's God Father.)  Scott, Steve and I are all going out on Wednesday.  My lovely friend Rebekah is coming over before 5 am to watch the kids so Scott and I can hunt together.  I am getting very excited to here that gobble getting closer and closer and to see that Tom all fluffed out and strutting.  Way cool.  I LOVE SPRING!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sugaring - Final Batch

Our sugaring season is now complete and for a first go, I would say it was a beautiful success.  Adin and I pulled the taps yesterday after work and today we boiled our last batch.  One thing that I noticed is that this late season sap produced a much darker syrup.  This week we harvested about 15 gallons so that is what we boiled down today (all day).  In the end we got 6 1/2 pints that I am canning at the moment, making a grand total of 8 pint jars and 10 1/2 pint jars.  Some we will give away, but most will be used over the year.  I hope that next year is even a better year for sugaring.

Some things that I have learned from this experience; patience, don't let too many gallons add up before boiling, investing in 5 gal covered buckets with hose may be beneficial for some heavy producing trees, and kids love sugaring.  :)  I have enjoyed this process and look forward to next season.  Until then.... let the dirty hands begin. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

They Live!

The temp today actually got to 61 degrees.  It was wonderful and with it went the snow in my garden.  To what did my wondering eyes appear?  Garlic!  Last summer when I yanked my garlic that did nothing, I didn't get it all and it appeared last fall, so I left it and low and behold, they are alive, a little wet, but alive.  Now I am just waiting until the very waterlogged and some still very frozen beds, thaw and dry to get in there and get things cleaned up.

It really amazed me how many weeds grew/lived under 3 inches of ice then 3 feet of snow all winter long and look as green and hardy as they do in the summer.  Snow really is good insulation.  Uff da!  I am never going to put my garden to bed this way again.  What a mess!  Soggy remnants of plants from last summer all over the place.  I did get a few beds done right, but not enough.  (New garden vow for 2011.)

More "life" to talk about...... Sunday I started pepper seeds, 3 types of pumpkins and some trial tomatoes from seeds I saved from last year.  I already have pumpkins peaking their little faces out of the jiffy pellets.  The kids are so excited.  I also planted some leaf lettuce in a nice pot that is going to sit on the big kitchen deck for the summer.  As of now all of it is on a card table in our sun room.  So far I have been successful at keeping the puppy from using the jiffy pellets as chew toys this time around.  The first time a started or I should say tried to start some tomatoes she found them to make great chew toys.  Oh how I love puppies.  She is lucky she is cute.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Saturday Secrets & Successes

Well, moment of truth... I lost 2 lbs this week.  It isn't much, but seeing as how I have been sick I haven't worked too hard at it.  Now that I have meds and I'm feeling better, I'll be able to work at it.  I have been working at it today.  Between my running back and forth to the boiling sap, I have been helping Scott clear out some more trees behind our house on the south end of the garden.  We are going to be making the yard bigger and also terracing that part of the yard, as it is on a slope and we'll be planting pumpkins and potatoes back there.  I am not too worried about the deer.  Most of our pumpkins last summer grew right out of the fence and down that hill anyway and they were fine. 

So I have been hauling brush to the burn pile and keeping the fire going.  The day has been beautiful.  I was out in my blue short sleeved shirt (to honor World Autism Awareness Day, my nephew Devyn who is Autistic and who's 7th Birthday is today) jean and my muck boots.  On that hillside the snow is still 1 1/2 to 2 feet deep still.  Crazy but good for burning. Now that the end of the day is here and I am finally done boiling syrup for today/this weekend, I have 5 pints ready to can tomorrow and maybe a 6th when it is done being filtered through a coffee filter to remove any impurities and floaties.  This will take all night.  This last weekend's batch has been a beautiful light to medium amber color will no sediment settling to the bottom.  I do think that our sap is starting to slow as the nights are not as cold anymore.  We'll see what happens.  Now off to bed for me.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Productive Syrup Day

Today has been a day of boiling and boiling and boiling.  Last night I boiled down 4 gallons and this morning when I walked into the barn to start at 9:30, I had 24 gallons sitting there looking at me.  Uff da!  After today's harvest of 4.5 gallons to add to the mix, I am now down to 15 gallons for tomorrow.  I will be up late I'm sure finishing today's renderings, I'll post tomorrow what it all came down to. 

Lots of milk jugs and the turkey pot has 6 gallons in it. 
Other than my sap boiling, today has been gloomy.  We woke up to... you guessed it, SNOW!  Wonderful April Fools joke from Mother Nature.  Scott spent the day burning brush before all our snow was gone, at least in that area.  The rest of the yard and property still has lots.  I did get to see my first Sandhill Crane of the year flying over the barn.  They are pretty cool birds and make the most interesting and cool sounds.  Not far from where we live there is a place called Crex Meadows Wildlife Area.  It is one of the largest state owned wildlife areas in Wisconsin and every fall there are thousands of Sandhills who land there on there migration south.  Fun place to visit and to hunt.  Other than Sandhills, there are tons of ducks, geese and swans that either migrate through Crex or call it home. 

Yesterday Scott went to town and was able to pick up another old bear bait barrel that we will be able to turn into our 2nd compost barrel.  Now I will be able to have compost in two different stages.  That makes me very happy.  Once things dry out, I am going to sand it down really well and paint the outside black.  I have to do this to the old one also, but I'll wait until I am able to empty it later this spring and add to my gardens and such.