Category Archives: spring

2018 – Asparagus Season In Michigan

As I pulled the straw mulch off the asparagus plants yesterday I discovered a few of the plants had new shoots starting to poke their heads out of the ground. This post is specifically for those in Michigan or a similar growing zone (we are 6b). If you are growing your own asparagus or hunt for wild asparagus – it’s “game on”.  What’s the game? The trick to harvesting asparagus is getting it when it is just the right size – between six and nine inches is usually good, but since under ideal growing conditions asparagus can grow 1/2 inch an hour the field, or plants, might need to be harvested twice a day for maximum yield. I expect we will begin harvesting within a few days and if all goes well we should be able to continue for at least 4-6 weeks.

I found it interesting when I looked at my blog from 2017 I wrote a similar post on April 25, 2017, about one week earlier than this year.

If you would like to learn a little more about asparagus check out this link – http://www.michiganasparagus.org/interesting-tips/ . Also I find the best way to store fresh asparagus is to put the cut ends in water (in a cup or jar) then cover the tops with a plastic bag and refrigerate them.

Do you have any great recipes for asparagus? I’m sure we will be eating lots of it soon.

Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Spring!

 

 

 

Spring Has Sprung and The Chicks are On The Move

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This was what I saw when I looked out the window in the morning last Sunday, April 15. Ice coated the all of the windows on the East side of the house.

IMG_3901 When I looked out the North window I could see that most of the precipitation that had fallen was in the form of sleet and freezing rain. It felt very discouraging since we should be three weeks into spring by now. Thankfully the power was still on. We had prepared for a power outage by bringing extra firewood inside, making sure that there was oil in the oil lamps, checking flashlight batteries and making sure the freezers were full so that foods would stay frozen longer. When the freezers are only partially full of food I freeze blocks of ice in cardboard milk containers to fill the empty space. When warm weather comes, and we are spending days at the farm, we will use these blocks of ice in a cooler at the farm to keep drinks and food cold. Buying bags of ice everyday can get quite expensive.

My husband also added extra weight to the back of the van, for added traction, in anticipation of driving on icy roads.  We use to buy bags of sand every year to keep in the back of the van during winter driving season. Then last year we began taking a different approach – instead of buying bags of sand, that we really didn’t need, we began using things that we did need. Having several bags of chicken feed or a load of firewood in the back of the van can provide that extra traction just as well as sand bags.

Temperatures warmed slightly throughout the day, so even though it continued to rain the ice on the windows melted. We were fortunate that we were not among the 350,000 in South East Michigan that lost power due to this storm.

The rest of the week seemed to be a slow transition into spring. While daytime temperatures were above freezing most days the winds out of the North kept the chill in the air. It wasn’t until Friday that it felt like Spring had arrived. The day was partly sunny and it was comfortable to go outside with just a hooded sweatshirt rather than a heavy coat.

Saturday’s weather along with the rest of the 10 day forecast confirmed it. Spring has Sprung!!! We began doing the spring happy dance yesterday. 🙂 🙂 🙂 I find that garden and leaf rakes, pruning shears and a wheelbarrow make great dance partners when it comes to the spring happy dance, and popular dance moves involve raking last years leaves from the lawn and flower beds, and pruning dead foliage from perennial plants. My husband made a very bold move yesterday as he stored the snow shovel away for the season. He also discovered the very first dandelion of the year. There was only one but I am sure that in a week or so there will be yellow blossoms everywhere.

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The garlic has been slow to emerge but is now about three inches above ground.

The pond is pretty much as full as it gets. Very little of the beach is not under water.

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At this level it is seeping over the edge in a couple of places. This is a good starting point for spring, as we will use the pond for irrigating crops as needed.

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The chicks have moved to their stage-two brooder. They had begun getting their feathers and had become very curious about the world beyond the stock tank brooder. Flying up to the rim of the stock tank had become a fun adventure for them. Here is their new set up.

IMG_3885After assembling the hutch and putting in straw for bedding we use a zip tie to anchor the heat lamp in place.

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We put in food and water and a roost. Then put the chicks in their new home. They can now see the outside, and they can’t fly out of the brooder.

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We cover the hutch with a large piece of canvass. The canvass keeps water out and warmth in. The chicks regulate their body temperature by move closer or farther from the heat lamp as needed. We lift or lower the sides of the canvass as the weather gets warmer or cooler as well.

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Last night it was warm enough to watch a little chicken TV. As the chicks get the rest of their feathers and the temperatures continue to warm we will be transitioning them to stage three – at the farm. I’ll post about that soon.

In the mean time I hope that, if you too have been waiting on spring, your Spring has Sprung. Thanks for reading and have a beautiful day.

More Signs Of Spring

I didn’t go to the farm Tuesday because I was busy making soap, but while my husband was out there making maple syrup he called me to let me know that the killdeer had returned. Each year a pair (presumably the same pair) of killdeer set up home on the farm. They never fail to select a fairly high traffic area to build their nest. A couple years it was right on the edge of the driveway, after that it was in the beach area, and last year it was in the prayer garden. Once they build their nest and their lay eggs they treat us as intruders. They run around and screech at us and do their broken wing dance to try to get us out of the area.

Although their behavior can be annoying, I understand where they are coming from. I was also an over protective parent when my kids were young, and there were probably a few people who thought I was annoying. I use to say that I watched them like a hawk, but maybe the phrase watched them like a killdeer would be more appropriate.

There are some benefits to having killdeer on the farm. One of them is that baby killdeer are so darn cute, and it is quite entertaining watching the mother and father try to keep track of three or four babies running all over the place. Killdeer babies are up and out of the nest within about a day or two after being hatched, but the parents tend to them for several weeks until they begin to fly. Another benefit is that unlike robins and many of the other birds who frequent our farm killdeer do not eat berries, they eat bugs and larva. They are a natural insecticide and since we avoid the use of any chemicals on the farm we can use all the help we can get.

Welcome back Mr. and Mrs. Killdeer!

The following pictures were taken in the spring of 2017

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Killdeer sitting on the nest – could be Mom or Dad since they share the responsibility.

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The other parent on watch nearby.

 

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Three of the four babies have hatched.

The other major sign that spring is here is that the maple sap is turning cloudy. My husband noticed this yesterday. When the sap begins to run cloudy instead of clear it is no longer good for making syrup. Tuesday, March 27 was our last day of cooking syrup this year.

We did not keep records of how much sap we collected or how much syrup we actually ended up with, but I’d estimate that we made between 4 and 5 gallons of syrup this year.

I’m seeing lots pancakes and French toast in our future. 🙂

In Search Of Spring?

The calendar says that Spring has arrived, yet nature seems to be telling a different story. Even though we have been seeing Red Wing Black Birds for several weeks and my husband spotted the first Robin of the season about a week ago, the temperatures have mostly been below what is normal for this time of year in Michigan. I can’t help but wonder if the birds regret their early return.

Spring is my favorite season of the year so I went looking for the signs of Spring. Come along, I’ll show you what I found.

Even though we have had some very sunny days, some of the snow has yet to melt               in areas that are mostly shady.

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The last of the ice melted from the pond on Sunday, March 18. It reached 50+ degrees Fahrenheit (10 Celsius) that day but the temperatures have been nowhere near that since. IMG_3813

Today the temperature was around 40 Fahrenheit (about 4 Celsius) when we were at the farm; with the wind out of the North it felt much colder. Trooper didn’t mind stepping in the pond for a cold drink, but while I long to walk barefoot on the sand and dip my toes in the water, today I opted to keep on my wool socks and rubber boots.

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A pair of ducks have also been enjoying the pond for the last two days. They may be looking for a place to build a nest and raise their young, but I am afraid that our pond would be much too busy for that. I am fairly certain that Scout and Trooper will make it clear that they are not welcome here. There are, however, plenty of neighboring ponds that will suit them just fine.

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The daffodils have poked their heads up but seem to be in no hurry to expose their entire bodies to the cold temps. Who can blame them?

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The bees have had several days over the winter when they were able to come out for a cleansing flight. It was during a brief warm spell in February that we discovered that four of our five hives were dead. 80% loss is the biggest winter loss we have experienced to date. The sole survivor was our Warre’ hive.

Even though the sun was out today the bees were not.

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The sap flow has been intermittent. It flows (or should I say drips) on the warmer, sunny days, but many of the days have been just too cold for the sap to flow. While we can see the buds on the trees getting bigger they are not yet ready to open.

We will continue collecting sap and making syrup as long as the weather permits.

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To me the most encouraging sign of spring was hearing the frogs singing. My husband  told me that he heard them for the first time yesterday. We didn’t hear them in the pond area but in this swampy area near the back of our farm.

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I remember My Mom telling me that the frogs have to freeze three times before Spring is here to stay.  I am not really sure how that works. How long does the temperature have to be below freezing for a frog to “freeze”? Is it just when the temperature falls below freezing over night? or does it take a day or more of freezing temperatures? Has anyone ever heard this before? None-the-less I am always happy to hear the frogs singing, and I take this as a sure sign that spring is near.

Are you anxiously awaiting Spring? What do signs do you look for to know that Spring is near?

Our First Apple Crop

This has truly been a wacky year for food production at the farm. Some things that normally grow in abundance have floundered and some things that have never produced before have done well. Apples were among the crops that did relatively well this year.

We have seven young apple trees of various varieties that we have planted in the past six years, three of which we planted in April of 2011 before we even closed on the property. Each year the apple trees have had had at least some blossoms in the spring but they never developed into more than a few apples. Last fall, as an experiment, I put a small amount of wood ash around the base of three of the trees. This spring nearly all of the trees blossomed heavily so I am not certain how much effect the wood ash had.

In May, when the apple trees were in full bloom, we had several mornings of heavy frost. Since the frost damaged asparagus, rhubarb and grape leaves, I am still stumped that our apple trees were unaffected.

Our honey bees were more that happy to do their part in our apple production, flying from blossom to blossom and tree to tree collecting pollen from one blossom and redistributing a portion of it on the next blossom while they collected their pollen from that one.

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Honey bee – too busy to pose for a picture

Being our first apple crop we didn’t know what to expect and it seems that our apples fell victim to bugs, worms and disease.  Then to add insult to injury the crows  decided to make our apples part of their diet.

A couple weeks ago when my husband was tired of watching our apples being destroyed he decided to pick what might still be good before the crows got anymore. He first brought home a bag of red apples and since I was busy that day, probably cleaning garlic, I put them in the refrigerator and half forgot about them. A couple days later he brought home these golden delicious.

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He had been talking about dehydrating apples or making apple chips for a few weeks so I decided to use the useable part of these apple to make chips.

When I peeled the apples I was pleasantly surprised to see that the blemishes, which I have not positively identified but might be apple scab, were only skin deep. Once I removed the peel there was no evidence of disease.

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I peeled, cored and sliced the apples. I placed the slices in a single layer on my dehydrator trays. Each tray held about four apples.

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I filled up all nine trays and realized I had peeled way too many apples. So I needed to come up with a semi-quick or easy way to use the other half of those apples. Since fruit pies are a favorite dessert here and pie filling freezes well I decided to make apple pie filling.

I know that golden delicious apples are not necessarily a cooking apple so I was happy to find a recipe for pie filling that just called for apples instead of “cooking apples” or a specific variety of apples. Not that it would have mattered because I often change up recipes, substituting what I have on hand for what is called for in the recipe. Sometimes it turns out really well and sometimes not so good. The apple pie filling is in the freezer for now but I am certain that we will enjoy the apple pie that it makes.

The apple chips on the other hand are disappearing quickly. They make a nice snack.

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When I took them out of the dehydrator, after about 18 hours, I packaged each tray of apple chips in a sealable plastic sandwich bag. This way I know that the package contains about four apples or four servings. Then I put the bags in jars for storage. It is important to know an approximate serving size because these apple chips are so good that it could be easy to get carried away and eat way too many. I warned my husband that eating a whole bag at one time was not a good idea, and that you need to make sure you drink enough water when eating dried fruit. He told me that this was a lesson he learned as a kid – the hard way.

A few days ago when I was looking for a side dish to go with the stuffed green peppers I made for dinner, I came across the “half forgotten” bag of apples in the refrigerator.

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Stuffed Peppers

I decided to cook up some apple sauce. I didn’t need a recipe for this because I have cooked and canned apple sauce many times in the past. Although many of these apples had bites taken out of them (crows) and a few had worms in them, I was able to cut away enough of the bad parts and cook up a wonderful dish of apple sauce. To make apple sauce, after I peeled, cored and cut away any bad parts, I put the apples in a pan with a small amount of water. I brought it to a boil then turned it to low and let it simmer until the apples were very soft. I then mashed the apples with a potato masher. I then continue to let is simmer and thicken up a little. There was no need to add sweetener. I put it in a bowl and chilled it before dinner and it made the perfect side dish.

Over the next few months we will be researching natural options for controlling disease and insects on the apple trees with hopes of growing even better crops in the future, and who knows we might even build a scarecrow or two. https://www.todayshomeowner.com/scarecrows-in-the-garden/