First, I AM NOT HAPPY WITH THE WEATHER GODS! It was going so well… then the cold hit… AGAIN! I was super excited to get out and tap the maple trees, which I did two weeks ago. The sap started to flow and things were looking good, then BAM! In comes the cold and freezes everything up. In order to get the trees to “pump” sap you need freezing night time temps and warm day time temps, and this needs to happen before the trees bud or you get “off-flavors” in your syrup. I only have about 2 gallons of sap so far, not nearly enough to make it worth my while to boil down to syrup. The ratio of sap to syrup is 40:1. I was discussing this with my Mother the other day and she said, “if it’s only 40:1 you would think that maple syrup would cost more. I mean a bottle of syrup is pretty cheap.” I had to laugh at that one. Like most people, my Mom doesn’t know that the “maple syrup” you buy in stores is just water, corn syrup and maple flavoring (and various preserving agents). It’s NOT EVEN CLOSE TO THE REAL THING. Corn, corn, corn… it’s in everything, literally! If you haven’t read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan, you really fucking should! Excuse my french.
Gene and I spent the day yesterday surveying the land around the property and settled on a spot to erect the tipi. We chose a patch of flat grassland next to the barn, rather than an area in the woods. I debated the amount of work it would take to clear trees, level the land and run power and water to an area in the woods. In the end I settled for convenience and less work. I can run temporary power from the barn to the tipi as well as water without having 100’s of feet of cords and hose. Also, I’m close to the animals so that I can respond if there is ever a ruckus in the middle of the night… electric fence or not, hungry animals are determined. One other advantage of the location is that the tipi is visible from the road. I can take advantage of peoples curiosity and hopefully entice them onto the property to buy eggs!
Tonight the nest box goes into the rabbit cage… if all goes well I should have baby bunnies on Sunday. I didn’t plan on “Easter Bunnies” when I bred the doe, but by golly that’s just the way it timed out! I’m building a new hutch for the rabbits that will be located outside next to the barn as soon as the giant pile of snow goes away. Actually it’s not a hutch, but rather a 2×4 frame that I can suspend the wire cages from. Right now the rabbits are still in the garage with litter pans underneath. I hate litter pans… what a mess. The new spring, summer, fall (they have to go back in the garage for winter-too cold) housing will allow for the droppings to just collect on the ground where I can scoop them up and put them in the garden. I’m going to allow the chickens access to the droppings too- apparently from what I’ve read, the chickens love to dig through the pile and pick out worms and other creepy crawlies.
The chickens are enjoying the move back to the barn, despite the cold. It’s been a long winter and they haven’t seen grass for a long time. Velvita the duck, really enjoys all the mud puddles and quacks and grunts excitedly when ever she finds a new one. I wonder how out of place she feels being surrounded by all the chickens? I can also say that Velvita is out producing the chickens when it comes to eggs. She started laying again back in February and has faithfully laid an egg everyday since. I have 15 new chicks coming on Tuesday and I’m excited for some of the new breeds I will be raising. Including 3 Araucanas that lay blue-green colored eggs.
I’ve got the garden plot pretty much laid out. It’s going to be a long day of tilling soil once the ground finishes thawing out. I tried to picture our forefathers doing this work with a horse and plow and came to the conclusion that we are serious pussies when it comes to hard work. I will be using a gas powered tiller… and that’s still a lot of work! The cabbage seedlings are doing well and will soon be joined by tomatoes and peppers. It’s all coming together!
My ankle, for the most part, is all healed! No pun intended…
All this “new stuff” to learn! It’s exciting and overwhelming at times. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I’m actually doing this. I definitely don’t regret the decision. I miss my city friends and hope that a few of them make the trip North this summer for a visit… it gets lonely here some times. At this point, the positives definitely out weigh the negatives… hopefully this trend continues. If my biggest gripe come summer is HEAT and BUGS… I’m doing things right!
I’ve been busy learning all the ins-n-outs of my new camera and spending quite a few hours (days) watching Youtube videos on how to use Adobe Lightroom. I was driving home the other day from my parents and just happened to witness this on the side of the road!
(click on the image for a larger view)
How freaking cool is that! I was able to pull my car up and snap a few photos… he was no more than 10 feet away and didn’t seem to even notice me, until Myles jumped up and started barking. I was shaking so bad from the excitement and couldn’t believe that I had my camera right there with me. You don’t see images like this in the cities!
My ankle is healing quite nicely and I’ve stopped using the brace. I’m still being quite careful as I don’t want to re-injure it. Things are quite in the cabin… still patiently waiting for this snow to clear. I’m fine with the weather right now, it’s giving me ample opportunity to enjoy my new found (actually I had two years of photography in High School, so it’s not really new) hobby.
Anyway… one more for the road. Just a quick pic of one of my Moms house plants… if it only looked this rich in real life… man I love Adobe Lightroom!
I’m back in Minnesota! What an agonizing trip that turned out to be. On Monday afternoon I went into the Omaha Hospital to have x-rays of my ankle taken… I woke up that day in terrible pain and knew I wouldn’t be able to fly later that evening unless I got something for the pain. My ankle wasn’t broken (thank god), just sprained badly so they gave me a leg brace and pain pills. When I got to the airport the ticket agent changed my seating to first class and I was wheeled between terminals so I wouldn’t have to attempt to walk- Thank you United Airlines! The overall trip was fun, even though we didn’t get to go to the zoo! It was nice to be in warmer weather and not see snow covering everything. I was amazed at my trip to the local Walmart where they have armed cops at the door and have a whole isle dedicated to liquor sales (something that you just don’t see in Minnesota). It was good to get away from the cabin, it was even better to return home.
Yesterday Gene and I cleaned the basement and set up our seedling growing area. We just have a workbench with adjustable height fluorescent lights suspended above it. It’s relatively cheap to start your own plants from seed- save yourself some money and buy seed instead of seedlings- not to mention you get to enjoy watching the miracle of nature right before your eyes. A cheap shop light and either one warm/one cool bulb, or you can buy full spectrum bulbs. I think I spent about $25 dollars for the whole thing, the most costly being the full spectrum bulbs. I make my own seedling mix with equal parts peat moss, perlite and compost. My compost is coming from my worm factory right now- talk about AMAZING! I set my lights on a simple timer with a 12 on- 12 off cycle.
The first of the seedlings were planted! I planted 18 Glory of Enkhuizen cabbage seeds that I purchased from http://www.rareseeds.com This variety is supposed to be well suited for this Northern region of Minnesota and is supposed to store well (at some point I need to dig a root cellar). Of course I will be using a few heads to make kraut 🙂 I’ll probably start planting some lettuce in the next few weeks- it can go outside in a cold frame if the ground is still to frozen to work. The rest of the plants are started at different times in April/May and things don’t really get going till June. I can’t believe all the gardening knowledge I’ve amassed over the last few years- I feel like a pro! Last year my tomato plants (that I planted from seed) reached nearly 7 feet tall!!! This years goal is to learn how to grow various types of wheat and grain that can be milled into flour. I am also attempting to grow enough food for storage to survive the winter. Yep, that’s right… on top of attempting to survive the summer/winter in a tipi, I’m going to try to produce all the food needed for winter survival too. If this works I’ll be amazed… chances are it will take a few years for me to figure out how this will all go together and EXACTLY what I will need food/nutrition wise.
Today is rabbit breeding day! I have 3 does that I will be breeding this summer. I think I’m going to space them 2 weeks apart so that I’m not bombarded with a ton of rabbits that need to be processed all at once. I should have enough meat at the end that I can sell some to the locals to cover the cost of feed. I plan on canning most of meat so that it’s easier to cook once in the tipi- not to mention that it would be devastating should the freezer quit working and all that meat spoil.
I’m not sure I can, nor want to, tap maple trees this year 😦 Right now the sap is flowing and I can’t move around because of my ankle. By the time I’m able to navigate without this clumsy boot on my leg, it will be too late. I’m also not totally prepared- I have buckets and taps, but I’m not set up to start boiling syrup just yet. Right now the idea seems more like a chore than fun… and that doesn’t make the experience enjoyable for me. So I think I’ll just buy some syrup from a local producer and try this experiment next spring.
Chicken update: The girls are getting antsy and can smell spring in the air. Soon it will be time to move them back out to their summer quarters. They have done well over the winter in the garage and survived this absolutely horrendous winter with just two 250W heat lamps… I didn’t even have frozen water bottles or frostbitten combs/waddles to deal with once we moved them from the barn. Gene was pure genius when he came up with the idea to build them a separate room in the garage, it worked better than I expected. We are going to keep the garage setup for next winter and will just move the animals back. The rabbits are also in the garage with the chickens and have done equally as well.
My Mom is doing well… she is in a cast and uses a wheelchair to get around. I thought of the irony that we both screwed up our ankles while away on vacation… it must be a family curse. Maybe we can both go to physical therapy together… you know… Mother & Son bonding time 🙂 Anyhoo… yall stay warm, it shouldn’t be terribly difficult now that your eyelids don’t freeze shut when walking out the door.
Hello dear reader! So last week was pretty fun and filled with lots of adventure. A good friend of mine [Erin] from the Twin-cities drove up for visit and spent the weekend with Gene and me at the cabin. Unfortunately for her, Gene and I aren’t the best at being morning people. I’ve gotten quite accustomed to staying up quite late (usually 4am) and then sleeping in till about noon- hey, don’t judge. Erin was very good at waking up and getting her breakfast, then occupying herself by watching Breaking Bad until I was kind enough to join her. We spent the first night going over all the things that I have been acquiring in preparation for spring: the tipi, the composting toilet, my seed collection… etc. I also gave her a refresher course on crochet, I won’t embarrass her by listing the number of rows that had to be re-stitched. Erin also enjoyed a ride on the snowmobile a few times.
Myles is such a ladies Man and enjoyed Erin’s visit…
We spent time snowshoeing and touring the property
And I took her over to my parents to do some ice fishing- which turned out disastrous. My dad plowed a path for us down to the lake with the 4-wheeler and then we had to lug the ice house across it by hand. The problem came when we encountered about a foot of slush. We made it to a spot and I drilled the holes and set up the house… a short time later my Mother came down to the lake and I went out to tell her not to bother because of all of the slush (poor Mom attempting to drudge through it) and I wound up getting water in both my boots- which was an immediate end to the adventure. We didn’t even have time to catch one sunny 😦 The trip back across the lake with the ice house was exhausting because I was still tired from lugging it out there. The experience made the day all the more interesting and we finished by returning to the cabin and frying some sunnies that I had caught earlier.
It was nice to have a visitor. It was nice to be able to share my passion with someone who shares similar interests. I count myself lucky to have such good friends in my life.
For the next 10 days I’m at my parents dog sitting; a nice break away from the cabin. I plan to meet up with my cousin for some MORE ice fishing (on a better lake this time) and he promised me a lasagna dinner! On a very happy note: it reached 45* the other day! I was able to go out and get my mail in a t-shirt. I hate when winter screws with you like that, but it was a good reminder that spring is right around the corner. I plan on getting more technical with my blog once I start planning the garden and getting the seedlings going and toward the end of next month I will be blogging about tapping maple trees.
Just a quick thanks for all the “get well” messages! I’m on the rebound and have mostly recovered from my illness. I’m still very tired and have a small cough and lose my voice if I talk for more than a few minutes, but I think the worst is over. . If anyone missed it, both Gene and I got a serious case of influenza a few weeks ago. Gene was also diagnosed with pneumonia. We did manage to track down how we got it and jokingly said from now on everyone who comes to visit will need to spend time in quarantine! Gene went to the V.A. Hospital in the cities this morning and he was admitted for pneumonia . The antibiotics that he got from the E.R. when we first got sick didn’t work and he was progressively getting worse. He is doing well and they have him on meds. He should be back in a few days and should make a full recovery. I was in to the doctor on Tuesday and had a chest x-ray and WBC to make sure that I didn’t have pneumonia also, and was given the “all-clear.” I guess we both learned the lesson that we should get flu shots! I haven’t been this sick in a very long time and it was a bit of a wake-up call that I need to be careful with my health as it’s very difficult to live this “lifestyle” when you are under the weather. I’m sure it would have been an even more unpleasant experience were I currently living in the tipi.
I went to visit my Mom yesterday and we took a trip to Bimidji so I could buy some new (and much needed) pants. It was good to get away from the cabin for a night! Well that’s the update for now… I’m going to go clean and hopefully git rid of any remaining germs 🙂 Also, I need to clean the guest room for our visitor next week!!!
I knew things were going to good to last… influenza has infiltrated the cabin! Gene and I have both been very sick this past week. We wound up going into the E.R. last Tuesday and got the news that we had both been infected. Now things have taken a turn, influenza has become pneumonia… and I don’t get to see the doctor until Tuesday. The first few days of the flu were pretty rough and I spent about 21 hrs/day sleeping and felt like I was knocking on deaths door. The pneumonia isn’t quite as bad, mostly I’m just tired and constantly coughing and wheezing. It took every ounce of energy I had to go outside to feed/water the animals! For the first time ever I thought… “WTF am I doing?” On the plus side, I was able to sit in bed and weave a potato basket from a kit I bought in October! And as it turns out, I’m not to bad at weaving baskets… possibly another income opportunity this spring? We have tons of dogwood around the property and I think I could make some kick ass baskets out of it. I also had time to look at the community education catalog and picked out a few classes to sign up for: Trapping-basic techniques (not that I want to start trapping- I’m not a big fan, but I think it’s a good skill to know just in case!), basswood inner bark weaving (for making mats and other useful items), and archery (so I can hunt deer next fall). There are a few others that seem interesting, but I have a lot on my plate already! I’m also curious to see how these classes run because I’ve toyed with the idea of holding some educational seminars once the tipi is up and functioning… why not share with others all the cool things I’ve learned?
The week before I got sick I was able to get my new log bed frame finished. I sanded all the pieces and put 3 coats of polyurethane on it. It looks amazing! I will post pictures when I get a new camera (my camera is not working and I’m a bit pissed about that). I also purchased a new much-needed bed. I spared no expense and got a Tempur-Pedic cloud support mattress… my back is very thankful and I haven’t slept this good in YEARS! I also started working on a cedar rocking chair but haven’t been able to finish it because I’ve been too sick.
The weekend of the 14th will be pretty exciting as I have a friend from the Cities coming for a visit! It will be my first visitor since I moved up here. This person also shares a lot of the same interests as me and I’m excited for the opportunity to share all that I’ve been working on with someone who “understands” what this is about.
Well that’s all for now. I just wanted to let you know that I’m still alive and kicking… sort of. I will get a camera and get some pics up once we are well enough to venture back out in public. Thanks for reading!