Category Archives: Miscellaneous

A New Planting

Where has the summer gone?! Here it is, late October, and I have failed to give any updates on what has gone on around the farm this summer.  Taking the time to document our projects through blog posts is important to me because in addition to keeping my blog current, we often turn to these posts at some later time to help refresh our memory on the timing of a project, the outcome, the method or tools we used, etc.  As much as we think we will remember things, we simply do not.  At least not the details.  This post is my first effort at “catching up” for 2014.

After about a decade planted in alfalfa, the field around our house had become mostly grass and weeds, so last year we had our neighbor work it up for a new crop. Due to the irregular shape of the field, he decided it would be easiest to plant and harvest a soybean crop.  The wet spring delayed his planting and the ensuing lack of any significant precipitation in the remaining summer months made for a pathetic yield.  Besides the poor harvest, the field looked like thunder most of the summer with spindly looking soybean plants and abundant weeds.  We decided it was best to return the field to hay this year for both aesthetics and utility.

Like last year, this past spring was soggy and we were unable to get into the field early in the season.  After consulting various sources, we determined it was best to plant the hay later in the summer anyhow.  In August, Jesse finally borrowed the neighbor’s tractor and disk harrow and spent an afternoon working the field to knock down the weeds and break up the sod that had developed in the low spots.  I can assure you that although this may look like “work” to many, getting out from behind the desk at his day job and behind the tractor wheel was pure pleasure for this farm boy.

DSC_0056

The weeds and grass browned up after a few days and then it was time to try and smooth out the field.  Jesse used our small tractor and an old abandoned disk the neighbor had sitting in his woods.  It was small, but it fit on the tractor perfectly and got the job done.

DSC_0065

We decided to use a hay and pasture mix that contained alfalfa, clover and timothy grass.

IMG_2611Jesse used a brillion seeder to plant the crop.

DSC_0207We lucked out with the weather and enjoyed some nice shots of rain after the field was seeded, which helped it sprout quite nicely.

IMG_2709

The overlapping seeded rows are visible in this picture.IMG_2715

This photo from yesterday shows how robust the plants are looking now.

IMG_3063

We are keeping our fingers crossed that the new planting fares well through winter and comes back strong in the spring.  If all goes well, our bees will be have a great summer surrounded by a lovely crop of flowering alfalfa and clover.

Lynell

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily life, Miscellaneous

A Winter Blast

Our progress towards spring suffered a setback last night, as we awoke to around 8-9 inches of fresh snow.  School was canceled and we once again face the task of clearing and piling snow. Ugh! snow1 As discouraging as it is to see, with temperatures forecasted to reach into the 50’s and 60’s next week, we know this scene is only temporary.snow2 I decided to step out on to the porch this afternoon to capture a few pictures of the white stuff.  One of the things I enjoy about blogging, and one of the primary reasons I do it, is that it allows me to document events like this from year to year.  I always find it interesting to look back at pictures from earlier years to see evidence of late snowfalls and later proof that spring and summer eventually do arrive.  Last year, we received a big snow fall on April 18th.  A week later I posted and shared pictures of the dramatic changes that can occur in Minnesota during the spring time over a short period.  (See the post here).

snow4

Below is a shot from our porch towards the river.  Grudgingly, I must admit that it is a pretty sight today.

snow3Nonetheless, I am hoping that it looks very different by next week.  I am SO ready for winter to move along so that I can get outside and into my gardens.  Spring cannot come soon enough!

I hope spring has arrived in your neck of the woods!

Lynell

 

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Miscellaneous, Outbuildings

Woodland Carpet

Spring time brings with it a beautiful display of woodland flowers in the woods surrounding our house.  Wildflowers carpet the ground and because the mosquitos haven not yet hatched, it is still enjoyable to stroll through the woods and take in the views.
DSC_0356

I wrote a post a few years back in which I identified some of the flowers growing in the woods.(Woodland Wildflowers)  I could not resist photographing them again though. They are just too inviting.

Sanguinaria canadensis, or Bloodroot.
DSC_0332

Claytonia virginica, or Virginia Spring Beauty.DSC_0333

At the time I took the photos in my earlier post, the Trilliums had not yet bloomed, so I did a later post featuring them. (Trillium’s Turn).

For some reason, this year all the flowers seem to be blooming at the same time.  Maybe the late spring?

Trillium grandiflorum, or Trillium (Large-flowered Trillium).

DSC_0344

I came across one flower that I did not photograph or identify in my earlier post.  I headed over to the Minnesota Wildflower website again to help with identification.

Uvularia grandiflora, or Large-flowered Bellwort.

DSC_0350

I spent some time photographing this flower when I noticed this big bumble-bee enjoying it.  I found it very relaxing to sit quietly among the flowers in the woods watching the slow and methodical work of the bumble-bee.DSC_0348

And finally…a stroll in the woods with my camera is always peaceful, but rarely solitary.  Eventually the animals always decide to check on me and see what I am doing.

DSC_0359I don’t mind though.  After all, keeping us company is what pets are for, right?

Lynell

Leave a comment

Filed under Animals, Daily life, Flower, Miscellaneous

Spring? Finally.

Last Friday we received about a foot of heavy wet snow.  It was depressing and everyone was complaining and crabby, including me.  It felt like spring would never arrive.  April has been a strange and very snowy month.spring1

One week later and it looks like this…

spring11

Yes, I think spring has finally arrived.  The last two days we have enjoyed temperatures in the low 70’s.  It is not expected to last all week, but it sure has helped to melt the snow and get spring kicked into gear.

Last weekend, when it was still cold, we hosted a smoking party at our house.  Jesse was going to fire up the smokehouse while the temperatures were still cool with the snow on the ground, so he invited friends to bring over anything they wanted to smoke.  We had a real assortment of good stuff:  almonds, peanuts, cheese, cheese curds, leg of lamb, pork chops, pork roasts, ribs, and chickens.  Once the smokehouse was loaded up, we enjoyed chatting and having some beverages while we waited for the smokehouse to work its cold-smoking magic.

We also started cooking sap to make maple syrup the same day.  The sap ran very late this year due to the crazy spring.  We were not sure if it would run at all, but the trees finally started dripping and actually produced a lot of sap.

Jesse found this stainless steel pan at a restaurant equipment store and it works great on our outdoor stove to cook the sap.  It has a lot of surface area to help with evaporation and to cook the sap down faster.  The sap looks just like water when you first collect it from the tree to start cooking.

spring2

As it cooks longer, it starts to brown up and begins to have a sweet caramel-like aroma.  We cooked down enough sap last weekend to make one gallon of syrup.

spring3

This past Thursday evening Jesse fired up the stove once again and cooked down the rest of the sap overnight.  In total, we ended up with two gallons of syrup.  Yum!
spring13

Yes, spring is here.  The birds have been singing, the geese are honking, and the frogs have awoken and are singing their lovely spring song.

All varieties of wildlife are on the move. During the day yesterday, I was working at home and as I glanced up from the file I was reading, I noticed these turkeys come walking past the back of the barn and headed towards the river. I grabbed my camera and snapped a few shots.

We joke sometimes about living in a nature preserve.  I guess we have the river to thank for the wide array of wildlife we get to see and/or hear (the owls hooting at night are my favorite) on a daily basis.
spring4

Along with the melting snow comes spring flooding.  The water has risen rapidly in the last two days and the river is overflowing.
DSC_0101

We spent yesterday evening and today outside enjoying the warm temperatures by starting our spring cleanup.  I cut down any perennials that stood through the winter and raked all the leaves out of the gardens.

spring14

Tired of the chickens coming up by the house and digging in the dirt of my perennial garden, we decided to lock them in the vegetable garden fence today to enjoy the sunshine.  Ironically, we built this very fence in part, to keep the chickens out of the vegetable garden.  They loved kicking around the bit of straw, pecking at the grass, and digging in the dirt all day.
spring9

Underneath the piles of leaves I discovered some flowers eager to get growing.  These tulips had obviously decided that spring was here, despite the foot of snow we received just a week ago.
spring7

Likewise, the peonies are bursting out of the ground.  I love peonies so much.  They remind me of my grandma.

spring8Our old girl was out soaking up the sunshine today too. I love her an awful lot too.

spring6

The beehives are sitting empty across the field awaiting their new residents.  We ordered two nucs of bees that should arrive in about 10 days.  The nucs contain some frames of brood and a queen, so they are already somewhat established.  Since we are starting over again after a year of bee-keeping drama (swarming, robbing, etc.), it will be nice to have the hives get up and running quickly.
spring15

So, after a very long winter, it seems as though spring has arrived.  Finally.

There may likely be a few more bumps along the way, but we are definitely headed in the right direction.

Lynell

6 Comments

Filed under Daily life, Food, Maple Syrup, Miscellaneous

April 18th and Still Waiting…

We are still waiting on spring.  The six plus inches of snow we are receiving today is certainly not a welcome sight. As you will notice from the picture below, we have not gotten around to taking down our Christmas lights yet.  This picture could so easily be from the Christmas season, but sadly, today is the 18th day of April!!
21
These views from the farm might actually be considered pretty if taken during the Christmas season…or maybe even if it were February.

20

But it is not Christmas and it is not February. Did I mention it is the middle of April?!

Snow is not necessarily uncommon at this time of year in Minnesota, but this winter has been very long and we have had very few spring-like days.
22

The good news is that snow does not last long this time of year because the sun’s rays are much too powerful.  So, if the sun does ever come out, we know the snow will melt quickly.  I will cling to that thought..that’s all I can do at the moment to stay positive.

I hope the weather is better in your part of the country, wherever that might be!

From snowy central Minnesota,

Lynell

14 Comments

Filed under Daily life, Miscellaneous, Outbuildings

Waiting on Spring

Spring is slow to arrive this year.  We finally got outside yesterday afternoon to work in the yard a bit and to roast some hot dogs in our fire pit.
spring1

My mini-greenhouses are waiting patiently for some warmer temps to get the seeds going.  I peeked in them and saw that the kale seeds have already sprouted!

spring2

The chickens enjoyed their first day outside free-ranging.

spring3

Our vegetable garden is a sad sight.  Last year we were already in the garden tilling by mid-March.
spring4

The frost has not gone out of the ground yet, so in addition to the remaining snow,  standing water is scattered all over the grounds.
spring5

Everything is brown and drab.

spring7

Wildlife is on the move though.  We noticed hundreds of robins out in our hayfield and in the trees over the weekend. Geese were honking down by the river and a few flew right through the yard headed in that direction.

spring6

We also noticed some strange-looking birds down by the river.  I didn’t have my telephoto lens on the camera, so I snapped a few photos and zoomed in on the images once I uploaded them to the computer.  It took me some time searching through images to identify these crazy looking birds, but I finally did…Hooded Merganser. We have never seen them around here, or at least we have never noticed them before.

hoodedmerganser

The bird identification site had this to say about the Hooded Merganser:

“Hooded” is something of an understatement for this extravagantly crested little duck. Adult males are a sight to behold, with sharp black-and-white patterns set off by chestnut flanks. Females get their own distinctive elegance from their cinnamon crest. Hooded Mergansers are fairly common on small ponds and rivers, where they dive for fish, crayfish, and other food, seizing it in their thin, serrated bills. They nest in tree cavities; the ducklings depart with a bold leap to the forest floor when only one day old.

So, although we are impatiently waiting on spring around here, there are still some interesting things going on…if you take the time to notice them.
Lynell

4 Comments

Filed under Daily life, Miscellaneous

Back to Blogging?

Here I am again, with six months passing and no posts.  Time goes by so fast and life just seems to get in the way of sitting down at the computer to keep our blog updated.  It isn’t because nothing has gone on around here…our summer was just as busy as past ones.  So, since the holiday chaos has passed and the cold temperatures have me trapped indoors, I am feeling inspired to finish some posts about some of our projects around the farm last summer.

The funny thing about blogging is that it is easy to get hung up on putting together the perfect post with great pictures and clever writing.  I have to remind myself that the reason I started this blog was simply to share our experiences and to connect with others who have similar interests, and to create a history of our projects and improvements.  Keeping that in mind, I will just plow forward and try not to worry too much about the details, so bear with me.  🙂

We are well into winter here in Minnesota.  We have had several subzero days in the last week.  Even with the cold temperature and snow on the ground, there are some pretty sights  to behold on the farm.

Have I mentioned how much I love our barn???  No matter the time of year, it is one of the most charming parts of our landscape.

IMG_0629

But anyhow…back to last summer.  We enjoyed three separate home visits by our oldest, the West Point cadet.  He came home during his breaks from his summer military training and it was such a treat to have him around.  As you will see in upcoming posts, we put him to work and he helped us complete some fun projects.

We also had a roller-coaster of a summer with our bees.  After being so thrilled that we had successfully wintered our bees for the first time since starting beekeeping, we were devastated to discover that they had swarmed in May because we waited too long to divide the hives and they became too crowded.  The early spring and warm temperatures moved everything ahead and in our inexperience, we missed the signs that they were preparing to swarm.

All was not lost however, because when bees swarm they leave behind a portion of the worker bees along with new queen cells, one of which eventually becomes the new queen.  We observed the hives over the next few months and it appeared that things were back on track, they had a new queen, and were rebuilding their population.  Of course, the hives were not nearly as strong as they would have been had they not swarmed, but we knew we would still get a honey harvest.

The honey started flowing and the bees had built up a good amount of supers of honey.  Once again, our optimism for our honey harvest was shattered in October when Jesse went out to the hives to check on them and discovered they had been robbed!  Yes, hives can be robbed by feral bees.  All the frames that the bees had worked so hard to fill all summer long were stripped completely clean, as if they had never had a bit of honey in them.  The other unfortunate effect from robbing, is that the honeybees usually die in the process of defending their hive against the invaders.

Needless to say, we lost both hives of bees and only ended up with a very small amount of honey to harvest…another year of learning about all the things that can go wrong beekeeping.  We have just put in our order for two nucs of bees this spring.  We are not giving up; we’re just starting over again.

In the garden, we added two raised beds with blueberry plants, something we have wanted to do for some time.  More on that later…

My perennial garden, particularly my Echinacea (coneflower) plants were hit with yellow asters and I decided to pull every one of them out in trying to rid my garden of the disease.  I was a very sad gardener.

Our vegetable garden was very productive and we enjoyed fresh veggies for months on end.  We decided to forego any preserving this year and to just enjoy the bounty as it ripened.  Now that we are in the depths of winter, I am questioning that decision.  I think we will take the time to do at least a minimal amount this coming season.

Around the first of the year, the seed catalogs started arriving.  I have started pouring over them, marking pages, and making my wish list.  I plan to expand my winter sowing into some annuals and vegetables this spring and am anxious to get started.

DSC_0002Like every other gardening nut out there, I cannot wait to get back out into the gardens and start digging in the dirt.  In the meantime, I will share some of the projects we accomplished last summer.  To be continued…

Lynell

 

4 Comments

Filed under Bees, Daily life, Miscellaneous