Saving the Turtles

100_8563Back in August when a granddaughter was visiting we saw a Painted Turtle laying eggs.  That is the only time I have ever seen that.  I found out what the gestation period was and marked the calendar.  Starting a week before the date I checked 2 times a day.  I continued checking for over a week after.  Never saw a thing.  We had the girls this week end and they asked if the turtles had ever hatched.  I said no; Let’s dig them up and see what happened.  We dug out a big clump of dirt and took it apart carefully.  We found the eggs shells and 7 little turtles about as big around as a nickle.  The mother laid the eggs in heavy clay soil and I figure the turtles could not dig themselves out.  A couple looked like they were still alive.  We put them in the pond and all 7 eventually swam away or crawled up on the bank.  The picture is of a 12 year old thumb and a turtle to give you an idea of size.  Getting to share this with a 12, 10, 8 and 5 year old was pretty special.

Butterflies

I talked about planting milkweed to attract Monarch Butterflies in the Olivia’s Fence post.  This summer I have seen 4 and we saw a pair mating while sitting on the front porch.  I planted the first milkweed about 10 years ago and those are the first Monarchs we have seen.  We have had more butterflies this summer than I can ever remember.  I saw 5 Tiger Swallowtails at one time just last week.  I got a photo of 2 of them.  Hey – how neat is that!!!  Click on the picture and enlarge it!Tiger Double

Gardening

GARDENING

Now that there is time I am going to try to have the gardens I always wanted.  Here you see them being prepped.  Total area is 840 sq. ft.  I tried to get close to the French Intensive method.  That is where the bed are in strips – so you don,t walk on them and create hard pan or packed dirt that the roots have a hard time growing through.  Usually with FE you dig down over a foot to loosen the soil.  I did not do that in that I went about 6 in. deep.  I did mix in leaves to get organic matter in the soil.  So I am planting Kale, Arugula, Spinach, Lettuce – Romaine, Buttercrunch, Asian Greens mixed and a Gourmet Blend, Peas, Beans, three varieties of Cantaloupe, Red Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Eggplant, two varieties of Corn, Squash – Zucchini, Butternut, Acorn and Spaghetti, Cucumbers, Tomatoes – Grape, Cherry, Marglobe, Rutgers and Roma, and Beets.  So I’ll keep you posted on my success.  OK – Time for an update.  It is August 14 and we just had our first cantaloupe.  Amazing taste.  I’ve learned a bunch and next year I will stagger plantings so we can have a continuous supply of lettuce, beans and squashes.  It has surprised me how different the varieties of squash taste.  I attached a picture taken a couple of days ago.  Next year will be even bigger and better.Gardens 2016

 

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Olivia’s Fence

This is a picture of a fence our 9 year old grand daughter and I made.  I planted Milk Weed out by the road in hopes of attracting butterflies.  Olivia was visiting last year on the day a guy from the county was mowing and cut down all the milk weed.  I was upset and Olivia’s response was – We should build a fence.  I said – next year  when you visit.

The fence start out as 12 ft long 9 inch wide boards in the barn.  We got them down.  Cut to 4 ft. lengths – or as Olivia specified – so she could see over them.  Olivia was ear plugged and safety goggled.  We cut the boards to various widths on the table saw – she took off and stacked.  Since the wood was aged Ash we had to drill holes for all the nails.  Olivia pounded the one side while I pounded the other.  We primed and the Olivia picked the colors.  That’s a Sun at the left top.  I helped and Olivia used a Jig Saw to form the top.  Double click on the picture.  The fence has 3 back posts per section with 2 ft rebar drilled 6 in. deep into the posts and then pounded into the ground.  That way we can take it in over the Winter.  This all took an afternoon and most of the next day.  Olivia really stuck with it.  She got exposed to Skil saw, Table Saw, measuring, using a square, drilling, hammering nails, Jig Saw, priming, painting and hearing two Grand Parents getting excited over a job well done.

Maple Syrup 2015

It is Saturday,  March 7th and I was in the woods at first light tapping trees.  2 days ago on Thursday morning it was 3 degrees.  It got up to 40 today and it is supposed to be 50 on Wednesday.  For the sap to run it needs to be above 40 during the day and freeze at night.  If it doesn’t get above 40 or freeze at night the sap stops running.  My concern this year is they are predicting 4-5 days where it gets to 50 and does not freeze.  If that happens and the frost comes out of the ground, the trees will bud and syrup season is over.  I took Friday afternoon off to start tapping but the snow in the woods was over a foot deep in spots and my tractor  (one in  winter chore post) I haul the buckets, pans and other supplies back in could not get through.  We also have a John Deere compact diesel tractor that has 4 wheel drive, a front bucket and a back blade.  I spent the afternoon clearing a 1/4 mile lane through the woods.  I had wanted to hire a kid for the morning but could not get one to help so I had to drill the tap hole – I use a hand brace and bit – pound in the spile and hang the bucket.  We make syrup the old fashioned way as you can see from other posts.  I put out right around 100 taps spread across probably 10 acres of woods this morning.  It is tough carrying buckets, a bucket of spiles, a hammer and a bit and brace.  I’ll be sore tomorrow.  I bought some buckets at an auction this summer and they had covers.  I have not had covers which means when it rains I just dump the buckets.  I used a cover for a pattern and a friend gave me a bunch of scraps of metal roofing from a barn roof.  I was able to make 80 covers.  I did not get them put on today – that would have been just that much more to carry.  I went back after dinner and checked.  The sap has just started to flow.  Hopefully I will collect sap tomorrow.

The sap ran OK Saturday and Sunday then not so good Monday – Wednesday.  It is best not to let sap set so I boiled Thursday.  I had under 120 gallons so I got just under 3 gallons of syrup.  The sap flowed OK again Friday – Sunday and then started flowing like it should Tuesday.  I had around 200 gallons of sap so I boiled today – Thursday 3-19.  Beautiful day, 40s very little wind and I cut down 3 dead Elms and into 6 foot lengths.  That way I could get the wood all the way in my system.  Elm burns really hot so the boiling went quick.  I got around 5 gallons of syrup in just 1 hour more time than last Thursday.

Winter Chore

It has been really cold this year.  We heat with wood so we have been using a lot of wood.  I loaded wood today.  They say that wood heats you several times – when you cut it, when you load it and when you burn it.  It was around 20 and the tractor started right up which made the job easier

First guest of spring

This Luna Moth showed up on the kitchen screen last night.  We generally see a couple of these a year.  The bluebirds are back on the bird house and we made 30 gallons of syrup this spring – most ever.  Life on the farm is good.  Speaking of Bluebirds – I got this picture yesterday.  A lot of people don’t know what an Eastern Bluebird looks like so here is a picture.  Click on the picture to enlarge.

Here’s a double rainbow

We had a shower move through this afternoon.  The sun started shining right after and my wife said “I’ll bet there is a rainbow”.  This was the view out the front door.  The one rainbow was complete and you could just see the start of the second.  If you click on the picture it will enlarge.

Maple Syrup and other stuff

If you look down 2 posts you can see pictures of our Maple Syrup system.  Folks claim it looks like we are making moonshine.  Eh Eh.  I boiled 3-5, 8,9 and 10.  On the 9th one of the blocks holding up the pans broke and I lost 90 gallons of sap and was done for the day, so I have really boiled 3 times.  We have gotten 9 gal 1 qt so far.  It rained Thursday through Sunday.  I do not have covers for the buckets and the temperature stayed warm and the sap was not flowing so I did not hang the buckets.  I rehung on Monday morning.  I went back today and only had about 15 gallons of sap.  The sap is not flowing and  has a greenish cast to it so the syrup from it will be dark and have a strong taste.  If I do not do better tomorrow we will be done for the year.   It was a great day to be back in the woods.  The wild flowers are starting to peak through and I saw a small (14 inch or so) Garter Snake. 

  I spent most of today trimming fruit trees.  I like to keep the trees trimmed so you can pick the fruit without a ladder.  Here you see some of  the trees with all the trimmed branches underneath them.

Another Wood Cutting Mis Adventure

Generally a tree has a definite direction it can be dropped easily.  You can see where there is a big branch or the tree leans in a certain direction.  After 26 years of cutting I have gotten pretty good and working with the way a tree will drop naturally I can usually drop a tree within a 160 degree range.  This enables you to drop a tree and avoid having it get hung up on other trees and lets you drop it where it is easiest to get to the logs.  I have several things I do to try and be safe while dropping tree.  After I make the initial wedge, I start the cut from the opposite side 5-6 inches above the first cut.  This keeps the tree from kicking back across the stump if the hinge breaks as it is falling.  I also make sure I have a clear path away from the tree so as soon as it start to drop I can get away from the area in case any branches get knocked loose up in the trees and come down.  I pick a tree close by that I can get around so it will protect me in case the tree I am cutting does something unexpected.  Over the years I have had trees rotate on the stump and I have had trees that have been hit by lightening split and come apart.  When the tree starts to drop I get out of there.  In 26 years I have cracked ribs and green sticked a couple of bones but the only injury that got medical attention was our son had a chain saw kick back on him and he got 15 stitches.

This spring I have been cutting down Ash trees that are dead because of the emerald ash borer.  The thing about Ash is it grows so straight and tall in the woods.  It makes great firewood because it burns well, splits easy and is easy to cut because it grows so straight.  It is sometimes hard to judge which way an Ash tree would naturally fall because it is so straight up.  Early this spring I made my V cut and cut from the opposite side.  The tree just stood there.  I had a 15 inch tree that was resting on a hinge of wood about 3/4 of an inch thick and 15 inches wide.  I ended up taking a wedge, putting it in my second cut and hitting it I got the tree to drop.  A couple of loads later I was cutting a tree and a wind came through the woods.  It was enough that it settled the tree back on my chain saw as I was making my second cut.  My chain saw was now stuck in the tree.  Since my second chain saw is not running I had to take a hand cross cut saw and cut through the hinge by cutting in the original V cut.  This is dangerous because when the tree starts to go the opposite way from normal the hinge of wood usually snaps and the truck can come off the stump in any direction.  With the second cut being at an angle the tree will come off to one side and if  you are there you are toast.  The saw was stuck in the tree and would not come loose until the tree was on the way down so standing there and pulling the saw out is not an option.  The tree did come off to one side and came down on my chain saw.  The parts to get it fixed only cost $15 but I lost several days of cutting.  After this I started putting a wedge in the second cut as soon as I could to make sure my saw did not get caught.  Several weeks ago I had made both cuts on a tree and had been pounding the wedge in when I realized that I had ended up making the second cut much further into the tree than normal and it had not started to fall.  I took the chain saw out of the tree and gave the wedge another hit.  The hinge of wood that had been formed suddenly split and the tree slipped off the stump.  I remember saying “OH NO”.  There I am with a 14 inch diameter tree that is 50+ feet tall standing straight up in the air a couple of feet from me and I have no idea which way it will fall.  My reaction – I took off.  It is amazing how fast you can move when you are scared.  I ducked around my safety tree and was running through the woods as fast as I could go.  When I heard the tree start to fall I glanced back and it was falling where I had originally intended.  I said a prayer of thanks.  That was the first time I have had that happen in 26 years.  From now on I will make sure I leave an adequate hinge.

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