Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Frost Heaves,Snow,and Mud Season...It's Spring in NH

This time of year,it's not just early spring in NH. It's also what natives call "Mud Season." We get nice days above freezing,or some days with rain,and all the areas that are not paved look like our driveway. Full of ruts and puddles. It makes for great fun in trying to keep floors clean.I think we are going to get our driveway and walkway sealed this year. I have had it with the mud!!!!!

                                Our poor driveway!
The other thing that this time of year is noted for is the presence of these signs all over the place:

Standard sign this time of year
Until I woman from California asked me  exactly what a frost heave was and why there were signs about them everywhere I thought everyone knew what they were. Being from California,why would she?

In simple terms,frost heaves are when the frozen ground under the roads swell up,making bumps,dips,potholes,and uneven roads. Many a muffler have been ripped off a car when they hit a nasty frost heave too fast. Bottoms of cars have been scraped from hitting a dip too fast.  In some areas there are big cracks down the center of the lane,with one side of the crack higher than the other,so the road is a bit lopsided. The local newspaper has a yearly poetry contest about the worst section of road in the area.Once the temps stop going below freezing,the frost heaves go away and the road for the most part becomes OK again. There are some areas that need to fixed by the City/Town Road Dept.

My blogging buddy Sue from Living The Good Life asked me if we still had snow,and I replied that we did. In fact, we might get hit a with snowstorm on Friday. We tend to still have snow here into April,and a late April/early May snowstorm is not unusual. That's why our growing season is so short. Rule of thumb is no planting outside until at least May 20,and Memorial Day (May 30)is generally the date that gardeners wait for.

I have posted some photos of what our yard looked like as of yesterday to give you an idea of how much snow is left:

Runt and his harem can't wait for the snow to go

My garden was in this spot last year. You can still see the stakes for the cuke trellis!

The pathways are slowly getting bigger,which is encouraging,but as you can see, we still have quite a bit of snow left. Today is going to be in the upper 40's,so we will lose some more snow ( causing more mud!),but if we get hit with that storm,we will get it all back. I am keeping my fingers crossed that we very little,if nothing,from the front that's headed towards us.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sounds of Spring

This morning I woke up early. I laid there for a minute with my eyes closed,and I heard it.


Not just the blue jays that have been enjoying the cat food we leave out for Molly The Bruce.Other birds! Spring birds!!!

It was so nice to hear something besides the squawking blue jays and crows. Such a nice,lovely melody. I am not proficient at bird song,so I couldn't tell you what kind of birds they were,but I do know what they weren't.

In the past few days I have seen robins,white breasted nuthatches,chickadees,pileated woodpeckers,tufted titmouse,and juncos. Rick says he saw a cardinal.

I love the sound of birds singing this time of year.It conjures up images of  warm days,light breezes,the smell of lavender,and green grass. It brings me to days when I can go outside,sit in silence,and rejuvenate my soul with nature.

Spring is here. I can hear it!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Seed Starting Begins

Today I started some of our seeds. I started 8 green peppers,3 thyme,4 marjoram,2 rosemary,and 6 oregano seeds. This year I tried peat pellets instead of soil.
Freshly unwrapped tray with seed packets
I have never tried peat pellets. I took out the ones I was not going to need now. I poured 1/3 cup of warm water per pellet according to the directions.It came out to about 5 cups of water. Once the pots absorbed the water,they grew to about 1-1/2 inches big and the pellets turned darker brown.Peat pellets are thirsty little suckers,but I did have some water left over,so I poured out the excess. I then carefully peeled the top of the netting back,fluffed up the peat a bit,and smoothed it out. I then planted my seeds. 2-3 seeds is recommended,so they can be thinned out to the best plant,but I didn't do that in all the pellets. Just in some of the  herbs.I placed the plastic cover on and brought the tray with the tiny seeds down to the basement.

Peat pellets ready for action!
Right now our set up consists of one basic fluorescent light one ,heating pad (bought at Rite Aid last year) and one timer.( I only have the light on so I could take the photo).Once the plants start sprouting I will have the light on a timer for 14  hours a day. Last year I did 12 hours a day. I think with the extra couple hours of light they will grow better. I know I will not remove the peppers from the heat like I did last year once they start to sprout! Peppers like it warm. We should start to see sprouts within a couple of weeks for the peppers and the herbs. My next seed planting date is April 8. I will be starting broccoli and tomatoes.
Our set up.The first tray looks so lonely!
I have a chart saying what plant is where in the tray,as well as one that has the plant dates,how many seeds I planted, planned sprout dates,actual sprout date,and when they need to go out to be hardened off. I also have started a seed diary so I can refer to it,like I did from last year.

What seeds have you started? What did you learn from previous experience?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

New Technology

Well,the technology is new to us! Yesterday we had high speed Internet installed. I resisted for a very long time,because I did not want to spend more money. However,after having dial up take up to half and hour to download photos to the blog,and trying to download ITunes for 6 hours with no success,I had it. I have spent lots of time,mostly unnecessary time,on this computer. I had to free myself and my family!

What a difference! Photos just take a mere few seconds.ITunes downloaded in minutes.

The Little Yellow Farm has come into the 21st century!

Today we are having light snow and it's chilly. Rick is not feeling well,and Brother B is manning the sap boiling production. We did not do any boiling yesterday.We were too involved in changing emails,transferring favorites over,and watching UTube videos! I forgot to mention that we also now have digital and HD channels on our TV,so we were figuring out all the new channels,how On Demand works,etc. ( What a hoot to see an episode of "Match Game '75"!!!!)

Brother B just came in and reported that he gathered 22 gallons of syrup.So we have now gathered 55 gallons in all. Since we didnt' boil yesterday,we still have 15 gallons to boil down before we get to the 22 gallons! I feel bad for Brother B,because he has to stay outside (mostly) to keep an eye on the burner and the sap. Bless his sap boiling heart!!

Tomorrow I start my herb and Green Pepper seeds. I will post some photos of the set up. Now I am off to start my housework.

Have a lovely day!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy First Day of Spring!!!!

It's finally here...the first day of Spring!!! Today is a lovely day. The sky is bright blue,there is barely any breeze,and on our screen porch,in the shade,it is currently 40 degrees. We have lost more snow,but we still have quite a bit to go. This time of year is known as "Mud Season." Our driveway and walkway are a mess,full of puddles,ruts,and running water as the snow melts. Rick made trenches to help guide the water as best as he could. I told Rick we need to think about getting the driveway and walkway sealed. It's a futile task to try and keep our floor clean. Mud gets tracked in each time. My poor floors!!!

Friday was gorgeous.It hit 66 degrees here,with bright sun. I went outside,closed my eyes,and just breathed in the smells of wet earth, and fresh air. I could feel the warm sun soaking into my bones. It was heaven.

Here is our first batch of maple syrup. We wound up with approx a pint-we had boiled 6-7 gallons. We gathered about 14-15 gallons of sap on Friday.

Yesterday we finished boiling off our Friday sap.We boiled down about 8 gallons of sap and got a 1 1/4 quarts. So now we have about 2 quarts of syrup.
Yesterday morning Rick and Zach gathered more sap. We didn't get as much as on Friday. We only wound up with 4 1/2 gallons of sap. Though the temperatures were in the 40's,it took a while to get there. We had snow for the good part of the morning,and we had a wind blowing all day,which lowered the outside temperatures.This is the nature of the beast with sap gathering.

Friday was such a beautiful day that while Brother B manned the boiling down process, Rick and Zach did a good thorough job of cleaning the chicken coop and turkey cage. The chicken coop was scraped down and nice,fresh shavings and straw were put in. Runt and his harem were quite happy! They have been enjoying this nice weather,too,and the extra sunlight by giving us about 6-8 eggs a day.

Friday and Saturday folks stopped on their way by to see how the sap boiling was going.They would stop,hang around the boiling sap,and chat. We gave them each a shot of syrup to see how they liked it. We thought it was our best batch ever-and they all agreed that it was delicious!!! It was great to see folks so interested in what we are doing. We had two people want to buy some,so far.

Today there is not a lot in the buckets,so we will gather tomorrow. We had another cold start to the day,but the afternoon looks promising. We still have Saturday's gathering to process. We will do that tomorrow when we gather the rest of the sap. We had to go and get more propane for our tank,so it's too late now to begin boiling. It takes all day to process sap. Patience is a virtue!

Today I am going to make another batch of laundry soap. I am off to do that straight away.

Enjoy your first day of Spring!!!!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sap's A-Running!!!

Sap season here in NH runs from mid February to mid April. The temperatures need to be above 35 degrees during the day and below freezing at night. Our temperatures,until the last week or so,have been for the most part,too cold for the sap to run consistently. Some folks have had their trees tapped for a few weeks now. We just put our buckets out yesterday. We have had a lovely stretch of  daytime temperatures from the upper 30's to the mid 50's.I was looking over my notes from last year,and we tapped our trees on Feb 22. The temps were in the upper 30's to low 40's,but we should have waited until a bit later. We wound up having a real cold spell,which stopped the sap.

There are a couple of ways I am familiar with to gather sap. One is the old tried and true bucket hanging off a tap.Others use plastic tubing from tap to tap so the sap runs down the tubing into a bigger container. As you can see from last year's photo,we use the old bucket method.

Rick,Zach,and I went out and tapped our trees. First, we boiled the taps and the metal buckets to sterilize them (never use soap! The taste gets into the sap).Then we had to check the trees to see where the old holes were,and we made new ones about 6" away from them. Rick showed Zach how to drill the holes:we used a  5/16" drill bit,drilled in at an upwards angle,and only drilled approx 1" in. If you hit dark wood,you've gone too far. The sap should start flowing right out of the hole. Zach did a good job. Hammer in the tap,hook up the bucket,and watch it come out!!Don't forget the covers!(Not shown in the photo) We put out 10 buckets in our yard. Trees need to be 12" in diameter to tap,and 18" in diameter for two buckets. We have three trees with two buckets. It was great to hear the sap dripping into the metal buckets. To me,that is the beginning of Spring! Our neighbors let us tap their trees,so we have 6 up in at their place.This makes a total of 16 buckets,6 more than last year,so we are anxious to see how well we do. The nice thing about gathering sap is you don't need Sugar Maples. You can tap any Maple tree. Sugar Maples are just sweeter,which is why they are the best tree to tap. We only have one Sugar Maple,so we also tapped our Silver Maple and Red Maples. We do have more,but right now they aren't big enough to tap.

The boys have gone up to the neighbors to begin the gathering process. We have white plastic buckets for this purpose. I have made a chart with the Date,air temp,# of buckets gathered,amount of sap gathered,amount boiled,and total amount of syrup. Those who have made syrup before know that it takes a lot of sap to make a just a bit of syrup-40 gallons of sap makes 1 gallon of syrup.

Our boiling system is very simple. We have no sugaring equipment. We use a tall standing propane burner and a large stock pot. We boil it down until it foams,strain it through cheesecloth,and put it in canning jars for storage ( we do not use any canning methods). The one thing folks need to know is that regular maple syrup does not taste like "fake" maple syrup,such as Vermont Maid or Log Cabin. Those have additives which make it thicker and sweeter. Real maple syrup has a light consistency and taste. The more you boil it down,the darker it will get,and the sweeter,but it's still nothing like fake syrup.The boiling process is long.It takes hours,so one has to have patience!

While we were putting out our buckets,folks who were driving by slowed down to see what we were doing. This morning I noticed as I looked out the window that folks were checking out our buckets as they drove by.I know I have always enjoyed seeing yards with sap buckets. I always thought it was neat and it made me want to make my own syrup. Hopefully,our buckets can inspire someone to try it for themselves!!!!!!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Finished Socks

I finally did it! I finished a pair of socks!!!

The yarn I used was a  bit heavier than I was suppose to use,but I wanted to see how they would come out. These are great for scuffing around the house. Like with the mittens I knitted, I used four double ended needles. The pattern was from my book,"Very Easy Circular Knits" by Betty Barnden. While it is getting easier,I do admit I am still having a heck of a time with the SSK stitch. I find it very hard to get the left needle back through the two stitches,so I have had to just K2TOG on occasion.

Last night I started knitting Zach a pair of camouflage socks. Then I will knit Rick and Brother B each a pair.

We have had a lot of rain here in NH last week,and we have had water flowing continually into our basement (thankfully we have a good sub pump). The only problem is,our washing machine drainage and the sub pump drainage are the same pipe,so when the sub pump is doing it's thing,the washing  machine does not drain like it should. Brother B made a trip down to Brother Dale's yesterday to finish up our laundry.

In between the rain,temps in the 40's,and fog,we have lost quite a bit of snow. Our pathways are now grass. I can see the top half of the wagon in the front yard again. We do still have quite a bit of snow,however.We "Sprung Forward" on Saturday night,so now we are an hour ahead. It now doesn't get dark until 7:00 PM. I wish it would just stay like that year round. To be honest, I still don't why we change the time. It goes way back,and I think it has something to do with farming and giving farmers more daylight to work/harvest their crops.It's also suppose to save electricity,I guess.

My thoughts go out to those in Japan. Such terrible doings going on in Nature around the world lately.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Garden Planning

Yesterday Rick and I sat down to try and figure out what we would grow,and how much . It took about an hour. I referenced our square foot gardening graphs from last year to see how many seeds/seedlings we put in last year.This year, I will make new graphs and plan to weigh the whole harvest as it comes in. I did that briefly last year,but started a bit late,and didn't keep up with it.This year, I will.

We were pleased with the taste of what we grew last year,so we are going to keep those,especially since we have plenty of seeds left over :) There are going to be some new veggies,however.

                          Veggies from last year that we are planting and amounts:

Early Sugar Pie Pumpkins-LY 4   TY 6
Jack O'Lantern Pumpkins-LY-4  TY 6
National Pickling Cukes-LY/TY 16
Straight 8 Cukes-LY/TY 16
Honey and Cream Corn-LY 80    TY 160
Sweet Pepper Early Crisp- LY 4   TY 8
Burpee's Tenderpod Bush Green Bean-LY 2    TY 6
Sweet Zuke Zucchini- LY /TY 1
Sunray Summer Squash-LY/TY 1
Sweet Treat Carrots-LY 128 TY 256
RSVPeas- LY/TY 32
Little Caesar ( Romaine) Lettuce-LY/LY 16
Green Ice (Looseleaf) Lettuce-LY/TY 16
Walla Walla Onions- LY/TY 150
Rutgers Tomatoes-LY-6  TY 12

We are not going to try Cantaloupe again this year.We had a plentiful harvest of zucchini and summer squash last year,with just two plants. Our cukes will remain the same amount as well.
                                            New Veggies:
Salad Fresh Spinach-36
Bloomdale Spinach-26
Bonanza Broccoli-6
Chicago Red Beets-32
Dimitri Brussel Sprouts-32
Confetti Blend Radishes- 64
Butternut Winter Squash-1

Rosemary- LY 1 TY 2
Giant Dill- LY 1 TY 2
Sweet Basil- LY 4 TY 3
Greek Oregano- LY 1 TY 3
German Thyme-LY/TY 1
Spearmint; LY /LY 1
Lavender- have 4 Provence from a few years ago;last year My Dear Friend Michelle gave me 2-3 more plants. Will expand this this year,though amounts are unknown right now


Albion Strawberries-LY/TY 25-no new plantings
Blueberries-LY 4 bushes TY 8 bushes
Blackberries- LY 1-TY 4
Raspberries- LY 1 TY 4
Concord Grapes- sticking with one
Jonathan Apple Tree- adding 1 or 2 TY

I am still debating on getting more herbs,and perhaps making a dye garden. I must visit the alpaca farm down the street to see if she sells alpaca yarn and if it's dyed or natural.

Now I need to get get more fluorescent lights,a couple of tables,and starter cells/mix. Peppers and tomatoes need to be started by the 26th.

How is your garden planning coming along? Anything new?

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Yesterday was an exciting day. Zach was a finalist in the Rochester Regional Spelling Bee.(There are several regionals throughout the state,and winners go on to the State Bee).He did well,making it to the second round and being in the top 12 out of 21 contestants. He was a bit upset,as the judges told the group that they would use some words that were not on the study list,but only towards the end.They used those words from the get go. Rick and I noticed it right away,since we have been going over the words with him for weeks. At any rate,he did a great job and we are very very proud of him!!!

This coming week is garden planning. I made a preliminary assessment of what seeds we have,and what we need to get. There are  a few new things we want to grow,broccoli being one. For the most part,we have plenty of seeds left over because our garden was on the smaller side. This year,we want to have enough to do some serious canning,so our garden is going to be close to,if not,doubled. We also need to rotate our crops,so we will have to figure what will go where. I am very excited to get this going.

We have lost quite a bit of snow this weekend.It has been in the 40's-balmy temperatures for us this time of year! It rained overnight,so the snow in the yard has gone down by about half. We still have snowdrifts ( such as outside our bedroom window) that are about 5 ft tall,but we can see grass in the paths that have been snowblowed (is that a word?) Little birds have come back,Brother B informed us yesterday. He saw a bunch out at the bird feeders,so now I need to get some seed to coax them into hanging around. I am anxious to see something else beside Blue Jays.And of course,the standard bearer of Spring,the Robin,is the most welcome sight of all. Once we see Robins,we know that Spring is not far behind.

Some folks have tapped their Maple trees already,but the weather has not been sap running weather. It needs to be above freezing during the day and below freezing at night for a portion of time to get the sap going. A couple of days of good sap weather followed by freezing temps stops any sap flow. From what I have read from the NH Maple Producers Association website,if you tap the trees too early,it's not good.So we have held off. Sap only runs for a few weeks out of the year,and here in NH it's usually not until mid March. Once the buds start coming out on the trees,the sap has turned bitter,so it's time to pull the buckets.

Like most folks around here,I am ready for Spring. I am ready for green grass,bright blue sky,the sound of birds singing,and digging in my garden. I am ready for warm sunshine soaking into my bones. Bring it on!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Happy 13th Birthday Zach!!!!

At 8:03 AM on March 3,1998,Zachary Dalton Shaw was born. His delivery was  pre -scheduled because he was breech. The Dr told me they could do two things: 1) manually turn him,so he would be head first,but there was a good chance that he would turn butt first again because this was my first baby.( and it would be painful for me) or Option 2: schedule a C-section. I chose the C-section. We had to be at the hospital for 5:30 AM. It was a strange and exciting feeling going to sleep on the 2nd knowing that the next day we would have a baby.

This photo was from his first birthday.His favorite gift was a Winnie The Pooh chair. How time flies....sigh.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Here they mitten knitting project. These are not my first attempt. My first  was with black yarn,and I only got halfway through one mitten. It came out awful,so I took a break. I made these with four double ended needles. There were two areas which I had a bit of problem with-attaching the thumbs to the hands and making sure that when I was starting a new needle that I kept the old needle and the new one close together so the stitches in between would not be stretched out,creating a gap. The thumb was an issue because I had to figure out the right stitches to pick up,then knit. Practice makes perfect,and I still have much practicing to do to make perfect!

This mitten pattern was from the book,"Very Easy Circular Knits",by Betty Barnden.It begins from the cuff and works it way down to the fingers. Right now I am working on a pair of  socks (again). After I got aggravated with my first try at mittens I moved on to socks,and wound up with a pair that came out one too big,the other just right but I didn't close up the toe right on that one. So I am attempting it again.

I never thought that I would enjoy knitting as much as I do! It can be very frustrating,but very satisfying as well.