February Update

I’m kind of enjoying the winter doldrums. Rather than continuing to try to catch up with what didn’t happen last fall, we’re getting ready for Spring.

We never did get the sheep breeding groups set up. What with Lisa getting injured, the minions moving on (and checking out as it were, weeks before that) and time spent on an abortive attempt to acquire some additional livestock, it just didn’t happen. Now she’s having the shoulder surgery that was scheduled for November. It’s a painful waste of hay, but skipping the year seems the least bad choice. We will get a lamb or two, because Miguel did get over the fence at one point.

We are very low on firewood, but again, I’d prefer to hoard what we have rather than very inconveniently try to scrounge more. I prefer to look at the half full glass of not yet turning on the propane heater. We have some junk firewood set aside for sugaring, With no sugar house, if we can reach the evaporator and the brick pile, I can cut up sawmill slab.

Lisa is starting onions and shallots from seed this year. That needs to be done in the next couple of weeks, a month earlier than tomatoes or peppers, so needing to heat the basement may change my outlook on firewood. As long as we’re starting this early, she’s going to try seeds rather than plugs for the window boxes this year. Fortunately the seeds are relatively cheap, and if either experiment fails, we will have time to order onion plants or flower plugs.

Speaking of onions, I’m not sure I’ve mentioned that after buying plants last year, I’ll never go back to sets. They were far less expensive, and did better than sets at actually forming bulbs. The downside is that they are impossible to buy locally and even most mail order seedsmen don’t carry them. We were happy with the ones we got from Millers.

The stuff lined up after starting seeds is:

1. Sugaring. This depends on getting to the evaporator and firebrick. If we can do that, I can reach and cut enough wood. If I can’t reach the firebrick, a years’ supply of syrup is cheaper than a new set of firebrick that will never be used again.

2. Cutting timbers for raised beds for the garden. We have logs stacked but the sawmill is in a seasonal swamp.

3. Running fence. Unfortunately we can’t afford a mile of woven wire. That means high tensile electric, which in turn means that we’re not even trying to stop piglets or lambs under a month old. Any wire low enough for them is going to short out, disabling the fence. I guess that’s another upside to not lambing this year. Piglets are smart enough to get back to mommy. Lambs will forget how they got out.

I think that will keep us busy between snow melt and May first. Go global warming!

Segueing again, it got to -18F last week. There are “wine grapes” from Minnesota that are rated for -30. I’ve seen honest statements that their wines don’t actually suck. The hardiest grapes that actually seem to produce good wine are only rated for -15. Zinfandel under plastic, here we come.

The bees were flying yesterday, and all three hives are still alive. Unfortunately a lot of hives die in March. If they make it to April they can usually live off Red Maple. We didn’t order any more bees this year. There was too much else going on. There are two new bee supply dealers in New Hampshire this year, plus the one we got the packages from last year. I may put out feelers for spares if we don’t feel too overwhelmed. As with the lambs, I’ll be ok with getting my act together to order a couple of Champlain Valley nucs in 2010.

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