While the west coast is still in severe drought conditions we had yet another snow storm here in Maine. Over the course of about 36 hours we got an additional 19.5 inches here at the homestead. Of course that just added to the couple of feet that was still on the ground from previous storms. The front of the barn is now all cleared away so we won't have to use the previously shoveled path any longer.
Well, our winter does not seem to be over. The weather folks are predicting a storm of 6-12 inches of snow for us in the next couple of days. We have had a few days that were above freezing but they are predicting the temperatures to drop again. Depending on how much snow we get this week I will be tapping the maple trees this coming weekend. I really cannot wait too much longer.
I have been planning my new herb garden that I will be putting into my food landscape. I will have many different culinary and medicinal herbs. I am going to plant most of them from seed around the first of April. That is the same time that I start a lot of the plants for my garden. This extra growing time for many heat loving plants like tomatoes and peppers is necessary here in zone 4. We are only guaranteed about a 90 day growing season between last and first frost. Of course there are plants that will stand a light frost and even get better with one.
It is nice to have something to plan with all the snow still on the ground but I am really looking forward to get my hands in the dirt.
Okay, today is March 1st and it was -9 at the homestead when I got up this morning. I'm not sure we had a dozen nights above zero during the month of February. Oh well, planning for Spring must go on. While it is a bit cold to do much outside, and of course all the snow inhibits outdoor activities as well, the next event will be tapping our maple trees for syrup. The best sap running weather is below freezing nights and warm days. We only tap 8-10 trees each year and they are not sugar maples but they still yield enough for our maple syrup needs for the year.
Traditionally we have boiled the sap off on our wood stove in the house. But now that we are tapping more than the six trees we started with years ago it gets to be a pretty big mess to do inside. We purchased a two burner propane camp stove and will begin using that this year. It is necessary to have the two burners since I use a two kettle system to boil the sap. The first has the new sap in it and the second does the final boil down to the consistency and color that we want.
The system we use to boil our sap is pretty simple, not like the dozens of sugar houses that dot the landscape of Maine. Soon we will be celebrating Maple Sugar Sunday here in the state and many of these commercial sugar houses open their doors to the public so we can get a "taste" of how maple syrup is made. This year it will be March 23. If you are in Maine around that time plan on visiting one of the farms listed on the Maine Maple Sunday website.
Now if the weather would just cooperate!!!
I got home from work this evening to see four large boxes sitting on the front porch. Our bee hive that we ordered from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm had arrived from North Carolina. Ironically the boxes were being snowed on. They will have to spend time in the garage until the four feet of snow that is on the ground at the homestead has melted.
My plan is to put the hive in what is our front yard. It is on the south side of the house and I am slowly turning the front yard into a edible landscape. I have already planted raspberries, strawberries, asparagus and blueberries. There are also fruit trees in the front yard. The peaches and apricots have been planted up close to the house because we are in a marginal area for those fruits being in low zone 4.
The bees will be introduced to the hive in June. So we have until then to get their new home ready for their arrival.
Even though there is four feet of snow on the ground here at the homestead we are thinking about spring. The new beehive was ordered yesterday. This is our new adventure this year. We will be setting up one hive and installing a nuc of bees in June. My mother had bees when I was in college but she never harvested any honey from them. She kept them for their pollination of their orchard. We will be using them for pollination but also hope to be able to harvest some honey by their second year. Honey has so many wonderful properties that my husband and I hope to take advantage of. He suffers from seasonal allergies and it is said that eating local honey from the blooms and pollen that cause allergies will help to build up ones resistance to the allergy reaction. Besides, it sure does taste good on biscuits. We will keep you up to date as the project moves forward and hopefully have some pictures. The hive we ordered is beautiful.