Thawing out

Clearly it’s been a minute since I updated anything on here, and as usual, it takes some outdoor work to get me to post anything. It is what it is!

January got really cold. We actually had snow on the ground for over a week because the temperatures didn’t go above freezing for at least that long. It was kind of nice having some cold days, after November and December were unseasonably warm, but timing could have been better. The kids and I were all off our school routines for a few weeks to the point where Meg and Calvin haven’t had school on a Monday yet in 2024. Some of that was for planned reasons (MLK, teacher PD day…), but others were treacherous weather conditions. Last week, I finally got 5 full days of class in and it was rather exhausting, though I’m happy to get things more back to normal.

To that end, it’s sap collecting season! Again, the weather has been a bit hit-or-miss for sap, as it hasn’t been cold at night and warm during the day: instead, it’s either just cold, or just warm, and we haven’t really gotten the “swings” we need to for most efficient sap flow. Brooke tapped the trees over a week ago and we had maybe 15 gallons collected. The weather was pretty nice (high 56 F) yesterday, so it was the ideal time to get outside after the extended freezing period and keep a fire going for most of the day. Given all the precipitation we’ve had in January, we weren’t entirely sure how the firewood at our neighbor’s house would do, as it’s been left uncovered, but we got it going.

Brooke also got into the bees, as we’ve noticed them being active in the warmer weather. As we have come to expect each Spring, unfortunately, our bees from last Summer didn’t make it. There was a lot of honey in there, so we know they didn’t starve: we think their numbers just weren’t high enough to survive the extreme cold we had. Brooke treated them and fed them back in November, so this is the most effort she’s put into helping them through the Winter, yet it wasn’t meant to be. I think she’ll order packages from a different vendor this year and put the honey back in that she collected from the hives yesterday, hopefully helping out the new tenants when they move in around April or May.

In other relatively big news, we’re down a few fruit trees. We planted them in September 2016 and, in some ways, they were successful. We had a few good years of peaches, though last year, they never seemed to ripen (which is a shame because the Japanese beetle issue was lessened last year, so we may have had a lot of peaches….but alas…). The dwarf pear trees, however, never really did much. Sure, they “grew pears,” but they would rot on the branches and never fall. We would collect a few, but they didn’t have much flavor and we’d just add them to cider.

In the end, the peach tree, especially, was more of a hassle than it was worth. It was big and hard to mow around, and peaches that would fall would ferment and attract bugs (and wouldn’t smell great). The pears also weren’t really producing, and if anything, the pears and peaches were encroaching on the cherry and apple trees, and we do get something off of those.

So yes, we killed some trees. The wood should be good for Oktoberfest in the Fall, so it’ll sit, drying, until we’re ready to use it. We haven’t decided if we’ll plant anything else out there just yet, but knowing Brooke, she always has ideas about yet another garden plot. I know she’s been eyeing fresh cut flowers, especially out near the bees, so maybe that’ll be next on the list.

It was good to get outside, though! We still have a few weeks of Winter left, but Punxutawney Phil has given us hope.