Last Weekend Of Winter

It's the last weekend of winter! Next weekend we'll be beyond the equinox, and the days will be ever-so-slightly longer than the nights. 

We still have snow on the ground, lots of wind, and temperatures in the 30s, but we plowed ahead with our almost-spring garden chores anyway. Here's what we did this weekend:

1. Got the chickens out on the raised bed where to prep the soil for planting greens:


2. Poked around the greenhouse tunnels to harvest the last veggies: parsnips and a couple leeks, plus a few leftover fall cabbages for the chickens (which they were very excited about). We do still have some spinach, mache and kale left as well, but not much.

3. Improved the maple sugaring set-up by building a bigger firebox:


Kirk used leftover bricks we had lying around to make a floor (so as not to ruin the bricks on our patio),   then got nine cinderblocks to make the three walls of the firebox (solid side toward the fire). He also picked up some steel angle irons to make a grate to hold the pans of sap. The advantage here is that we can just add wood through the open side of the firebox, instead of having to remove the pans and grate as we did last weekend when using the fire bowl

4. Boiled down about 30 gallons of sap. That took two days, and the last stock pot on the stove we had to turn off to finish tomorrow--around 9:00 this evening we ran out of gas (figuratively, although we are also just about out of firewood--it takes a LOT). So far we've got 6 pints of syrup and counting on this weekend. That's also feels like a lot.

5. Pruned the apple and apricot trees in the orchard. We ordinarily do this in mid-February, but there was just no way to even get to those trees until recently, as the several feet of snow pack has melted down. Since it's been cold, everything is still dormant, so it should be ok. We'll tackle the peaches later this spring, when the buds are about to open. 

6. Prepped the cold frame for planting spring greens:


The soil here was workable, although we couldn't get anywhere near the compost, as it has a pile of ice on top and is frozen solid. It's possible that the very center is still warm, but the "doors" of the bins are also frozen in place, so we'll have to be satisfied with a top dressing later in the spring.

7. Sowed the seeds:


It was only in the 30s today, but we went ahead and planted beet greens, broccoli raab, arugula, lettuces (romaine, butterhead, and mesclun), and spinach. Last year we were able to sow these in the cold frame the first weekend of March, but it's been so much colder this year. Hopefully the cold frame will offer enough protection. I watered them in with hot water to try to help with the germination, and to lock in some heat for the evening.   

8. Started seeds indoors. This was our bell peppers, plus a few cayenne and jalapeños to transplant into the garden in May. I also trimmed the onion and leek seedlings and thinned the parsley and lettuces that are growing indoors. 

9. Cooked dinner over the fire:


The kids enjoyed cooking hot dogs on the fire, and this was a good way to get some extra use out of our runaway firewood usage this weekend. 

As you can see, we're all doing an excellent job of ignoring the fact that it is still winter by diving headlong into all kinds of spring activities. We're just doing it all with hats, gloves, and long johns.

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