Chickens and Ducks

So it has been a while since I posted here…  Work was extremely busy most of the spring and summer, leaving little free time.  What time I did have I spent trying to keep up with the garden.  I even added a dozen new chicks to my flock this spring.  Eventually this summer I got burned out, though.  I decided to take a break, selling all of the chickens.  I was going to wait until spring and get some chicks and ducklings, but a local family in need led me to getting some adult birds sooner.
A week or two ago a local woman posted on Facebook that she had some chickens, ducks, and coops available.  She had lost her son in the beginning of November.  They were taking care of two young grandsons and the animals on their own.  I offered up some help but didn’t hear back until this weekend.  She offered all of the remaining birds, which I accepted.  My coop is now home to 12 chickens and 16 ducks.  I still need to figure out what breeds of each I have.  She told me some while we were putting them in the crates but in the confusion I forgot most of them.


Some of the new chickens


I am just excited to have a fresh start with some birds that are already laying.  A couple roosters may have to go, something to figure out another day.  With the pond I’m sure that the ducks will love their new home.  The new coop project I started last summer will be finished up as soon as there is time so the ducks can have better accommodations than the old coop, which tends to flood in the spring and has rotting wood siding.  I’m considering a chicken tractor so that I can control where the chickens are allowed and put them to work on the weeds in the garden.



Chickens and ducks

Better pictures will come when there is more light.  Hopefully there will be more posts too.  I’m hoping for a good year on The Rural Side, which will start fairly soon with tapping maple trees for syrup.


First Bottle!!!

Bottled my first jar of Walnut Syrup this evening.  It is a beautiful light amber color.  It is a thick syrup, maybe over cooked, but I’m not really sure.  The taste is…  I don’t know.  It’s different than maple syrup.  It’s good.  It’s sweet.  Not real strong.  I put it in one of the 8 ounce bottles I just bought specifically for syrup this year.  I don’t know if you can see it in the picture but it is thick of enough that it holds bubbles in suspension.

Walnut Syrup

Walnut Syrup

The walnut sap came from a woods at a place I will call “Camp”.  It is where I tapped the sycamore trees and some maples too.  A friend of mine works at the camp and she was interested tapping trees herself this year.  So I helped her out identifying trees and going through the process so she could make her own syrup and in return I was able to tap some trees on the camp’s property.  I have collected about 2.5 gallons of walnut sap, which became the 8 ounce of syrup and a little over a gallon of maple sap.

I’m waiting to bottle maple syrup until I have a good amount.  I bought a filter this year to help me get the maple sands out easier and make a clearer syrup.  But the filter absorbs some of the syrup.  Right now I could probably get 3-4 eight ounce bottles of finished syrup but I will probably lose a half bottle in the filter material.  If I wait until I can do 10 bottles, I still only lose a half bottle worth.  However, it could be a while before I get enough sap for 10 bottles of syrup because the weather doesn’t look very good for sap to run this coming week…

Maple Sugaring

It is that time of year again.  Time for making maple syrup.  It feels good to be able to make something while the gardens are still dormant.  This year I have stepped up my syrup production a notch, adding about 20 more taps over what I had last year.  I’m also experimenting with tapping sycamore and walnut trees.  Boiling being the most time intensive aspect of making syrup I also built an evaporator out of cinder blocks that were lying around and found several broiler pans on clearance to use as pans.  In theory you should be able to evaporate one gallon of water per square foot of pan area per hour.  I’m not sure if it works quite that well, might need some tweaking yet.  On days when I am busy and don’t have time to tend the fire I will still use the propane burner.

Syrup Evaporator

Syrup Evaporator

Last year I made a total of (8) 8 ounce jars that I sold and about 12 ounces for myself.  This year I am hoping to at least double that.  I’m also buying containers specifically for syrup instead of using mason jars.  While not necessary they cost about the same price and I like the look of the bottles.  I just ordered them along with a filter so hopefully they get here quick.

So far this year, I have collected about 20-25 gallons of sap, with most of it coming this weekend when the temps hit 50 degrees.  Tomorrow I should be getting it down to about finished syrup, which I will store in the fridge or freezer until I get the filter and bottles.  Hopefully we will have fresh syrup for our pancakes and waffles soon!

Finished Sugaring

I am officially done making maple syrup for this year.  I was away again this past weekend and when I came home on Sunday I had almost no sap in any of my buckets.  And when I looked at the trees they have buds opening already.  Not much sap has come out of the trees since we had a 75 degree day a couple weeks, where the nighttime temperature stayed at about 50.  I questioned whether it was something I did wrong or if the sap run really is that fickle- turns out it really is the nature of the sap run.  So my total for the year is 68 ounces of syrup, which I saved one jar for myself and the rest was sold.

A Relaxing Weekend

I’ve been trying to post more on here, mostly because it easier to write down what has been going on everyday rather then trying to remember all the details a week later, but again it has been a week since my last post.  This past week on the homestead has mostly been spent doing maple syrup.  I ended up with 7-8oz jars of syrup from my last batch.  I had an issue with maple sand in the jars after they cooled, though.  Maple sand is minerals in the sap that precipitate out after boiling and cooling.  Filtering is supposed to remove most of it, however after I canned it, all the jars sealed, and it cooled, about 1-2 ounces on the bottom ended up being maple sand.  The sand is edible, gritty, and not supposed to taste very good (I haven’t actually tried eating it), plus I was planning on selling most of the jars (which I have sold out of already).  So I unsealed all the jars, poured them out leaving most of the sands behind, reheated the syrup, re-sanitized the jars, boiled new lids, re-canned the syrup, leaving me with the seven jars from the original eight I had canned the night before.

Which brings me to the title of this post, a relaxing weekend, which was spent back home at my parents house.  Even though my home is now here, HOME will always be back in Glandorf.  It is where I spent the first 18 years of my life before going off to college, where most of my family lives, where the friends I grew up with all gather together, the old familiar places I visit- roads I cruised as a teen, woods, ponds, rivers and the creek behind the house where I spent time fishing or just sitting enjoying nature.  Friday night we hung out with friends at the Bombshelter, a bar/restaurant/carry-out where I worked for my first job making pizzas/food, before going to The Well, the other bar in town, where a band was playing.

Saturday Heather and I went to a poultry show, animal swap and flea market.  They had hundreds of chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese there.  Chickens were the most interesting with all of the different breeds, a lot of which I had never seen before.  Heather really likes d’uccles so we were hoping there would be more there, but they only had a half dozen or so.  At the swap they had a few that had already sold and nobody had a decent price on rabbits so we went home empty handed.  After lunch we went to some antique stores where we picked up a few, mostly small things.  My Grandma Bockrath had her 90th birthday on Friday so there was a party for her Saturday evening with pizza, cake and ice cream.  Saturday night was again spent at the Bombshelter.

Sunday after breakfast with my parents and visiting my other grandma we headed back down here, picked up the dogs from Heather’s Mom, and finally made it back to the homestead late in the afternoon.  A friend from college wanted a jar of syrup asked to meet up for a drink because she and her fiance were interested in hearing more about what I’m doing here.  So I went out, ended up having dinner with them, a beer and some good conversation.

Chuck From the Rural Side

Tuesday Update

The first two days of the work week I continued on working hard around the homestead.  Monday I finally planted my first round of seeds for the garden.  Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, celery, more tomatoes, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli were all planted.  In a week or two I will plant another round of seeds.  Some will be for succession plantings of things we like to eat a lot like broccoli and others will include chard and lettuce.

I also filtered and bottled my first round of maple syrup.  I was so excited when it was finished, I could have drank the whole jar it tastes so good!  I still think I may have over boiled it a bit.  It looks darker in the picture than it actually looks.  Next time I will know what to watch for and not boil it as long.

Maple Syrup

Maple Syrup

And I won’t have to wait long to start making more because I collected about 14 gallons from the five trees tonight.  I wasn’t expecting that much because the weather has been below freezing the past couple days.  So tomorrow I will start boiling it down for a few hours after work each night.  It would be better to do it all at once I think but I don’t have anywhere to store the sap so boiling it a little bit as I go will have to work.

And I promised a picture of the rabbit hutch so here is the (almost) completed hutch and a couple of the rabbits.  I still need to put on the last door and build some hay racks to complete the hutch.  The rabbits are New Zealands, the red one has been named Nutmeg and the black ones don’t have names as of yet.  Heather names them, not me.  I’m terrible with remembering names anyways.  Only one or two chickens can I ever remember the name of.IMG_0335


And I know I had said I would talk about the non-profit that I applied to work at in this post but it will have to wait for tomorrow.  I haven’t heard anything back yet so I’m still hoping to get the job.

Until next time

Chuck From the Rural Side

Birthday Weekend

Saturday was my 27th birthday.  I didn’t do anything around the house most of the weekend, but that was mostly because we got another 5 inches of snow on Friday.  But on Saturday I went and picked up a Singer Treadle Sewing machine that I had saw on Ebay Classifieds for $25 (quite a steal, really- I checked out Craigslist and there were several similar on there for $250+).  Turned out to be made in 1934 and still in very good shape.  The elderly lady I bought it from said that she used it to make all of her daughter’s clothes, but she was moving out of her townhouse and needed to sell a lot of stuff.  After getting that home I went and sold some antiques and pottery that I had purchased at auction a while back to a small store that buys/sells that kind of stuff.

I was buying stuff when I was laid off to eventually sell at the flea market or online, but since going back to work I haven’t been able to go to the auction and continue getting stuff.  I made a small profit on the items I sold but I was hoping they would buy all of the stuff I had so I wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.  It surprised me what items they were interested in (like some chinese made wooden toys) and which they passed by without a second thought (like some prints from a famous artist whose name escapes me at the moment).  So I will have to find someone else who might be interested in the rest.

Sunday we went to the “My Furry Valentine” pet adoption event, which is where Heather had adopted our dog Cooper at last year.  We wanted to go talk to the rescue and tell them how he is doing.  I made sure to tell Heather before we got there that she is NOT allowed to sit on the floor and let any animals curl up in her lap this year, which was the moment last year that I knew we would be going home with a new little plott hound puppy.  He has grown to be an annoyingly needy 55 pound wannabe lap dog, who is jealous if Zoe, the almost 13 year old plott hound mix, or Alexis, the cat, is getting the attention instead of him.  And his favorite toy lately has been his food bowl, which I have to admit is kind of cute when he sits looking like a little beggar, as in the picture below.


After eating some pizza for lunch we went to Home Depot for some more tubing so I can finish tapping the maple trees.  I also picked up a bunch of wood off their bargain cart, which was 70% off.  Mostly I got some 2x4s that are slightly bowed, or on a couple of the 16′ 2x4s the last 2-3′ were bent but the rest was fine.  The plan is to use them along with the free lumber I got a couple weeks ago to frame up the chicken coop and woodshed.  Now I just need to find some cheap/free siding and roofing to finish it all off (let me know if have any sources for those).

Today it is back to the grind and the dreadful hour-each-way commute that I have every day.  I like my job but HATE the commute, so even though it looks like they will hire me on when my 3 month contract is up at the end of the month, I am still looking for something closer to the house.  Look for a post about “What I Want to be When I Grow Up” that is soon to come.

Until later…

Chuck (away)From the Rural Side


A Week in Review

I have neglected writing anything here for a week so I wanted to do a quick post.  Not much has been going on around the homestead lately.  I picked up my first batch of seeds (about half of what I am planning to plant this year).  I am chomping at the bit to start seeds and for it to be spring already!  But Mother Nature has hew own plans so I’m thinking warm thoughts as it is supposed to be getting cold again with Thursday’s high/low expected to be 12/-1.  I didn’t tap the maple trees yet when I saw this forecast.  I still need to get some buckets and hose for when I do tap the trees.  The chickens haven’t seemed to mind the cold and continue to lay eggs regularly.  I went skiing with friends on Saturday.  It had been three years since we had last gone.  I had a couple wipe outs when I was trying to do more than I am really capable of (once going off a jump and the other trying to maneuver in a woods).  No injuries though.  Sunday was a pretty lazy day, sleeping in until 11am, (which anybody that knows me would know I used to never get up BEFORE noon on weekends or during summer break, went to an antique shop I had never been to, followed by watching football.  We did move about 10 wheel barrows full of firewood over to the side of the house so that it is more accessible, but that was the most productive thing we did all weekend…

I’m putting the finishing touches on my next Homestead Needs post so it shouldn’t be a week before I post again.

See ya later

Maple Sugaring

Over the weekend I received my package of spouts for tapping my maple trees to make syrup.  I ordered them online from Bascom Maple Farms, a company out of New Hampshire, though you can find them from plenty of suppliers online.  I decided on IPL Health Spouts because you can hook tubing up to it and run it into a bucket on the ground.  I have several maple trees that are big enough I can put more than one tap in them so my plan is to run tubing from each spout into one bucket.  I’m hoping that during the height of the sugar run that 2-3 spouts running into a five gallon bucket won’t overflow.  In another week or so I will tap the trees and I will be collecting sap for 4-6 weeks, until the leaf buds start to open.  Below is a picture of spout I ordered.  If this works well I will probably by some stainless steel spouts for future use, which will last longer than these spouts probably will.

IPL Health Spout

IPL Health Spout

I’ve never done this before so I am excited to try it.   In another week or so I will tap the trees and I will be collecting sap for 4-6 weeks, until the leaf buds start to open.