Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Taste of Spring

The new evaporator pan receives it's inaugural pour of sap
Finally a warm day - Saturday, March 23rd to be exact.  We hit somewhere between 55 and 60 degrees for a high and the sap (a favorite of 8 year olds - see above) finally started to flow as the snow and ice were melting.  It has been a LONG winter and it was great to be outside in the warm sun even if it was a bit muddy in places and very short lived (it was 10 degrees the next night!).

The chickens are laying at a brisk pace now - just shy of one egg a day.  We are currently selling 6 - 8 dozen per week through the local co-op that we are members of.  The chickens have been creating some "chicken highways" in the snow - turning these paths
The chicken highway
into muddy runs that freeze at night and thaw again the next day.  They have since been moved to the other hillside so our grass can come back in April.

To Al's disappointment he found one of the hens underneath the steps that lead into the turkey coop - recently deceased with no visible cause.  Such is life - thin margins between life and death on a farm after a long, cold winter.

With the ongoing cold temperatures and some snow still on the ground, Dave continues to focus his spare time on getting the kitchen area in the barn completed and ready for the PA Dept. of Ag. inspection later this spring.  Right now the piping has been re-installed (a plumber did not do such a good job), and soon a floor drain that prevents backup from the waste line will be installed into the floor beneath the three bay commercial sink. Butcher block counters and wainescoating for the ceiling will soon go in, along w/ a urethane coating on all the walls and ceilings so they are washable. (thanks to Dave for a lot of sanding of the hemlock siding and timber framing in this area)

The bread bowl/serving stand sits on our
veggie wash sink, while it gets routed out
with an "arbor tech" grinder attachment
Depicted in this update are a few photos of a bread bowl/food serving stand that Al is making out of a chunk of White Oak from a tree that was at least 500 years old.  The "Columbus Oak" was a famous tree in Bucks County, PA that collapsed about ten years ago.  Al's dad, Dave gave him this section that contained the only burl on the tree, and the bread bowl/stand is taking shape - the boys even pitched in with some sanding, drilling and gluing.

The teepee planned for the spring has been crossed off the list and replaced with a 12' x 14' bunkhouse/cabin.  Canvas teepees need to be replaced every 3 - 5 years, and given the magnitude of the expense for the material and the associated labor, it has been decided to go with a more permanent and weatherproof structure.  This will house two interns this coming season.

We will also be constructing a compost shelter, and a small animal cart to move our sheep out of the floodplain and up to the middle pasture come May or early June.   Dave is also currently completing an outdoor shower for our summer workers.

Our seedlings are growing (some better than
The sap collection barrel and gravity feed line
others), our cold frames are being set up later this week, and we continue our search for an "old school" plow and disker for our old Ferguson tractor.

We hope to do some haying of our lower pastures this year and we are going to be expanding our vegetable growing areas and cultivated areas this season.   We have a very busy season coming up and will be posting more regularly all our activities as we move into April and May.

Oh, and our bees made it through the winter!   We were very pleased to see them buzzing about this past Saturday.  It appears leaving them the lion's share of the honey for this long winter has paid off.

Until next time, think spring- it will come - it has to!  

Your Friends at Old School Farm
(scroll down for a lot more photos!

A warm glow is cast by the high pressure sodium seedling grow light in the sunroom. 
Coleman Benner inspects sap line

Finally we can see our ground!

Owen feeds the flock
The big hornet nest that had to go (above our moss growing area)

Some rocks and a large stick, and not much remains

Bee activity - YES!

Desperate deer...eating Christmas Ferns

Loading the incubator for this  year's flock replacements

Moss on felt mats - moss loves snow.


What's left of the "Quinzee" shelter

Dark leaves absorb heat and leave prints - maple here

We have a few sap buckets near the house for the boys

The new sugaring location

Chipmunk tunnel exposed by melting snow

Owen Benner sands a leg for the bread bowl/stand

The still frozen frog pond offers entertainment for almost eight year olds

Don't worry mom, it's not running (yet :)

The evaporator pan set up

A winter's worth of mice tunnels exposed...

A boys life in March on the farm

Monday, February 24, 2014


February has seen more cold temperatures and the snow continue to pile up.  For almost 8 year old twin boys this is good news - snow days and fun outdoors in the snow.   For animals it means more time inside their shelters.  For farmers it means keeping driveways clear, greenhouses unburdened from built up snow, and maintaining an adequate wood supply.

Other projects this time of year involve continued planning for spring crops, planting seeds for starts, and sourcing of implements and materials needed for spring projects at the farm.

Some of these projects include:

Constructing and installing two cold frame boxes that will set atop our existing raised bed on the sunroom roof.

Dave has been working on the cold frames in the barn

Constructing a centralized, covered composting structure.  We have been leaving our clean out from the poultry pens in the open air and this can lead to leaching of all important nutrients into the soil prior to getting this much needed organic matter to our vegetable garden areas.

Installing the maple syrup evaporating pan on top of the stone walls built to support it above the wood fire.

Running electric fencing around our middle pasture so we can move our sheep up out of the flood plain area by late spring.

Finishing our commercial kitchen area in the barn so we can begin baking bread in our wood-fired earthen oven.
The stainless steel sinks are positioned in the kitchen area

Completing our outdoor showers

There are of course other projects, but these will be some of the first we will be tackling as soon as the weather breaks.

Until then, enjoy the photos from the farm and of two young boys immersed in all this time of year has to offer...

Your Friends at Old School Farm

Adjacent falls freezes over while water flows behind

Moss loves snow!

Al Benner takes some time to clip on the x-country skis and head into the game lands

The frozen Dyberry and old bridge at Tanner's Falls

Tanner's Falls

Open Mic night at the Cooperage in Honesdale

Coleman Benner shreds the hill

"Hoss" gets a new covering of snow

Snow Boarding - The new obsession. 

Winter Wonderland

Some deep snow for an almost 8 year old

Root crops holding up well in springhouse

Our 59 Ferguson continues to perform incredibly well at clearing our drive

Wow that's a lot of snow!


Just two days on a snowboard

Owen Benner flies by the photographer at gold medal speed

A frosty view from the office

Owen seems to have a gift with the keys

The prototype snow cave

Mom got snowed in back in Philly so here are Dad's Valentines Day dates

A dinner to remember at Trix Render's Willow River Gallery and Restaurant

Some underage drinking 

Uncas Junior guards his gals

Uncas up close and personal

High tunnel is dark and under stress from snow load

View from edge of property - bee hive in foreground - high tunnel behind

14 varieties of heirloom tomatoes on heat pads in sunroom

Future Pianist?  Owen Benner with his own composition

The roof beds under snow with icicles in foreground 

Dad moved two tons of snow to build this "Quinzee" (snow shelter) -
the central space is then dug out

Inside the quinzee

Al Benner shovels along base of high tunnel so snow load will slide off

Partially completed - Thanks to Dave Campeau for finishing the job

Getting deeper....

An "old school" winter for sure.

This post is dedicated to a true "Old School" gal - Great Grandma Sophie Cohen - shown here with her newborn Great Grandson, Owen Benner in 2006.  Sophie lived to the ripe old age of 99 and was a real classy lady and wonderful person.
She is deeply missed but will never be forgotten as she lives on in three generations... We love you and miss you Sophi!