Homestead Monthly: Feb + March {maple syrup, apple pruning, and homestead expansion}

Homestead Monthly: Feb + March {maple syrup, apple pruning, and homestead expansion}

Homestead Monthly: Feb + March {maple syrup, apple pruning, and homestead expansion} | Whole-Fed Homestead

In the last week or so the weather has turned decent, and just like that it feels like we’re off to the races! I’m not sure which I like better, spring or fall- but I am definitely looking forward to this season of progress on the homestead!

Fruit Tree Pruning and Maintenance
We spent a lot of time this winter learning about growing apple and other fruit trees organically and holistically (highly highly recommend this book and dvd!). We have a few apple trees that are four years old, some that are three years old, and the rest are younger… so most hadn’t really been pruned yet.

Armed with a brand new professional-grade sharp and awesome pruner and our new knowledge, Karl and I went out on a beautiful late-winter’s day and tackled pruning together. We stood by each tree and discussed which branches should go, and what the general shaped of each tree would look like when it was older. It was the first time either of us had ever pruned fruit trees.

And it went really well! We were mostly in agreement with each other, or could make a case for why we thought a particular branch should stay or go. In the past, the thought of pruning fruit trees always seemed like it would be a daunting task that I would never really understand, but that wasn’t the case at all! It was so nice to actually feel like we knew what we were doing.

Of course we didn’t let the trimmings go to waste- any of the branches that we pruned off that were big enough for scion wood we saved, and soon we’ll be getting together with some other apple-loving friends for a little scion exchange and grafting party.

Cutting orchard scion, Homestead Monthly: Feb + March {maple syrup, apple pruning, and homestead expansion} | Whole-Fed Homestead

This is also the time of year that we replenish the orchard deer-repellent!

Maple Failure 2017
Welp, it was our worst maple season to date this year. We tapped a little bit too early and had a generally odd spring with pretty wonky weather. We ended up with around four pints of finished syrup, and usually we get around a gallon or more!

This will be our fourth spring on the homestead, and as our vision for the property becomes more clear and we move forward with our dreams and goals, we’ve found that our spring seasons are ultra jam-packed and super busy!

Homemade maple syrup, Homestead Monthly: Feb + March {maple syrup, apple pruning, and homestead expansion} | Whole-Fed Homestead

That is to say, we could have tapped another tree or two a little later in the maple season, but boiling sap takes so much time, that we both agreed it wasn’t the priority anymore. As long as we can boil it down when there’s still a little snow, it’s generally cold out, and the ground is still frozen- we have the time. But as soon as it warms up, it’s time for us to move on to other things.

Hopefully next year!

A Whole New Homestead
Where to even start with this one….

How about with the elevator story about our barns: when we bought our property three years ago, it came with an old 1800s barn attached to a newer 1950s barn, behind two big silos. Both barns were badly falling apart.

When we last spoke, we had sold the old barn to a barn wood salvage company and they took it down this winter: the good wood removed, and lots (LOTS!) of cruddy wood left strewn about all over, much of it precariously hanging over the pit that was the basement of that barn.

Now we had a huge and dangerous hole in the ground, a pile of rubble, a falling apart newer barn, and two huge silos that we couldn’t even find anyone to give them to for free. Not to mention another half silo and large concrete foundation behind these things as well. We knew it would be a LOT of money to have a company come in and get rid of all of this, and realistically it would probably all just sit there and we’d pick away at it for a very long time.

And then an angel came into our lives. One of our neighbors happened to stop by (who we’d only met briefly a couple times), saw us painstakingly digging through the barn wood, and mentioned that he has a lot of big equipment and takes down buildings and old barns on the side. And he’d do it for basically the cost to run his machinery. What?!

Old barn demolition, Homestead Monthly: Feb + March {maple syrup, apple pruning, and homestead expansion} | Whole-Fed Homestead

The next weekend he was here with his excavator, and in a matter of an hour or so had all the old rubble plus the newer barn in a heap and piled up in the basement barn pit! As soon as that barn was down it was a huge relief, and our property started to turn into something even more magnificent than we dreamed it could be. As sad as it was to see the barns go, the excitement of what was to come was taking over.

While our neighbor was here with his equipment, we also had him pull out an acres worth of box elder trees around the barn- something that would have taken Karl YEARS to do by hand. Karl vowed, mostly jokingly, he was never cutting down a tree by hand again, after seeing how easy it was for that big machine! I imagine this is what it felt like when the guy riding a buggy saw his first car.

Next up, the silos. We drove around to a few Amish neighbors in the area, and put the word out that we had two silos looking for a good home. Unfortunately there was no one in the community who needed one, but our Amish friend Noah offered to take them down for us- a job he said he’s done a dozen times before. And a few days later he was here with his son and they were pounding out one stave at a time until the silos came crashing to the ground. Boy was that something to watch!

Amish taking down silos, Homestead Monthly: Feb + March {maple syrup, apple pruning, and homestead expansion} | Whole-Fed Homestead

The next task, to be completed in early Summer (because our neighbor is a farmer and will be tied up with Spring planting season) will be to put all the leftover rubble into the big hole that was the basement of the old barn and bury it. Then he will come in with a bull dozer and do some regrading of the area… leaving us with the most beautiful acre of gently rolling hills, which I will promptly be filling with wildflowers, garden plots and orchard trees.

This was all so unexpected, and so pleasantly and wonderfully surprising! We hoped we’d tackle and reshape this area someday, but didn’t have it in our plans anytime soon. I’m giddy over it!


Thanks for being here with us and following along on our homestead journey!

Enjoy reading about what’s happening on the homestead?
Check out our previous monthly updates!

The Homestead Monthly Dec Jan     homestead-monthly-november-2016     homestead-monthly-october-2016

homestead-monthly-september-2016     Homestead Monthly August 2016     Homestead Monthly July 2016

Homestead Monthly Jun 2016     Homestead monthly April 2016     Homestead Monthly March 2016

Homestead Monthly Jan 2016     Homestead Monthly December 2015     Homestead Monthly Nov 2015

Homestead Monthly October 2015     Homestead Monthly September     Homestead Monthly August 2015

Cukes in crock Feature Image     June homestead photo feature     The homestead monthly May 2015

Homestead Monthly April     Homestead Monthly Feb March     Homestead monthly december january, Whole Fed Homestead

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2 thoughts on “Homestead Monthly: Feb + March {maple syrup, apple pruning, and homestead expansion}

  1. Hi Crystal,

    I love reading your blog! Some huge undertakings in this post… have you considered maybe using the old basement to construct an underground greenhouse? Just a thought since the hole is already there!


    • Thanks so much Sara! Yes, haha, I did have a lightbulb moment where I wanted to turn the basement pit into a greenhouse! Unfortunately the walls of that pit are 100+ years old and made of falling apart stone, so it would have been a lot of work to make it “safe.” That, and I’m hoping one day Karl will let me build a greenhouse onto our house (we have the perfect place for it!). :) -Crystal

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