February 19: The temperature is dropping again, but the sun shone on Saturday, and the guys brought logs out of the bee yard and milled six sections -about three tree trunks — into twenty-nine two-by-sixes and some miscellaneous slab lumber. That is more than enough for framing the walls of the barn addition. We could hear the yells as they rolled some eighteen- to twenty-four-inch diameter logs onto the road; it was mere enthusiasm, but sounded more like impending disaster. At the house there was pruning going on, and our hands are bloody today as evidence. Now the apple and cherry trees at the house are done, but there are still the ones in the south pasture, and at the Sisters’, to do — we hope for a sunny, cold day next week.
The hams and bacon from the pigs butchered in January are finally thawed enough for smoking; if the weather doesn’t get too cold this week, we’ll put them in the smoke house next weekend. That means we have to go get sawdust from our friendly neighborhood sawmill. We might use the cherry sawdust the boys milled Saturday, but it’s too fine to burn well.
It hasn’t been cold enough the last few nights to bring the sap down the maple trees, so we’ve only boiled down about a gallon of syrup. The February warm up is usually like that. When spring really comes, there will be another run of sap, but we may have to ream out our tap holes to get a good flow. Maple syrup on Sunday pancakes only masquerades as real food; really, it’s dessert for breakfast.
The thaw also means shifting Isabel and the steers off the south pasture before they pug it up. The area around the chicken house is, as anyone who keeps chickens will know without being told, already a blasted wasteland, so we put Isabel over on that side of Jeddo’s Run, and the steers in the little west pasture. Shawn spread a couple of bales for them, and now that slope will get some mulch and manure, like the header picture for this journal shows on the south pasture. We can keep the steer on the west hill because it doesn’t run with water the way the south pasture does in a thaw, partly because the west hill doesn’t hold snow and ice like a north-facing slope will do. Did we mention that the Sow’s Ear is established on twenty-seven of the most worthless acres in eastern Ohio? The south pasture, despite an average gradient of about one in four, is a boggy mire when spring comes, and even in a drought like last year’s, there are one or two squishy places. So much greater the triumph when we make it work as pasture. If we can do it here, what will others be able to do on reasonably arable land?