Monday, March 23, 2015

Seeded, Sprouted & Strong


We seeded two 72 plant flats for the garden on March 15th.  The above shot was on the equinox, a mere 5 days later and a near 100% success rate in germination.  On Saturday B moved the sprouted flats from our kitchen down to the mini growing chamber that we have in our basement.


What a difference 3 days makes, they all look happy and strong!  After our little bout of spring snow today and with rain showers later this week, by the weekend we should be seeding spinach and lettuce and radishes to the cold frame and prepping the mini hoop houses in the garden.


Spring is coming and there are loads of great farm projects in front of us this year, not the least which is getting ready for the spring batch of babies...chicks, ducklings & piglets!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Seventeen


We married seventeen years ago on the first full day of spring.  He is the visionary and the problem solver.  I am the organizer and the implementer.  Together we are the yin and yang that makes up our life vision.  We have enjoyed many adventures and have the promise of many more to come.  To my love, best friend and old fool, our journey continues.  sláinte

Friday, March 20, 2015

{this moment}


{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same.

linking with SouleMama

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Tapped


One thing I love about homesteading is that you are always learning, growing and challenging yourself.  Each year is full of trial and error, not only in the methods we use, but also in navigating the constant ebb and flow of Mother Nature.  These are things that make the experience true.  Living from the land, working for the land, and ever dependent on the elements for success.


This is our second year sugaring and as expected we have learned from our experience, tweaked our methods and now are putting into practice the latest revision...which I am sure will continue to be finessed as we move forward.   Thankfully, B is an avid researcher and always looking for new and creative ways to macgyver re-purpose and utilize items around the farm to make our experience richer, more efficient, and tailored to our life here.  The sweet spot for sugaring is catching the early sap flow.  Days that are warming, but not too warm, and nights that are still below freezing.  The trick is also knowing when to stop, however I think mother nature also took care of this one, making it such a laborious process that after about two weeks devoted to collecting, storing, then finally hours upon hours of evaporating, we. are. done.


We use one gallon food grade buckets fitted with lids and tubing that slides over the spiels.  Last week we were emptying the buckets once a day, yesterday, it was three times a day!  We use a medium sized medical grade stainless steel kennel (would you expect less from a Veterinarian:) to store all of the sap collected during the week.  We keep the container covered and buried in snow to keep it very cold.  As our snow is almost gone this week, we are wheel barreling in what we can find and once that is gone will pack the container in ice.


When it comes time for evaporating, we use another larger kennel (the more surface area the better) that we insulate with blankets to prevent the steam from condensing on the sides, and place over three large camp stove burners.  We have another burner that we are using to pre-heat to boiling sap before we add it to the already hot liquid in the evaporator.  so as not to slow the process as we add more sap.  Then, it is just lots and lots of time.  At roughly one gallon of syrup to every forty gallons of sap, plan to be cooking, and not having much in the way of sleep for at least a day.


Once you have evaporated down to say the final three and a half gallons or so, transfer into a large stock pot and once again place over a burner for the final evaporation.  We are doing this outside this year.  You can certainly do it inside too, but our experience last year was that every window in the house was covered with condensation.  You must really keep and eye on it now.  They syrup needs to reach 7.5  degrees Fahrenheit above what water will boil at your house on that day.  It takes forever to go those final 5 degrees.  Do not leave the pot unattended!  In the final several degrees the sap will froth and boil over the pot if the temperature is not ruduced.  Also, especially  if you are working with smaller volumes, you can sail past the finish point and scorch the whole batch.  Hours of watching that proverbial pot boil will be a drain pour.


Now it is time to cool.  Once it reaches close to room temperature, we transfer it to large gallon bottles and let it sit for twenty-four hours to allow any sentiment to settle out.  The sentiment is called sugar sand and is an accumulation of minerals that settle out during the boiling process.  Then pour it into whatever containers that you like, leaving any sentiment at the bottom of your initial bottle, and refrigerate.  We tend to store it bulk in gallon bottles in the refrigerator in our basement then just pour into containers for gifts or for general use. We keep a bottle of it in our upstairs refrigerator that we re-fill as needed.  Refrigeration is important, as it is preservative free, if left at room temperature of for the long term it will mold.  You would be amazed at all of the great recipes that you can use maple syrup in!  As I type this I have added of teaspoon of it with some whole milk to my morning coffee.  Now, that is a treat!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

That's No Blarney


Blarney Castle 1982


Blarney Castle 1993


May friendship, like wine, improve as time advances. 
And may we always have old wine, old friends, and young cares.
-Irish toast

Monday, March 16, 2015

Spring Is In The Air


The snow has almost melted and the sap is running freely.  Dinner this evening will be out on the front porch so we can enjoy the light and balmy 69 degrees before the weather turns cooler and more seasonal again tomorrow.


The weekend was filled with evaporating off 67 gallons of sap into what eventually became two gallons of beautiful maple syrup.  Since this is our second year and we set our expectations appropriately, the sugaring off was much more relaxed.  We stepped away from the boiling and were able to do a number of spring chores.  The chickens and ducks are happy with their newly spruced up coop.  The cold frame is covered, warming and waiting to be planted with early cold weather greens next week.


As I write, the windows are flung open, a vase of daffodils are sitting on the counter and the kitchen filling with the smells of candied walnuts to toss on our al fresco salads for supper.   I have tried a lot of candied nut recipes, and this recipe is ah-mazing!

Children's books are never just for children......wouldn't you agree?

I am constantly pinning recipes or storing them to my online ap Paprika, however there is something about the physical cookbook.  When Seriously Delish came out I ordered the kindle version, and quickly found that I missed having the book to flip back and forth through, refer to previous recipes or bits on information in the prologue, so I promptly ordered the book itself.   I love to read cookbooks especially when the author adds little stories around the recipes or discusses their trials and errors.  I like to make notes in the margins as I cook and was happy to see that I was not alone.

How was your weekend?


Friday, March 13, 2015

{this moment}


{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Linking with SouleMama

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Tedious But Well Worth It


So many farm related tasks can be exercises in monotony and tedium.  With hints of Spring in the air and a thaw underway we are driven with energy again that tends to wane somewhat in the winter months.  We have also noticed that as the new growing season approaches after a long winter, the things that require a lot of time and energy to accomplish and that we swear we will not do again, we are jumping eagerly into.


After a refreshing hike through the snow this morning to check our sap buckets, we decided it was time to finally get the bulk of our garlic from last season preserved.  Peeling hundreds of cloves can make you question your sanity motivation for doing such a task.


But then in a matter of a few hours the beautifully preserved cloves will be done, ready to be added to any number of dishes, or simply spread on a baguette, maybe with a little slice of goat cheese.  Its all about home grown and depth of flavor. so as we sit down to our spaghetti with garlic bread this evening, I know that though the work was tedious, it was well worth it!

Friday, March 6, 2015

{this moment}


{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Linking with SouleMama

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Spoonful of Sugar


March is certainly making an entrance.  The 1-2" of  predicted snow followed by freezing rain, sleet and generalized yuck, has outdone itself so far this morning, giving us about a 5" base for the remaining precipitation to crystallize on.  At least above freezing temperatures are on the horizon, so there is light at the end of the tunnel, the season of mud  Spring is on its way!

The most exciting thing about this, is that it appears the temperatures beginning this weekend and into the extended forecast will be perfect for tapping trees and harvesting this years sap flow for syrup.  We have about 2 cups of syrup left from last season, and I am rationing to make it last.  Who wants to go and buy syrup after being spoiled for the last year?  So I am looking forward to this spoonful of sugar which will make the medicine of next few, hopefully final days of winter, go down quite nicely.

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