{this moment}

Joining Soulemama in {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.

mossy_stone

Advertisements

Sap to Syrup

This was our first year tapping our maple trees and what fun it has been! Sadly (for sap collecting) this winter has been mild and thus the sap has not been flowing as it normally does, or so I hear. Sap can be collected from maple, birch as well as walnut trees. I’m not sure what birch or walnut sap is used for but I do know that maple sap makes some deliciously sweet syrup!

If you’re interested in tapping some trees yourself or if you’re just curious about the process here is what we did:

First we identified our maple trees. There are different types of maple trees, most commonly sugar maples are tapped but we only have swamp maples and they work too. Once the daytime temperature is above freezing we tap the trees. This requires a 7/16 drill bit and my favorite tool- the cordless screwdriver/drill. Now you can tap a tree more than once if it is large enough but I only had 8 taps so I placed them around the property- one per tree. Some trees were more productive than others-especially those with more sunlight exposure. So we drilled  2 1/2 inches in- about 3 feet off the ground, on the south side, and when possible over a large root or under a large branch. We tapped the spile in and hooked our jugs on. We used clean milk and water jugs with a hole for the spile to drip the sap into the jug and another hole for the hook to grab on to keeping our bucket on the tree. We made these holes as close to the handle as possible as the plastic is strongest there and as high as we could so the jug could hold more before starting to leak all that precious sap on to the ground. If the tree starts flowing right away  it’s not really a steady drizzle but it’s also more than an occasional drip. Now we wait for the sap to accumulate. Once there’s enough (how long this takes depends on the temperature) we pour it into a 5 gallon bucket and since we are a small operation we start boiling it down a little at a time. You can store it longer either outside if it is cold enough or in the fridge or freezer.

Image

You can also drink the sap straight or use it pretty much like water. It tastes like water with a very slight sweetness to it. It’s good! The boys request sap regularly and even run down to steal a swig or two when they can. It takes A LOT of sap to make syrup- it’s a 40:1 ratio. As in 40 gallons of sap makes 1 gallon of syrup or for a smaller visual  40oz of sap makes 1 oz syrup (that’s a shot glass).

Image

So far this year we’ve made a little over a quart of finished maple syrup. How you boil it down is up to you- however do it outside as vast amounts of evaporated water is too much for indoors (unless you’re trying to remove wallpaper). Wood heat is common and cheap and commercial evaporators are expensive I decided to use my electric pressure cooker (lidless) set to keep the sap boiling. As the sap cooks down it turns a light amber hue. Keep adding sap and cooking it down. Eventually you’ll have a smaller amount you can finish off on the stove top. How do you know when it’s done? Use a thermometer. Syrup boils at 7 degrees above boiling water. At my elevation water boils at 212F so the syrup is ready at 219F. Then filter, bottle and enjoy!

When temperatures remain above freezing and buds start to form tapping season is over- remove the spiles and remember to leave 6 inches when drilling next year. Over time the previously drilled holes will heal-over.

Hopefully that was through but if I did forget something ask away. I got a lot of my info from tapmytrees.com they also sell tapping supplies but struggling_along brought the spiles at our local hardware store and the jugs I saved as we used them.

To see photos of this process see my recent post Tapping the Trees- A Short Photo Essay.

mossy-stone

{Yarn Along} On the Go-veralls – Finished

So first the book- Bill Byrson’s At Home  I’m just starting this (after peeking at later chapters) and it promises to be interesting. I’m a fan of Bryon’s writing in general ever since struggling_along first introduced me to him through his book A Walk in the Woods. If you like hiking or if you like to think about hiking A Walk in the Woods is a must read. But I digress….

  Ishmael’s go-veralls are finished; in record time -just 8 days verses 26 days for the first pair! I was torn between making the 6-12month or the 12-18 month size. I went with the 12-18 month size cause I’d rather he grew into than for it to be too small in the first place and growing into it he will have to do. The legs are long (and that makes the bib look impossibly small). But I know it’s only a matter of time before these will be exactly the right size. And that will give me time to find the right buttons (and to find that last foot of gray yarn the boys borrowed for a fishing line).

Here’s the back:

And the front:

mossy_stone

this post is a part of

DIY Corned Beef

Curing your own corned beef is simple but it does require planning ahead so if you haven’t started NOW is the time as corned beef must cure 5-7 days. I used America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe for the spice mixture.

And because I didn’t have a brisket right at hand but I did have a flank cut that substitutes nicely. I speared it about 30 times on each side before rubbing in the spices.

Now it rests in the fridge for 5-7 days. I started a couple days ago so it will be going on 7 on Saturday (St. Patrick’s Day) when I’ll be cooking it.

mossy_stone

homestead barn hop, monday mania , melt in your mouth monday, make your own! monday,  hearth and soul , fat tuesday, traditional tuesday, weekend gourmet, slightly indulgent tuesday, real food wednesday, what’s cooking wednesday, gluten free wednesday, frugal days sustainable ways, healthy2day, simple lives thursday

In the Kitchen :: Nourishment

Each morning, after a cup of tea, I don my insulated overalls and a bundled baby in a back carrier and make my way down to the goat barn.  How lucky we are that each morning we can harvest a few free ranged eggs and a quart or two of fresh raw goats milk. After several months without either these basic staples they feel all the more luxurious- especially when these simple ingredients are transformed into decadent puddings, custards, french toast and omelets. Snacking on fresh homemade cheese and deviled eggs (yummy with mango chutney…) feels like a treat. And since we’re getting all that important calcium and protein we might as well indulge.

Here are a few of our favorites from the past week:

Peanut butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (with a tall glass of milk of course)

Pudding has been a huge favorite- rice pudding and especially the leftover queen’s butterscotch pudding. I don’t have any scotch so we’ve just been adding extra vanilla. Noah has declared this his favorite.

photo from the leftover queen- click on photo to go there

It’s been exciting to be making cheese from our own goat’s milk,this one is just a simple cheese made by heating milk and adding an acid like vinegar or lemon juice.

And, while these are neither eggs nor dairy I have to tell you about these fermented fries. Oh my are they delicious. Everyone LOVED these. The hardest part is waiting the 3 days they take to ferment. We’re pretty much starting a new batch as soon as the first one is done. I don’t have any tallow right now so I’ve been frying them up in bacon drippings. Sorry no pics of the fries finished- they were devoured too quickly but here’s one of them fermenting. Notice the air lock cap, these can’t be fermented in an open crock (click on the link to go to cookingtf.com for the explanation).

Now if I could only find a ketchup recipe that actually tastes like ketchup….

mossy_stone

homestead barn hop, monday mania , melt in your mouth monday, make your own! monday,  hearth and soul , fat tuesday, traditional tuesday, weekend gourmet, slightly indulgent tuesday, real food wednesday, what’s cooking wednesday, gluten free wednesday, frugal days sustainable ways, healthy2day, simple lives thursday, freaky friday, scratch cookin, sunday school, fight back friday, friday food flick

Yarn Along :: On the Go-veralls

The other day I was sorting thru the hand-knits when I came across this Pebble Vest I originally knit for Ezra when he was 21 months. It fit him well but on the snug side. I thought I’d see how it fit on Ishmael (soon to be 9 months):

Just about perfect. And he looks so darn cute in it too!

Between the cuteness and the realization that the time period where he’ll happily wear any hand knit item I put him in is already rapidly growing short I knew I had to cast on something. And that made me think of these On the Go-veralls I knit for Noah way back when I first started knitting.

Suddenly it all fell into place- I had the perfect yarn stashed away just waiting for the right project.

The yarn is Mirasol- an alpaca and bamboo blend. It’s gorgeous. I just love the yellow and gray; it’s knitting up fast too. It will be interesting to see how complicated these seem this time around. Thus far it’s been way easier….maybe because this time around I  know that circulars come in different lengths.

Oh and what have I been reading? Lots and lots of Berenstain Bears.

mossy_stone

frugal days sustainable ways, homemaker monday, barn hop, farmgirl friday

Celebrating

For us February is a month of celebrations. Perfect- as winter has grown old and this season’s mildness has only served to fuel our spring fever  to get out there and DO stuff. And if you can’t get out there and work well you might as well have some fun (and that means cake, of course).

First Ezra’s birthday. An amazing 3 years old! He requested blueberry cake. Luckily I had some frozen blueberries still left from last summer. So we cooked them into a sauce/filling. I recently went gluten/wheat-free so we decided to try one of those packaged GF cake mixes. Let’s just say I’m not too impressed. I mean it looks great, and the texture is right but it just tastes……. not quite right.

Then for Valentine’s Day we transplanted some apple tree seedlings. The boys have been planting the seeds from their apples in my rosemary pots. A whole bunch came up so we moved them to their own separate containers.  Of course all this enthusiastic handling by little kids and a dog who has to sit on everything means that we only have a few survivors. Still it was fun and the boys got to check out the various stages of seed sprouting and root growth.

Even Ishmael LOVED it. This boy gravitates to dirt. He can find it, scoot over and get his hands it in 5 seconds flat. That’s my boy!

photo by Noah

Then it’s Noah’s birthday. What?! 5 years old already!

He received a pirate boat kit which he studiously put together- by himself by looking at the picture on the box. Once the glue dried we had some fun painting. He painted his boat and I borrowed a little paint to make him a Batman and Robin peg clothing pin figure.

photo by struggling_along

photo by Noah

Of course another birthday requires more cake! We went more traditional this time with a Chocolate Surprise Cake. It’s an old recipe and doesn’t really give any instructions- just a list of ingredients so here’s my one layer version:

The surprise is a whipped cream filling. It’s really good. It’s like having a HUGE really good whoopee pie.

mossy_stone

linking to Seasonal Celebration Sunday @ the natural mothers network