Thursday, April 28, 2011

Planting for the future, remembering the past

Three white birch trees planted today in honor of my grandmother, who lived 9almost6 years:

She was wonderful, in so many ways.  May these birches grow tall and strong, and bring joy to the next generation.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

VT Adventure

The Boy and I went on a two-day adventure in Vermont this weekend:  visiting with Aunt Susie, spending the birthday gift card burning a hole in his pocket, playing the Harry Potter Hogwarts Lego game, and going to visit the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium in St. Johnsbury. 

I love the juxtaposition of old-fashioned "cabinet of curiosities" and new-fangled electronic/computerized exhibits and hands-on learning stations.  Makes this museum-nerd's heart go a-pitter-pat.

Oh, and we also braved gale-force winds (a bit of a hyperbole, I just learned at the museum --  "gale" is an actual strength on the wind scale. Who knew?) ...  where was I?  oh, yes, we made a detour into crazy downtown Montpelier to run up the steps to the statehouse.

Do we know how to party or what?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Last Sap of the Season

Although many (most?) North Country maple producers are long since done with the season, our sugarbush is just now throwing in the towel.  The elevation makes it a bit colder, longer, which shifts the timing of our sugaring season.  Bob is boiling the last of the sap down into maple syrup today.  Sunday, we -- me, Bob, my mother and Baby M -- went up to The Lake to grab the last run of sap.  The snow is melting fast and it was warm enough for us to eschew coats.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Very Maple-y Family

Guess what we spent the day doing!  No, really, guess.  I betcha you can't guess!  

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Frozen Sapsicles

Some parts of the sugarbush are still snowy and ... well....   just look:

That's some cold sap.


Monday, April 4, 2011

About Maple Syrup, the Way We Do It

Bees, Birds, Berries and Blooms asked in a comment on yesterday's post

"How much syrup do you make in one year? Is it only in the spring? How many maple trees do you have?"

Which caused me to ask The Husband, since I don't know nuthin'.   (Except that you only tap maple trees in the spring, as the sap is rising again from the roots to the branches.  That's about the extent of it.)

He says that this year is a little bit of an outlier from the past few years, since his father is out of town for a month or so, which has diminished the number of trees tapped.  According to The Hubs, we have about 3 acres of sugarbush -- this year 95 taps, last year 150 taps.   Some trees are tapped twice or three times if they're really huge, so you count by the number of taps, not the number of trees.   If you run into anyone who makes a real business of sugaring, they'll tell you that we're a really small operation.  We still hang buckets -- no tubing strung from tree-to-tree for us.  No reverse-osmosis machine -- just an evaporator.   It's a labor of love, not really of economics for us.  (And by us, I mean my in-laws and husband, of course.  I bring pizza up to The Lake to feed everyone; we all have our roles.) 

We generally make between 15-20 gallons of maple syrup each spring.  This year may be a bit lower than that, but it is soooo light and sweet this year, it's amazing.  If that sounds like not very much syrup, bear in mind that it takes approximately 40 gallons of maple sap to = 1 gallon of maple syrup.  That's what all the boiling in the evaporator does -- it just reduces the sweet watery goodness down to pancake-worthy gold.   It's actually very pleasant to mind the evaporator during that time, though; it's warm by the wood fire, the steam is sweet, and you have plenty of time to contemplate the universe.  And place bets on when the last blizzard of the season will strike.  Easter?  Mother's Day?  Dast we dream --- {are we done with snow?}   *shhh!  don't say it out loud!*  

If all this is new to you, you might want to peruse my primer on our wee hobby syrup-making outfit from 2010. 

Bob and Baby M check out the evaporator

Thanks for the questions, BBB&B!  Hope this answers them!


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Saturday at The Lake

We spent yesterday at The Lake, enjoying the sweet steam from the evaporator and the hot syrup right out of the strainer.


My mother-in-law keeps a bottle of the first run each year and displays them on a shelf in the dining room.  It's cool to see the differences in color from year to year, as well as how differently-shaped bottles change the appearance of the syrup. 
For example, this year's first and second runs are the lightest they've been in years, and super-sweet.  The little log cabin and the tall bottle farthest to the right are the same run, but the little cabin looks a lot lighter.  Also, the three darkest bottles aren't really that dark when seen from a different angle -- but they're certainly not as light as this year, regardless of the perspective!

As soon as The Husband returns from his meeting at church, he's heading right back up there to haul sap and boil it down.  He's a good man.