Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Sap is done! Flowers.

 I finished up the sap, we ended up with a bit over a gallon. 

 Here is a video of the sap boiling for anyone looking at a desktop. NO idea why it doesn't show on mobile so here is a picture:

You can see that I don't use any "real" wood to speak of, just twigs and small branches that are fed through the holes in the cinder blocks. 

Every time you heat sap, it causes minerals in it to solidify.  This is called niter and a sediment that falls to the bottom.

Gross. Most people filter this out several tjmes through the boiling process but I have yet to try anything that works well and doesn't take forever. So I asked Reddit and found an old timey method of gently heating egg whites with the finished sap. As the egg whites cook they pull all of the sediment out of the sap.

It looks absolutely disgusting. 

But after skimming the egg off the top and filtering it through a damp dishcloth it had worked like a charm.

Maple sap is officially syrup when a candy thermometer hits 219. I pour it into mason jars and water bath them for 15 minutes for a shelf-stable seal.

So there you have it. When I think of the whole process,  tree to plate, it seems like a miracle. That these inconspicuous trees in our yard bless us with a year's worth of sweetness.   I cannot wait to make homemade maple donuts. 

The kids and I raked out 2 flower beds this week.

We have seen a few honeybees on the crocus, not  as many as last spring. In fact my dad across town lost all 5 of his hives over the winter. 

Mr. H is taking these roses to his teacher tomorrow.  

He picked out the bouquet today when I took him to the store. There was a bit of an incident yesterday where his kindergarten class was outside playing and were run up upon by a pack of three aggressive pit bull dogs. His teacher was nipped at getting the kids away and it was later determined that the dogs had already bitten someone else that afternoon.  The owner has apparently been located and fined. I wish I were joking.  So flowers are the least we can do.

Off to bed, morning calls early here.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

It's just another day


Kwazii's grant adventure lasted about 3 days before my dad called after dinner one night and started the conversation with "Hey, I'm really sorry to say this but...." apparently Kwazii had decided the best thing to do on his vacation was to beat up a Buff Orpington hen.  Repeatedly.  So I apologized and told him to bring him home. So he's back. Totally mild mannered and a perfect gentleman.

I think the trees are done flowing for us. Signs are: the world is starting to green, sap is barely flowing, yesterday I pulled a bucket and the liquid was yellow. Lastly, most of the trees are really budding:

Plus TSC had told me that they won't refill my propane tank as it is "expired" in spite of the fact that it was filled two weeks ago. So... today it rained all day but this weekend I'll pull the taps, store the buckets and finish everything on a fire or the stove. 

There was a day when, at 3 in the afternoon, I did not know what was for dinner. Usually that ends in enchiladas but we had no enchilada sauce. How hard could it be to make, I wondered.  Turns out pretty easy.

This is more or less what I did. We loved it much more than store-bought.

In other cooking news, Mr. A and I were watching the Mother's Day episode of Dora. Dora's dad was missing some cake ingredients so Dora and Boots went to find them. What is this cake, I wondered? Is it real? Because I want to bake this.

So here are the missing ingredients : 10 bananas,  6 nuts and 1 piece chocolate. 

Here they are in the kitchen with some other random ingredients.  Why is Dora's head so big?

Here is Dora with 6 eggs.

And here is mom with the finished cake.  It looks delicious. I'm sure this cake is pure fiction and I need to get a life.

My life right now is feeding, changing, wiping, cooking, washing, prepping, cleaning, repeat. Nothing happens around here. For the first time I'm having a really hard time coming up with conversation with people outside of our household. I have an hour to myself each day, max. Who wants to hear that the big thing today was *leaving town!* and buying shoes (shoes for walking, not sexy. Also size 10 wide) Or that I packed a lunch? Took a shower?  Painted my toenails? 
I mean, really, who gives a crap? 


My kids tell me every day they love me and for that I am beyond grateful.  For now that will be more than enough.  

Monday, March 8, 2021

Sap, cooking, reading and being too tired for a proper title.

The trees got tapped on the 24th. I hung 6 buckets, snapped one drill bit off in a tree. It's been very slow going with the weather, the bright side of that being I've been able to keep up with the sap collected.

With this classy professional setup:

A water canner on a propane base for a turkey fryer. It's ugly as sin but has been absolutely perfect. I set up where I can see it from the kitchen window. In this way it's been like a crockpot,  turn it and check on it but basically forget about it. It takes me only seconds to step out the door and top it off.  I have no idea how many gallons have been boiled down but the liquid is light brown now and wow, does it taste like sugar. Tomorrow going to be beautiful so I may move the pot over a woodfire for the day to get that smoky flavor we really liked. 

There's not much else going on outside. One of the geese has started laying a beautiful large egg every other day. According to my dad, Kwazii has settled in well and "wasted no time introducing himself to the ladies". My dad has Olive Eggers, Buff Orpingtons, Dominiques and Speckled Sussex hens. It might be really fun to incubate a handful of eggs and see what hatches.

There's really been no crafting aside from a few Postcrossing cards. This one was made for a woman in Germany who loves tattoos and is collecting handmade cards.  I actually have one of these old style bluebirds between my shoulders, it's funny, I hadn't thought about it a really long time. This might be my favorite handmade card.  Mr. H saw me drop it in the mail and wailed "NOOOOOO.... now I'll never learn to draw a bird! Why did you do that!" 

The Hound of the Baskervilles is getting started tonight.

I made the goal to read a book a month this year so instead of sewing have been reading Poachers, just finishing it a few days ago. It's another southern gothic type read full of beer drinking, cat shooting and unhappy relationships. Here's my Goodreads review:

Yep. The last story was a doozy. I had both cried and was thoroughly creeped out by the end of it. My wild imagination + the story of the mythical game warden Frank David has all but guaranteed I won't be fishing by myself for a long, long time. Stephen King wrote a short story whose title I can't remember about a young boy who meets Satan while fishing a trout stream.  If you mixed that Satan with Mark Trail back in his badass days you would get Frank David. 

Well. Moving on, involving fish ironically.  Store bought fish. 

Lent has been a lesson. I did great with the no meat/fish/seafood for about a week and a half until it occurred to me that I had been dizzy all damn day for days on end. Fish and seafood got added back to the mix and I've been experimenting with tofu.

This is just a crispy tofu stir-fry with a bottled sesame sauce we like.

Green beans, mashed redskins and salmon with ginger/soy glaze:

More fried tofu with a jarred Indian butter chicken sauce from Aldi. Chick peas, green beans. Homemade naan.

A double batch of these delightful things last week:

From Martha Stewart magazine.  Oh, are these good.

So basically you mix the first 6 things into a dough and chill it. Roll balls of dough in the coconut (we don't have finely shredded coconut here, I pulsed some in the Nutribullet) put on parchment paper cookie sheet and press your thumb in middle. I don't remember the baking time or temp. You let them cool, dip the bottom in chocolate, let that harden and add the jam (strawberry for us).  Really good with coffee or tea.  After the cookie sheet fiasco, I baked these on perforated pizza pans lined with foil.  My friend L has graciously donated an actual cookie sheet to this pathetic cause. I truly hate shopping.  This week I also broke my final remaining liquid measuring cup. It had belonged to my mom. It was a beautiful clear, ornate, depression era thing and I refuse to buy an ugly Pyrex one so have been measuring out liquids using, wait for it, one of Baby P's baby bottles. 

Which brings us to the obligatory kiddo update.

These were an impulse buy at Dollar Tree. Good Lord, best $2 ever spent. Mr. H and Mr. A had entire evenings with shark parades, shark fights, shark races. The day they got them Mr. A. fell asleep clutching the balloon's string.

Baby P has mastered the art of rolling. He is adorable with his talking and his big toothlesssmile. And so happy all the time. Easiest baby ever.

Mr. A. has mastered the art of being "2". Here he is today, sulking in the base of the lilac tree. Because I refused to let him climb it while he was holding a hand saw.  He's mostly really funny. Last week he grabbed my butter knife at dinner and said "I stab you!" in his little person voice. I mean, of course I took the knife off of him but then I did excuse myself so I didn't start laughing in front of him.

Mr. H is really coming into his own and loves being a big brother to Baby P. He and Mr. A do fight constantly but, really, the younger one starts most of it and Mr. H has the patience of a saint with him.

And that's all I know.

Actually,  one more thing. Yesterday marks "12 weeks before our final frost day" here so we will be starting strawberries under lights. I think someone also gave me a free package of cabbage seeds and the geese like cabbage so we will probably start those too.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Kwazii's gone on a grand adventure

Kwazii,  the art critic.

So between the foxes, the dogs and the hawks I am left with only the geese, a small group of bantam chickens, 3 standard hens and our rooster Kwazii.  Keeping birds alive here is like pushing a boulder up a hill. You close the coops at night, a fox kills them during the day. The neighbors dog goes on a rampage and kills more birds (you later learn it was spotted all over the neighborhood last fall killing everything from chickens to peacocks). A hawk picks off the leghorn and silkie hens so you lock the bantams in an enclosed run. The hawk spends several days sitting on top of the coop and then on the ground where it spends the evenings jumping against the sides of the pen harassing the bantams. It doesn't fly off until I am literally unlatching the gate. The geese are no help. It's breeding season so they are honking 24/7. From the house I have no idea if they are raising hell at 3 a.m. because of raccoons or they all just got hot and bothered over a puddle. 

So it's been demoralizing and I've sulked all winter. The only thing I can think to do if I want to keep birds here is to keep them in enclosed aviary-type setups. The bantams will need the tiny coop expanded. The big coop will need an enclosed sun room built off the front of it.

Which brings us to Kwazii. It's spring and animals are starting to come out in the evenings.  The neighbor dog has ended up at a shelter (with a litter of pups) but I'm sure there will be others. Kwazii is on par with Bee at this point, a beloved family pet  who actually likes his people. I don't think twice about trusting him. My 2 year old has hand fed him a peanut butter sandwich.  

So Kwazii, much like the orange pirate cat with a mysterious past he was named after, has gone on a grand adventure.  My dad keeps chickens across town; 12 lonely hens with no rooster. Kwazii will be on vacation until we can fix up his coop and keep him safe. 

Tonight I got him off the roost after dark. Carried him to a box in the car talking the whole way. I've never held him before and was suprised at how heavy he is. His spurs are massive. We drove across town with me explaining the situation. Repeatedly.  In a soothing voice.  To a rooster. 

When I carried him over to the coop he was trembling. The night was silent to me but he cocked his head to listen.  "Pur?" he asked gently.  After a pause, hens started talking quietly. "Pur pur pur pur?" He replied back.  They chattered on, quietly and hesitantly while I put him on a roost. 

I did get the impression that tomorrow morning he's going to feel like Elvis in a room full of single women on spring break.  He may not want to come home.

I'll feel sad that he's not here. And the kids will visit. But I've been playing Russian Roulette with this for months now and know it was the right move.

Next post will be a big random update. I can't believe it's been 2 weeks.