Welcome back to the homestead! Things have been warming up here considerably in the last week or so. Been so nice to be able to work outside and not have to worry about the bone chilling cold. Last weekend our two Boy Scouts, accompanied by their leader dad joined other members of their troop for a fun day of ice fishing.
One of our guys earned his way closer to his badge by cleaning and cooking his own fish. They had a great time and enjoyed the sunny day on the lake. As dressing in layers is key this time of year in NH, they were able to enjoy the day in shirt sleeves and put additional layers on before the close of the day when the temps were back in the 20’s. Never know what winter in NH will bring you! And, that same night brought more snow our way. We ended up with about 5″ instead of the 1″-3″ they predicted. Of course, with it being only February in NH we can expect that the white curse has not run its course for the winter, but getting 5″ of new snow can be disheartening when you have placed your seed order and are planning out where the new garden beds are going to go since all the snow has melted. On the upside, it rarely sticks around very long as February and March are leaning heavy on April. With the arrival of the projected temps on Wednesday of 70 degrees, we will be looking for that snow to be a memory. I am certainly ready to get the garden going, though I am not rushing the arrival of bug season. The black flies tend to be quite brutal here, along with the deer flies. Nope, not rushing the arrival of those pesky varmints!
With the temps doing a tango up and down the thermometer, we have decided to try our hand at tapping the maple trees out in the back of our property. I spent a chunk of time this week clearing poison ivy vines off these trees so that we didn’t have to fight with those to get at the wonderful liquid gold inside. We have never tapped trees ourselves, not sure why as we’ve had other maples who would have been a good tap. We decided we wanted to try a little drink that I happened upon in the newest issue of “Taproot”. If you have not read Taproot, you really must give it a try. I make nothing for endorsing this tome, but I really enjoy reading it. It has a theme each issue and the articles included therein have some relation to that theme. They are wonderful articles, thought provoking and artistic in nature. I love to read the whole thing cover to cover, the lack of any advertising is just a wonderful bonus. But, I digress…
This is my oldest trying his hand at drilling the hole to place the spile. The spile is the little metal piece that fits into the tree that funnels the sap down the spout of it and out into the waiting container to collect it. The drilled hole should be at an angle and about 2-1/2 inches deep. My husband put duct tape on the drill bit to be sure he knew where to stop drilling.
Above is the spile and the accompanying hook. The container is held in place by the loop and hook. The loop goes over the spile before it is put into the tree, making it very sturdy for holding the container. The spile is tapped gently into the tree with hammer. Be careful not to hit the spout part of the spile or it will no longer have a spout per se and will not drip into the container in a nice neat drip line.
Now, when we went to buy the spiles, we saw some nice blue plastic buckets with the hole already in it, all ready to hang. But they were $12.99 per bucket, and an additional $6.99 for the lid. We were doing 4 taps and decided we didn’t want to invest that kind of money for something we weren’t sure we’d enjoy or be successful at. So, I improvised and cut two holes in one gallon water jugs. One hole for the spout to go into and another small one for the hook to be inserted into. Then we hung them on the spile and hook, and voila!, a container for free!
Kinda nifty, eh? I will have to collect the sap perhaps more frequently then with a larger, fancier bucket so that I don’t have the jugs ripping from the weight of the sap. But, we only have 4 taps going right now, so that shouldn’t be a problem. I will probably boil some of it down for syrup if we get enough. By now, I’m sure you’ve all heard the statistic that it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. I do love maple syrup, and we purchase a lot because I also bake and cook with it in place of processed sugar. But…we don’t really have enough maples on our property to make all that syrup. However, I did get a Soda Stream soda carbonator for Christmas…and I am planning on following the advice of the author in the Taproot article and using the sap in place of the water and syrup to make a very nice, lightly sweet and full of beneficial minerals, drink for the homestead. The article said it was delicious, and I have been wanting to find something to flavor the seltzer with, so this in place of the plain seltzer could be just the ticket.
That’s about all we have going on right now on the homestead. My husband and I spent a lovely afternoon on the coast having lunch at our favorite seafood restaurant and enjoying the beach on a chilly, but sunny, day. He has President’s Day off, and the kids did not, so we like to take this day and spend a few hours with just us together without the distraction of the boys with us. We sure love them, but every couple needs a little time to just be a couple and not parents once in a while. Especially when you have teenagers who have discovered the art of negotiation. About E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. Coming up on the homestead, we will be visiting the plans for chickens this year…to meat bird or not to meat bird, that is the question. Also, how many new egg layers to get. I do love chicks on the farm! Until next time- be well, be kind to each other and blessings to you all.