Fishing, Snow and Maple Sap


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.

Homestead Loss, Furnaces and Mud


The above picture is our Americauna hen, Rosie.  She was a 5 year old hen that we lost this week here on the homestead.  Now, no unplanned death is good here, but this one stings a lot.  She was a super sweet hen, very chatty when you were in with her, she talked to you the whole time.  I used to thank her for catching me up on all the gossip in the coop.  She was not afraid of people and actually seemed to like our company.  And not just because she got special treatment for being the favorite.


Ol’ Lady Wilma


For a while before we got our 4 most recent hens, who are now 2 years old, she was the lowest on the totem pecking pole and was picked on a lot.  But over time the ones that did the picking were rehomed when we moved or passed away on their own.  Leaving her with one hen left that is 7 years old, her name is Wilma, and Rosie’s best buddy, Ginger.  Ginger is actually kind of a jerk, she is mean to everyone under her on the order except for Rosie.  And NO ONE messes with Wilma.  She’s the smallest hen, and Egyptian Fajoumi, but closer to a wild bird then any I’ve seen before.  She has never liked people very much, though she is getting chattier as she’s gotten older.  But she is quick as a blink and though she doesn’t initiate contact with other hens, they only go after her once before they learn their lesson.  She is relentless in her defense of herself, and once they have had that treatment, they leave her the heck alone.  I have a soft spot for Wilma, perhaps because I can relate to her somewhat.  We are both introverts, she’s never one to dive in with the crowd either.  She has a beak that is quite small, and it’s crooked.  It curves to the left about halfway down the beak.  It has never seemed to bother her, she eats just fine with it like that and it adds to her badass look.  Yep, I like Wilma.

I went out to check on the hens yesterday morning and noticed that when I opened the door and spread scratch in their pen, the hens had not come out to eat it.  That was weird because usually as soon as you open their door, they bolt out into the pen.  So, I figured I better check out what was going on. All but one of them was crammed on the top of the nesting boxes and the other was as close to them on the roost as she could get.  Laying in front of the small door out to their pen was Rosie.  She looked as though she passed peacefully, but my heart sank when I saw her.  She was the favorite of my husband as well, and I knew this would be a hard one for him to lose, too.  I took her body from the coop and when I did, the other girls came out into the pen.  I went back out to clean the coop later in the day, which took me about an hour or so and her best friend, Ginger just walked around the pen making a soft almost honking sound in quick succession looking for her.  I talked to Ginger and told her I was sorry her friend died, but I was talking to myself as much as her.  Losses happen when you have animals on the homestead, some of them are animals raised for the table, and some of them are more pet type animals that you allow into your hearts.  So, silly as it may seem, losing Rosie was a sad day for us and we will miss her in our flock.

Other happenings on the homestead include troubles with the furnace.  Back in December we had a capacitor changed out that was failing.  Last week, when the blower would come on, it would start very slowly and make an awful metal grating sound.  The bearings in the blower motor were shot, so we had to have our plumber out to fix it up.  The furnace here is about 20 years old, but since many of those years were when the house was vacant, it’s not in bad shape…except for the blower motor apparently.    We have debated replacing the unit and getting one that will be forced hot water instead, but we will have to do a lot of the work installing the radiators ourselves and right now, it’s lower on the list because we have so many other things that need doing.  So, we decided to spend the $700ish dollars to get the furnace fixed this time.  Usually my husband can do just about anything on the homestead that needs fixing, but the furnace is not his forte and he’s not got time to figure it all out, so we decided to just have our plumber do this one.  If you don’t know what you are doing with a furnace, you can burn your house down, so we felt it prudent to let the pro handle it.  Between that and the water filtration system running about $2,000 and the three refills of the oil tank at $1,000, it has been a very expensive couple of months here.  I’m hoping upon hope that this is the end of the big dollar things for a bit.  Our budget can’t bear too many months like that!

We’ve had some warmer temps in the last week or so.  Lots of rain melted a bunch of snow, but left us with a yard full of treacherous ice.  Which, when it’s warmer just leaves us with mud.  Mud. And more mud.  I actually dumped an entire bale of pine shavings in the chickens pen to help soak up some of it so they would have somewhere dry to stand besides the roost.  All that mud is not healthy for them, and they were literally half way up their legs in mud.  I wouldn’t want to stand around in that all day either, so shavings it is.  On the up side, it did seem to make them more comfortable and they are enjoying the sunny days in their pen nice a dry now.


So, that’s what’s been happening here on the homestead.  This time of year, there’s not much going on with progress, just waiting on the warmer temps to get here so we can get some real work started on the garden.  I did manage to get the potatoes ordered and am submitting my seed order today.  Better late then never, right?  Hope you are all gearing up for your spring to arrive and have your gardens all planned out.  We’re looking to get a few more egg layers this spring, too, so be watching for that arrival.  And who knows what other trouble I may get us into, we are still talking about goats.  Enjoy the end of this winter season everyone!  Be well, be kind to each other and blessings to you all!