Spring?, Snow and Syrup

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This has been a very busy time on the homestead.  As you can see from the picture above and the ones to follow, we’ve been buried in snow.  Just buried.  We got 5 1/2 FEET of snow in just over a week’s time.  The resident snowblower died three or four storms ago, so we have been up to our eyeballs shoveling out snowstorm after snowstorm.  Our snowblower was one my husband bought off craigslist a few years ago.  It was a bit of a dinosaur when we got it, but it was in our budget and served our purpose for a few years, so we were thankful to have it.  But a few storms ago, he went to move it one way or another and the handles on it gave out.  Rusted right through after decades of serving its purpose for one owner or another.  We ended up giving it to our son’s friend who loves to work on small engines.  Perhaps it will meet its next life as a go-cart of something as the engine was still fine on it, it just rusted away around it.

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The last storm was predicted to have about 10-14″ of snow, but in reality it gifted us 27″!  We got the highest snowfall in the state the last two storms in our little town. We are the highest elevation around the area and sit upon a hill.  As you can see from the above photo, there was just an incredible amount of snow to deal with.  We were all crying “Uncle” by the end of this one.  Partially because we were snow free for about 3 weeks prior to these storms dumping the 5 1/2 feet on us.  In fact, February was warmer than March has been.  It gets depressing this late in the season to have large snowfalls dumped on us, especially when they aren’t accompanied by the customary warmer temps that join it in melting it quickly.  We’ve been in the deep freeze for weeks now, so all the snow is not leaving any time soon.  18-3-18 015

I snuck some candids of my guys shoveling our driveway and as you can see by my youngest’s expression, he was D-O-N-E with shoveling.  He is a bit of a whiner normally, and his big brother is more of a “let’s just dig in and get it over with” type, like his mama.  I’m not one to put off the shoveling, let’s just get after it.  I shoveled so much snow during the last storm that my back took days to recover.  Not good for me as I have some physical limitations now, but it had to be done.  My guys did contribute to many pounds of snow being moved, so no complaints from this mom.  They will work hard when they have to.  We were so incredibly blessed to have a couple of angels come and at least plow the HUGE bank left by the plows at the end of the driveway for us a couple of times during the days of snow we received.  Sometimes, when you coach a person’s kid, or are their scout leader, they will show their appreciation for the hours and hours you spend mentoring their child by doing a completely unsolicited act of kindness.  This was the case here, one of the dads of my husband’s basketball team came twice and moved the huge bank for us.  And then one other time, our contractor did the same.  Unpaid, but profusely thanked, they just waved and drove off.  Gotta love small towns.

 

This is our farm dog, Brady, or as we call him Schmoopy.  This dog could not love snow any more than he does.  He loves to catch snowballs, run, dig and just generally enjoy the mess we hate moving.  Brady helps to give us some perspective to the snow, which we do try to take a moment and enjoy the beauty of as well.  He’s a riot when he gets out in it.  For almost 4 years I was not able to take him off the leash at all because he would take off on me and not come back.  When we moved here, I worked with him to try to keep him in his yard and we were able to let him off the leash for a while.  Little by little, he’s been pushing the boundary line until during the last storm, he decided to ignore the boundary line and take off into the woods chasing the scent of something. I was up to my hips in the snow trekking the woods tracking him and calling him desperately to stop and come back.  He got quite a distance before he finally came back to me. His nose takes over his ears and he just doesn’t listen.  Hound dogs, what can you do?  So, sadly, he’s back on the leash until we can get a fenced in area for him to be in. We live literally feet from a busy road and I know if he went into the road he would be dead.  He’s a member of our family (I know, true homesteaders aren’t supposed to do this with animals, but he’s my constant companion), and if anything like this happened to him, I would be devastated.  So, the leash it is for now.

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We gathered about 5 gallons of sap during the beginning of the season, which was really cool from 4 taps.  It warmed up a couple of weeks and we weren’t getting anything, then the temps dropped again. and now it’s been dripping fast and furiously.  I counted four seconds between drips!  I have another 5 gallons or so to boil down if the wind ever stops blowing.  I tried yesterday, but the wind was using too much of the propane and couldn’t even get it up to a boil.  So, I’m covering it and will try again.  From five gallons of sap, we ended up with this much syrup…

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Yes, that’s a pint jar of sap.  Five gallons cooked down comes to this.  Hardly seems worth it, doesn’t it?  But…if only you could taste this.  Holy Crow!  I have sampled my share of maple syrup from other sources, always loved it, but never have I tasted anything that is like this.  It is maple, but also has a vanilla undertone to that is just incredible.  We won’t be sharing this with anyone, sorry extended family.  And, we will be tapping more trees next year.  You know when you say that money can’t replace all things in life, so very few things.  This is one of them.  Only the hard work of the sap collection and boil down will yield something like this, it can only be had by having it collected uncommercially.  I have a theory, the extra delicious comes from the stuff that keeps this syrup having just a little cloudiness to it, see the bottom of the jar, it’s not perfect.  Commercially produced syrup has all this filtered out, its perfectly clear.  But the incredible taste is in that imperfection and so we will leave it…and enjoy the heck out of it.

Well, that’s news from the homestead.  I’m hoping to get the snow gone and the garden beds started here before too long.  We should be receiving the potatoes we ordered soon, and I want to have the potato boxes built before they arrive so we can get them planted.  Going to try growing them vertical this year.  I bought all indeterminate kinds and so they should grow up the vine instead of spreading on one level.  I’ll keep you posted on those as we start that experiment.  My seed order arrived from Baker Creek and I can’t wait to get them in the ground.  Ahhh, spring, just can’t wait.  Until then be well, be kind to each other and blessings to you all.

3 thoughts on “Spring?, Snow and Syrup

  1. I probably mentioned already that our syrup is really not very good. It actually taste rather off. I only got it because my colleagues insisted it could not be done here. The bigleaf maple, which is the common sugaring maple in British Columbia, happens to be native here as well. However, we do not get much of a sustained chill, and once the days get warm, the night do as well. (We really get only a few cool days in a row.) I would do it again though.

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    1. We have had some really cold spells here this winter. I know once the sap starts to run well and the temps stay up, the sap loses a lot of its sweetness. Maybe tap earlier next year? We tapped a sugar maple, which has red foliage in fall and have a couple more we will be doing next year. It’s been a fun adventure to try our own this year. Always looking for more self sustaining skills! Thank you for reading and commenting!

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      1. Oh, it is not that we missed the season. We technically have ‘no’ sugaring season. The maples defoliate well (they are accustomed to mild winters) and stay bare for a while, but their buds start to swell very quickly after the sap starts to flow. There is almost no time to get the sap before it goes bad. We have an excellently mild climate here that allows us to grow many things that do not do so well elsewhere, but it is limiting as well. Sugaring just is not practical here.

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