Maple Syrup, Maple Smoke and Chickens!

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Hello Everyone!

Well, I finally figured out the solution to my chickens being on strike with the egg laying.  I can’t remember if I told you about this, but my chickens have not been laying for about 5 months now.  They do usually take a bit of a break during the cold winter weather, but I will generally still get an egg or two every other day.  They have not given me anything in many months, and I know they aren’t young any more, so thought that may have something to do with it.  But, its so frustrating to be feeding them organic (read: expensive) feed and having nothing to show for it, not to mention having to purchase eggs either from neighbor farms or the grocery store.  I am a fan and watcher of other homesteaders on youtube, and one of them was having the same problem.  He was purchasing feed in bulk from an Amish farmer, and he had first year birds.  His chickens stopped laying last fall, so when he mentioned it to the Amish farmer, he said, okay, let’s try increasing the protein in their feed mix.  Bingo!  Within two weeks of feeding the increased protein, they were back to laying every day!  Hmmm, I thought…perhaps that’s the problem with my girls.  So, when I went to Tractor Supply to pick up their usual feed, I looked for one that had more than the standards 16% crude protein.  I found a Nutrena feed, though not organic, is an 18% crude protein.  Within a week, I was back in eggs!  Yay!  I was getting very discouraged, so I was so happy when my husband brought the first egg in 5 months into the house from the coop.  It was almost as exciting as seeing that very first egg coming from the chick you’ve raised since day old.  Now, we are getting multiple eggs.  I only have 6 hens left now, most of them are 3 years old, so they are slowing down anyway, but I am getting about 2 eggs every other day on average.  This is pretty good this time of the year from some middle aged ladies.  As the days get longer and brighter, they tend to increase their production, but we are still not usually in full eggs this time of year.  Overall, I’m very happy that we are getting eggs from them again and looking forward to when they are ramped all the way up and I can stop purchasing them in other places.

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Sap season is upon us!  Last weekend, my husband and I set the taps in our maples.  We went from only 4 taps last year, to 10 taps this year in 4 separate trees.  The first day we had the taps in, at the end of the day we had already collected about 2 1/2 gallons of sap!   maple tapping 2019 004

I had a lot of fun sugaring for the first time last year, and with dipping our toes in the maple water, as it were, so we decided to increase the number of taps this year.  Fun!  If you have maple trees, I honestly encourage you to learn to tap and boil down the sap.  Nothing in the store tastes anything nearly as delicious as the sap you make yourself.  I am one of those people who is deeply connected to nature, and when something this amazing comes from such little work, its one of those miracles of nature to me.  I don’t really need this syrup having scored a bunch at Ocean Job Lots for free (100% pure maple syrup!), but there is no way I am passing this opportunity up.  I think I am going to try to can some to save for later.  I also take great pleasure in the smell of the maple sap boiling down.  I like to call it maple smoke, though it’s actually steam.  I thoroughly enjoyed my maple smoke facial while it was boiling down, its a wonderful aroma!  Just one more thing that makes this whole experience worthwhile.

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Sap freezes in the jug hanging on the tree in 7 degree weather!

Since we have a snowstorm approaching tonight complicating the process, I decided to take the day to boil the sap we have collected down to create a batch of syrup.  We had collected about 7 or so gallons of sap, so enough to do a couple of pots on the burners for a while.  I started about 10:30 am and finished up the last of it at 4:00pm.  That’s almost 6 hours of running outside to check the burner and progress, stirring and measuring the temperature.  When I woke up this morning, it was 7 degrees out there, so I was concerned it would be too cold to make it work, but I managed to get all 7 gallons boiled down, and it created…one pint of finished syrup.

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Now, I do realize that doesn’t seem like much, but this is seriously amazing stuff.  It has character and its full-bodied, and has a wonderful undertone of vanilla to it.  It is cloudy and dark and not perfect, but I really do believe that the flavor is in the imperfection because store bought is clear and all, but it lacks the complexity of flavor that my home grown syrup does.

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We had some fun nature observations while we were drilling.  It was a beautiful, warmish day and we found beetles walking around on the maples.  Where there was a hole from last year, which has not yet sealed itself back in, there was a beetle taking refuge in the hole.  You can just see his head markings if you look closely in the hole.

Its always fun to take the time to observe nature when you are out and about or working on projects on the homestead.  Isn’t it amazing that this little beetle took up a home in this little hole from where we drew sap last year?  God is in the details, truly.  Nature is so symbiotic and opportunistic.  Wow!

While I was boiling sap, the farm dog was hanging out with me.  The picture on the right makes me smile.  He spent a lot of time sitting in the back trees just watching out the back of our property.  We have cows that live behind our property at a farm that our neighbor owns.  Brady is fascinated by them.  I really think he thinks they are deer or something, but he will just sit and watch them for a long time, with rapt attention.  He’s a goofball a lot of the time, but I do wonder what goes through his mind when he sees something so large.  These are angus meat cows, so they are quite formidable.  He’s such a smart dog, and I think he definitely is trying to work out just what they are.

Well, I am waiting anxiously for the arrival of spring…very ready for that!  I am sure we are all looking forward to it.  I hope you’re finding things on the homestead to keep you busy and not having cabin fever!  Until next time, be well, be kind to each other and blessings to you all.


Photos…and not much else

Greetings Everyone!

So, I have been taking photos for a very long time.  I enjoy many different things to photograph.  Mostly nature and my family, but also I find it fun to take pictures of things that are more the minutiae of life, the smaller things that I take notice of that most people might just pass by without a thought.  There is some wonderful life involved in these small moments captured in time.  I thought I would post a few pictures of a variety of things for you to hopefully enjoy.  Though not necessarily homestead related, just a little of my passion, shining through…

The door to the Seven Seas Street Inn on Nantucket, MA


Centuries old cobblestones on a Nantucket street
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A peaceful fall retreat
Stunning light following a late summer storm
Catching a surf on the wind
and one more of the amazing light following that same late summer storm

Okay, so don’t want to bore you with a bunch of these if you’re not interested in them, but taking pictures gives meaning to my life in a way nothing else does…so I hope you enjoy them.  Until next time, be well, be kind to each other and blessings to you all.


Elderberries, Honey, Planning


Good Day, Everyone!

Freezing cold has hit the homestead!  We had a stretch of a few days that were sub-zero temps here recently.  Now, the apple trees actually need some stretches of those temperatures in order to flower and produce apples correctly.  It’s a period of deep dormancy that’s required.  But, honestly, outside of these wonderful trees…no one else wants anything close to those temperatures!  We did manage to keep the washing machine line from freezing by employing a heater in the crawl space and banking snow up around the foundation of the house from a recent snow fall.  We finally got a little bit of snow, about 4 inches or so, which for us is a drop in the proverbial bucket.  I do know we will be seeing much more of that in the near future.  I am sure of it.

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The chickens did well and managed the cold.  I always wonder how it is for them, feathers puffed up trapping their warm air, sitting on the freezing roost, hunkered down well  onto their feet to avoid frost bite.  I am sure it is bitter cold just the same.  Since having the birds in the Fort Knox-like coop built by my friend, Chad, the birds have not suffered any frost bite on their combs or waddles, so we know they are toasty and draft free in there.  Back when we lived in a home where we had a nice big barn and coop for them, it was a drafty affair.  They routinely had frost bite on their combs, especially the rooster as his comb and waddles were large.  I resorted to lining the walls of that coop, which was really a small room in the barn, with empty grain bags in an attempt to stop the draft from blowing right through.  It did help stop the breeze and also was amusing to see all the different chickens pinned up to the walls.  It made me think of a teenage boy’s walls lined with pin-up girls…but for the chicken ilk!

After the third cold of the season for my youngest, I decided to invest in some dried elderberries to make some syrup so that we can all give our ever important immune system a good boost.  I pretty much never leave a recipe as I find it, and so added some oranges, lemons, cinnamon stick, cloves and honey to the basic recipe I found online.  Now, that’s some good medicine we can all be behind drinking every day!  It’s good stuff and I love that it is helping my crew stay healthy.  I made the batch in the pressure cooker my in-laws gave me for Christmas (that thing is the BOMB!), so it was pretty much done in about 1/2 hour.  I am going to do a separate post on the recipe for that for anyone that may be interested in making your own winter health tonic.  I just need to get the time together with my camera to take some step by step pictures.  I often find myself with the intention of posting something, and then go ahead and make it and end up completely forgetting to take the time to photograph everything along the way.  But I made the last batch and split it with my sister-friend, Diane, so I am already quite ready to make another batch.  With my youngest being sick, we’ve been going through it quicker than normal because he needs 2 tablespoons of it twice a day.


I have yet to sit down with the seed catalogs and get my order in.  It is on my plan for this afternoon, or tomorrow if that falls through. We are doing our traditional Super Bowl party at our friend’s house tonight.  Patriots fans abound here, as you can imagine being in New Hampshire and all.  So, I will need to create some yummy treats to contribute my touch to the pot luck style dinner.  I am going to be bringing a veggie tray as well as some cookies and brownies.  You need quick finger food style offerings since we plan on doing a lot of cheering, hooting and hollering in the wake of what we are sure will be yet ANOTHER Super Bowl win for our beloved Pats.  Now, confessing something to you all…I don’t care at all about the game, I go for the friends, fun and good food…and I’m not the only one in this crowd that does the same thing!  But, we all have a great time together and it really helps break up a long winter season to have these little traditions to look forward to, doesn’t it?  When you are dealing with a winter as long as we have up here in New England, it helps to have things to look forward to beyond yet another day of cold, snow and the daggone heat bill!

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We finally managed to get the fence up around the rest of the back yard so that we don’t have to keep an eagle eye on the farm dog.  Since we basically live in suburbia, we can’t have him taking off.  Not just because he’s a member of our family, really, but also because of our very close proximity to a road (about 20 feet from our front door), where people speed around the curve we live on not understanding just how lucky they are to make it around that corner.  We have fished three cars and their surprised drivers out of the woods on snowy, slick nights so far this winter season.  The dog has no fear of cars, nor common sense about moving away or avoiding them, so he would be dead very quickly if he got out onto the road.  And he’s a hound dog mutt, so the nose rules his universe and he doesn’t listen when he’s called, so the fence, though annoying, is necessary.  And I figure at best, it is helping to add one more challenge to the deer that snipped off the tops of a bunch of my carrots last year on their way through the back area!  Wildlife is no joke here, so it’s okay that we have the fence to slow them up a little bit.  One day a few weeks ago, I went to take the dog out for his walk and there was a huge beautiful fox nosing around the back of the compost pile.  Not sure what he was after, maybe the egg shells that are in there as there isn’t any meat of any kind in there, but he was stunning.  As soon as the dog got a whiff of him, he was off like a bullet chasing towards that fox…who was wholly unimpressed with the ferocity of said farm dog.  He stood at the fence until the dog got a bit closer, then turned and sauntered off into the woods.  Had he not been in such a healthy state, with good body weight and a gorgeous, shiny coat I may have worried about him being rabid.  We’ve had that happen in our area after all, but this boy was obviously in very good health, he just was unconcerned with the likes of our dog.  He did pick up the pace a bit when he saw the dog was not alone and had his human with him.  My husband has tried to capture him on the trail camera, but he’s been elusive to date.  Hopefully, we will have the chance to get him on there, as I’d love to show him to you.


  • Okay, time to get after the chores here.  Hope you are all in the final stages of your garden planning with lots dreams of summer and warmer temperatures.  Always in February, I am so ready for winter to be over.  What have you been doing to pass your long winter hours?   Have you had dreams of hands in the soil, too?  Let’s get each other through this long cold season, y’all!  Until next time, be well, be kind to each other and blessings to you all!



Seeds, Recipes and Frigidness


Hello All!

The winter has hit New Hampshire with a vengeance. Of course, I’ll not complain too hard because it is super late arriving here.  I got up in the middle of the night to my dogs insistent bark that some evil being was surely breaking into our house (no. no one was.) and noticed the temperature outside was reading 16 degrees.  This was about 2 a.m.  When I got up at 5:30 with my high schoolers, it was reading 12 degrees.  What the heck?  Shouldn’t it be going UP, not DOWN by that time of morning.  And the wind chill is much colder than that 12 degrees.  Walking the dog a few minutes ago elicited an ice cream headache.  Not my favorite time of year, for sure.  Since we are predicted to have two separate snow storms in three days this coming weekend, we’ll be getting in lots of roof raking, shoveling and snow blowing.  It was bound to happen, it is New England after all.


I was thinking that perhaps you might enjoy the recipe for the Cranberry Pudding that I made last weekend for our dinner guest.  This was a big hit, everyone enjoyed it.  It was nice to use up those extra cranberries I had hanging around from the holidays, too.  This recipe comes to you via the cook book, “Morning Glory Farm and The Family That Feeds An Island”.  A creation of the Morning Glory Farm of Martha’s Vineyard Island, I love this cookbook.  And Morning Glory is on my “some day” bucket list.  The only change I might make to the recipe is next time I will add some orange extract to the frosting, which would be a delicious compliment to the cranberries.  I love cranberries and orange together, add a little cinnamon and it just screams “winter holidays!” at me.  Now, though this is called a pudding, it’s actually a cake.  Not sure why they call it pudding, but there you have it.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Cranberry Pudding

3/4 (scant) cup sugar                      For Hard Sauce (frosting)

2 tsp baking powder                        1/2 c soft butter

2 c all-purpose flour                         1 c sifted powder sugar

1/2-3/4 tsp salt                                     1/2 tsp vanilla

1 c milk (not skim)                            1/2 tsp orange extract (optional)

2 c rinsed fresh cranberries

2 tsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease 8-inch square pan.

Mix together sugar, baking powder, flour and salt. Add milk, cranberries and melted butter.  Stir until it is well mixed.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes.  Let cake cool.

Meanwhile, prepare hard sauce (frosting):

Beat butter on medium speed in a small mixing bowl until fluffy.  Bean in sugar and vanilla and chill.  Spread on cranberry cake just before serving.

Super easy, and super delicious!  I hope you enjoy it!

So, been contemplating some changes here on the homestead. I have been applying for a full time job now that the boys are not needing me at home so much.  Since I am the driving force behind the homestead, I am concerned that I may not have time to do all that I have done in the past.  One because I will be away from the homestead doing a job and time is finite, but another because the stress and mental strain that going back to work full time will put on me.  With my medical health issues, I only have just so much energy before I hit a wall and can’t do more.  My body will only let me do what it will let me do.  And the frustrating thing is that I won’t ever know how much that is in advance.  Some days are better than others and it is an unpredictable business.  But, I think that since I have the garden beds in, I may be able to do the garden.  I was hoping to expand that this year, but if I am working full time, that likely won’t allow me the energy to handle more.  Hopefully, it will work out okay.


We also were contemplating doing meat birds again this year since the meat is so much better, but you really need someone to attend to them during the day.  They will get shavings in their water after about 3 minutes from changing the water and they make a mess.  We have also had them jumping out of their bins, even with the netting over the top of it.  If one of them got out, Brady would have a delicious chicken snack if no one was here to rescue it.  So, I don’t think meat birds will be happening for a while.  I will have a period of adjustment to deal with also- since raising my kids, caring for my family and this homestead have been my exclusive job for 4 years now, and leaving this for a full time job is a daunting thought.  We will adjust to this situation if it occurs for our family, until then, I’m just mentally adjusting.

Well, it’s a shorter entry today, but not much is going on that’s all that interesting around here right now.  I will get back to planning the garden this year soon.  Making some choices like I think tomatoes will be out for the near future.  The blight was so bad in our area last year that a couple of my tomato growing friends have been making the same decision.  It’s devastating to have blight take your plants after so much care and tending go into getting them to fruit stage.    So, might stick to the things I know will prosper and hit the farmers markets for the rest of the items we need.  Will be back in touch soon! Until then, be well, be kind to each other and blessings to you all!