Saturday, March 25, 2006

Must be Spring

I'm so confused! At 6:30 this morning, it was sleeting, then the sun came out, and blessed us all for a while.

Then, it rained, slushed, and snowed, in turn, all within 10 minutes on the way back from town.

Now it's just dreary and cold--but I found this one, tiny, blooming crocus!

It must be Spring, for sure.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A walk on the path

Here's a walk Grandpa's been waiting for since she was first born! A chance to show this very special bit of our life, some of the world that waits for her.

You can see on either side of the path, the maple trees that are tapped, and our favorite walking path curving ahead.

Watching a small patch of woods grow and change character is like watching a beloved child come into amazing potential, only slower!

Spring is coming. Just not fast enough.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

It's a start!

The thing I miss most in the winter months, is fresh greens from the garden. There's just nothing like exploring the green growing things, just before a meal, and bringing them in to make a meal. Everything tastes just so delicious and healthy. Jim had already built me a raised bed in the garden to try something new this year, when I read in a gardening magazine about a man in Maine who grew his own salad greens all winter long!

Well, I had to try that! So we put a winter cap on the bed, propped sheets of glass at the ends and planted a variety of lettuces, spinach and peas inside. They just laid there dormant until the longer days of coming spring and now they're coming up. Not a lot yet, but if you look close in the second picture, you can see my almost a garden, coming along, in spite of the mid 20's temperatures outside.

The row to the side of the raised bed is the garlic he planted this fall. It's up an average of 5 inches already and should provide 65 heads of glorious garlic to make our meals savory all summer long. Good things coming soon!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Trembling on the edge!

There's tension in the air, this time of year. You see a cluster of daffodils like these, and they seem to be trembling on the edge of just bursting into glorious, sunny bloom. They're ready, almost there, any minute now.

I sure love this time of year, and keep watch daily for all the small changes. as we move, inch by inch, into the green and growing part of the year.

Happy First Day of Spring!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

There's a sure sign of Spring! Two of them, in fact! This fat robin cruised around the yard scooping up worms and bugs for hours in the sunshine today, in spite of the below freezing temperatures.

If you look really close, you can see the bees too. they were venturing out cautiously in hopes of finding something blooming to back up their scant store of honey this late in the season. The pie plate on top of the hive contains a little sugar water to help them out until things really start blooming and the bees can shop for their own dinner.

Spring's coming! Hooray!

Tapping the maples

This is working a little backwards, to show how we tap the tree, after we show how we cook they syrup down, but that's just the way things so together sometimes.

There are may ways to draw the maple sap out of the tree, and our way is determined by our frugal approach to everything. Traditionally, a hole is drilled in the trunk of a large tree. When you get to that time of year when it freezes at night, and gets above freezing during the day, the sap moves up and down the tree through the layers just below the bark.

A hole is usually drilled about 3 inches into the tree and a metal spile tapped into the hole. Then a metal bucket is hung on the spile, and it catches the sap as it drips out. The flow can vary from an almost steady trickle, to a slow drip, to nothing. Then the workers trudge through the mud or snow from tree to tree to collect the many gallons of sap. It takes 37 to 50 gallons of sap to cook down into one gallon of delicious, sweet syrup, and it's heavy.

Modern large scale operations use plastic taps, connected by tubing that flows many feet to central catch basins-sometimes connecting whole mountainsides. We've adapted the techniques for our own frugal lifestyle, and don't make a lot. We only cook a small amount for our own use and don't sell any, so we can just work by hand. Jim carves his own spiles out of sumac branches, and we use short hoses to direct the sap into rinsed, recycled plastic jugs.

The sap rests in the jugs until we can get time to cook it down. The pictures shows Jim telling our granddaughter about the process. Doesn't she look like she understands the whole thing?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Owl's Haven Country Life

We have just a little spot of country, only 3 acres of trees in Northern Indiana, but we take such joy in it each day. Through some benign neglect, and lots more sweat and hard work, we've created a space with lots of trees, paths for exploring, an organic garden and lots of good times.

We sat out in the twilight a few nights ago, sharing a glass of wine and listening to the barred owls' mating calls, while watching our maple sap slowly evaporate into delicious golden syrup, and realized how much others would like to share our special life.

So here's the first posting. The picture is of my husband Jim, checking the sap on top of our unique home made stove. The top is a barrel, of course, with a hole cut in the top for the cast iron dutch oven to sit down in close to the fire. The door is a no parking sign on bolts, and the base is an old claw footed bathtub, that's served as inside reading nook and outside ice chest for years. Not very portable, but certainly strong and useful.

I'll try to post often, about the unique ways we work our way through our country year.