harvest Feed

From Sap to Syrup

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Yesterday was sap boiling day!

Spring sugaring season was long this year, though the sap did not flow continuously.  The temperatures here in Northeast Minnesota started poking above freezing during the day early March, but then we encountered another cold snap that halted the flow.   So the spiles were in our school-yard maple trees for over a month this season.   Friday I collected the last of the sap, pulled the spiles and gathered the buckets with my students.  Yesterday, on a warm and sunny day I boiled the sap to syrup at home.

After our long Minnesota winter, spending a warm and sunny day outdoors was absolutely delightful.  

I have learned too, over the years, approaching the experience as a hobbyist, that I can boil 20 gallons of sap (or less) in about 8 hours.  This yields enough syrup to share with my kindergarten class at our annual celebratory classroom pancake party, and a few pints to savor over the year.   More sap would extend the boiling time.  I would get more syrup, but it makes the experience more burdensome (boiling into the evening time or night even).  I have found my "happy place" with this small-scale approach and I look forward to the experience and products of my efforts every year.

If you are interested in learning more about the process, check out this article that I wrote for mothering.com:

Megan Devine  mothering.com

 


It's Maple Syrup Season!

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After a weeklong stretch of temperatures below freezing at night and above freezing during the daytime, I felt the time was right for the sap to start to run.  And I was right!

I have been tapping trees and collecting sap to make maple syrup with my students and my own children for several years now.  Each year I am learning more and more, and I am becoming more mindful of the conditions that produce this pocket season, which I look forward to near the end of our long dark winters here in northern Minnesota.

I think this season, just may be a good one.  The buds are tight on the trees and the extended forecast looks favorable.  Time will tell, but I am happy to have started the process, sharing this annual experience with my children.  I also look forward to sharing this experience with my students at school next week.

If you are interested here's some links to my experiences in the last couple of years:

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Backyard Sugaring

kindergarten pancake party

And here is a post that I wrote for mothering.com about the process and my experiences with small scale spring sugaring as a family:

http://www.mothering.com/articles/family-fun-with-small-scale-spring-sugaring/


Around Here...

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The colors are reflecting the change in the seasons from summer to fall.  Our weather has been rather extreme, hot and humid one day, then cold and rainy another.  

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The garden is producing.  We have had a stretch of warm and humid days which has helped to ripen tomatoes.  I have never has so many ripe tomatoes in the fall!  I have been busy canning tomatoes and making and canning salsa to line our pantry shelves for our family to enjoy.

IMG_0328The bees are hanging in there.  The nectar flow has pretty much ceased in our neck of the woods.  The warm weather has kept the bees active, but hungry.  I made a sloppy candy board with a pollen patty and consolidated the bees into one super recently as I start to prepare and transition them with hope that this colony will make it through our long winter ahead.

Other happenings:

Athletics
We are keeping busy following our children in their athletic endeavors.  Fall extra curricular include cross-country running, a kids marathon race and flag football.

RaceI ran too!   I returned to the running scene and completed a local half marathon after having a competition hiatus for the last 13 or so years.  It felt good to accomplish this goal.

BdaySince I have last posted we have also celebrated this special boy's 8th birthday!  

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Oh how our life is rich and full!  This mindful practice of reflecting upon still images serves as a reminder of all of the beauty in my life, especially on difficult days. This simple practice fills me with gratitude and evokes feelings of joy and love.   I invite you to play along.


Around Here


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Around here....

::Garden produce has been keeping me busy.  We are doing a lot of eating and I am canning and preserving extras tomatoes and cucumbers in the form of salsa, pickles and relish.

::We passed on our layers and invited about 50 new baby chicks to our homestead.  25 are laying hens (It will be about 5 months or so until we get our first egg.) The other 25 are meat birds, which we will "turn to meat" late October.

::This mama and her four kids have started school.  It has been a great first week - we are getting in the groove!

::We are enjoying the last days of the summer season.   It has been a beautiful weekend.  I started my day with a quiet hike.  Right now James is out fishing.  Both, wonderful ways to recharge for the week ahead.

 

 

 


Spring Sugaring

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Maple 8Another season of small scale spring sugaring has come to a close.  Today I finished boiling down the sap I have been collecting.e.   This year was not the greatest season I experienced, but bountiful enough to continue the experience and reap the harvest.  We had an early warm spell that accelerated the swell of the buds, when we had a longer stretch of good sap collecting weather (below freezing at night and above freezing during the day), the buds warmed up enough to "pop."   When this happens the sap gets a bit cloudy and it can subtly affect the taste of the syrup.  This too is when the tree needs the sap to form the leaves.    

I did collect about 20 gallons, which equates to about a full 8-10 hours of boiling.   I was happy with my yield this year - and the time commitment was manageable given other things pulling me in different directions this weekend.

I had opportunity to share what I have learned over my years of small scale spring sugaring with a larger audience as well. Check out my post on mothering.com to learn a little more:

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Harvest of Ice

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We spent a gorgeous winter day at our friends' resort harvesting ice, as has been a mid-winter tradition in our neck of the woods.  We got a wonderful dose of sunshine, we all broke a sweat and shed layers.   Today I am happy with sunburned cheeks and a fun and productive day under my belt.   It is fun to get more involved as my role has changed from children-tender and life guard to ice block hauler.  It was fun to see our children get more involved as well - almost all of them made it the mile ski out to the resort on their own power and they all helped out throughout the day as well.  Fun times with good friends, keeping a fun Northwoods tradition alive.


pumpkining in kindergarten

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Here are a few snapshots from short, busy and fun week in kindergarten.  

In the lesson plans were:  pumpkin investigations!

Monday:  Pumpkin seeds (My garden was generous this year I grew 16 pie pumpkins - and I had a couple donations - so each student was able to investigate their own pumpkin.  I brought home one 5 gallon bucket of pumpkin "guts" for the chickens - and two 5 gallon buckets of cut and seeded pumpkins.

Monday night:  The kindergarten teacher (and husband) roasted pumpkin seeds, the kindergarten teacher also bandaged the blisters that she got from slicing and cutting the tops off of 18 pumpkins.

Tuesday:  Roasting pumpkins.   In class we roasted a crockpot full of sliced and seeded pumpkins throughout the day, sharing with the kiddos one way pumpkins can be cooked.

Tuesday night:  Roasting pumpkins - I had two crock pots going at home roasting pumpkins overnight and during the daytime to make the most of our harvest.

Wednesday: Pumpkin puree and pumpkin smoothies.  In class I showed the kids what part of the pumpkin that we make into pumpkin puree and we celebrated our efforts by making (and enjoying) pumpkin smoothies.

Wednesday night:  Before we went out and celebrated our anniversary, I finished up making pumpkin puree from all of the baked pumpkins.  I was able to put up over 26 cups of fresh pumpkin.  (I freeze it in 2 cup servings in quart freezer bags.)

Another successful year of pumpkining at home and school - done!

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Now I just need to make it through a Halloween on a Monday night.

If you are looking for some pumpkin inspired ideas, check out my recent post on mothering.com:

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::apples!

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Apple season is coming to an end.  I made the most of our local fruit tree harvest....

::in kindergarten - visiting some apple trees near our schoolyard and sharing the experience of making apple sauce in a crock pot during the school day.

::at home - making dehydrated apple rings, canned apple sauce, and (not pictured, but devoured) caramel apple cheesecake.  

 

Yum!

 

 


In the Garden & In the Kitchen - Mid August

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Oh August, a month of abundance!  

This month is delivering an abundance of garden (work and harvest), preserving, gatherings with friends and family -and lots of lake time.   We have been so busy, but in a full, rich and wonderful way.   August, has its moments, but overall it is a wonderful time to be.


::farewell blues

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IMG_3887Our wild blueberry season is coming to a close.  Today we hiked up our ridge so see how many more we could gather.  The past few weeks we have come down with at least 2 quarts a picking, but today returned with just over a cup.

It has been a bountiful season and our foraging efforts have paid off.  As we have close to 5 gallons of wild blues in our freezer!

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We are grateful for blueberries - the homemade jam that will accompany our peanut butter sandwiches, the frozen berries that will add flavor and nutrients to our morning smoothies and oatmeal - and of course the memories that accompany sharing these experiences as a family.