Spring 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

 


Around Here - A Season In Transition

 

 

Kids and Eggs - 9

We're still experiencing winter weather. We still have lots of snow, we even were downhill skiing last weekend!   I am hoping that when Spring weather finally does arrive, it will be fast and furious.  Now, bets are on if the ice on the lakes will be melted by the Minnesota fishing opener early May.

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The sap is has started to run again.  We have had several days in the past few weeks that the temperature has not reached above freezing.  Just this week the sap started running again.  I plan on collecting for another week, then I am planning on pulling the spiles and boiling down what I have.  

Kids and Eggs - 9I am leaning into traditional rhythms of Spring.  I have eggs in my classroom incubator and I am reading Charlotte's Web to my kindergarten students.  Usually, this happens after our classroom pancake party, where I share syrup made from the sap we collected from our schoolyard maple trees.   This year there is a little overlap, but I am making sure these fun experiences happen.   We are holding off a little bit on our planting. Our school garden will be ready for transplants any time soon.
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Taking it day by day, with hope and a knowing Spring will be here soon.  Until then, I am working with intention to enjoy the beauty of this season in transition.

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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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nature's gifts - blooming ladyslippers


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I took the whole family out back to see a couple of the blooming lady slippers that I came across on a recent walk -

and look what we found, dozens of beautiful blooming flowers!

I take this as a reminder to continue to be mindful and pay attention to the subtle changes and gifts that are present each day in my  northwoods surroundings.

 

 


nature mandalas

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Naturemandalas

Its the last week of school!!! It is the time to be creative to keep children engaged in learning.  Earlier in the week we took our learning outdoors to make some nature mandalas.  I have been partnering my class with a third grade classroom and we have been trying to explore the outdoors each week together as "nature buddies."  This was a great project to round out our classroom partnership for the year.  Our students were so creative and cooperative!  My hope is that they will take a little of this lesson with them and explore and play with natural objects and design over the summer months.

What we did:

  • We collected buckets full of rocks, pine cones, blossoms and other interesting found objects from nature.
  • We found an undisturbed background (smooth sidewalk)
  • To define the shape of a circle we placed a large hula hoop down.  The kids started working together, from the center out creating and expanding their design.
  • After a set amount of time we removed the hula hoop, gave each group and opportunity to check out all of the designs and took pictures before we cleaned up the walkway.

a weekend in the north woods

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These images sum up our weekend.  I took the kids to nana's and papa's where the kids and I all took our first swim of the year.  (Last weekend it was snowing - this weekend we were swimming!)   James got contracted out as a wild land firefighter to help at a local wildfire not too far from home - those big planes we visited at the airport the other day are now at work!  


kids, chickens, bees, rabbits.....and airplanes

 

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This post might not exactly fit with the homesteading theme of this blog, but it fits with the culture of the north woods environment in which I live, and one of my deep rooted interests from a time period earlier in my life -aviation!   I love to keep just a spark of this interest alive by visiting our local airport each Spring when there are large, contracted aircraft stationed and ready to aid in wildland fire suppression.

At our small airport outside of town there is an U.S. Forest Service Tanker Base.  Every Spring some (pretty awesome) aircraft make their way to our neck of the woods and I work to  coordinate a kindergarten field trip to tour the airport to check out the airplanes, and to get some hands-on instruction by some wild land fire fighters and Smokey the Bear.

Last Friday was our field trip, and the weather and activity cooperated so we got to see some impressive airplanes and helicopters! To scope things out my daughter and I went out to the airport Thursday after school and we were lucky enough to have a chance to talk to some of the pilots and crew from Neptune Aviation.  We even got a chance to go aboard and sit in the cockpit of one of the planes.  The Neptune BAe 146 aircraft have been stationed in Ely and have been flying and dropping fire retardant on local fires and fires in Canada.

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So I got a little fix of the aviation bug this past week - and got to pass that on a bit to a bunch of young little dreamers and doers in my life. 


::letting them play

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The suckers are running!  This is such a telltale sign of Spring in our little corner of the world.  Every Spring when the suckers are making their way up our creek we all splash around  searching for these ugly fish as they make their spawning runs.  This year our four children (and the dog and cat) were part of the experience.  The kids were independently making their way up and down the creek, two boys racing boats they made out of scrap pieces of wood.  After a full week at school and a full Saturday of cleaning and laundry, I had to resist my urges to stop them in their play, just for a while, so they could live this experience today and make these memories of their childhood without their mother nagging them about getting their clothes dirty.  As their mama, I know these memories are far more valuable than the  inconvenience of another full load of laundry and the mud and dirt tracked into the house.  Sometimes all it takes is a moment to pause and take a breath, to gain the perspective that I need to just let them play.


kids and eggs

 

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It sure feels like Spring in my kindergarten class!   We are reading Charlotte's Web, we have a windowsill full of plants, we have a bunny running around the classroom - and - we have chicks hatching!  So far four chicks have hatched -Lola, Chirp, Paul and Fluffers.  I posted some videos to my instagram account if you want to see them in action.  I LOVE sharing these fun experiences with the children in my life!


::out back

 

 

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Spring is here!  This lake that still had ice on it yesterday afternoon now is ice-free!

These days I am making time to pay attention to the beauty and reminders that a change of season brings.  I am also working to share mindful practices of noticing and paying attention with the children in my life, both at home and at school.  It is so simple, yet so meaningful to make these connections with the natural world each day.