Archive for March, 2007

Boiling down

tubingsugar houseboiling pansfellowshipToday we had the chance to see the sap – to- syrup process in action. Some local friends have a sugar bush. They use the tubing method to collect sap from about 75 sugar maples on their property. The sap drains downhill through the tubing into a large tub at the bottom. Their sugar house is a wonderful little log cabin nestled in the woods by a stream and the large collection tub sits right outside the back of the building. From the tub there is a pipe that carries the sap, which is the consistancy of water, to a tap inside. From here they fill a bucket and pour the sap into a preheater which warms the sap before it goes into the boiling pan. This particular set up uses two boiling pans, one that drains into the other. The first one contains less concentrated liquid; the second pan contains what will eventually be syrup. These pans lie atop an altered wood burning stove that is regularly stoked with hardwood and forced air to keep the fire hot and the sap boiling. It’s a long, slow process to concentrate the sugar in the sap into maple syrup. Depending on the sugar content of the sap, it can take from 40 – 70 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. But here in Vermont it can be a social occasion, the gathering of friends for food and fellowship… and syrup tasting. Yummmm.

We have some sugar maples on our property and have toyed with the idea of trying to make some syrup. This summer we’ll try to ID the trees and acquire the required gear (probably the traditional buckets at first and we won’t have the sugaring house). Then next Spring we can drill a few holes and set about the adventure for ourselves.

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One more

I’ve finished another postcard for the fiber store: “Full Moon” is 4″x6″.
full moon postcard

Artwork


nature sketches classFinally, I’m doing some artwork. Yesterday I took a 2 hour class on nature sketching. I wasn’t sure what I would come away with but at least it would be an opportunity to sit and sketch. There were about 8 ladies there and the teacher was a local artist from Bridgewater, VT. She provided us with a plethora of subjects to sketch. I was overwhelmed with all the stuff – fake flowers and leaves, several animal figures, and a nest with eggs – so I chose just a few flowers and several leaves at first. I had some extra time so I tackled the face of the lamb. I drew in pencil first, inked with a permanent pigma pen, erased the pencil, and colored with cake watercolors.

I’ve been working at the sewing machine a little too and have finished two small pieces. One is for the fiber store where a few of my postcards are hanging. I’ve sold two of the five they had originally, both part of my “Mountain Vistas” series. I’m hoping to put the other piece in another gallery one day. Here are the new ones. The lake scene is called “Reflections 1″ and 4″x 6″. The mountain scene is actually 5″x 7″ but framed down to 3.5″x 5”. It is called “Dusk”.

Reflections 1
Dusk

Spring Beauty

It is hard to get too worked up about a snow storm in Spring when you wake up, look out the window and see this:
snow 1snow 2
snow 3snow 4
It was still and silent while I was out taking the photos. Breath-taking! I love being out when it is like that. Of course, by now, the sun is out, the snow is gone off the trees and the snow is melting quickly. After all, it’s Spring.

Spring in Vermont :-D

It is well known that Spring is slow in coming to Vermont. But lest you think that we are SO far behind everyone else, especially those posting wonderful pictures on blogs (i.e. here), we thought we’d post some pictures of our own.
orchid flowers
We have beautiful flowers blooming… um, indoors on the kitchen counter.
snow peas
Here is Roger happily harvesting our first crop of “snow peas”. They are a little frozen at the moment but will be a wonderful addition to our leftover chicken for dinner tonight.
eggs
We don’t quite have cute little fuzzy chicks yet but the hens have done their duty here. Maybe next year we’ll have new little piggies to post as well.
saplinesthumb.jpgcollection tank

Seriously, the maple sap is running. These pictures are of our neighbor’s small operation. We visited a larger sugar house today, hoping to see the sap-to-syrup process in action. Usually they start boiling much earlier; last year they started on Feb 17th. Today – March 24 – will be their first boil and the sugar in the sap is very low. Instead of needing 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, it will take about 67 gallons. With the higher trend predicted for temeratures it looks like the harvesting season will be rather short as well. We did get to taste sugar on snow (never thought I’d say anything was too sweet for me but this was), maple cream spread on homemade doughnuts (very yummy) and maple creamie, maple syrup in vanilla soft serve – also very good.

Oh, and the weatherman is predicting 3-5 inches of new snow tonight. Ah, Spring….

Spring? sort of

Last week I bought some tickets to the Boston Flower Show hoping for a healthy dose of Spring. The weatherman was predicting 18″ of new snow in Vermont the day before the show opened and Spring won’t arrive here on our mountain until May. We met our daughter and son-in-law for the trip into Boston. What a treat and just the ticket for a damp, blustery, cold and snowy day. The displays were lovely and the flower and plant exhibits were fabulous. I took all of 7 pictures before my camera battery died. So I’ll post the two best ones – some stunning Gerbera daisies (a little out of focus) and some very cool orchid leaves – and you’ll just have to imagine the rest… or go see the show yourself. It’s open until March 25th.
Gerbera daisiesorchid leaves
Now back to winter…

What’s not to like…

…about Mud Season? I could make a long list but I’ll just show a few photos.
Muddy road 1Muddy road 2
This is Town Farm Rd in front of our house, looking up hill and down hill. Looks like fun, doesn’t it? I’m sorry I didn’t have my camera when our neighbor’s truck drove down. It’s awfully hard to drive in a straight line. And the mud is getting to the boot-sucking stage.

The good thing about mud season (I keep telling myself) is that it means Spring is on the way, even if it is still 2 months off. As I sit here, I can look out at the woods and they are decidedly redder. That means that the tiny buds on the trees are swelling with the promise of tiny flowers and leaves. It means that the sap is flowing. Mmmm… maple syrup. We’ve had so much melting with the warmer temps lately that there are even patches of grass appearing. I’m sure there are crocuses blooming somewhere – but certainly not here.


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