Archive for April, 2008

Could it be? Really?

Of course it’s inevitable. But Spring? Finally? One sure sign for me is the return of the Spring Peepers from their wintering places under logs and leaf litter. These little creatures are seldom seen but herald the coming of Spring with their high pitched peeping in search of mates. We heard them today by the pond halfway up our mountain. We still have a few little piles of snow in the yard. But we’ve heard peepers! Oh glorious day! Spring has come! Who cares that the weatherman is predicting snow for Tuesday.
Spreing Peeper

Overnight Visitors

We had several visitors last night. Two were invited and one was not, although perhaps if you consider temptation to be an invitation, I suppose one could argue the point. We woke up to find this scene in the yard. The feeders were nearly full when we went to bed. We’ve enjoyed watching the birds all winter long, and while we knew that the bears would be waking up and very hungry, we continued to cater to our feathered friends. There was nothing left on the plate for them this morning. And clearly the bear was frustrated with the finch feeder – much easier to just dump it out and get on with it. I’m not sure how he managed to get the seed out of the other feeder without pulling it over also.

Our other visitors were James and Cora here for a few days. Here’s Cora looking pained at having her picture taken. She wanted desperately to come over and see what all the fuss was about.

Croswell’s “Sugar House”

In contrast to the previous post, I thought it would be fun to post about our very small operation.

We made 10 taps by drilling holes in our sugar maples using borrowed sap buckets and taps for the collecting. I emptied the buckets into pails and carried them through the woods by hand as often as we felt necessary, depending on the temperatures and how fast the sap was running. All together we collected about 65 gallons of sap over a 3 week period. The best single day total was 9 gallons (it took two trips to collect it all).

We boiled down 5 separate batches yielding 10+ pints of heavenly syrup. We boiled down on a camp stove on our porch and finished it on our kitchen stove. It took a long time because we had to boil off all the water without the benefit of a reverse osmosis set-up.

Our filters were gravity powered and hung from an altered coat hanger for the dripping process. And we used home canning methods to fill our jars. We did invest in a hydrometer to help get the syrup to the right sugar concentration. The hydrometer, the filters and a digital thermometer were worth every penny.

We’re not too sure how much it cost us to produce the syrup, but we have a new appreciation for what goes into every gallon. I saw it for sale in a store recently for $44/gallon.  Right about now that doesn’t seem too steep.

Washburn’s Sugar House

It’s near the end of the sugaring season so we thought we should get to see our friend’s operation before he shut it down. Scott has been sugaring for about 30 years, ever since he was a youngster.

By now he has a sophisticated operation which services 1500 taps.

He uses plastic tubing and a vacuum pump to collect the sap,

a reverse osmosis machine to reduce the amount of water that needs to be boiled off,

a wood-fired furnace set up with multifaceted boiling chambers,

and a mechanized filtering system.

He can make about 5 gallons of syrup per hour. This year he has produced over 300 gallons, much of it fancy grade. Toward the end of the season the grades get darker. We had the pleasure of sampling some “C grade” today. Oh my it was yummy!

Bird lovers and faint of heart – beware.

I saw something today that I’ve never seen before: a squirrel eating a bird. We have a few little red squirrels that have frequented our bird feeder through the winter. They are quite fun to watch and thankfully not as obnoxious as the bigger gray variety.
Today, this little guy was munching on the deck as I was about to leave the house. I’ve never seen them eat anything so large, so I watched him for a while to see what he was up to. Then I saw it was a bird that he had. From inside the house it was hard to tell what parts he was eating, but as I left and moved slowly by him I could see (and hear) him munching feathers and the beak. When I got too close, he grabbed the whole thing in his mouth and scampered off the deck.
Did he kill the bird? I don’t know. Did the bird fly into the window and die and the squirrel found the feast? Perhaps. And I guess there must be nutrients in the beak and feather shafts that he needed.
UPDATE: If you’re wondering if I faked that photo somehow or if you just want more information, check out this blog I found. It’s an informative post with lots of comments. Our squirrel is not unique and perhaps even caught the bird himself. Who knew?

Just ducky


It was my birthday recently. Yesterday I received a belated birthday package in the mail. There were several wonderful goodies in there, but the thing that made me chuckle was this little tin of Ducky Mints from Bath and Body Works. Yes, the tub shaped tin is filled with little yellow rubber ducky shaped mints. How fun is that?! (Thanks, Muffs.)

Simple Felted Vessel Class

Today was fun. I have admired Jen Leak’s felted vessels in the Six Loose Ladies shop for some time now. Some are whimsical and some are innovative, but all are beautiful. So I took a class with her to learn how to make one.

We started with dyed wool batts, a ball, dish soap and warm water. After layering three colors of wool over the top of the ball, we encased the whole thing in the panty part of old pantyhose, tying off the legs and tying the top tightly closed. After two more layers of pantyhose we were ready for the felting process to begin. In a dish pan with a small amount of hot water and enough dish soap to make the water slippery we wet our ball and gently pressed until some of the fibers began coming up through the nylon. We carefully peeled off the pantyhose and began working the felt by rolling and squeezing it. As it shrunk and thickened we could start thinking about the finished shape.

After rinsing out the soap, steaming allowed us to shape the base over containers and to form the final shape of the sides using utensils to mold curves, folds and ridges. Now it just needs to dry.


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