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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sap to syrup - our love of maple

Last year's maple season lasted about one week.  Since we were about 7 days late in tapping our neighbor's tree, that meant that we got bupkiss.  The small amount of sap, maybe only a cup or two, would not boil down to anything worthwhile.  This year, however, we had a long (one could argue that it was too long) sap collecting season.  It came later this year than it did last year.  Last year it was done by the middle of March.  This year, we didn't even start tapping until April, and were able to collect over a period of three weeks.  There were days in there that I would collect 4 or 5 gallons of sap!  While this is not much for those who have a grove of maples (or like my mother, who taps about 20 or 25), it was a lot for one tree.  The trees we tapped last year at our neighbor's home did not provide more than a gallon or two over more than a week.  The tree at Jaimie's parents' home produced more than 5 gallons, but we only left the tap in for a week.  The tree in back, which had two taps for more than 2 weeks, was the performer.

After boiling it for days and days (okay, hours and hours over the course of a couple of weeks), adding more sap to the boil whenever we got down to about half a pot, we got just under half a gallon of the most delicious syrup we've ever tasted!

There were a couple of mishaps along the way, of course.  For instance, we tried using a rocket stove at first, but never managed to get a boil. 

Next, we tried a charcoal fire, based on the idea that charcoal burns hotter than wood (otherwise, why would blacksmiths use it?).  Needless to say, this didn't work. 

Ultimately, we bought a turkey fryer setup on e-Bay, and Jaimie melted the bottom of the aluminum stock pot that came with it.  Still, the burner worked great with our large canner. 

In fact, it may have worked better due to the fact that it is shorter but wider, so their was more surface area to boil (more surface area=faster reduction).

This morning, we had maple french toast with our own, homemade syrup.  Yummy!   We can't wait to see how the rest of the sap works out.  Oh, did we mention that we still have about ten gallons of sap?  We don't want to boil it down for one more pint or so of syrup, so we're going to ferment it and see if it's any good.  Hey, stranger things have turned out well.

Chicken (Rabbit) Tractor from Upscaled Stuff Laying around the Garage

Our four pullets feathered bunnies, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and P.J. Funnybunny, were really outgrowing the 33-gallon tub they were living in in our basement, so Shelly asked me (Jaimie) to build her a "chicken bunny tractor".  (We can have four rabbits in town, as opposed to two chickens, so they're feathered bunnies.)  So, we called our friends Tony and Nicole for guidance, since they have been keeping feathered critters for a while (out in the country where they can be chickens).  They came over today and Tony lent his expertise (and built the coop - I just dug out the materials and put on the chicken wire).  I originally thought we would need a trip to the lumber yard, but Tony spotted some old bunk bed ends that Shelly had planned to use as trellises.  That solved the framing problem.

With some other reclaimed lumber and a cabinet door we had removed when we installed our dishwasher,  the coop was completed in about two hours.

Here are the girls enjoying their new home for the first time:

As you can see, it's very portable, even without wheels.

And the girls love it!

We can't wait for them to begin laying!  We still need to put on roofing and paint, but it's functional now. 

Winter activities

Since we really couldn't spend much time outside this winter, we created things indoors.  If I just relied on my memory, I wouldn't think we've done that much, but here's the proof in pictures.

Making string ornaments

Our family values list, prominently displayed

The 2nd annual ginger bread house

A 2nd tiered cake, which we made after making one for my sister's shower

My first knitting project (yep, a scarf)

My friend, the lucky recipient of the scarf.

Baby quilt sections sorted out - the squares were cut out by my older sister, and I finished the project

Finishing the top of the baby quilt

A "forest" made of string and construction paper leaves & flowers to encourage spring to come.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Accidentally delicious - Rum Cosmopolitan

Hi.  Jaimie here.  I was in the mood for one of my father's very dry cosmopolitans, but he can't remember the recipe.  So, I Googled "vodka martini recipe".  The first recipe I found called for 1.5 oz vodka and .75 oz of dry vermouth.  Okay, I can work with that.  I added a squirt of lime juice and just enough cranberry/apple juice to turn it pink.  Then I shook it with ice and strained it.  It was delicious, so I decided to make another (for my mother, of course).  It was then that I realized that I had used light rum instead of vodka.  Still yummy!  Here's the complete recipe:

1.5 oz light rum
.75 oz dry vermouth
squeeze or squirt of lime juice
just enough cranberry or cranberry/apple juice to make the drink turn pink

Shake with ice and strain into a martini glass if you have one.  (I don't, so I just left the ice in mine and drank it out of a highball glass.)