The family on Cedar Lane Farm

The family on Cedar Lane Farm
These are the people I love! That's my sweet mama in the middle. I wonder what she's thinking.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Making Maple Syrup

The first batch of syrup is sealed and cooling on the dining room table.  We began our season last week, tapping over 13 trees nearby our home.  Tapping the trees should happen when the night temperatures are below freezing, and the daytime temps reach 40 degrees or more.  We have had a very mild Winter, so we worried that we wouldn't get to tap this year.  Luckily, we got six inches of snow last week and the trees started producing!

An old Maple tree with the tap.
We collected 40 gallons of sap prior to today's cook.  It took around a week to gather this much sap.  Some days the trees produce a gallon of sap, and some days they give very little.  Our 40 gallons of sap will boil down to about 1 gallon of delicious syrup.

We use empty milk jugs for collecting the sap at the tree, and old cooking oil jugs to store it until it's time to cook.  John and I gathered around eight gallons of sap from the river bottom trees on this particular day.  The view from the river bend was also beautiful. 

John cut the wood yesterday for the all-day cookdown.  This is elm, and John says it burns hotter and longer than oak, which we used last year.  The pot is a 25 gallon cast iron boil pot, which John cleaned and carefully placed on a stand.  He built the fire underneath the pot and put some sheet metal all around it, so that the fire concentrated directly beneath the pot.  Sometimes, the wind makes it harder to cook, so the sheet metal really comes in handy. 

This morning, John built the fire at 6 am.  He had half of the sap cooked by noon.  We had two fires going all day.  One cooking the sap under the cast pot, the other on a little gas fish cooker.  The small one heated the cold sap up and then as the cast iron pot cooked down, John added the hot sap from the smaller cooker.  This keeps the sap hot through the entire cook.  If you pour cold sap into a boiling pot, you've lost cook time.  This process works well for us.

John added wood and cooked the syrup down until nearly dark.  When he had all of the sap cooked down, and had only about 1 1/2 gallons left, we moved it from the cast pot to a smaller pot and cooked it down til we had about one gallon.  We test the syrup on a cold plate.  If you put some of the sap on the plate and turn the plate up, the syrup should run about an inch and then stop.  This is how we decide that it's done.  Then, we strained it through four pieces of cheesecloth and once more through a clean cotton towel. 

And, this is the finished product.  Wonderful, beautiful, delicious maple syrup. 


Saturday, February 11, 2012

They grow up so fast!

My youngest, Kelly, is a junior in High School.  And, like most other parents, by the time you get to the third child, you've been there - done that, seen it all, nothing suprises you anymore.  You seem to be a little more trusting, a little less stressed that the world is coming to an end every time your child wants to go somewhere after dark.

Well, my youngest has proven (so far) to be a very responsible, level-headed teen.  So, this week was easy to enjoy with her.  Homecoming week at SHS consists of choosing a queen candidate from each class, decorating a "Wall" in the gym that represents the theme for the week, daily dress up events and collections of pennies.  Last night, the Homecoming festivities came to a close after the basketball game of the year and the queen coronation.

But, let me back up to Tuesday...... "Hippie Day".   I think this was my favorite dress up day for her.  She borrowed a hippie outfit from her boyfriend's mother and she looked so groovy!

Groovy "Hippie" Day!

Next was "Hip Hop Day" and she surprised me with her originality here! 

Then we had Spirit Day with the school colors.

And, last night was the dress up event!  Here she is in her pretty Homecoming dress!  She looked so pretty!

My little girl.