Monday, March 28, 2011

Maple Syrup

After a couple set backs of weather too warm at night, and weather too cold day and night, the sap is running again. Ken had enough to light the evaporator yesterday!

First Ken goes out with empty buckets.

Then he empties the buckets that are hung on the trees to collect sap.

When his buckets are full, Ken hauls them back.

Next he empties them through a screen - he removes the ice; it has almost no sugar, so it is not worth boiling.

Then he empties the sap into the evaporator and lights the fire.

And the steam from the boiling sap begins to rise.

The fire feels warm and cozy.

The smell of wood smoke and sap combine to remind us spring is here!

Wood Pile Progress

When last I wrote about cutting wood, we had plied up wood on tables.

Then we got snow, and that set us back.

But now we have almost half the cook stove wood cut and stacked.

And now the tables are ready for more wood to split. I might be getting in shape for spring work!

Orchard Work

Before the last snow Ken finished trimming trees in the orchard. First he trims what he can from the ground, and then he heads up the ladder.

He has to decide before each cut.

Here he is trimming water shoots - vertical branches that must be trimmed each season, so the energy goes into making apples.

Trimming Onions

As the onions grow, they get a bit floppy. Ken trims them so they get thicker and grow stronger roots. He often trims them over a piece of newspaper so I can use the tops like chives in salads or cooking.


As we start to move outside with wood cutting and splitting and maple syrup, I am also making a last dash effort to line up indoor projects for rainy days. Ken recently helped me wind up the warp on a small loom I can take with me when I work at artZ in Amery.

I am on one end trying to maintain even tension while Ken juggles winding on, getting a flat sheet of paper between layers of warp, and tightening knobs when I shout stop. He has about a five handed job to do.
We got the warp on and we are still married. Thank you, Ken!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Greens Are Coming!

As the snow recedes, the days lengthen and the sun warms the inside of the hoopettes.

The greens Ken planted last fall are growing. The hoopettes form a mini greenhouse and the plants grow quickly. Soon we will be opening them daily so the greens inside don't cook from the heat!

Look for that hint of green inside.

Goose Eggs

Spring is the season for goose eggs! Unlike chicken eggs, goose eggs are only available now. They are quite large and are really nice in puddings where they add a rich smoothness.

It takes more to beat the goose egg whites, but once beaten they add real lift to sponge, angel food or other cakes.

And my parent say they make great omelettes...

And There is Always Wood

While Ken is outside, he has taken advantage of any mornings below freezing to cut down some dead trees and pull them into the yard.

Then he cuts them to length so we can split them to burn in the cook stove next winter. Pulling out logs when the ground is frozen hard means less damage to grass.

We have used 5 of the 6 ricks we put up last winter, and so far we have filled one rick for next winter.

Tapping Maple Trees

As the days warm and lengthen, Ken starts to make maple syrup. The first step is to drill a small hole in the maple tree.

Then he pounds a metal or plastic tap into the tree, and hangs a bucket to collect the sap.

Optimum weather for sap collection is sunny days without wind with temperatures in in the 40's followed by nights in the 20's. The sap will rise in the day and drop in the night.

Once he has enough sap to boil down, Ken empties the buckets into an evaporator and lights a fire to cook the sap and concentrate it to syrup.

It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

New Guy Struts His Stuff

When Ken came into the Twin Cities to pick me up at the airport, he had a passenger - a turkey! It started when our farmer friend Evan had offered us some heritage turkeys, but he had lost the male to a coyote. I got on the world wide web and found some Narragansett toms available in Owatonna, Minnesota. Ken made the arrangements, went to Owatonna, and now we have a tom turkey.

In the last few days, the new guy on the farm has been puffing up and gobbling -

Ken had trimmed the turkey's feathers so he would not fly over the fence. Even with less plumage, this tom cuts quite a figure!

The magic of onions!

Ken plants onions first. Finally I have a couple photos to demonstrate how they come up folded.

Then they widen like a bow, and finally they open up. It is magical!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

CSA Newsletter March

Greetings from the Garden! This week's box has micro greens, red, yellow and purple potatoes, and the last of the celery root, black radishes, carrots, beets, squash, and onions.

Field Notes. Ken has snowshoed out to check the temperature in the hoop house. Soon it will be warm enough to work up the soil to transplant and plant. He is planting inside for garden and hoop house plantings. Meanwhile we are waiting for the sap to run so Ken can begin making maple syrup. Usually it has started by now.

From the Kitchen. We have been savoring the last of many of our winter favorites. The last of our celery root went into chicken soup. The last of the black radishes will go into sprout slaw in the next couple days. While we are still lighting the cook stove, there are roasted potatoes. And squash pie. Now, as we enter egg season, I add a beaten egg to left over cooked squash and cook over toasted nuts like pecans or walnuts in butter in a hot skillet in the oven for a puffy baked change of pace. I saute onions in a skillet, add soup stock and herbs, and poach eggs with a few greens added just before serving for a warm, savory breakfast.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

More Snow? When does the sap start?

Oscar is waiting. With less and less patience. Usually by now the people are spending time outside with him. Once days are sunny, above freezing and the nights are below freezing it is perfect weather for the maple sap to run. It has been too cold for Ken to go out and tap the maple trees. Not yet.

Ken continues to make pots, look at the thermometer, and wait. I, like Oscar, am less and less patient.

The onions are up!

Each year it amazes me. Ken plants onions in February, and they come up out of the soil folded and then spring open. /It reminds me of a chorus line (I am a theatre major...). It is great to see them. As they get long, Ken will give them a trim and soon he transplants them.

Even with the snow on the ground, spring seems close!

Organic Conference

We both got to go to the Midwest Organic Farming Conference this year in Lacrosse, Wisconsin From February 24 - 26th. Thanks to our farm sitter Abbie who made it possible. We arrived early Thursday for the "Organic University" - a day long seminar. Ken chose high tunnel production and I chose carbon sequestration.

Friday and Saturday each had a keynote speaker and three workshop times. Friday's speaker was from Consumers Union; she spoke about accurate and meaningful labeling. Saturday we heard from the man who started High Mowing Seeds in Vermont about the local food systems in the Hardwick area. Both speeches were thought provoking and inspiring.

Workshops covered a broad range of topics - growing year around, high and low tunnel use, plant and human health, fruits, pollinators. pesticide and herbicide residues in humans, poultry feed blends, corn varieties, and many more.

Friday night we got to dance to Daddy Squeeze and the Cafe Accordion Orchestra. Saturday evening we visited our friends in Lacrosse and talked about extended growing season in their back yard.