spring cleaning… or something

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I heard you can clean rugs by flipping them upside down in fresh snow and jumping on them.  While this was fun, I am not sure it did much for the rug. But, it kept me from doing any actual cleaning on a sunny day. So, that’s not nothing.

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But even the sun has been rare these days.  And I can assure you- three boys indoors for any length of time is literally physical torture on my ears.  So, there is much ado about swapping out wet socks and having lots of mittens on the warming tray ready for the next outing and of course, interesting adventures.  We have drilled little holes in logs, stuffing them with suet and bird seed, we have searched for red-winged black birds, we have checked every sap bucket on the hill.  We are not even close to exhausting our options, so have at it north wind.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA But kept indoors for too long and it seems my boys fare better than even I.  I’m itching to be outside so intensely I can’t keep still.  I have been going room to room downsizing and rearranging.  I have been chopping off hair.  I have been trying to deny the deep feeling of CABIN FEVER!

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But it is real.  And much to poor Willow’s dismay- we end up outside more often than not.  The girl will be tough, that goes without saying.

tears and such

I’m giving thanks for good warm clothes these days-  For the proper gear to cover up when the wind is howling, and it’s snowing sideways and the outdoors feels quite wild and unruly.  The patches have been flying on trying to keep hold on to those precious items for just a bit more.  Fingertips of gloves, knees of course, and so many tears in snow pants up the backside for a certain five-year old who can’t seem to stop getting “stuck” in a tree by the seat of his pants… hmmm….  This drama often ends in tears and laughter and always a brand new zig zag stitch.  This is one pair of snow pants that will not be receiving the honors of being passed down.

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I am grateful for these clothes, yes, and even more so for neighbors who are ready and willing to help take these suited up boys skiing on a blustery, powder day.  I am literally surrounded by fantastic people.  A girlfriend of mine jokingly asked how many neighbors I have because I seem to refer to everyone as my neighbor!  Seems like a funny thing to do when we actually live so rural we can hardly see a house from ours.  But, we do know all our “neighbors” and appreciate their presence in our lives on the daily.  A beautiful thing- this small town life.

When the boys and girl and I are not braving the weather, we are diligently plotting the next season.  I do so love dreaming of wispy, spring, color and fresh, spicy, greens in the thickness of the monochromatic world of winter.

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And one last note- daylight savings saved my sanity!  Yippee for later suppers and romps in the woods afterwards before the moon becomes our night-light!

sap’s rising

It is true that sugaring gets you outside for the first crop when you might otherwise still stay in hibernation for one more month of sleety, slippery, frigid weather.  It is also true that the results are worth every ounce of work.  And this year I discovered even more weight in this sappy, splinter inducing work:  The steam heals the deep, dry cracks in my dishwashers hands, my boys can cooperate with ease (mostly), we contain the proper patience and attentiveness to actually reduce the syrup to the perfect 220 F, and I am beginning to feel comfortable weaning myself off those lovely golden orbs of cod liver oil mixed with vitamin D- because it turns out the sun still exists!

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This year’s product is by far the best yet, cooked on without a doubt the most “sophisticated” evaporator to date.  We were gifted this lovely converted cooker and we have up a whopping 19 taps. I placed exactly zero of these taps as my boys have become quite capable and more than willing over the last 12 months.  I also witnessed so much hand sawing (five straight hours to be precise) that I had to count it as main lesson.  What is more worthy of an educational experience than blisters both blood and water?   We pulled out 35 gallons of sap and boiled them down to two quarts of syrup over about 13 hours.  That feels like low sugar content, but it could also be our methodology, we are as green as the wood we tapped!.  But we are not lacking in enjoyment.    Last night it was German pancakes for supper and this morning apple pie.  What is that you say?  You have never drizzled maple syrup on flaky apple pie?  Well then- get to work!

now and then

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABalancing big plans for that wide unknown future against the pleasure of the acts of now is a trick.  The sowing of tiny seeds that won’t come to fruition for months to come, the carding of wool that won’t be worn for a least another three steps, the tapping of trees for sap that takes hours to boil down to the proper viscosity… they let me know the two weights of future and present are actually one in the same.   The pleasure of the long project.  Not even thinking of it in steps and progress- but just doing.  Just doing for the sake of doing.  For the sake of letting the seasons first raindrops hit your brow, for feeling of sticky lanolin in between your fingers, for the joy of smelling the earth when it is still under 8 inches of slick ice.

The F month

The problem with February is that it is supposed to feel short.  It starts with a cute groundhog, then there is the day dedicated to love to make it seem less daunting, and on special years we leap our way out of the month a day early.  But, for some reason it seems to matter not a bit.  The days seem so grey I swear I have been feeling claustrophobic.

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But push forward we must, even if it is one heavy snowshoed step in front of another.  Today I ventured out to make up for a less than successful walk yesterday, filled with new gusto, and more layers.  The trip included picking up mail, three half gallons of milk, and birdsong in our ears.  Yup, birdsong.  Our neighbors barn is jam packed with loud cheeps and even though its normal, it feels so good to hear more than a chickadee’s call and the random crows warning.  Sky music, and birds are my favorite track.  On the way back, I got a wild hair and decided to unearth (unsnow?) one of the woodpiles.  With a sweet Willow high atop my back, snoozing soundly, two boys jaws set in determination, and one toddler with a tractor between his paws, it actually seemed possible.  I shoveled here and there and finally realized I was somehow standing on top of the pile.  Eighteen inches below my feet I pulled back the tarp and hoisted out logs from the cave below.  It made me laugh.

We have been so crafty lately.  I mean it too.  It is keeping us sane.  Though I am not sure the state of my house is…

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(keeping it real)

And we have been reading- A TON.  I mean seriously Almanzo and Laura are a hot item these days and we can’t put it down.  On his own time, Miles has become the best of chums with The Boxcar Children.  Luckily homeschooling lends to lots and lots of thick chunks of the day for reading, because this boy can’t get enough.  I have been nose deep in a few good ones myself:  Salt.– a collection of poems good for the times, both in the wide world, and in the one which having many small children places you in.  Fates and Furies, a book written in such beautiful language it begs to be read again, and with a story so intriguing I may just do so.  But not until I finish The Department of Speculation, this one I cannot put down. (I am grateful for the pandora reading station my friend Taylor is handcrafting for me… this girl is good.)

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Oh February, you will not drag us down.  Nope.  Not while there are velvet soft cheeks to press mine against, and capable hands to admire.  (This was a self-directed peanut butter making shot.  Thank you Honest Pretzels and peanuts in the shells, you bought me one whole hour of much-needed non fighting, chai tea drinking, knitting time!)