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!)

inside/outside

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We are currently under the shadow of a great billowy grey blanket.  A winter comforter if you will.  In the mornings when the sun seems to give me a nod that she is indeed still alive and well, I nod back, but lately it has begun to get easier and easier to just give the nod and not the full greeting she deserves.  So, with a newly infused sense of moral obligation to seek solace under the rays of light that I so miss- I reinstated the morning walk that had dropped off ever so casually since Willow’s birth.  It started when the temperature dipped, and a few colds or flus or sleepless nights, or likely a combination of it all, truth be told- I found myself stuck.  Stuck in the send ’em out, warm ’em up, feed ’em and do it again routine.  The one that so conveniently subtracted me and my vitamin D intake from the equation.

But a sled around my waist, a baby big enough to be hoisted on my back, and a pair of metal claws on the bottom of my snow shoes and I am out again.

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This month is about survival.  About coming in and letting that blanket cozy us up, and then entering the wide world for a while in hopes of letting bits and pieces of sun collect in the hollows under my dry eyes.  Oh February, you are bleak but not without hope.

entertainment

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat is better for a gray, soggy day than a couple of typewriters and soft slices of warm bread thick with butter?  I am not sure that there is much.  Oh except maybe for the addition of a new knitting project, some recent knitting inspiration (pussycat hats for the win!), and a couple of really sweet baby faces to coo at.  Yes, that is perfection.