Every year we try to improve our maple syrup operation. Last year we increased our taps from 30 to over 100 and built our own maple syrup pan. This year we’re increasing our taps from 100+ to 200 and building a new maple syrup evaporator (or cooker). The way we’re cooking off our maple sap right now works just fine but is rather inefficient. Our basic set-up is this: maple syrup pan on top of two metal saw horses inside of our fire pit with sheets of metal leaned up against the sides to try to keep heat in. It’s a super primitive way of cooking maple syrup.. like we’re some sort of animals! We’re losing a lot of heat through the metal sheeting and therefore going through a lot of wood in the process. And we’re also losing a lot of time. It’s all fine and dandy during the day but as soon as the sun goes down, Dave and I end up taking shifts throughout the night to tend to the fire and sap. Usually one of us ends up sitting down by the fire at 2am listening to the coyotes and owls and getting so delusionally tired that we start communicating with them. So… we had to make a more efficient maple syrup cooker this year.
There comes a time in every farmer/homesteader’s lives where you fall victim to peer pressure and you break down and buy an incubator so that you can hatch your own chickens. It’s ok, you made the right decision. Hatching out your own eggs is the funnest! Hatching out your own eggs and watching that first baby chick pip through the shell is truly a farming/homesteading miracle. The first time can be intimidating, but don’t be nervous! I’m here to hold your hand through it. We’ll get through it together, and then you’ll be hooked. Here’s the first installment of our beginner’s guide to incubating eggs and hatching out your own baby chicks!
Gather round friends, this is a story for the ages. All of the pig adventures we’ve had all rolled into one still couldn’t top what happened last night. This is a story of small odds, hope, denial, living nightmares, disbelief, kindness and small victories that turn into great ones. Truth is truly stranger than fiction, friends. And pigs really do fly. This is the ballad of Boarzilla.
It’s that time of year again! The time of year where we schlep through the woods to tap maple trees, collect sap and spend hours upon hours of boiling it down in order to make sweet, sweet maple syrup. This year we’re stepping up our game by increasing our taps from 100 to over 200. We’ll also be doing something very special with our finished syrup but you’ll have to wait a little bit longer to see what that is! We’ve been storing last year’s syrup away like squirrels and we’re almost to the very end of our stash! So I thought that this week would be a great time to make something special with our homemade maple syrup. With lots of syrup, fresh duck eggs on hand and a sudden “heat wave” (50 degrees!) that meant one thing and one thing only…. dessert. Sweet, creamy, most excellent dessert. In my belly. Now.
This weekend our metal shop was buzzing with activity, testosterone and beer. Dave and our buddy John were replacing the motor in a bobcat and getting that thing up and running. Our other buddy Bob was here working on setting up some new electrical lines in the shop so that they can all do more manly stuff in the future. Dudes are genetically designed to survive off of beef jerky, canned ravioli and tuna salad. They can do this for days, weeks, even 31 years. But this weekend I wanted them to eat some real food. Gasp! They had been working so hard this whole weekend. But the problem is that we haven’t gone grocery shopping in three weeks. I didn’t have much in the fridge or pantry but I did have some fresh farm raised rabbit! How that is possible, I do not know. I used what I had in the pantry to make a sweet honey and curry oven roasted rabbit. Not all guys like sweet with their meat but I figured since they can ravenously eat this with their hands, they wouldn’t mind.
Where did the year go? Seriously. Someone please tell me what happened to 2014. This has honestly been the most amazing year for us, personally and business..ly. (What?) And now it’s time to look ahead! I have no idea what 2015 has in store for us, but we’re going to keep going with this great momentum and set the bar higher for ourselves. This New Years I’m taking a cue from Jack Spirko who is the creator of the website 13 Skills. The idea of this website was to inspire members to learn 13 new skills in 2013 to strengthen their self-reliance or self-confidence. For 2015, we’re selecting fifteen skills that we would like to accomplish either personally or through our farm.
It’s all been leading up to this moment, my friends. We got the goats, we built the barn, then we got some more goats. And now it’s time to (finally) breed the goats for the first time. I sat down with Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli and gave them “the talk.” But I wish someone would have given me the talk. Wait! No! Not THE “the talk.” The talk about scheduling goat breeding, what to expect when breeding goats for the first time and then the consequential cloud of goat math that has been following me around for the past few days.
There are some pivotal points in farming that you just always remember. Your first garden harvest. Your first freshly laid chicken egg. The first baby born at the farm. Your very first dollar you made. The first time you harvest an animal. And your very first massive livestock escape and consequential heart attack. Oh yes, it will happen. And you will pee your pants. We’ve had an interesting weekend with our sweet, darling pigs. One that involves wrangling, road trips and a little night time trickery. Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?
A few weeks ago I professed my love of persimmons and made homemade persimmon vinegar and vodka infusions. Well, since then I’ve been saving up all the persimmons that I’ve harvested and put them in the freezer. This past weekend, I defrosted them to find a gooey, sticky glob of persimmon mess. But that’s not a bad thing, in fact it’s perfect for making persimmon purÃ©e, the basis of basically all persimmon based recipes. Muffins, cupcakes, jam, butter and homemade persimmon ice cream!
I’m going to get right down to it. I’m talking about making homemade marshmallows, people. Home. Made. Marsh. Mallows. It’s about to get real. Let me back up a little bit. This year for Thanksgiving I was in charge of bringing the sweet potatoes and a pie. We all know that the best part of the sweet potatoes is certainly not the sweet potatoes, it’s the gooey, messy, sweet morsels of heaven on top. Duh! But for real, the best part of anything when it involves marshmallows is ALWAYS the marshmallows. Hot chocolate is nothing if not a hot tub for mini-marshmallows. A s’more is given that soft, velvety (sometimes chard) texture when marshmallows are added. It’s the best. Everyone knows that. But I digress. This year I really wanted to step up my culinary game for Thanksgiving. So why not go for gold and make homemade marshmallows for the sweet potato casserole topping. Not only are they great to bake with, but they make an impression addition to the dessert spread and make wonderful homemade gifts.