Spearmint Soap, Moving Day and Maple Syrup

Spearmint Soap

I’m still excited about my spearmint soap, but after taking it out of the molds I realized that maybe I should have done a little research before making this recipe. I’m beginning to think that my middle name should have been “Experiment”, because I seem to do a lot of that.  Although the soap is not fatally flawed, and only the appearance of the soap will suffer, I did make one mistake that can and will be corrected in future batches.

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Spearmint Soap

This picture shows some brown spots that developed on the soap. While I was certain the spots were caused by the spearmint, I was a bit perplexed about why the brown spots only occurred in some areas and why some of the spearmint retained its green color. I decided to do a google search to find out what others have experienced when adding spearmint to handcrafted soap. The first site I found, described this effect as bleeding. I found out that bleeding is when the color from an embedded object leaches of into the surrounding area. I found out that many herbs can have this effect, and to varying degrees, but spearmint is one of the worst.

The next website that I came across actually told me how to prevent this from happening. It said that the cause is the actual color coming out of the leaves when it is submerged in the wetness of the soap, and if you make a tea with the herbs first, the color will leach out into the water (tea). Then the leaves can be added to the soap. That answered my question. When I made my soap I added the spearmint leaves that I had used to make the tea with, but since I wasn’t sure I had enough, I decided to add some dry leaves as well. I have concluded that the dry leaves that I added are the ones that bled into the soap, while the leaves from the tea remained green. Since this is simply an aesthetic problem, Dom and I are looking forward to using these bars of soap.

The good news is I can detect a slight minty smell to this soap.

Moving Day

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2 Weeks Old

The chicks seemed to be getting quite curious about the world outside of their brooder. Every time we would walk up to the brooder they would crane their necks looking  up at us. Since the weather has warmed significantly for the near term forecast, we decided Tuesday was moving day.

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My husband brought the hutch out of the back shed and assembled it while I was busy in the kitchen. “Movin’ On Up” the theme song from the Jefferson’s kept running through my head. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHDwRECFL8M I would change the words to “Movin’ on out, to the deck” but the tune repeated itself over and over in my mind. I probably could have stopped this by turning on the radio, but it was a nice day, I was in a good mood, and it really wasn’t bothering me, in fact I thought it was kind of funny. It turned really funny when I was helping my husband carry the brooder out the deck, and he started singing “Movin’ on up…” Like minds.

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The heat lamp was moved into their new home. As were their food and water dishes.

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They seemed very curious about everything, but settled in nicely.

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Their play house was also moved with them.

My camera battery died before I got to take a picture of the roost my husband installed for them.  (Roosters aren’t the only ones who like to roost) I also did not get a picture of the canvass that drapes the hutch to protect them from the elements. It is just a large piece of canvass that we lay over the top of the hutch, it drapes down the sides and front. When the chicks need the warmth we wrap the hutch with the canvass just like wrapping a Christmas present, and we secure the canvass with clips.

The “Babies” seem very content in their new (but temporary) home, Scout can now see them at eye level, and don’t be surprised if, on the evenings when the weather is nice, I tell you that we sat on the deck and watched “Chicken TV”.

Maple Syrup

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Sunday and Monday were our last day for collecting sap. Since the sap was still running clear we may have pulled the spiles a little early, it may have been only a few hours or maybe a few days prior to the time the sap would become cloudy. The nighttime temperatures will not be below freezing at least for the next week and the buds on the Silver Maple trees are getting ready to pop open.

Our big consideration was the extreme amounts of time and energy that were needed to turn the sap into syrup, and decided that we had done enough. Since February 20th, when we first tapped the trees, until now, my husband spent 5 full days (9-12 hours each) out at the farm cooking sap, getting the fire going then continually adding wood to the fire to keep the sap boiling, stirring and watching the steam roll off, as the water boiled out, then adding more sap to the pot. At the end of the day he would bring the sap home and we would spend another 1 1/2 to 2 hours cooking the sap into syrup.

I don’t have exact numbers on our total yield for the season. My best guess is between 5 and 6 quarts of syrup.

My husband and I agree that it was a great experience and having homemade, self-harvested maple syrup is greatly rewarding. Some of our thoughts about this experience are that it was not a steady year for maple syrup, in our area, since the extreme weather changes over the  last couple of weeks prompted the sap to stop and start flowing several times. We found out that our Silver Maple trees at the farm had greater sap flow than the Sugar Maples that we tapped. In fact, last week when the silver maples were flowing well and the sugar maples were not flowing, my husband moved all of the taps to the Silver Maples. We found out that The Silver Maples make a wonderful syrup. We observed that the color of the syrup seemed to get lighter over the course of the season, with our first batch being the darkest and each batch slightly lighter in color. Thankfully it is a short season for making maple syrup and not a year round job.

A Bonus Picture

 

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This squirrel enjoyed the day in the tree. Apparently too nervous about our (and the boys) presence to venture down.

 

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