Monthly Archives: January 2018

Making Maple Syrup

It doesn’t seem like a whole year has gone by since we last tapped maple trees and made our maple syrup. Maybe that’s because it hasn’t really been a whole year. While I didn’t remember the exact date that we tapped trees last year I was able to review the post I wrote about it, and I discovered that last year we tapped the trees on February 13th. Last year’s sap flow was considered early and we read that some syrup producers actually missed the season because the were not expecting the season to come so soon.

It was only January 20th according to the calendar but nature doesn’t necessarily go by the calendar. Despite the brutal cold we have had this winter we had been watching the forecast and preparing for the sap season to start. This is only our third year making syrup, so we don’t have much experience to go by, but since temperatures were forecast to be in the high 30’s and low 40’s Fahrenheit (between 3 and 7 degrees Celsius) 7 out of the next 10 days we thought this might be the right time. My husband thought that it would be a good idea to do a few test taps to see if the sap was flowing. So we took supplies for four taps to the farm.

January 20, 2017


The day was very reminiscent of the day we tapped last year. The sun was shining, there was still a thin layer of snow on the ground, and the pond was mostly still frozen.

Happy Hens


The chickens were happy to be out scratching , pecking and even dusting themselves.


My husband and I worked together, taking turns drilling the holes and setting the taps.

First Drop Of Sap


When the sap began running within seconds of being tapped we knew we were on the right track. After setting the first four, we went home, gathered the supplies and returned to set the remaining 13.

A couple days after tapping the trees the high temperatures again stayed below freezing so no sap was flowing. Then we had a couple more day where temperatures reached into the 40’s F so the sap began to flow again. By Friday my husband determined that he had collected enough sap to make syrup. We would cook it Saturday.

My husband had the cooking station set up in the driveway. Because cooking sap produces so much steam cooking it the house would be a horrible mistake, and we are not equipped with a sugar shack so we do it much the way we imagine our ancestors  would have – outdoors over a wood fire.

The fire pit is simple – made of two layers of concrete blocks on three side


He spaces the concrete blocks so that the shallow stainless steel pan sits on the edges of the blocks. We build the fire within the blocks and continually feed wood into it from the open side.



We used a mixture of hardwood limbs and logs that we had cut on the farm and some scrap lumber my husband had picked up from the local sawmill. We began cooking the sap around 11:30 A.M. and by 4:30 P.M. we had reduced the estimated 23 gallons of sap  to the point that we could finish it on our kitchen stove.

Before cooking it on the stove we poured it through a sieve to remove some of the ash that was floating in it. I then brought it back to a boil and continued cooking it until it reached 7 degrees above the boiling point on the candy thermometer 219 degrees F.

Filtering the sugar sand out of the syrup is something that we have struggled with the past two years, so I decided to pay close attention to the temperatures while doing this. I let the syrup cool to between 180 and 190 F. For a filter I used one layer cheese cloth with one layer of felt placed on top of it. I placed the two layers together in my canning funnel then poured the syrup through the fabric lined funnel directly into the jar.

After pouring each jar I needed to change the filter, so I put the pan of syrup back on the stove over a low flame so I could maintain the proper temperature. The syrup flowed easily through the filters. I sealed each jar as soon as it was poured. We ended up with just a very small amount of sugar sand in the bottom of the jars. There is no harm in eating sugar sand as it is said to be made up of calcium salts and malic acid, so filtering out this sand is purely for aesthetic reasons (it does look like muck in the bottom of the jar).


Even though once sealed the syrup should not spoil, I like to bottle the syrup in wide mouth mason jars, because as long as I leave the proper amount of head space the syrup can be stored in the freezer.  We ended up with nearly four pints of beautiful, sweet maple syrup.

What the rest of the maple syrup season will bring is anyone’s guess. Our weather forecast for the next 10 days shows daytime temperatures below freezing for all but one day, so we are not expecting the sap to run again for a while. When the temperatures do warm again, if the trees bud out quickly the sap will turn milky and is not good for making syrup, so we are grateful that we tapped the trees early and at least have some syrup this year.

I also made an interesting observation as I looked back at my post from last year, “The Sap is Flowing and the Hens are Laying”.   Again this year, as we tapped the maple trees we noticed that the hens have began laying more eggs. For five or six weeks we were getting an average of four eggs a day, this was enough to keep us in fresh eggs through the winter. On January 20, the day we tapped trees, we collected six eggs, then over the next week the amount increased so that we have collected 12 eggs each of the last two days. I honestly expected that the increase in egg production was more related to the number of hours of daylight and similarly to last year would occur in the middle of February. Perhaps it is more about the warmer temperatures we have been enjoying, I’m really not sure, but I do think I will attempt to track these two events in future years to see if they continue to coincide.

Until next time be well. 🙂



Another Way to Make Tomato Sauce

Two weeks ago I used up our last jar of homemade spaghetti sauce,  so I ran to the store and… No just kidding. That would be funny to my children who know that homemade/ homegrown spaghetti sauce is my specialty, and we eat lots of it. Even now that it is just my husband and me at home we average using one to two quarts a week. Not only do we use this sauce for spaghetti (we use the term loosely to describe any pasta, i.e. rigatoni, mostaccioli, rotini, topped with spaghetti sauce ) we also use it if we make lasagna, ravioli, stuffed cabbage or stuffed peppers.

Stuffed Peppers


Each year we grow lots of paste tomatoes, most of which I make into sauce, we also grow the oregano, basil, parsley and of course garlic, that I use in the spaghetti sauce. Since making tomato sauce is very time consuming, and when the tomatoes are ripe I find myself with more tomatoes than time (to make them into sauce), the last two years I have resorted to quicker methods of preserving tomatoes. I have frozen tomatoes and canned tomato juice,  because I can always make those in to sauce later.  Once I even dehydrated tomatoes because I couldn’t let them go to waste and slicing them up for the dehydrator was the quickest thing I could think of.

My plan for making sauce last week was to cook down tomato juice. I figured I would probably have to cook down 5 quarts of tomato juice to make the enough sauce (about 2 quarts) and it would take most of the day. In the morning before I started I came across this post about dehydrated tomatoes on one of the blogs I follow and was reminded that I had dried some tomatoes last summer and they were just sitting in my pantry waiting for me to think of something to use them for. I then had an idea.

Maybe I could use the dehydrated tomatoes to thicken the tomato juice. Now when I dehydrated the tomatoes they still had the skins on and the seeds in them and I really didn’t want chunks of tomato with skins and seed in my sauce so I would have to experiment. I took out a handful, about 10 or so, dried tomato slices and put them in my Nutri Bullet blender. I then added about half a quart of tomato juice. I plugged it in and let it run for a minute or so. When I poured this combination into my sauce pan it was a thick sauce – no chunks, no seeds, no skins. SUCCESS! I then added 2 1/2 more quarts of tomato juice and let it simmer for a couple hours before adding the rest of my ingredients.

This worked so well I’m sure I will repeat this process and use the rest of my dried tomatoes in the next few weeks. It wouldn’t really be necessary to add tomato juice to the dried tomatoes – water would work just fine, and in the correct proportions, though I’m not sure what they are right now, cooking the liquid off would not be necessary.

I am so thrilled that I have discovered this method of making sauce. I decided to share it with you in hopes that someone who reads this might find it helpful just as I did with the above post from Self Reliant Adventures.

Oh, and I suspect I will be dehydrating lots more tomatoes this summer. 🙂


Slippers and Scarves and Hats…

I can’t tell you how hard it was not to add “Oh my” to the end of the title, and if you added it in your mind then I am certain that you, too, grew up in the age of “The Wizard of Oz” . Of course now days I suppose I could put “OM” at least 90% of you would know what it meant. LOL

All that is beside the point. I really just wanted to show you the crochet projects that I have recently completed. After putting so much time into crocheting the tablecloth last year, I have found that it has become a habit each time I sit down in my recliner to reach for a crochet project.



These slippers are some of my favorites. My husband and I each have a pair to wear around the house in the winter and I always like to have an extra pair or two made up, just in case.


These two infinity scarves are done in a “broomstick lace” stitch. I love the way it looks and it is also a fun stitch to work.



I’m planning on taking these Easter or Spring hats to a spring craft sale to see if I can sell them, except the green one since my sister told me that her Granddaughter, Ava,  (my great niece) “needs” this one.

 Now, ♫ I’m off the see my crochet hook ♪ ♪ (to the tune of The Wonderful Wizard of OZ)




IMG_3674 (2)

Welcome Friends!

I have to start with a huge THANK YOU to everyone reading this. When I first started writing this blog, about two and a half years ago, I never imagined it would be what it has become. I figured I might have a few people who would read it regularly – friends and family that know and love me. For quite a while that was the case. Occasionally I would look at my stats and see that no one had viewed my blog for several days and I wondered if it was worth writing, then a friend or family member would mention how much they enjoyed reading it. That was all I needed to inspire me to keep writing.

Today I am amazed as I look at my blog stats and see that people from all over the world, 67 countries at last count, have visited my little piece of the internet. Since visiting my blog is often much like a visit to our home or our farm it occurred to me that many visitors probably have no idea where in the world we are at, so if you are curious I will give you some direction. I will start by saying that we are in Michigan which is a state in the USA.


If you are not familiar with Michigan you can find it easily on the map above. Michigan is the state that is shaped like a mitten, well at least part of Michigan is. Our state is unique in that it is made up of two peninsula’s. The lower peninsula is shaped like a mitten and the upper peninsula, you can see on the above map, is the piece of land to the North that extends Westward or to the left (its upper border is outlined in red). Interestingly, while lower Michigan is bordered by the U.S. States of Indiana and Ohio to the South and Upper Michigan is bordered by the U.S. State of Wisconsin to the West, Michigan’s two peninsulas do not share a common border. They are separated by the Straits of Mackinac, which are a series of narrow water ways that connect Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. To travel from one peninsula to the other, by car, you must cross the Mackinac Bridge, which is nearly 5 miles long and said to be the forth longest suspension bridge in the world. Because Michigan is surrounded by the Great Lakes and adjoining waterways there are also many islands that are part of our state.

To give you a better idea of where we are in Michigan I would hold up my right hand with the palm facing you and my fingers held tightly together (like a mitten) and point to an area near the bottom of my thumb. Michiganders are known for using their hand as a map. Our little piece of the earth is 7.6 acres of farm land in a rural area North East of  Detroit and South West of Port Huron. Some of it is wooded and some of it is open field. We put in a pond as a source of fresh water in 2012, but have yet to build a house on the property.

Like much of the U.S. this winter has been brutally cold here in Michigan, but I thought today I would invite you to take a walk with me. Don’t worry we won’t have to put on an extra 10 lbs. of gear to survive the freezing temperatures and trudge through the snow, because this part of the post I actually started writing last summer.

During the warm seasons, spring after the snow melts, summer, and fall until the snow gets too deep, I like to walk our back field. We keep a path cut around the outside of the field and two paths that cut across the middle. We allow the rest of the field to grow wild during the summer and we mow it each fall. It’s interesting that each year different plants seem to dominate the field. This field, which many people would view as a field full of weeds, we see as a field full of wild flowers. Not only does it provide habitat and food for countless bunnies, birds, rodents, toads and insects, the deer graze it regularly, and it is home to many plants that our bees love to forage.

I usually start my walks on the East side of the property, heading North and off to our left you will notice a large fenced in area. This is our main garden, where we grow much of our own produce in the summer. We also have 5 apple trees growing within this area and we moved our entire blueberry patch in here as well. It didn’t take us long to learn that fencing is the best way to protect our vegetation from deer.

As we walk toward the field I will look for deer grazing. This will be our best chance to see deer because Scout and Trooper will undoubtedly be with us and will frighten off any deer. The boys have been taught that they can only chase the deer as far as our property line and it has become a game for Trooper. I suspect if the deer ever decided to stay and play he would have a ball with them…but they don’t.

We may see one or two, we may see a mother with her baby(s) or we may see 20 or more deer grazing in the field. On a rare occasion we might witness a scene that feels like something out of a Disney movie. Like this red winged black bird that rides on the back or head of this deer.


One day when Trooper was walking with me he scared the deer off. The blackbird that had been sitting on the back of the deer began diving at Troopers back, obvious angry at him. The bird never touched Trooper and because the bird was diving at his back he was oblivious to it and bird eventually flew off.


While the deer are beautiful to watch, are seemingly harmless and our guests get very excited to see them, we have come to see them as a nuisance.  We have invested much money, time and energy to protect our crops against deer. It seems that deer will eat or at least taste anything … except garlic.

When we first bought the farm and we asked a neighbor how he kept the deer from eating his garden he said “plant enough for you and plant enough for the deer.” While his advice sounded good in theory, we quickly learned that it doesn’t work. The deer apparently did not understand the concept; they would walk through the pumpkin patch and rather than eat just one or two whole pumpkins they would take a few bites out of many pumpkins. Thus we concluded that the best way to protect our plants, including young trees, is adequate fencing.


Beyond the main garden the rest of our property is open fieled. The bright yellow flowers that are blanketing the field at this time are Bird’s Foot Trefoil. The first year we had the farm I notice one small patch of this plant growing in the field. It’s brilliant flowers caught my attention so I did some research to find what it was. Each year I have noticed more and more Trefoil. I suspect that as we cut the field in the fall we are scattering it’s seeds throughout the field. Trefoil is a legume that is used for animal forage, cut for hay, or planted to prevent soil erosion. One thing we have discovered, that is not mentioned in this USDA fact sheet, is that honey bees like it. This in itself is enough for me to appreciate this plant.

The small white flowers tinged with pink are White Clover.  This is another plant that we highly value as the honey bees feed heavily on the blossoms. While we did not plant the clover in the back field, we have planted a mix of clover and grass seed in areas that we have landscaped. Clover is a nice addition to lawn areas as it can be mowed and it will grow back, and even blossom, repeatedly throughout the summer. It is also nice to walk on barefoot, and we have noticed that it seems to crowd out other unwanted plants like thistle.


Young Spruce trees line the East and North sides of our property. We began planting these in our second year here. We purchase the 12″ to 15″ seedlings and keep them in a nursery area for one or more seasons to give them time to grow and develop roots and branches, then we transplant them around the farm. Most of these were planted in 2012.


Canadian Thistle grows sporadically throughout the field and other places on the farm. We mostly consider this plant a menace despite the pretty purple flowers that also have a lovely fragrance, their only saving grace is in the fact that the honey bees like them.


This white flower with feathery leaves is Yarrow . I have noticed Yarrow growing in various areas on the farm over the past few years but this past year was the first time I noticed it in the back field. According to the above article yarrow is both a culinary and medicinal plant. I not sure why I have not harvested any yet.

IMG_2937In the photo above the Timothy Hay is somewhat camouflaged amongst the other greenery, but if you look toward the top of the photo just left of center you can see Timothy’s long thin seed heads that are a lighter green. Small patches of Timothy are scattered throughout  the field and each year I notice a little more. As we walk past the Timothy I will likely pull on one of the seed heads and as I do the seed head along with the top portion of the stem will slide out of the lower part of the stem. I will put the stem in my mouth and you will no doubt think the I am a hick. I will then pull a second one and offer it to you explaining that Timothy is the best weed for chewing. The end of the inner stem is soft and juicy and even a bit sweet. I lightly chew the end for a while before discarding it later along the way.


Along the West side of the field is a line of trees that runs the full length of the property and separates our property from the neighbors next to us. The tree line is composed of mature trees, mostly Oak, Maple, Ash, and Hickory, along with various bushes and shrubs and vines that makeup the undergrowth. Unfortunately, the Ash trees in Michigan have fallen prey to, and are being killed off by the Emerald Ash Borer, thus we have cut down nearly all of the dead Ash trees to use for firewood.  As we cut trees down we are also planting new trees. In the above photo you can see the large dead Ash tree to the right and the young Maple that we planted a couple years back in the center foreground. You may also spot some Timothy growing there. Yep, it’s okay to pull one to chew. I knew you would find them as irresistible as I do. 😉


As we circle back around we are now at the West end of the main garden. This is where we moved our Blue Berry Patch to. Having been in a different location for several years we weren’t sure how well the bushes would adapt to this new environment. They have seemed to do well and while we no longer worry about the deer eating them since they are in the fenced area, we still have to protect the fruit from birds, thus the netting over them.

Well, my friend, thank you for spending this time with me. I hope you enjoyed our walk in the field. If you aren’t ready to leave feel free to hang around and enjoy some more of our farm. You can do so by clicking on the following links.

and if you would like to return you can always do so by following my blog. Please feel free to leave your questions and comments below as two sided conversations are much more fun.





The Post I Wasn’t Going To Write

I had decided not to write a post about New Years resolutions.  I am not one of the seemingly few people who can use the new calendar year to determine to become a better person, then persevere through whatever life may throw at them to bring about those positive changes. If you are that type of person I have great admiration for you, but I simply don’t make New Years resolutions.

I have also read many good blog posts about making resolutions, keeping resolutions, or setting goals for the year rather than making resolutions. I didn’t think there was anything left for me to say on the topic.

It seems, as is often the case when I decide that I’m not going to do something (in this case make a resolution) God has other plans. He occasionally likes to remind me that He is control of my life, so when I say “I’m not going to…” He slaps me upside the head and says “You better…”

My most recent slap upside the head came on Wednesday/Thursday of this past week. When I turned on my computer Wednesday morning it was doing an automatic update “installing update 1 of 3” it said. So I waited and waited and waited while it went through the process including shutting down at one point and restarting and finally it said that the updates were installed. At this point when I attempted to use my computer all I got was a message that said “the system is not responding”. After clicking around a bit attempting to bring my computer back to life and only seeing the same message I told my husband of my dilemma.

My husband sat down at my computer and knowing a bit more about computers than I do he was able to get into a screen that had restore options on it. He attempted a couple of different options but had no success. He then asked if I had my documents and pictures backed up so I wouldn’t lose them if he ran a full system restore. All of my pictures were still on memory cards so they would be safe, but I had not developed the habit of backing up my documents. Most of what I had stored were product labels and I had hard copies so I would be able to recreate anything I lost. While I told him it was ok to attempt the full system restore, he decided instead to take it to a repair shop to see if they could repair it and save my work.

It wasn’t until midday on Thursday that he received a call from the repair shop. They would be able to get my computer running again. It would cost around $120 and would be done by the end of the day. They would also be able to recover my documents – that would cost an additional $100 and would take an extra day or two.

I had already resigned myself to the fact that I would have to remake all of my documents. Admittedly it was my own fault for not backing them up in an alternative location, so I was not willing to spend the extra $100 to have them recovered.

This is not the first time that I have heard of this happening, in fact in the last couple months I have read more than one blog (horror) story of people’s hard work being lost forever when their computer crashes and they had neglected to back up their work. I, unfortunately, did not heed their warning. I will now spend many hours recreating documents, but as I do I have made a resolution to back up each item I make.



  • 1A firm decision to do or not to do something.


My reason for writing this, however, was not to announce my New Years resolution, but to remind you of the importance of backing up your photos and documents. If you are not already in the habit of doing so, I highly recommend that you begin, lest you too get slapped upside the head.