Saturday, March 6, 2010

In Our Home ~ March 6, 2010

1~ For those of you who don't know, my son Carl publishes a monthly newsletter. A yearly subscription is $12 ($20 if you need it mailed). In his newsletter he includes a main article of something interesting we've done in the previous month, a recipe, a book review, funny sayings from his younger brother, a detailed list of what we've done this month, one of his favorite verses and why it's a favorite, etc. (If you're interested in seeing a copy, let me know.) He's saving the money he makes on his newsletter for flying lessons. He is passionate about planes and learning to fly. Well, one of my great uncles had his pilot's license. He's now in a nursing home, but when his wife learned what Carl was up to, she asked him if he'd be interested in some of her husbands old "flying stuff" in exchange for a subscription.

Carl's been sending her his newsletter, wondering how we'd ever get to Arkansas to pick up his "stuff." Well, my parents decided to visit her on their way home from Alabama. Yesterday Carl got his stuff, and to say he is thrilled would be a complete understatment! He went through those boxes as if they contained treasures, and to him they did! I know nothing about flying, but he now has a flight computer, lots of other little things he'll need some day, and more how-to books about flying. He is devouring them. His appetite for that type of thing is insatiable. It's great to see him challenging himself to learn more. So, he's been busy studying and practicing on his flight simulator.

2~ We are trying our hand at making maple syrup. Not having any taps to put into our maple trees, I improvised with what I had. Carl drilled a hole in a few trees, and I stuffed flexible plastic tubing into the hole. We caught a lot of the sap, but a lot of it ran down the tree. It was working, but we needed a better method.

The hardware store in town didn't carry taps, so until Wayne had a day off, we were out of luck. He had this past Thursday off, so we loaded up the car and headed to Blandford Nature Center. I knew we had purchased one tap from them years ago. So, we walked their sugarbush trail, asked a lot of questions, and bought "real" taps! They work much better than the tubing. We have very little waste now.

We didn't have any big buckets that we wanted to use for this project, so we are using those big gallon aluminum cans that food comes in. We had taken the covers off when we enjoyed peaches, beans, and chocolate pudding on Justin's birthday. So, we added a hole to the side of the can so it will hang on the little hook, and they work rather well. I made a couple covers out of old ice cream bucket lids. And I'm pleased with the results. Of course, we have to empty them more often than if we had used 5-gallon buckets, but we're home all day anyway, and it's kind of a fun treat to empty the cans and bring the sap into the house.

So, I feel like we're doing a good job collecting the sap, but I'm not sure about our method of boiling it down to get syrup. To get one gallon of syrup, we need to start with forty gallons of sap! That's a LOT of boiling it down. That's a lot of time with the stove running. I tried evaporating some of it yesterday in my crockpots, but that seemed to take forever. This morning I've got it sitting on our wood stove, but again, it's not hot enough to get it to a nice boil. So, we're still looking for the best method of reducing the sap to syrup. I'm wondering about using my electric skillet. I'm not sure how much power that uses to run as opposed to the stove though.

One thing we have tried was to freeze the sap for a little bit first. The watery part freezes first. So, we removed that and we're boiling what's left. I kept the frozen part though, just to see how sweet it is once more of the water has been removed, and it does have a bit of sweetness to it, but not nearly as much as what didn't freeze. So, I think freezing it will help save on the electric bill.

What we do have boiling tastes wonderful! And we are all anxiously awaiting our first batch of pancakes with homemade syrup. Yum!

3~ The weather has been beautiful this whole week. Bright sunny days, and clear cold nights. Perfect for collecting sap! But not so perfect for our qunizee. It's still standing, but it has a nice sunroof now! ~smile~

4~ This beautiful weather has me wanting to plan my garden. I'm itching to get outside and dig in the dirt for awhile. Last year I got a garden in, but my ankle surgery prevented me from keeping up with it. This year...

5~ We've been faithfully plugging away at lessons. I'm hoping to have all the kids done with school by May 1. Carl should be done in just a few weeks. Then he'll have more time to pursue his own interests, like studying those flight manuals! I'm ready for the school year to be done, and it's only the first week of March. This isn't a good thing.

6~ I saw the first bluebird today. What a delight!

7~ I spent Thursday afternoon geocaching with a good friend. For those of you who don't know what geocaching is, it's using a GPS to find "treasures" that other people have hidden. It's fun, but it's just as fun to spend time with my friends. It was a gorgeous afternoon to be out and about. We found 13 caches. What fun!

8~ I've been saving up for a trip to Kenya. One of my best friends moved there last July, and I knew I'd want to go see her. Especially since Van and her husband, Jeff, are expecting their first child the end of April! All the more reason to make the trip! My friend Kristie expressed a desire to go as well, and yesterday we put our money where our hearts were and bought our tickets. We fly out of O'hare on May 19, and we will spend a little over a week with Jeff, Van and Baby before heading home on the 29th. I am absolutely thrilled about this opportunity, and I am excited to see them again and spend time with them.

9~ Well, that's it for what's been going on in our home this past week. May God bless you throughout the coming week!

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