2015 garden

The 2015 vintage of Steve’s Seven Pepper Salsa™ is officially underway (not counting the garlic that was planted in the fall). We have about 200 pepper plants started with the tomatoes soon to follow.

Seed –> Plant –> Food = Front row seat to a miracle. Every time.

peppers1 peppers2 peppers3 peppers4 peppers5 peppers6

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After record snow in November and record lack of snow in December, there’s been no shortage of white stuff so far this new year. It’s such a contrast to the colorful pics of the last post from October which I saw just saw again as I was uploading these.

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The deck rail has been my snow gauge. I took these just before I “reset” it. The view was starting to be obstructed! ;)

white4 white5 white6I laughed when I saw the “pillows” on the benches out at the firepit. Plush, cozy sofas. Now we just need to get the fire going!

P.S. Here’s the fire view, courtesy of Steve:white7

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All I can think of is: burn bright, burn fast. Hoping the brightness hangs around a bit longer.

bright1 bright2 bright3 bright4 mi_leaf

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Sometime back in April or May, whenever the snow finally went away, Steve started the big project of the year, which was to clear a large area (70′ x 100′) next to the garden so we could plant fruit trees. Up until this point, we hadn’t cut any live trees since the 30′ x 100′ garden area had already been cleared by the previous owners. It was a ton of work, cutting and hauling many trees, but Steve gets the credit, having done like 99% of this himself. Many of the branches were chipped into mulch and several oaks of similar size were used as fence posts.

There are eight fruit trees planted, two varieties each of cherry, apple, peach, and pear. We will likely add a few more next year. There is still some cleaning up to do, but Steve just finished running the new electric fence wire the other day so it feels more “done.”

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a few fall photos

I haven’t taken as many pictures lately as I usually do, but at least a little fall photo therapy is a must for me (proof: here or here, among others). This is our fourth fall in the forest!


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I’ve been really excited about our strawberries this year, partially because that part of the garden has the least amount of weeds (due to last year’s newspaper and mulch layer), but mostly because the plants have just looked so promising all spring.


may 24

I was fretting early on about all flowers not getting pollinated because I expected to see our bees all over the plants. They were busy in other places, but it turns out other insects did the job just fine.


may 30

I wrote about how making maple syrup was a patience maker, but I think it’s true for growing food also. I’m trying to make “wait a day after you think it’s ready” my strawberry picking rule because it’s so tempting to pick the fruit before it’s fully ripe.


june 3


june 8


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I’m looking forward to picking more tomorrow!

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2014 sap & syrup stats

Our first maple sugaring season is now in the books. We pulled the taps on April 18th or 19th, I’ve already forgotten. By our best estimates, we gathered about 80 gallons of sap and ended up with about 2 gallons of syrup.

We tapped trees on Feb. 18, which was probably a few weeks early in hindsight, but a small amount of sap did run in those next few days.

Luckily we still had some snow banks left in April to keep the sap cool. We’d usually save up sap during the week and boil on weekends since it would take all day. We ended up burying the last few buckets over at the end of the driveway where the plowed snow had been deepest and last to melt.

I read somewhere that making syrup is a great test of patience. It’s true in so many ways: first in waiting to get enough sap to boil at the beginning of the season (where you are careful not to spill a single drop), then during the actual boiling which seems to take forever (a watched pot never boils), and then at the end of the season when you just can’t wait to be done (and you don’t mind pouring out that last half gallon of sap that somehow got too many bugs in it).

Next year, we’ll definitely have to upgrade boiling capacity in one way or another.

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spring is here?

One of our first stops at the beach this year. Cale was really excited that the snow was gone and wrote “2014 Spring is here!!” in the sand. ghcitybeachexcitedforspring springishereThat was a couple weeks ago (April 16) and I still don’t think the weather has gotten the memo yet.

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syrup: round 2

Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 8 pm to midnight

Approximately 3.5 gallons of sap, first run boiling on modified barrel stove (top cut out for pan). For the record, the barrel stove already existed because Steve would say you can never have enough ways to burn stuff, but now it has been repurposed.

barrelstove1 barrelstove2boilingsapbatch2syrup(Took this last pic this am. Gotta love sunlight shining through syrup-filled jars!)

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first syrup

A few weeks ago after we tapped trees, I collected the first few gallons of sap. This wasn’t really enough to warrant the full blown outdoor burner setup, which wasn’t ready yet anyway (but is now – future post hopefully, if we get enough sap). Steve was gone for the weekend, so I decided to handle it on my own because I knew we wouldn’t be getting any more sap in the next couple weeks (upcoming forecast was below freezing for many days).

One thing I wasn’t anticipating was that the sap would be frozen on the top, so getting it out of the buckets was a little challenging. I ended up with part liquid sap and part bucket-size frozen disks, which I thawed in a tray on the wood stove.


I ended up with about 3 gallons of sap which I then boiled down. In an ideal world, with sap from sugar maples, it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup! So, doing the math, my 384 oz. of sap would give me at best 9.6 oz. of syrup.


In the end I got a mere 2 oz., but it was a worthwhile (though very time consuming) practice round. It tastes sweet with a hint of vanilla, which I’ve read online is typical of the first batches of the season and also the lighter amber grades.

first_syrupI checked the buckets yesterday and there was only about another 1 to 2 gallons out there. At this rate, I am not sure we will get anywhere close to a usable quantity, but it is building appreciation for the people who make mass quantities. We bought 3 gallons of syrup last year (a year’s supply for us at a quart per month) from a friend’s parents who make syrup about 2 hours north of here. Our hope is to make that much ourselves (in a perfect year), which would be at least 120 gallons of sap.

It was kind of cool to learn that pretty much all maple syrup comes from the northeast United States and southeast Canada, since that is the only location with both the correct types of maples and the climate needed (temp cycling above and below freezing) for sap to be collected.


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