around here

There’s a bunch of blooming, buzzing, & birdwatching going on around here.

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We’ve been talking about getting chickens for a few years and finally did it. We’ve had them for two weeks now and they have already grown like crazy. They are in a large wooden crate in our garage staying warm.DSCN1770 DSCN1774

We got 6 pullets (young hens) of good egg-laying breeds (2 each of Rhode Island Red, Buff Orpington, and Isa Brown).DSCN1795 DSCN1798

We’re “babysitting” two additional Rhode Island Reds for our neighbor until they are ready to go out to the real world.DSCN1808


They look noticeably larger to me now. I love the feather markings of the Rhode Island Reds. Hopefully they will keep them, though most pictures I’ve looked up of the grown hens are more solid color. We shall see…

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2015 syrup season

The 2015 maple syrup season is over! We finished boiling the last of the sap last night. The  color of the last syrup batch was considerably darker which is common as the weather warms up and the sugar content changes in the sap. I prefer the lighter syrup which has a hint of vanilla taste.


Taps in: March 6, 2015

Taps pulled: April 5, 2015

# taps = 15

gallons of sap collected = approximately 140

finished gallons of syrup = approximately 2.25

final_bucketsWe collected more sap than last year, but ended up with about the same amount of syrup. Last year we were right around the 40:1 ratio of sap to syrup, but it was about 60:1 this year which is a little disappointing given how long it takes to boil down. We tapped a few additional trees this year, but we aren’t sure what type of maple they are. It’s possible that they aren’t sugar, red, or black maples which have the highest sugar concentration in the sap. We’ll find out when the leaves appear.

frozen_sapWe had a cold snap a week or two ago, after we had collected a bunch of sap. All of our collection buckets were full, stored in snow banks, and ended up partially frozen. The internet consensus seems to be to chuck the frozen sap since it is believed to have a much lower sugar content. Because it would considerably shorten our boil time, we decided to try it, but it didn’t seem to hold true in our case as we didn’t have as much syrup as expected from that day of boiling. At least we didn’t have to worry about the stored sap spoiling that week!


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It looks like the thaw is finally here. With high temps over 40 as far out as the forecast goes, we tapped a bunch of maples last Friday.

Here is part of the intricate path system between trees. ;)


The snow is still pretty deep which makes walking these paths good exercise.

I am going to attempt to record some more detailed sap collection data this year for our own future reference.


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white chicken chili

Here is the recipe for White Chicken Chili that I made for the Watermark 2015 Soup & Chili Cook Off.


I started with this recipe from The Pioneer Woman:

I’ve made it that way before, but have since simplified it a bit, so the main modifications are below.

  1. I use shredded chicken breasts instead of the fryer chicken.
  2. I use 2 cans of Great Northern Beans, rinsed.
  3. Because of using the canned beans instead of dry beans, I use 4 cups chicken broth (I like using Better than Bouillon chicken base) and later 1/2 cup milk.
  4. I use red onion because that’s what we have on hand from the garden.
  5. I did not include the jalapeño.

I tend to just “wing it” when I cook, especially with spices and such, so I often don’t have my versions of things written down.

We usually eat it with homemade bread (based on basic Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day recipe) which I also brought to the cook off :

breadI almost always just mix up enough dough for one larger loaf, so I divide the basic recipe by three (so I use 1 cup warm water, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp yeast, a little over 2 cups unbleached flour). I also don’t use the hot water bath when cooking (because I like to simplify).

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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.

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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.

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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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