Our last two weekends have centered around this lovely stuff-- maple syrup! We've spent the last two weeks at the farm, boiling sap, and now have 9 gallons of the stuff. (Minus a couple pancake suppers, of course.)
Of course, the whole sugaring process started long before us Whites made it up there. Owen and Justin tapped the trees-- about 35 taps, several taps per tree.
Owen needed to pose with Archie, looking manly, to work up to tapping trees. (Of course, I have no idea why he's posing. Half these pictures are from artistic sister-in-law, Ashley. And my pictures are a conglomeration of two different weekends-- so they may not be in chronological order or much of any order, but, hey, I finally at least have them up here.)
One evening, while they were collecting sap.
And a sunnier time. Aren't buckets on trees one of the coolest sights?
Owen, off to collect sap. Notice how I didn't make some snide comment about the sap collecting sap. Oops, guess I just did.
Justin was rather excited about sugaring. He bought an evaporating pan several months ago in anticipation of this.
Of course, there was LOTS of discussion and drawing before they started building the fire pit for the actual boiling of the sap.
This picture is chock-full of awesomeness-- Dad's aMAZing truck, Full Circle Farm grass-fed beef in the background, and the sugaring set-up to the right. Man, how much coolness can you cram in one shot?
Justin drawing a bucket of sap out of the holding tank.
Letting Elliott try a drink of the sap. I didn't try any of it, but Evan says it had a very faint sugary taste. Since it takes 35 to 40 gallons of sap to boil up one gallon of syrup, it makes sense that the taste isn't overpowering.
The fire started.
Then, they decided the fire needed a chimney.
In this picture, you can just see the wires holding the chimney steady.
Evan, examining a pitcher full of half-boiled sap.
I think they were getting a little tired by this point. Both weekends, the boiling process took 14-15 hours.
The next weekend brought sprinkles, so there was another addition to the setup.
They dragged the kids' swing over and balanced some tin over the beam of the swingset.
While they took the regular swings off their chains, this two-seater swing was still functional.
With a little fireguard piece of plywood in place, Lily was happy to swing!
Steam coming off the sap.
Owen's good at the smile-less poses.
Starting to can the syrup.
I'm not sure the board of health agrees that the back of Owen's pickup is the ideal surface for this, but at least it was hot enough it was still pasteurized.
There's a spigot at the bottom of the tank to draw off the finished syrup. And yes, that's on old ice tea pitcher from Altamont, which only ups the coolness factor dramatically.
Ain't it purty?
This is the compartment for adding sap. I thought they would just dump it in all at once, but I guess it's better to slowly keep adding sap at a rate where they can maintain a boil.
Decanting syrup into the canning jar.
Straining out an impurities. And while some factions thought old diapers that had been bleached and thoroughly washed were acceptable in this application, I went and bought a new pack at Wal-Mart. With Baby White #4 on the way, I can always use more burp-clothes.
There's quite a bit of minerals that get filtered out. It's called niter, and it's composed mostly of calcium that the tree produces while it produces sap. (Not that I had a foggy clue what "niter" was composed of before I googled it five minutes ago.)
Finished jars, with reflections of people in them. I think Olivia was manning my camera right then.
A LOT of dirty dishes get manufactured in this process.
Filtering some of the syrup inside.
The last syrup left in the pan had gotten cool enough, it had to be stuck in a boiling water bath to get the syrup hot enough to seal the jars.
Elliott, demonstrating his uncles' preferred method of dealing with spilled maple syrup-- grab a piece of bread, wipe they syrup up, and eat the bread. This is an especially good idea when there's Connie Parker bread in the house.
Of course, there was lots of onlookers to this process. Mostly goofy.
Didn't his mother ever teach him not to play with sticks?
The "L" girls-- Lily and Livie.
Ashley and Marilla on the swing.
I love Lily's posing-for-the-camera smile.
Olivia, through the steam. (That was the first weekend, before our van, and as a consequence, that Indian blanket was defiled by mice. I have no idea what it is with mice and our vehicles this year. I've been driving for 16 years, and I've never had a mouse in my car, then this winter we've had mice in three different vehicles. At least they kept their pointy little noses out of our house, I guess.)
The kids swinging.
Orianna, with her looking-into-the-sun smile.
And another squinchy-eyed Lily.
Lily and Ashley heading off for a walk.
Up the road...
To the cows!
The kids playing with the Oobleck Ashley made.
They had so much fun with it.
Lots of messy fingers!
Owen was questioning Ashley's judgment in making such a messy craft, until he started playing with it and realized how cool it was.
We also had to have a Marilla birthday cake.
She was properly appreciative of the singing.
Owen and Elliott dealing with the cake.
Rilla, with her new V-Tech laptop from Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad bought one for Cheyenne's 2nd or 3rd birthday, and our kids have played with it endlessly. It finally bit the dust, the week Marilla got the new one!
Marilla and Gilbert are friends.
Grabbing the party horns, with all their nice shiny strands of stuff.
Four silly girls, pretending to drink. The three oldest girls at least had semi-possible containers. Rilla didn't want to be left out, so she's sipping from a headless Barbie. Hmm.
Lily, with her sunglasses. One day, the kids all were anxious to wear Ashley's sunglasses. To forestall any further arguments, Ashley went to Wal-Mart and bought a boat load of cool sunglasses.
Everyone got outfitted after union meeting that Sunday. What a bevy of gorgeous girls!
Elliott took his sunglasses seriously.
Orianna didn't know about the no-smiling-in-sunglasses rule.
Then the babies got thrown into the mix.
Just a little hint-- if you have young children, Full Circle Farm is going to be THE destination for cool get-togethers in 15 years or so. LOOK at all these kids!
Owen wanted to be as cool as Elliott. I'm not sure he pulled it off.
Dad definitely didn't. I'm thinking Orianna's purple hat from Aunt Charlotte was a bit much, maybe?
Sunday afternoon walk.
Rilla moo-ing at the cows.
Nathan, Mr. Cool in his glasses. In case you were wondering, it is a bit of a trick to keep eight kids walking down the road when they are worried about their sunglasses slipping down their nose or falling off.
Owen brought a lamb into the kitchen at one point. He wanted to weigh it on the scale...
But it got petted quite a bit first.
Before running into the living room.
Drawing on the garage floor with chalk was another activity.
Orianna "Two Chalks" Cotten.
Ashley's bee-yoo-ti-ful artwork.
Ashley was great about taking the kids out to the barn so they could see the animals. Orianna is apparently kissing a lamb.
Wandering around the lamb pen.
The lambs investigating Cheyenne's boots.
Gilbert: With Flash.
Gilbert: Without Flash. Cute either way, I think.
Serious Discussion after meeting.
Cheyenne was attempting to give Ashley anklets purloined from Orianna's cool pink cowboy boots.
The ambition exhibited here is overwhelming. Considering the size of the lunch they had all enjoyed, it's a wonder anyone was awake.
Dad and Cris. I'm sure there was no political discussion.
Elliott chilling with Matchbox cars.
Marilla, chilling with her sippy cup.
Tyler tells me that Full Circle Farm is a big organic farm on the West Coast. The east coast Full Circle Farm is poised to be the next thing. Besides producing maple syrup...
there is organic eggs.
From these lovely poultry. Of course, they are also possible eating chickens, but no one has told them that.
Piggies! They look prettier when they're rendered into bacon.
And, of course, the grass-fed beef!
Ashley took lots of pictures of cows.
Besides being cool pictures, I thought I would post them here to give poor Cody a look at the animals he's missing by living in Wyoming. Not that he's lacking for cows there, but they aren't Full Circle Farm cows.
Then there's the lambs.
If Owen isn't careful, they might actually become a profitable enterprise.
And, of course, Full Circle Farm produces goofy grandkids.
We have been home some. Life is a little more prosaic in Central Square, but the kids are enjoying the warmer weather, so they can play outside.
Marilla placing a stick in the melting snow.
Cheyenne helping with her shovel.
And the world's saddest boy, after he wasn't allowed to have a stick, after one too many "accidents" with his stick.
Last week was Evan's 31st!! birthday. This was the card Elliott made for him-- before deciding he really wanted to give the card to Alex.
He did his name here completely by himself! What a smart little cookie.
Now it's another weekend, and we're NOT heading north for syrup-making. While we've had an awesome time up there, it's nice not to have a long drive ahead of us this evening. We're also recovering from a nasty cold/cough-- I guess Fate decided I had bragged once too often about our illness-free winter. We nicely shared it with everyone up North, so they are all in the throes of it right now!
Tomorrow is the first day of spring, and despite snow in our forecast, we are excited about the warmth coming-- and the fact we can play outside more!