The Maple Syrup Experiment


We attended an event at Camp Kawartha a few weeks ago, where everyone was a-buzz about maple syrup. A couple of friends who live in town had asked a bunch of folks in their neighborhood if they could tap their maple trees and just under 40 neighbors had agreed. It hit me then, we live in the forest, I’ve got the time…we can make maple syrup. Then I recalled that we don’t live in a maple stand, and while there is one close by, it’s conservation land and also too far to truck gallons of sap by hand, or even by wagon. BUT there are some mature maples in our yard – why not tap a couple as an experiment!?

I promptly forgot about this idea for a few days, then was handed a couple of spigots from good friend who recalled my enthusiastic (if fleeting) interest in the syrup experiment. That was it, we would do it. I tracked down a cordless drill, went out a couple of times trying to drill holes in a great big maple with the drill on reverse (yes, that happened) and then finally, successfully got the spigots into the tree and began collecting sap from one tree, with two spigots.

This is really, really easy and super fun for kids. Esker and I check the buckets each day after school, and have been freezing the sap in yogurt containers. Last night, we decided to boil some down to see how much syrup we got. We had about a big soup pot full of sap and got the glorious jar of syrup you see above. A couple of things I found  neat while internetting about maple syrup:

  • When the maples begin to bud, the sap they produce becomes bitter. So the window to tap is between when the sap starts to flow and the buds come out
  • If you don’t have a immersion thermometer to check the temp of your syrup while boiling it down, you’ll know it’s done when the syrup starts to bubble like crazy
  • You have to strain the sap a number of times throughout the process to remove impurities, and it’s a good idea to collect the sap daily or it will be cloudy and may breed bacteria.

So fun and rewarding.

Update – it is so so so delicious


Herb explosion!

untitled (1 of 1)

Oregano anyone? What does one do with enormous amounts of oregano? There is only so much spaghetti sauce one family can make. Especially when the tomatoes have barely flowered. I’m finding that so far this year, not much is doing well besides the herbs. They are OUT of control. We also have a SHIP ton of mint  – mmmm mojitos!

First spring ephemerals

untitled (1 of 3)

Firrrst. Coltsfoot is always first around here.

untitled (1 of 2)

Vi-ol-ets. I’ve made jelly with them, and to be honest, it tasted like…sugar. I’ve also made a drink syrup with them – also tasted like sugar. I think this year, we’ll pick some for salad and call it a day. Or you could always do THIS with them if you want to go really crazy.

untitled (2 of 2)

Bloodroot. Lots more than last year, but not enough to harvest. Yet.

Lovely Christmas

untitled (1 of 7)

We have a Christmas tradition now of a family sing-a long on Christmas Day. It’s very enjoyable. Arguably, this year the most successful tunes were Old Man (Neil) and Tennessee Waltz (traditional). I tried to make everyone sing this song, and everyone did great! Perhaps next year we’ll get into the harmony.

untitled (5 of 7)

untitled (2 of 7)

Last year, many, many, precious vintage and handmade tree ornaments were destroyed by ruckus-ing children and animals. So we’ve packed those ornaments away for 10-20 years, and made our own ornaments this year. We helped my wonderful and very pregnant friend Rachel make dough art ornaments when we were at her house in December, and then ran home and made them ourselves.

untitled (3 of 7) Sooo easy. Very fun to decorate with Eskeroodle Doodle.

untitled (6 of 7)

Still have just under a week of vacation! Hoorah! There will likely be a lot of skiing and boardgames. And making things.





And then it got colder

No frost yet, but certainly time for fall jackets and wool socks mmmm.

The time has come for seed saving and preserving.

Cucumber seeds are best collected from over ripe cucumbers that have been sitting for approx. two weeks after harvest. You scrape out the seeds, separate the seeds from any cucumber flesh, and then ferment them for a few days to get rid of the gelatinous sack. Then you rinse them and dry them, and store them away for next year. Really digging seed saving right now.

This salsa was so good, those six jars are almost gone already. M’serious. Just plain ol’ Bernardin vegetable salsa recipe.

These giant flower heads are approximately15lbs each – fyi. Tomorrow we’ll harvest most things and tuck the gardens in for the winter.




Discover all the clues…

Since Southern Ontario is now the tropics our garden is huge. The curly parsley, Italian parsley, and basil we planted amongst our tomateys needed to be cut back. So I made….see if you can guess.

Did you guess? Yeah – pesto again! It’s healthy and freezable. There you have it – 3rd preserve of the summer – done.

Lilac Jelly

I made it gelled - YA!

Last summer we made the slightly unrealistic goal of making one preserve per week. BUT if you count freezing, I’m thinking this year it’s doable. First one – done. And guess what – it gelled. I was shocked. I roughly followed the recipe found at The 3 Foragers .