The Revised Syrup Process

I was up and lighting a fire this morning at seven o’clock.  I felt an urgency to begin the syrup making process early, as I had several gallons of sap that needed to be boiled down.  I am unsure how much liquid the turkey fryer pan holds, but it was full to capacity, along with a five gallon bucket.       

Here are photos from today.

            

This job was huge….my body is aching all over from lifting, bending, carrying!  Making syrup is not an easy task, that is for sure! But, oh, it is so sweet!!!

Glad to See this Week Come to an End!

Wow, we have been so busy this past week!  With the kids off for Spring Break, we have been busy.

Yesterday, Michelle wanted to visit with her friend in Penn Yan.  Mark had suggested that while she visited, we could make a quick run for Sauder’s up in Seneca Falls.  We scooted off pretty quickly and Mark and I shopped at the store at a fairly brisk pace.  We hopped back in the truck and rushed toward Penn Yan to pick Michelle up again.

After picking Michelle up, we needed to make a mad dash to arrive inFarmington to pick up a new pan for evaporating the sap for my Maple syrup production.  After reading and researching,  we came to the conclusion that a flat rectangular pan would hasten the syrup production somewhat.  We discovered a kitchen supply company we had not known existed while looking online.   After picking up the pan, it was another mad dash to take the kids to the bowling alley in Canandaigua where they met up with friends!

Oh, but before we dropped the kids at the bowling alley, we stopped by Tractor Supply.  Mark wanted to look around a little there…as I was standing near him,  I heard the distinct “peep” sound of young chicks!  I raced over to the area where chicks and ducklings are kept and found them!

Sad to say, I took a photo with the cell phone, but it came out terrible!  There were tiny chicks and ducklings!  There is nothing quite so sweet as holding a tiny duck. They are so fluffy and yellow and adorable!!

We took the kids over to bowl and while they did that,  Mark and I sat in the truck,  just trying to relax a bit!  We knew, after all, that today was going to be (yet!) another busy day!

The alarm clocks were going off at 6 am here this morning and everyone had to hustle and bustle to get out the door at 7:30.  Today was an open house at Rochester Institute of Technology for transfer students.  Michelle was kind of interested in RIT, but she had applied mainly just to see if she would be accepted.

We arrived at RIT at about 8:30 where a nice continental breakfast was laid out for the open house.  We grabbed a bite and headed into an auditorium for a welcome and general information.  We were impressed by the presentation and afterward,  kids were dismissed according to the discipline for which they were applying.  We went to the business college located a short distance from where we started.

We sat in on a business presentation and it was incredible!  The business college, we discovered,  is rated in the top 5% of business colleges in the USA.  As the presentation went on,  it seemed like the college became more and more wonderful! RIT has grabbed Michelle by the heartstrings!  Although she was so impressed with Keuka College for its tiny presence,  she has been awestruck by RIT.  The business college is rather small, but RIT overall is a large college. Even though Michelle thought a large school would overwhelm her,  she is now reconsidering.

After the business presentation,  Michelle and I took a guided tour, led by a current student.  The college is huge, with so many buildings housing the different disciplines of study.  The tour was a brisk walk of over an hour and when we were done, both Michelle and I were happy to just sit down and rest and ponder the school! 

We had to stop at a few stores before leaving Rochester and finally got back home a little after 7.  Phew!  What a whirlwind week this has been!

Home Late Once Again!

This time, home from a visit with my parents!  We made the drive to visit as we have not been there in ages!  It was wonderful seeing my parents, my brother Randy, and little Fritz.  We had a great time and went to the Rod and Gun Club for a delicious dinner.

Since it is so late, I am going to post a couple of photos to show how I have been spending some of my time!

And the end result…

I have honestly never seen syrup this color for sale before!  It is so light in color and the flavor is so sweet!

We talked to some people at Sprague’s Restaurant today that are involved in their syrup production…the lady said the sap is running so abundantly, they are having a hard time keeping up in production.  I believe it, because the trees are giving so much sap each day.  I had heard on the radio this is going to be a banner year and I guess Sprague’s verified it!  Now I will either end up with lots of yummy syrup, or go crazy trying to do so!

Oh, that One Last Ride…

Off and running on our (most likely) ride of the season
The snow was deep and the scenery amazing!

 

How could the season be coming to a close?  The base was deep, the trails, beautiful and the sights…spectacular!

The deeper we went into the wooded areas, the more amazing the scenery!
Breathtaking!

Mark (l) chatting with a couple of riders on the trail.

Oops…Mark put the camera on “alien mode” (just kidding!) to snap this shot of me. The snowmobiles float on top of snow that was up to my knees! And to think our snow is almost all gone in the Bristolwood!

Ben.

The sun was poking through and yes, the icy snow on the branches was beginning to drip..drip...drip.
There's the groomer!

The water is running in the rivers and streams…a sure sign that things are warming up.  The temperatures the rest of this week are going to be above freezing, and with accompanying rain showers,  the snowmobile trails will face a certain demise…

As we passed by this cabin, I just had to photograph it..it was so pretty nestled snuggly in the snow. When we came back a few hours later, two men were on top of the roof, shoveling the snow off!
Ben wanted to go back to the "Land of the Giants". We observed a large amount of ice on those rotatig blades...
Almost back to home base with such mixed emotions. This was such a beautiful ride.

We arrived back at the truck where Michelle had done a lot of reading for school!  The kids have this week off for Spring Break, but Michelle really keeps on top of her work!  She enjoyed sitting in the truck with the Scotties while we rode, but she wanted to ride “for about an hour”.   Ben agreed to ride with her on over to Barne’s Corners, so after loading Mark’s sled on the trailer,  the kids were off!  Mark and I drove on over to Barne’s Corners in the truck to meet them. 

After leaving our parking area, within maybe a half a mile,  all the snow disappeared!  It wasn’t until we came closer to Barne’s Corners that the snow reappeared!  (and it was pretty deep, too!)

As we left to drive over to Barnes Corners to meet the kids, we saw the BIGGEST flock of seagulls swarming near the landfill!

Well, as you can see from this lot located in Barne's Corners, we weren't te only ones out enjoying a "farewell" ride. Although there is copious amounts of snow in the woods, the surrounding areas are getting pretty well worn down.  After this week's promised rain, much of the snow will turn to slush and the trails will no longer be so nice.  So, farewell, snowmobiling! We could not have enjoyed it any more!!!

As you can see by the parking lot at Barne’s Corners, we were not the only ones out enjoying this day!  With the promised rains and rising temperatures this week,  the trails will soon turn to mush and no longer be very nice to ride. It is so hard to say good-bye to this enjoyable sport.  Snowmobiling takes one to places one would never see to see sights that are unrivaled!  We could not have enjoyed this season any more!!!

Let the Production Begin!

Just before I got sick, I told Mark I would like to tap some maple trees and make some syrup.  I made a total of about one pint last year, and I was hoping to get closer to a gallon this year.  Stangely enough,  my family would rather have high fructose corn syrup that is maple flavored than the “real McCoy”.  Not me!  I love the real deal!

Mark did some research and discovered that Sprague’s Restaurant (where everything revolves around maple syrup!) sells the spiles and accessories for making syrup.  He called and ordered spiles and some tubing to insert onto the spiles.  I was thrilled because I happened to have many five gallon buckets sitting around.  I scrubbed them clean and then off we went to tap the trees….

It really is a simple process.  The spiles we bought are plastic and the tubing fits snugly over the spout.  We cut the tubing just shy of three feet and then placed it on the spiles. I placed a piece of masking tape at 1 1/2 inches from the end of the drill bit so the spile would got in about that far.  Using the 5/16″ bit, I made a hole in the tree running the bit in and out to get rid of the excess shavings, then inserted the spile into the hole, tapping it gently with a rubber mallet to make sure it went in deep enough.  The end of the hose runs into a five gallon bucket and that is it!

I tapped six trees all together, and the photo below shows five of the six. (even though I had named the photo four of the six trees) 

This system seems like it will work quite well as the lids are mounted on the buckets with just enough room for the tubing to squeeze into the bucket; this will not allow rain to enter the buckets.

Here is a closeup of the end of the spile. Love the design on them! (and wonder if they are made in Canada?)

And here is a spile inserted into the tree.

When we first moved here some eighteen years ago,  I dreamed of having a sugar bush.  We have several maple trees on the west side of the house and the lay of the land is such that a gravity feed system would be a piece of cake for us. We need to see how these six trees do this year.  I am so excited!

A Word About Homeschooling…

I belong to a forum where folks chatter away about Scottie dogs, but last week,  someone wrote an off-topic post asking about homeschooled kids.  The poster wondered if homeschooled kids tend to be conceited and more interested in themselves than others.  To be completely honest,  I took no offense to the question…this woman was a professor at a college and said that homeschooled kids she has met just seemed “different” and less interested in the world outside themselves.

Another person on the list who recently retired from teaching young children answered that often children who are homeschooled tend to be a reflection of their parents.  She thought perhaps they were more opinionated and more close-minded.  She said they often believe the same things as their parents, as their parents are viewed as always right in their eyes.  I took no offense to this post, either!

In thinking about this whole conversation, I find it a bit sad that it must be viewed as “homeschooled vs public schooled”.  Many people believe that one must be a certified teacher in order to homeschool children or the education the children receive is inferior to public school.  I will be the first to admit I am a bumbling fool when it comes to math….perhaps a reflection on the lousy public school math teachers I studied under?  Well, no, I would never lay guilt there…I hated math, plain and simple.   I also hated science.  I saw no use for either of these subjects.

Needless to say,  I was right there with the kids, doing math with them right through algebra.  I could keep up quite handily until then,  and much to my own surprise,  I was even able to be of some use in geometry when it came to solving fomulas for volume!  When higher math became an unsolvable mystery to me,  I was happy to turn the whole math situation over to Mark who cheerfullylooks at calculus as brain exercises! He loves math and hates language arts. Oh, what a complement to me!

We did not “reinvent the wheel” by formulating our own curriculum.  We chose a Christian-based education that included Bible.  I need to add that we have met some Christian families along the way that were pretty radical, too.  Everything was done “their way or no way”.  Mark and I really tried to be open-minded and help our kids formulate their own lines of thought.  I have very little problem with this as I am not much of a control freak.  If anything,  I might look like one when I am passionate about something, but I am certainly not out to win the world. I do tend to be very passionate, though, and I need to sometimes just keep my mouth shut!

Our kids studied, using workbooks for their schooling, until second grade.  Michelle actually skipped second grade when we switched curriculum for her next year.  In first grade, she was reading at third grade level and beyond.  In changing curriculum,  the new work had a battery of tests for placement of students.  When Michelle was tested, she was at the third grade level, so we (quite confidently) placed her there.  She then began working on a computer-based curriculum, which she thoroughly enjoyed.  It worked well for me, as I was able to spend time with Ben hile she worked independently.

Michelle completed grade twelve at sixteen.  (Most kids graduate from high school at eighteen in the US)  In her final year, I suggested she take less intense coursework whereas Mark insisted she continue with pre-calc and physics.  Michelle was a trooper and worked her way through the hard courses, almost entirely learning on her own.  Mark always took time if she needed it,  but she most often resolved issues herself. (Most of the problems she could not solve were errors in the curriculum, rather than her errors!)

Ben has followed in Michelle’s footsteps and he works well independently as well, although he needs “the prod” from time to time.  One interesting thing about my kids is that although I never required them to write a paper for me, (such as an essay or editorial) I did go over (and over and over) how to write one.  Their schoolwork required learning how to write an outline and gave tons of information about how to formulate ideas on how to express oneself. 

Both of the kids have now taken college courses that have required them to write papers.  Michelle breezed through papers…she has never gotten below an “A” on papers she has written.  When Ben had to write, he became a little nervous, but Michelle merely coached him a little and he was able to work his way through.  So far, he has had to write two papers and has received 100% on each. (He would never allow me to see the paper until after it was graded!Michelle, on the oter hand, gives me her papers and asks me to “critique”) .

In looking at our homeschooling experience,  I would say that it has been a success.  Don’t get me wrong….it has not been an easy thing.  Aside from spending time working with frustrated kids,  it has been a very interesting experience. Many people voiced opinions that we were doing our kids a disservice, keeping them away from their peers.  That was far from the truth…They were free to play with neighbor kids (who attend public school) and we took them to events to be with other kids their ages.  They also participated in summer sports with kids from our area.

I tend to think of my kids as being more “homegrown” than “homeschooled”.  If parents have the tenacity to make their kids work,  homeschooling (or, homegrowing) is enlightening and downright fun.  We had lots of field trips and the kids learned so much about the world around them, in spite of themselves!

When Michelle was heading into her final “phases” of schooling, I became panic-stricken when I realized she had never been tested against kids in public school. She had never taken PSAT’s nor SAT’s.  The only testing she had done against other kids was standardized testing, as required by the school district.  Michelle had always scored post high school in those tests, but as she thought about college, I got cold feet!  Where would she stand against kids who had “professionals” teaching them?

Michelle did have to take a placement test when she went to Finger Lakes Community College for orientation. This is required of all homeschooled kids.  The tests basically analyze reading, writing, and math skills.  When the woman doing the testing was asked how Michelle did, she told us we had nothing at all to worry about.  No remediation was required for Michelle.

Michelle will be finishing her second year at FLCC this May.  My, how the time has passed so quickly!  She will now be ready to transfer on to a four-year school.  Michelle applied to three schools….Keuka College,  State University of New York at Geneseo,  and Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).   Well, Michelle was accepted into all three colleges with no problem.  She was informed today that should she decide to attend RIT full time, she will receive a $6,000.00 scholarship from the school as well as a $2,000.00 scholarship from her business honor society she is in.  In the letter stating these amounts, she was congratulated for her academic excellence!

Please realize I am not writing this to brag, but rather to say that I am humbled that our “homegrown” girl has done so well for herself.  She now has three different options from which to choose, each unique and different.  I am just so happy for Michelle.  At eighteen, she has the world open to her, our serious little student! 

I guess I can now say with some confidence that Michelle’s homeschooling experience was indeed a success!  I know that homeschooling is not for everyone and many would thumb their nose at it.  That is fine, but for us,  I am truly glad we stuck with it!

Spring *Might* be Coming?

Today was nothing short of a typical early spring day.  Rain, dismal, and lots of melting snow.  Our area has had flood warnings up for a couple of days now.  Yup, with all that melting snow,  the moisture has to go somewhere!  The earth is saturated and can hold no more, so the water must find its way to the lowest grade.

Last night as I was lying on the bed,  I could not believe the wind outside.  I could literally hear the tree branches as they were being whipped about….they made a loud whistling sound.  Between warm temperatures and the wind, we lost a great deal of our snow cover.

The snow melted most quickly around the house and imagine my surprise when I found this little cluster of tulips coming up!

Yes, we have more snow in the forecast, but March is a month when the jetstream plays tug of war,  with snowstorms one day and temperatures above freezing the next!  All in all, I am pretty sure spring isn’t too far off!

Job Well Done

I mentioned a few days ago that Ben had replaced the O2 sensor on our pickup truck.  Mark had purchased a monitor that reads the computer code when plugged into the truck.  After the O2 sensor was replaced,  Mark cleared the codes and that was an “oops”!  The manual that came with the monitor instructed that the codes should be cleared.   That means that after this is done, the truck needed to be driven following a specific set of intructions. (One such instruction said the vehicle must be driven to 55 MPH, then without touching the brake pedal, the vehicle must be allowed to slow down to a speed of 20 MPH…like this is supposed to be an easy thing to do?)

Mark used the monitor after doing several of the sequences and it said that one of the codes had not cleared.  Mark called the garage he generally goes to and asked about the codes.  The manager of the store insisted that any vehicle the age of our truck must pass ALL of the codes.  So, Mark called another garage where he was told one code not read would be okay.  The Chevy garage agreed with the second evaluation. 

Frustrated beyond his limits,  Mark called Albany to speak to someone in the DMV.  He was connected to a rather stern sounding man who had quite the sense of humor!  Mark asked him the same question and he said right away that one code not read is fine and dandy.  Mark asked if he was sure and he insisted his job is instructing garages in the state as to the laws.  He also told Mark all of the information is no secret….it is all published online!

Armed with this latest round of information,  Mark made an appointment with the first garage. (with the wrong info)  The only reason he went there is because the store located a few miles away was booked solid until Friday.  So, off we went, hoping the monitor that Mark had was correct in its reading. 

We waited in that store for well over an hour and then the manager came out with the paperwork, showing Mark that “no codes” came up.  Well, isn’t that something?  Mark didn’t say a word, as the manager was pleased as punch that he knew everything there was to know!  Unfortunately,  the state software doesn’t tell if one code is unread…it is only a pass/fail reading.  The manager is unaware of this. Mark tested the codes immediately after the inspection and sure enough, one code still is not being read.  The man at the DMV said the code that isn’t reading is a stubborn one as it is temperature sensitive.  Our weather has been pretty cold, so this code is hard to get a reading.

Afterwards,  I went grocery shopping for the first time in about three weeks.  It was nice to be able to shop without having Mark and the kids getting the things we need. 

After putting the groceries away late this afternoon,  I saw a flock of turkeys out back.  I raced up and grabbed the camera…

As you can see, these birds really blend right in with their habitat!

After they left, I wondered if they left any big footprints in the snow.  I walked up to where they were.  They had scratched all over, looking for food!

Although my feet are not “big”, they certainly are not “tiny”!  Look at the size of that footprint to the right of my boot!

As I walked back down the hill toward the house, I smiled as I came upon this….

One of those birds had dirty feet and left behind some handy dandy markers….follow the arrows to the wild turkeys!