Yummy yummy yummy!!!

On Monday, (February 6, 2012) Pete, Tim and I headed out to the woods.  We brought a string of gallon jugs, a hammer and a bag of supplies.  Pete knew what we were looking for and headed directly for them.  Big, beautiful, Red Maple trees were our intended target.  Tim drilled into the tree at the spot that Pete directed him to.  The moment we pulled that drill out of the tree, a fountain of clear watery/sweet sap came flowing out.  We hammered in the spile and the tree gave forth its bounty in a beautiful flowing stream.  Pete cupped his hand under the steady dripping and drank of its sweet goodness.  He held out his hand for me to taste.  I’d never had fresh sap before, and so this was something totally new.  It was very refreshing, tasted just like plain water but with a hint of mapley sweetness.  I carried the jugs and we trotted off through the woods of our “sugar bush” and tapped 60 trees.  By the time we had finished the last ones, the ones we had done first were half full! And it was already 4 in the afternoon, the best part of the sunlight that makes the sap run was gone!  We headed back to the house, I ran to my computer to tell the world (via facebook) about our adventure.  Pete went about his routine and at chore time he went and emptied the gallons and collected over 15 gallons of sap that night!

That could only mean one thing: we’d be cooking syrup in the morning!  This whole process, along with all farm processes was totally foreign to me.  Having grown up on ‘Maple flavored syrup’ I never had access to the pure maple syrup we have here.  It was just plain too expensive for my family.  Now I get to see how it’s made; over a super hot outdoor fire that Pete maintains all day long.  He just cooks it all day.  If the amount in the pan drops down, he adds more fresh sap to keep it all cooking.  By the end of the day, either when he’s run out of sap or when we need to go home, he stops adding more to it and lets it cook down.  When it’s moderately cooked down, we pour it into a pot that his mother tends to on the stove so that it can be carefully watched to achieve the proper consistency.  It’s INCREDIBLY easy to burn syrup when it’s just cooking over the outdoor fire; the fire is so hot and being sugar it can burn so easily.  My job, (as I call it) is to watch the fire from the inside of the house while I work on computer projects.  {Really, Pete mentally knows when to add more wood to the fire, so he comes from wherever he is working and adds more firewood or more sap.}

            Today was experiment day for Pete and I.  We had read in the book, “The Dirty Life” by Kristen Kimball, how she put eggs in her syrup as it was cooking and let the syrup seep into the egg and cook it while sweetening it.  With the more condensed stuff on the stove top, we tried it today.  The first attempt, just dropping the eggs into the syrup and letting them cook for about 5 minutes, didn’t cause any flavor change.  I peeled my egg, and placed it back in the syrup for a bit longer.  This did cause the white of the egg to get amazingly sweet and inspired me to try again.  This time I boiled 3 eggs in the syrup.  The first egg I then cracked the shell all over and returned it, shell and all, to the boiling syrup.  The second egg I peeled half of it and placed it back in the boiling syrup.  The last egg I totally peeled and placed in the syrup for about 8-10 more minutes.  The first egg was ok, not really sweet like I wanted.  The second egg, when peeled, was half white half light brown!  The brown side was sweet, but the middle/inner white weren’t.  My last attempt at a sweet egg came out nice and light brown.  I cut her in half and saw that again, the syrup didn’t penetrate all the way through.  It did, however, cause the outer layer to be so sweet and yummy.  We doused them in salt and munched away on our experiments.  Tonight we have our Bible Study, so we can’t stay till 2am to finish all the sap we have.  (We still have about ¾ of a 50 gallon container full) Pete said he’ll pour off this batch here shortly and send it inside to his mom to finish.  Right now, she’s finishing the stuff from yesterday.  It smells wonderful in here folks.  I think I’m going to go snag some just for myself.  Until next time.. have a wonderful day. 

Today’s Syrup!  Pancakes anyone???

What’s been going on!

Well I can say that I’ve successfully thrown myself into things here on the farm.  I’m so glad for winter months, so that I can focus on getting pointers from other Marketers and not be slowing down the process.  A little recap on what’s been going on here:  We got to spend Thanksgiving at my parents in Pittsburgh, Thanksgiving weekend with Pete’s Mom’s Family in New York, Christmas at home, My huge family party the following weekend, and my birthday with my folks.  We got to tell everyone the news that there’ll be another Burns Baby arriving in July, and have a great time with them.  In January, Pete and I went to Florida for a week to visit my dad’s family. {Picture to the left -Pete and I on the beach in Panama City Florida!}  It was wonderfully warm and sunny.  Coming home we barely had time to breathe when we had to prepare for the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture Conference.  Pete was speaking at the state-wide conference on Raising Pastured Poultry. {The picture you see to the right was taken on site at a Mennonite Family’s Farm where we did hands-on chicken processing.  That was one portion of the Pre-Conference Track}

The conference went exceedingly well; I got to pick the brain of Sheri Salatin, who runs the marketing at Polyface Farm in VA (check out their website when you get the chance!)  With Sheri’s advice and guiding I revamped our website and thought more on how I can advance the business.   I had toyed with the idea of expanding our Buying Club to the areas where I grew up.  I knew that in those areas there are people who would appreciate the type of products we raise and the way in which we raise them.  I asked a few friends in those local areas to start spreading the word through the connections that they knew of and see what information they got back.  I am happy to report that we received a good amount of feedback from these locations and in two weeks will officially start doing rotating Buying Club Delivery Drops to South Hills and Greensburg.  YAY!  I was overjoyed when I realized that I will get to see my family and friends on a weekly basis.  I had greatly missed them.  I knew that marrying Pete would mean moving two hours away – not a dreadful long hike, but a hike nonetheless.  I missed just seeing my folks, brother, cousins and aunts and uncles.  And now I can see them on a weekly basis.  I may even get to catch a basketball practice for my little brother in a few weeks!  I’m so excited.  Don’t get me wrong folks, I love my life here.  I am able to fully stretch my creative wings and design a website, newsletter, buying club, and have a fantastic chefs as friends!  It’s been a transition most definitely, and I have greatly enjoyed being able to use these winter months to sweep out some cobwebs that had been left unattended and revive them to life.

So… that’s what’s been happening on the farm and with me for the past few months. My next post tells you what’s going on now!  🙂