Saturday, March 14, 2009

My rival

I have long understood that Mr. G has a penchant for a certain type of female that I am not. The kind with fawn colored hair and brown eyes with long lashes, but still, the pain of being replaced still smarts somewhat. I now have a rival for his affection and what's worse, he's brought her here to live! What's even worse than that is that I like her too.

There she is. Would you be won over by that face? She came to live with us yesterday and we've named her (after much discussion) Tansy. I wanted to name the cows after herbs and flowers but something more original than Buttercup and Daisy. Other names we considered were: Angelica, Meadowsweet and Senna, but Tansy seemed the best fit for her.
She is five years old and is a dream to milk. No kicking, no dancing around, no knocking the bucket over, nothing. Since she doesn't have another cow to be with we've found that she's becoming attached to the children, she bawls when they leave her, so they visit her often. She's one of the smaller sized Jerseys, which is what we wanted and such a sweetheart, who could not love her?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Some days you eat bear........

Some days you eat bear and other days the bear eats you. That's our catch-phrase for "you win some, you lose some". I have been suspecting for a while that our bees were all dead; the hives were placed facing South and were pretty well protected, but they have been eerily silent of late. Our suspicions were confirmed today when I opened the hive to find scads of dead bees. Our weather comes from the North and West but this winter we had weeks of howling wind and snow blow up from the South. That has never happened since we've lived here and I worried at the time that the bees wouldn't survive. We wrapped the hive to try to forestall a disaster but it was all for nought. They basically starved to death. Since bees cluster to keep warm and can't really move when cold, they can starve when there's food 6 inches from them. We found several frames still partially filled with honey like the one below.

So we pulled them out and brought them in the house. The children cleaned the dead bees from 3 boxes worth of frames and brought them in the house and will do the other 3 tomorrow. Mice love to nest in empty bee boxes and feast on the wax, so we needed to take the wax frames out of temptation's way. ;-) Now the house smells wonderfully of honey! Of all things farming, beekeeping smells the best, it just permeates the air and fills your lungs with the sweet, earthy scent of honey.
I finished off our second gallon of syrup today and have been thinking about making maple jelly. Maple jelly on toast, maple jelly with peanut butter, maple jelly on waffles with whipped cream............. I've never tried it before but it gets rave reviews, so maybe I'll experiment.
I am going to draw the syrup winner this weekend, so be watching for your name!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cast Iron Cauldrons

On the maple syrup front things are going better than expected. I must confess that I was skeptical about boiling it in a cauldron. I know the old-timers did it but come on, it has to be so inefficient! Well, color me surprised! It boils down faster than I've ever seen sap boil. Aleks boiled off roughly 75 gallons of sap in one day (still woefully behind modern evaporators) and we had fresh syrup on homemade french toast with sausage for supper on Saturday. That's our tradition, to eat the first syrup at a special "thanksgiving" meal. Below is the sugar camp.
The sap storage barrel is on the left, the warming pan is just to the right of the cauldron. The corrugated metal is to keep sparks from flying around. The children spend all day up there (after school work is done) and come home to eat, bathe and fall into an exhausted sleep. It's a good, good life!