Friday, April 28, 2017

Maple Syrup 2017- Part 2

So I had this crazy idea, "Let's make maple syrup" and my Aunt Jemima loving husband just said, "Sure" and got to work on figuring out some of the details. 

When it was time to tap, we were so excited to finally get going on this adventure. My brother and Ryan loaded up the cans, got themselves a drink and then got stuck! ha ha! Great first start! 

But they did get all 50 buckets and taps in the trees and we were so excited for those first few drops! 

I was obsessive about checking them but I loved to see how much sap we had gotten. We decided to only tap trees that were close enough to walk to. It made for a fun activity with Sam to walk to check the buckets. When they got very full we would load up on the RTV and dump the sap into storage containers. 

Some of the trees were slow to start to flow some sap but others were MASS producers. Couldn't keep up with all the sap sometimes! 

About 3 full weekends and a few evenings we spent boiling with our new evaporator that we purchased from syrup hobbiest in Ontario. It's a small evaporator compared to some. It is good for about 150 taps which we figured would do for us as we just want to get enough for ourselves and as gifts.  

So how does sap become delicious maple syrup? You boil, boil, boil, boil and then when it's almost boil some more! 

We had Ryan's dad there every weekend giving us tips and tricks thankfully! He really gave us a crash course on sugaring! 

Our evaporator is run by wood heat and so we basically spend all day outside watching it and reloading the wood. Sam LOVED it. The weather was starting to get nice and anytime that he can spend tons of time outside, he is a happy boy! 

Ryan and I would stand around and visit with friends and family that would stop by. We look forward to the day that maybe we can have a little shack that protects us from the elements. 

There is nothing more satisfying then getting some "almost" ready syrup from the evaporator after hours/days of boiling. This almost ready syrup would then go onto a little propane stove to finish boiling it (outside). Ryan's dad taught us for to look for sheeting off the spoon and then you know the syrup is ready! 

We would then double filter it and after it has all dripped into the pot, I would bring it inside to test taste bottle.

The friends of ours (Hi Josh and Rebekka) that gave us the idea to get into maple sugaring gave us their syrup in a liquor bottle and said it was the best way to store it. We decided to do the same thing and also put some in smaller mason jars that we could give away to friends and family as gifts throughout the year. 

When we started out this year, we had no idea how much syrup we would get. Our hope was that this year we would do a lot of learning and get a little sweet stuff as our reward. But what surprised us is not only did we do a lot of learning but we got more maple syrup then we imagine! We were actually asking friends/family for empty liquor bottles because we had nothing left to store it into. 

In total this year we collected and boiled enough sap to get 23 Liters of maple syrup. Our ratio was about 50 gallons of sap to 1 gallon of syrup. That's a lot of boiling. 

I think the best thing about this hobby is that the season is short. Just as you are getting tired of collecting sap and boiling, the weather warms up and it's time to call it quits! While the buckets, taps and evaporators are put away, I am into my freezer constantly looking at our liquid gold, our maple syrup stash! I have yet to have to buy maple syrup or use regular sugar! Even our pizza dough and bread has syrup in it instead of sugar. 

The biggest thing this new endeavor brought us this year was a distraction, A project to keep our minds busy while our hearts healed after the loss of our baby girl. It was almost like a team building project as we worked together on our new hobby. 

Now that we have had a few weeks break, we thinking and talking about next year's sugaring season! We hope to move from 50 taps to 75 taps, improve our evening boilings and getting wood ready earlier in the year. I think we are hooked on our new hobby and hope it is something our family can do together for many years to come. 


Friday, April 21, 2017

Easter 2017

Easter has come and gone and it has been crazy at work and I am just getting around to document it until now! Geesh! But our Easter was full of chocolate, family and celebrating the risen Christ! It was so wonderful! Holidays are so fun with Sam as he is really understanding and getting excited! 

We had Friday off and the weather was gorgeous! We literally spent all day outside working away and playing! During Sam's nap I did a little chalk paint project. I made my own chalk paint to save some money and it was so easy! Ryan got me a Palm Bay to enjoy while painting and it was just a heavenly way to spend an afternoon! And I love the way it turned out! 

Our first Easter on Saturday at my parents with all his cousins! So much fun with a group of cousins to play with! Oh the bribery we had to do to get this picture! ha ha! 

My parents organized an egg hunt for the kids and each kid had either own egg color to find! It makes it so easy! 

And kites for each kid! The weather was perfect for kite flying! 

It was yucky afternoon/evening but we had a movie night together and then got to bed so the Easter Bunny could come! 

I have loved putting Sam's and Ryan's baskets together! In Sam's there were treats, a new baseball, spider-man bell for his bike, water bottle, John Deere gator and new sunglasses! Sam was literally vibrating with excitement and loved finding his eggs too!  

The day before I made some cinnamon buns and was smart this time! It makes about 2 dozen buns and so I got 6 ready for breakfast and froze the others for yummy and easy weekend breakfasts! Otherwise, they would go to waste! 

Easter Sunday always seems to fly by and we had to boogie to get ready for church! Another favorite parenting thing, getting Sam's Easter outfit every year. I am very careful with Sam's clothes. 99% are hand-me-downs (Thank you Stacy) and the others I find second hand. But for Easter and Christmas, he gets a new outfit picked out by me! I know I'll only be able to do this for so long! 

After church we all had a little nap and then headed to Ryan's parents for Easter supper and our boy was spoiled again by treats and Easter egg hunt! 

On the way home we decided to take a drive through town and got a flat tire! Boo!

We were all pretty tired from an exciting couple of days and on Monday got to work on putting away and cleaning the rest of the maple syrup supplies. It's actually a nice hobby because while it is a lot of work, it is a short season! And now we have some sweet syrup to enjoy for the rest of the year! 

How was your Easter? 


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Maple Syrup 2017 - Part 1

If you know me, or have been reading from this little blog for any time at all, you would know that I love to live off the land. I have this desire to live in simpler times when you worked the land to survive. Unfortunately, that is not the century that I was born in and I actually enjoy being a working woman and Netflix. But as much as I possibly can, I try to do some "homesteading" things that interest me. Knitting, quilting, canning and growing a garden. 

I have a love of maple syrup. I have been using it as a sugar alternative since November in many things I bake and in my daily coffee. We have a few really good sugar bush operations around us where you can get syrup or from the store as we are lucky to have 95% of the Canadian maple syrup is made here in Quebec. The down side is the price! It can be around $15 for 500 mL. I could easily go through a liter or more in a month. 

Our farm is very old and I am proud to be 5th generation to be living at working here. My great-great grandfather William Hamilton, settled here from Ireland. When he first settled, he lived in a sod shanty. Years later, he and his new wife were able to afford to build a log home. The year of 1886 William Hamilton and his wife Emma Ruth (Hobbs) Hamilton already had four kids, Robert Frederick Millard, William Nobel (my great grandfather), Oderia Mabel Mae and Loretta Mildred. That year they had their third son, Wellington Sadler and moved into the new log home. That was also the year that great great grandfather planted all the sugar trees on the 5th Concession at the farm. 

Many years later my great Grandfather, William Nobel could begin tapping the now big enough Maple trees! My Aunt Elaine tells the story of having to keep the fire going with her brother Hillis (my grandfather) while her Dad took the team of horses around the farm to collect all the sap. She mentioned how they had to be very careful not to burn it. She would then help to finish the syrup inside the house with her mother Eleanor Maye Faris. 

Many of these big maples have since been cut down but some still remain and it has been my goal to tap them again to make syrup! And it gave me a lot of pride to do so this year with my family! Not only was I able to get a sweet treat from these trees but I was going to be doing something my ancestors did many years before me. 


Friday, April 7, 2017

Baby Girl

Written April 3, 2017

A month ago today was by far the saddest day of my life. It was the day that I had a placenta abruption and delivered our second child. The memories, touches and even smells of that day still haunt me in my dreams. We were told by three different hospital staff (2 doctors and one social worker) that our angel was a baby boy. 

Through the next two weeks, we mourned the thoughts of having a second son. We looked at Sam and imagined his brother/side kick. More trucks, superhero's and a built in best friend for Sam. It felt like we were just beginning to heal and function again when we got some surprising news. 

Two weeks ago today, I got an email from my family doctor. He wanted to meet some time after supper as he had some news to share. As suspected, there was absolutely nothing wrong with our baby. The problem was solely to do with me and my body. How the placenta developed and attached. But when he started talking about the autopsy report, he informed us that we actually had a BABY GIRL! 

This was absolutely a shock! I may have even used a few curse words while I tried to wrap my head around this new information. I held it together until it was just Ryan and I and then fell to the floor. I had to begin to imagine our princess, potential Daddy's girl and my own little side kick. We had to begin mourning the loss of our daughter now. It felt as through we were beginning the process all over again. 

With that being said, today also marks Sam's third birthday. So while the day could be filled with immense sadness, instead we look to Sam and the blessing that he really is to us. 

Through the grief, I have been doing my best to hold it together. I still try to avoid social outings where I have to face too many people. And I think I am more distracted as I noticed some of my normal "organized" tenancies have been forgotten. My mother said to me, "you just aren't back to yourself yet" when referring to an appointment that I miss scheduled. It kind of struck me and makes me wonder if I ever will be "back to my old self". Sure, I'll continue to heal and improve but there is a part of me missing, my baby girl. I have that constant feeling of something is missing. Because there is, a piece of my heart was taken when our baby girl got her wings. 

"Do I chose to wake up every day and grieve? No. I wake up every day and know a part of me is missing" - Renne Scrima 


Monday, April 3, 2017

Sam is 3!

Sammy Doodle, 

Today you are three! Holy smokes, how did that happen? You have grown into such a funny, smart, sensitive and kind little guy! Every day you make Mommy and Daddy laugh or be amazed by something that you do or say! Literally every day is an adventure with you! 

Saying: Right around Christmas you shifted from using words to full on sentences! It's nice now that you can express yourself and we can understand what you are thinking. 

Some of my favorites, "Fly no talking to me Momma", "You my best fwend", "Sam ne pas want....". 

You can also count to 13 without any issues in both French and English, know colors and shapes! 

Eating: Almost everything! With more vocabulary, you can easily express what you like to eat and not like to eat. We are pretty lucky because you are particular about certain things but you are not too picky. You love pizza, french friends, chocolate putting and oranges. But hate cooked carrots! 

Likes: There is no question that you are all boy! You love superheros (particularly Spider-man), trucks, movies (Cars and Toy Story) and playing outside! 

Dislikes: Coming inside, rain, doing crafts and loud unfamiliar noises! 

Milestones: Sam, this last year has been amazing! While there were some struggles with you learning boundaries (terrible twos!), we got through them and have learnt together. You became fully potty trained, moved into a big boy bed and started swimming lessons. I would say the biggest struggle has been a few weeks ago when sadness and confusion was in our home and you just knew something wasn't right. You acted out and were completely out of character. Thankfully, with lots of time together and consistency we worked through it. 

Buck-a-roo (as your Daddy calls you), exactly a month ago today we lost your baby sister. We were so looking forward to seeing you become a big brother. With your big heart, love of babies and gentle ways, we knew you were going to rock that roll! God had another plan for our family and while Mommy and Daddy have been healing, you have been our light. You give us a reason to smile today!

You give us so much joy and we love spending time with you! You are a great side kick! You made Daddy and I parents, the best titles we could ask for. As I sing to you every night "you are our sunshine, when skies are grey". 

We love you very much buddy and HAPPY 3rd BIRTHDAY! 

Love, Mommy