We almost skipped maple syrup season this year, but I am so glad we didn’t. I was able to accomplish so much last spring while boiling down sap. I’d go out to stoke the fire, and I’d spend 15-30 minutes at a time taking care of things outside. Those short bursts of work helped me to accomplish a great deal. I have far less time to spend outside this year, but on the days I do light the fire in the stove, I try to spend at least 10 minutes out there and tackle one thing at a time. The progress is slow, but to be sure, there is progress!
I cooked down the first batch of syrup last week. I’m not sure of the exact amount that I made, but we made pancakes for lunch that day and had warm, fresh syrup on hot pancakes! We’ve collected over double that amount of sap since then, but I’ve had less time to get outside and keep that fire rolling in the stove. It’s looking like we’ll have a few more days before the taps will come out of the trees again. We started with 7 taps, but I put in an additional two taps at my parents place. I haven’t done any collecting there yet, but we’ll probably get another 7-10 gallons from those taps.
When I started tapping trees, I had only prepared our buckets, taps, and tubing. Our stove was stuck, not quite on the concrete slab where the chicken coop used to be. I had started to pull it there on a sled back in fall, and it got stuck. I really wasn’t supposed to lift things, so it stayed there. When the first of the sap was ready, the stove still wasn’t where it was supposed to be, so I finally moved it the rest of the way. I was able shift and shimmy it the last 5 feet into place.
With the stove positioned where I wanted it, I started getting excited about the idea we had to turn the slab from where the chicken coop had once stood into an outdoor kitchen. In fall, we had talked about moving things around and taking the stuff out of the garden shed. This building would then be open to be used for several possible things.
It dawned on me as I stared at the building while stoking the fire that this would really be the perfect spot to store all of our food processing supplies and equipment. Things for pressing cider, butchering chickens, making syrup, keeping bees… we’ve been storing supplies and equipment for this stuff wherever we can find the space, and it has been a bit frustrating. These things have been taking up space in places we couldn’t afford to lose space. And the one spot we had that wasn’t in the way was very inconveniently located… in the top of the granary. But utilizing this other building (the remains of the chicken coop, we would still probably have room to use part of it for other things. The building needs a bit of work, and if we do it right, we could really open up some possibilities for ourselves.
Like I said, the building needs work. I was tempted to just start working on fixing it up, but it’s really a 2-adult job. Besides, if we wanted to fix it up, we needed to get it emptied out, first. But in order to empty it out, we really needed to fix up the new garden shed area. A room on the granary that has served as a “play room” for the kids and a storage area for a plethora of bicycles, toys, and strollers. So I got to work.
The kids helped me to empty out the play area first. Kids can be like pack rats, so there was plenty to clean up. Once the room was empty, I cut a few boards off of the back wall to crate a second door for the room. The room is something like 12′ x 32′, and we were going to divide it in half. The back half would be where the kids could store all of their things, and the front half would be our new garden shed.
I had to build a dividing wall, frame out a new front door, build a loft, some shelves, and a few racks for hanging tools. Then everything needed to be sorted and put away neatly. I can’t quite describe how giddy it made me feel to see those hand tools hung so neatly on the wall. I had tried (unsuccessfully) so many times to get the old garden shed organized, but nothing I did worked. No matter how many times I sorted, shuffled, purged, or reorganized, it was never right. But every time I put something else in this new garden shed, it felt so right! I am hoping to spend time next week actually caring for our garden tools for the first time ever!
While I worked to get the new garden shed underway, Scott worked on cleaning up the yard and cleaning up from the coop fire. He started burning the larger charred remains of the structure a little at a time. He also worked on emptying the old garden shed. We still have some more things to pull out, but a lot of it is still frozen to the floor since snow and ice got in because the building had no roof all winter, just a partial ceiling. Once the new garden shed is finished and the old one is cleared out, we can start working on fixing the building.
Scott also finished fixing up our trailer that we use for all kinds of things, he hauled away a lot of rubbish, and he got our 4-wheeler taken in for repairs and brought it back home!
I got around to it a couple of weeks later than I wanted, but we got the first of our seeds started indoors! I’m hoping I can keep up with it.
The last important thing that has been done (well, it wasn’t last, just last that I’m talking about) was getting the chickens and their mobile fencing moved. I finally got it all moved a little over a week ago. The chickens still need their wings clipped to keep them from getting out, but they have been having less issues since I got them re-situated. And with spring being in the air and all of those roosters we had wanted to butcher last fall but they weren’t ready yet, we need to get around to doing some butchering pretty soon. There’s nothing quite like a chorus 6 or more roosters at 5 a.m.! And that’s just the ones who decided to roost by the house at night, instead of going in their coop. We need the garden shed finished, warmer weather and the outdoor kitchen roughly set up ASAP!