24 February 2018

Maple Syrup Fill

Maple syrup!
This winter has felt incredibly hard due to the weeks upon weeks of frigid temperatures, snow, and ice. Then, it seemed like one day, we were sledding and building snowmen and the next, a strong breeze blew in springtime.
Zoey's hair has a mind of its own in the wind.
We had flowers...
Almost stepped on a trio of crocuses (does that make it croci...?) in the middle of the grass.
With the warming temperatures, that also means it's officially the start of maple syrup season. Yippee! Not only will we get a fresh batch of syrup but it also means spring really is around the corner.
How many taps on maple trees can you see?
Some nights, we are so busy with dinner and milking the cows and doing the rest of our chores that we don't have time to get it all done before the sun goes down. Solution? Flashlights.
No one EVER cries when we tell them we're going to work if they get to hold their own flashlight.
We took advantage of one particularly warm night to catch up on the sap collecting. Ironically enough, for maple sap to really flow well, it has to be below freezing at night and above freezing during the day--we need both winter and spring temperatures to really harvest our fill.
Zoey keeping track of the buckets of syrup in the cart.
A friend gave us a modified shopping cart that's got bike wheels and a handle for the very purpose of collecting sap. So, instead of having to haul back five-gallon buckets full of sap to the house (which mind you, are very heavy), we can put them in the cart and haul away.
The pot on the right is already starting to turn a beautiful caramel color.
Then, it's a matter of filtering and boiling everything down until it's juuuuuuust right. Of course, that means lots of steam and our poor microwave had a hard time keeping up with venting (I'm looking at you, Samsung), so we got a fan to help circulate the air and open the window. Works like a charm.
Except when the kids assume I've set the fan up for them to stand in front of and make funny voices.
So, while we're not really sad to say goodbye to winter, we want it to hang out for a tad longer, at least until we have our maple syrup fill to last us the year!

23 February 2018

21 February 2018

Cream Cheese French Toast Bake

Oh, yeah.
Now that maple syrup season is in full swing, we've been enjoying weekend breakfasts that basically center around syrup. I inevitably wake up a bit earlier than everyone else (moms really can't sleep in, I've discovered), get this in the oven, we do some of our chores and when we're dressed, the animals are fed, and the cow is milked, we sit down to this delicious meal (if you want it even faster, it can be made ahead the night before so you can get it in the oven early). A 9x13 pan of this barely lasts one breakfast!


1 loaf DAY OLD French bread (if it's soft, it'll be mushy. Cut it up and toast it in the oven if needed)
6 eggs
2 cups milk
3/4 cup half and half, cream, or additional milk
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (depending on your preferences)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
For topping
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 Tablespoons cold butter
4 ounces cream cheese, cubed

Cut or tear bread into small pieces. Toast in oven, if needed, to prevent mushiness. Place in a greased 9x13inch baking pan. Whisk together eggs, milk, half and half (or substitute), sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Pour over bread in the pan. ***Optional: cover and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.*** Preheat oven to 350F. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut butter into small pieces and add to the flour. Blend with fork until mixture resembles small crumbs. Sprinkle over bread, followed by evenly spreading cream cheese cubes over the top. Cover pan with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and no longer extremely wiggly. Bake longer if necessary.

20 February 2018

Farm Kid

If you've had to chop and haul your own wood...
...if your job is to keep the cow happy while she's being milked...
...if you've had to wait in the car during cold, rainy days while chores get done...
...if you've had to form your own bike gang because there aren't any other kids who live near you...
...if you are in charge of collecting the eggs every evening...
...if running to get the mail leaves you out of breath...
...if you pass enormous sheep flocks on the way to the grocery store...
...if your idea of fun is climbing up into the hayloft...
...if you've been in charge of smashing down the loose hay...
...if a bag of popcorn, your very own tiny cart...
...and perusing the chick selection sounds like your idea of a fun Friday night...
 ...if stocking up on sweet feed makes you REALLY happy...
 ...if you've received weird things like live bees or mushrooms in the mail...
...then find inoculated-with-edible-fungi-oak logs soaking in your laundry basin...
...if you've been late to school because you were watching a red fox bury half its breakfast...
...or because your trip to school is so scenic you didn't want to rush...
...or your go-to toy is your pretend chainsaw, which you use to help around the farm...
...if you've stayed up past your bedtime, mucking stalls...
...or hanging water buckets...
 ...and your jungle gym is the treetops...
...and every time you go into your backyard, it's literally an adventure...

...you might be a farm kid.

18 February 2018

Hay is for Horses

Ever since getting a tractor, one of the biggest benefits we've experienced is its ability to move round bales. Not only are they cheaper per pound but they can feed the animals for weeks, which means no hauling square bales out to the animals twice a day.
Helping move the round bale ring.
Since switching primarily to round bales, we've also invested in a couple of round bale rings. Basically, they keep the livestock from trampling all over the hay and rendering it inedible. You'd think it being their food source would be obvious but apparently, a big bale of hay also strikingly resembles a giant bed to most animals, so they crawl all over it to eat the sweetest hay in the middle and smash the rest of it into the mud so they can enjoy an afternoon nap on a fluffy pile of dry grass.
Kate's job: smash down the hay.
The last time we had to move hay for the horses, the poor bale kind of tore apart and while we had to scrape it back into a pile and stuff it in the hay ring, we were able to salvage most of it. Then, Kate had a job to perform, which she accepted happily: smash down the hay so it didn't blow away in the wind.
She did a very good job and like most of the chores I ask her to do, she did with a smile on her face. I feel like I could learn a thing or two from her when it comes to work...
Hay is for horses.

And hard-working, fun-loving little kids.

17 February 2018

Reasons to Run

Awww! Look! Canadian geese! Sorry but you're not welcome here.
While I have a very decided love/hate relationship with running (currently, I'm leaning more toward the tolerate it side),  Jack, however, does not see the point of it. As a wrestler, running was a warm up and nothing more and though I do occasionally catch him on the treadmill, it's only for a few minutes at a time. To Jack, there are a few reasons to run, though.
A lonely mallard drake, hanging out in the last of the unfrozen water.
One of Jack's pride and joys (other than his children) is the pond out back. He's stocked it with fish, pulled out algae, dyed it to keep the algae from proliferating, sunk an aerator in it, and weeded around it. His overall vision for it is that there will be fish to eat and enjoy watching as well as a fun family swimming hole in the hotter months.
So, it's no surprise that Jack and waterfowl don't see eye to eye. The blue herons steal fish from the water's edge and the geese and ducks use the water as a giant toilet, which can pass on germs to us and the fish.
I've rarely seen Jack run as fast as when he sees someone trying to take up residence on the water. You'd think he was a racing greyhound after the rabbit. I half expected him to start barking.
And they're off!
Jack's so proud of himself.
Don't feel too bad for the birds. They have their choice of about five hundred other ponds and lakes in the area that would welcome them in their water. We'll wave as they fly by, though.

Bon voyage, birds!


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