Myself, Not My Selfies

Today I got dressed really cute, in my new style that I am embracing.  I also did my make-up in a sexy fashion, and my hair in a messy natural-look.   I saw myself in the mirror and thought, “Wow, I actually look pretty good!”  Well, needless to say, I just had to take a selfie you know, document it I suppose.  I sent it to photoshop, polished it up, and sent it to Justin.  Once he said I was “lookin’ hot” I just couldn’t resist the urge to post it on FB.  Granted it was a picture I looked fairly sexy (not inappropriate of course) in, I immediately thought about what others would think.  And not along the lines of if I was pretty or not.  More like, who-does-she-think-she-is, what a narcissist, no one ever posts selfies anymore, kind of thoughts.  Needless to say it was removed after ten minutes and only one like.  So here is my new rule of social media: no emotionally driven selfies.  Actually no selfies period, yeah, that’s better.  I can look gorgeous in my own home, where only myself and my husband will enjoy it.  And that is the way it should be.  Posts like that are scrutinized, even by your own mother, let alone a jealous woman, and who wants to provoke those kind of feelings?  I certainly don’t.  I want to be liked for my heart, and what Jesus has done in my life.  Sure, I love to look and feel pretty, but self flaunting with no purpose only gets the wrong kind of attention, and bitter looks.  I want to be approachable, and seen for who I am, which is certainly much deeper than my skin.  So deep in fact most conformists consider me quite odd.  And that’s ok.  I am old enough to be comfortable in my own skin…and not take selfies.   

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Making Maple Syrup Over an Open Fire

So, you have gathered enough sap and you want start turning it into delicious syrup.  We have been processing our sap over a fire for the past few years for a few practical reasons:

 1. It is necessary to do it outdoors or where you are not concerned with the evaporating steam getting everything sticky.  2. The wood smoke adds to the flavor, great for glazing ham!  3. It is the most cost effective.  If you decide to use a propane burner you are adding significantly to the cost of your final product.  

Some Preliminary Info:  Raw sugar maple sap is 2 percent sugar, 98 percent water.  10 gallons of sap will produce 2 pints of maple syrup.  This is a lengthy, time-consuming process, it took us about 12 hours from start to finish.  In this process you are boiling the water off and concentrating the sugar content.  In your final steps, it is crucial to get the sugar water to exactly 217 degrees, which turns it into syrup.  Otherwise it will remain sugar water!

Materials Needed:IMG_3935

Raw Sap: For this project we used 10 gallons.

2 Large Stainless Steel Pots (we use one 20 quart, and one 8 quart)

1 Medium Size Sauce Pan

Cheesecloth

 

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Digital Cooking Thermometer

Funnel

Coffee Filter (optional)

Glass Containers (to store the maple syrup)

A torch is handy, but anything to light the fire will work

We used about ten to twelve 8″x12″ sassafras logs

You’ll also need a splitting maul or ax to chop the wood into smaller sticks as seen above.

Here you see where we boil our sap on an outdoor “stove” crafted with pieces of scrap marble and a metal platform we set the pot on.  Get your fire going.fullsizeoutput_8b8

 

Fill the 20 qt SS pot about half way up with your sap.  We use a smaller SS pot to preheat the next batch of sap so it comes to a boil more quickly, which we place on the back side of our stove.

Note: We already have pots we use only for cooking over a fire, the outside of your pot will be stained black when you cook over an open fire!

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Place the large pot over the fire.  You see here the smaller pot sitting on a piece of marble at the back so it is ready to go once the sap in the larger pot has boiled down.

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You don’t want to get your 20 quart pot too full because it is harder to keep it at a boil.  As the water evaporates from the pot you will need to add the sap from the smaller pot and continue to keep the level of liquid in the 20 quart pot about halfway full.

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You’ll need to put your sticks of wood in the fire roughly about every thirty minutes.  It takes about one hour to boil off one gallon of water.   The whole process took us 12 hours from start to finish, but it was a very windy day and therefore more difficult to keep the temperature of the fire consistent.

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You will need to continue the process of adding the raw sap to the 20 quart pot until all the sap has been processed, and you have about 1/2 gallon of liquid left in the pot.  Finally, you are ready to transfer your liquid gold into the medium size sauce pan to finish the process on your kitchen stove where you have more control of the heat.

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Secure the cheesecloth to your saucepan and pour it in.  This will filter any ash or other particles that might have gotten in the pot during the boiling process.

IMG_4037 At this point you have about half water content and half sugar content.  Put the sauce pan on your kitchen stove burner and bring the liquid back to a boil.  Boil off the final quart and a half of water which will give the syrup a thicker consistency.

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Now you will need to raise the soon-to-be syrup to exactly 5 degrees above boiling point which at our altitude is 217 F.  At this point it will start to get bubbly and frothy. We came very close to having it boil over.  To prevent this use a slightly bigger pot!  Once you get it to 217 you can remove it from the heat, and it is officially maple syrup.

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Wait for your syrup to cool down a bit so you don’t burn yourself.  If you want your syrup to be crystal clear, place a coffee filter in the funnel and this will filter out the tiny sugar crystals in your syrup.

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One final step: enjoy all your hard work with some homemade pancakes or use it to glaze a ham!

How to Tap a Sugar Maple Tree

 

Since our young married couple days, before we were beyond busy with our two ornery boys, my husband and I have had a passion for the old ways.  We crave a simpler existence, a connection with the land and our ancestral traditions, the ways that are all but forgotton due to our modern age.  Unlike my pre-kids days, when I was obsessed with living like a hippy, I now have come to appreciate the time in which we live.  We are so incredibly blessed and I have a healthy balance of the old and new in my life, but that is a subject for another article.   You are here to read how our family taps sugar maple trees, which is an extraordinary homeschool, or after school project you can do as a family.

A little disclaimer: Be prepared to put in quite a bit of time and effort into this, and be prepared to work.  Our process is very cheap and simple; anyone with a few maple trees can do this if they are willing.  Keep in mind it takes 40 gallons of raw tree sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup.  In this article I will only be discussing how to tap the tree, and in a later article how to make the syrup; which is just boiling it down for a long period of time.  Do you have the patience of the pioneers?  You’ll soon find out!

What you’ll need:

IMG_3142Cordless Drill

1/2″ and 3/8″ wood drill bits

Several recycled milk jugs with caps (1 or 2 per tree)

9/16″ O.D 3/8″ I.D clear rubber hose (hardware store)

3/8″ plastic barbed elbow

Tie wire (or anything that can be used to secure jug to tree)

Pocket knife – Wire Snips – Hammer

Compass (optional)

And of course some sugar maple trees, here is what you need to know:

A tree that is around 12″ in diameter is best with a single tap.  Trees that 24″ and bigger can have two taps. We tap eight trees with single taps, which produce more than enough sap.

Sugar maples will have woodpecker holes, because they love the sap too!IMG_3712

Many times you will see a tree that has a dark wet appearance on one side, this is from the sap running out of the fresh holes the woodpeckers have made.  It is easiest to identify and mark the tree in spring or summer before when their leaves are green.

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Now you will need to determine the south side of the tree with the biggest root, the side that sees the most sun.  This is a learning opportunity for the kiddos to learn about direction and using a compass.  My husband, using the compass app on his phone, determines the south side of the tree, then you are ready to drill a hole.  Note: if you are tapping a previously tapped tree your new tap needs to be six inches away from the old hole.

Hold the drill at an upward angle and drill a hole with the 3/8 bit approximately  1 inch deep.  The hole should be about knee high, or 2 feet.

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When the sap is running during the day it will start to trickle out of the hole.

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Determine the length of your hose by streching it out from the hole to almost to the ground.  Cut the length and then attach the barded elbow to one end.  Insert the tap into the hole.

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Now you will want to tap the tap using your hammer, until it is snug.  We forgot a hammer, so we used the butt end of the drill.  We DO NOT recommend this!

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Now carefully drill the milk jug cap with your 1/2″ drill bit.  The size difference assures that it will fit nice and snug, which otherwise you would have ants or rainwater get into your sap!  Note: we prefer plastic milk jug caps because they bend and stretch easily.

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Place the opposite end of the rubber tube onto to cap.

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Then, screw the cap onto the milk jug, lean it against the tree and grab the tie wire and snips.  You can see the little beads of sap already running down into the jug.

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Take the tie wire, wrap it around the tree and through the jug handle.  This will keep the jug secure and critters from running off with your jug.  Yes, we’ve actually had this happen!

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And now you are set up and ready to collect some sap, which by the way look exactly like water.  When the days are ideal: above 40 degrees in the day and freezing at night you should collect at least a gallon a day off a single decent producing tree.

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On warmer days you need to collect the sap daily, on colder days you will usually collect less sap.  Raw sap keeps for two days in warmer temperatures.  As we collect ours we keep it outside because we still have cooler temperatures, but you can also keep it in the fridge if you like to play it safe.

We usually collect about 10 gallons before we start to boil it down, which will make about 2 pints of delicious maple syryp.  We will be publishing another article soon that demonstrates how to boil down sap over a wood fire or stove top.

Other tidbits to know:  Sugar Maple tapping season in our area (the Ozarks) is in February.  The sap runs best when the days are at or above 40, and the nights are still chilly.

I hope this article inspires you to try sugar maple tapping!  A lot of work, but the fruits of your labor are sweetly delicious and nutritious.  If you have any questions please ask them in the comments or shoot me an email and we will do our best to answer them.  God Bless!

 

 

 

 

Love is Sacrifice

When Jesus gave His life on the cross, that was love.  The blood that was shed for us was His love.  With the Valentines holiday approaching, I’d like to focus on what love is for the Christian.

“True love conquers all.”  Do you believe this to be true?  When Jesus gave His life for you, that single act conquered sin and death for all.  Too often love is a word that conveys a sensitive softy, but it has little to do with those characteristics.  Love is a giving of yourself.  Jesus told us to “pick up our cross and follow Him.” (Matthew 16:24)  I believe this is what it means to walk in love; being willing to lay down your own life and will for Jesus and fellow humans on this earth.

The definition of sacrifice is: an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.  I’ll be the first to acknowledge sacrifice is incredibly difficult at times,  especially for a big baby like me.  But the rewards are eternal.  Because you chose to pray for someone who is difficult to love, instead of ruining their reputation by talking about them to others, can be the difference of whether or not a soul is turned to Christ.  This life is but a vapor, and time is short.  Let us not procrastinate or be apathetic any longer and follow Christ with our cross.