Thursday, February 17, 2011

Maple Time

  We have now had at least three days the were above freezing in the daylight hours (not necessarily three in a row, but that's okay) with frozen nights.  This means only one thing - time to tap the maple trees.  This is usually a family affair, but I was worried about missing the first sap rising, which is purported to be the sweetest, so I grabbed the tools and got to it.  Here are the necessary tools - very basic, really.
Hammer, hand drill, spiles and hooks

Don't forget the most important piece of equipment - boots!
There is still snow out there!

    I don't know why we do it this way, but when tapping the trees, we never use the battery operated drill, we use an antique hand drill that my husband has had for years. Using the hand drill takes more time, but you have a better feel for the tree with it.
   After heading out to the maples, I looked for the scars from past tapping and made certain I was a good six inches away from the scars.  I drilled out a hole about  and inch or so deep - it is easy to see when you have gone far enough since the wood fragments start looking mushy and wet.

    Next, just tap in the spile and wait for the first drips of sap.

Note the mushy looking wood fragments

Setting the spile

the first drops of sap

No sap buckets? No problem - cut a small opening in a milk jug, then recycle it when you are done.

 Three of the bigger  big maples wearing their late winter accessories
   It being a warmish day - high forties, I  went down to check the bees.  The girls should have been trying to take some cleansing flights, but I saw no activity and was filled with foreboding.  I knocked on the Blue hive, put my ear to it and heard nothing.  I took off the outer  and inner covers and saw dead bees on top.  Plenty of honey still capped, but the girls are definitely dead.  If there are any alive somewhere in the bottom of the hive, they were certainly being silent and still.  I checked the Flower hive and found the same thing  lots of honey, but no activity - no life.  sigh...very disappointing, but it is part of the nature of any agricultural venture that Nature deals your hand from her deck.  
   It seems plausible, considering the cold winter we have had, that even though there was food, the bees could not break cluster to move around to get to it.  Feeling a little let down, I went back up to the house and ordered two more packages of bees.  My local bee guy sells nucs as well, but he makes them from splits of his own hives.  The packages ship from Georgia, I believe.  Considering what I found, I cannot be certain he would have enough live hives to split, so two packages it is. 
     For now, the focus is on the maple trees. In a couple weeks or so we should have enough sap to boil down for syrup. Our sugaring off is as low tech as our tapping, but we have fun. More about that later. 
Have a good night!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Manners - where did they go?

    Fair warning this is a rant.  Can someone please tell me where manners went?  And why??  I am getting so tired of dealing with rude people - more importantly, rude children.  Now, I am not saying my children are perfect or exhibit positive behaviors at all times, they do not. No child does.  But the consistency of bratty, rude children I am seeing is getting greater, and we, as adults, should be ashamed of ourselves!
   Example: recently my son attended a birthday party.  I shall not be more specific since he has attended a few recently, and I am a coward who will not name names!  Anyway, the entire class seemed to be invited.  The birthday child did not acknowledge the presence of many of the children, only a small clique.

Question #1:  If you do not want to play with/ hang out with the others, why invite them? No one says you must like everyone in your class.

When I told my son to get the birthday child's attention and wish them a happy birthday, the child ignored my son, even after he tapped the child on the shoulder three different times (since it was a noisy place where the party was being held).

Question #2:  Did no one teach the child to  just say thank you, even if the person conveying the greeting was not the favorite friend?

At present time, the mountain of gifts were torn through with no idea of who gave what, as the birthday child tore off all cards and cast them aside.  A desperate older sibling or friend was trying to read the cards, but to no avail.  THEN the birthday child COMPLAINED because there was not enough candy in the gifts!

Question #3: How would you feel, birthday child, if someone did this to you after you'd spend time and thought to get a gift?

This is just one incident, there are more - don't get me started on cell phones, texting, etc.  Even VERY BASIC things like saying, "You're welcome, " after a person thanks you, seem to have fallen by the wayside.  Why?  It is so easy to be kind and polite.  A simple thank you, or looking someone in the eyes when they address you can change the energy in a room.
   If anyone can answer my questions, please feel free to post.
Thanks for letting me blast - it will keep me from saying it to the parents of the child, which, as we all know, would be rude.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


     Finished the balaclava for my youngest son last night. It is HUGE!  He loves it.  I made an adult sized hat because he hates things that are too tight and I figured it will continue to fit for years to come.

 It is so long in the neck that he can fold up the bottom to have a second face/neck covering!
At least he will be warm!

   The birds are very happy that the feeders are filled.  We have hanging feeders, feeders on posts and one on the fence (it can't make up its mind - hee, hee).  This year I hung a suet cage out, and I will do so forever more.  The woodpeckers love it.

  We have always had the occasional one at the feeders, but the suet has attracted two or three at a time, on a daily basis.  I am finding the nuthatches and even the blue jays, whom I adore, are all enjoying the suet.  The cardinals have become very territorial in regard to the fence feeder, and the male will sit on the top of the evergreens and chase away the sparrows and chickadees when the female is eating.  
My ferocious cardinal guarding his territory -
the picture was shot through glass and snow, so a bit fuzzy
None of the smaller birds even try to feed when the male cardinal is at the feeder.  I think he is taking lessons from the jays!