Friday, April 29, 2011

Lots of Blooms

Daffodils, tulips and apple blossoms!  Lots of plants are blooming at Anna's Little Farm.  Our daffodils are every where!  Some are down by the soon-to-be tomato bed. This picture is taken from our back porch... 
And a tulip is blooming!  The first tulip flower that has bloomed since we planted them. (Which, by the way, was about 4 or 5 years ago)  We had even forgotten what the flowers looked like!  They are very pretty.
And our Granny Smith apple tree has buds on it!  We bought one cherry tree, two pears and two apples. The Granny Smith is the only one with flowers...  
And there was one little surprise for me.  One of our sweet peas from last year sprouted in its container! It's the only one...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

April Showers

Anna braved the weather (cold and rainy) and a bad cold (fever and cough) a couple days ago to plant a Buttercup garden.  Buttercup loves peas more than just about anything else, and Anna loves spoiling her duck, so she planted a row of snap peas and a row of shelling peas just for Buttercup.  I can picture Buttercup waddling between the rows, pulling pea pods off left and right!

We also transplanted some strawberries and chamomile from the holding bed to the butterfly garden.  It's actually good to transplant in the rain - less stress on the roots. Lucky for April showers.  Except the SNOW SHOWER we got this morning!

Anna woke up, looked out the window, saw the big fluffy snowflakes and said, "Not cool."  I have to agree!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Note to Michael,

I hope you weren't planning on wearing your slippers this morning

because my paws were chilly.

The Tiger

Monday, April 18, 2011

Weekend Work and Fun

Warning!  Photo-heavy post!

For the first time in weeks, we had nowhere to be and nothing to do on Sunday!  What a pleasure.  We expected to spend the day inside because of the rain, and had a leisurely morning.  Anna and I finally got around to making hot cross buns this year.  They are such a treat, we only make them once or twice and only during the Easter season to keep them special.  The yeast is always the high point (until it's time to eat the buns hot out of the oven!)...
Anna actually did most of the work, kneading, forming the buns, and glazing them with sugar when they are just out of the oven...
I did a little mending while Anna was hard at work baking, and then the sun came out.  We decided that we would walk around, enjoy the signs of spring, and generally assess what needed to be done around the yard.  What a glorious day!  Most of the daffodils are in bud, but a few are open.  Also blooming is a hyacinth we brought home from Grandpop's 85th birthday celebration last year.  We planted it not knowing if it would actually bloom, and it is already starting to spread!  The nettles are also coming back to life.  In a couple more weeks, we'll be eating nettle soup (yum) and drinking nettle tea (a lot of honey required, but excellent for Michael's allergies).
The assessing turned into doing once we got down to the stream.  One of my favorite spring jobs is heaving logs and branches that are littering my woods into the stream when it is running high.  This was the only photo Anna took that didn't show me in a completely contorted position chucking wood!  Look at all that rushing water.
Back up around the house, we cleared out the butterfly garden, pulled out early tufts of crabgrass, raked and prepped it for planting.  We found some active growth on the lower parts of the butterfly bush branches and there were a couple young nettle shoots under one of the butterfly bushes, but they had to go, if only because we have nettle patches all over.  Apparently they like poor soil!
Anna and I also worked on the rock walls by the butterfly garden.  Some of the crevices are large enough to fill with soil and plant.  We tend to go with Mountain Pinks because they remind us of Mom mom's garden, and they fill in and cascade nicely.  Other crevices just lead to more rock.  In those cases, Anna puts as much soil in as possible, adds a little peat for acidity and transplants mosses.  Eventually every crevice will either have plants or moss.
Michael made good use of his time and brought out the Adirondack chairs to overlook the stream.  He also planted a new (replacement) cherry tree for Anna.  You might recall that the sheep had a field day with our fruit trees two summers ago.  I had been pruning them back to see if we could salvage them, and then, to add insult to injury, over the winter some little animal ate all the bark off the bottom of the cherry tree - completely around the trunk!  That was my sign to just get a new cherry tree for Anna.  She enjoys sitting on the little rock next to the Adirondack chairs, and it is her dream to be able to reach up some day and leisurely pluck cherries as she is enjoying the view of the stream.  It's good to have goals!
After writing all of this and seeing the photos, I'm not sure what part of the day was work and not fun!

Friday, April 8, 2011


The sap was boiling at the Sugar Shack this morning.

Steam from the Roof Vents at the Sugar Shack

Boiling during the week (as opposed to just on the weekends) means only one thing... the season is coming to an end and they are processing as much sap as they can before it looses its sweetness.  This happens when the nights are consistently above freezing and the sap flows all day and night instead of just during the day.
Boiling Sap in the Evaporator

End of season sap will produce a darker, heavier, more sharply maple flavored syrup - Grade B - which is generally considered good for cooking.  Michael and Anna actually prefer Grade B.  I love the light, mild taste of the early season Grade A.  This grading system would appear to be about judging the quality of syrup, but it really just refers to the translucence, which is dependent upon the time of year the sap is collected.  There is also no difference in cost between the two grades.

Old Maple Sugar Mold

In addition to great buckwheat pancakes and syrup samples (it's hard to stick to the "one per customer" request!), the North Hadley Sugar Shack has a nice collection of old sugaring supplies on display beside their modern equipment.  One more reason we love to go there!  We'll be back again at some point this weekend since Sunday is the last day of boiling sap.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Maple Bacon Ice Cream

Yes, it's true.  Among the many maple products at the Sugar Shack, there exists maple bacon ice cream.  And you know who couldn't resist...
Anna just had a maple cream cone.

The weather has been great for sugaring this year - days above freezing to get the sap flowing, and nights below freezing to keep it sweet.  This time last year, the season was already over.  We plan to tap our own sugar maples one of these years.  We already have some taps and buckets.  It's constructing a little sugar house, or at minimum an outdoor fireplace, to evaporate all the water out of the sap that will take some work.  There is no way we could do it inside since one gallon of maple syrup requires 40 gallons of sap!  So, sugaring is on my short list of activities, including bee keeping and building a cob oven and a boules court, that will probably have to wait a while because of other priorities.  In the meantime, we're regulars at the Sugar Shack during sugaring season!  But hold the maple bacon ice cream!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

April Fools Day

Better late than never with this post.

Peter was very appreciative of his time at home with Anna while recuperating from getting his wisdom teeth out, and since he loves to cook (and is, in fact, an excellent cook), offered to make us a cake.  We had already planned to have breakfast at the North Hadley Sugar Shack the morning of April 1st, so Peter arrived that morning with the promised cake.  A sponge cake.  Yummm.
When we cut into it, it seemed a little tough (I thought I might have to give him some pointers on not over-mixing the batter), but it was actually a sponge cake - meaning, a cake made of sponges, glued together and frosted.  Anna was in on the joke and thought it was quite funny.  I'm almost embarrassed to say that Michael and I were fooled!
Fortunately, Peter came through with some home made pretzel turtles!  And they were delicious - sweet, salty, crunchy and chewy.
Thanks Peter!