Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What have I been doin' lately?

Hey there all. I thought I would let you know what I have been doing lately. We have had a busy couple of weeks (umm . . . not like too busy to go on the computer or anything, but busy enough that we have done some interesting and different things) and I even have pictures to prove it!

Our first tulip bloomed this morning (Last year they were blooming in April and usually they bloom more around the first of May). It's leaves got a little frostbitten a couple of weeks ago when we had snow, so it has some brown edges.

We also had some little babies born about a week and a half ago at our place.

They are located in a little nest in the wall of our barn. Their mother is not the friendly sort, so we have to wait until she leaves in order to go over and pick them out of their nest to pet them. There are two totally gray kittens, one gray tabby, one totally black kitten, and one black tabby. They are very precious little babies and we hope they will be friendly little babes and that their mother won't hide them away somewhere else. Last year their mother (or Scared Little Kitty, as we call her) had three kittens, but by the time we knew they were born they were at least a month old, hissed, spat, and scratched. They did not want to be caught, so we were vigilant this year in making sure we found kittens right away!

Last week Dan took the week off and he hauled scrap metal off to the scrap yard. We ended up bringing in about 17,000 lbs of metal. I went with him several times to watch the metal get unloaded and the last time we went down, I got the idea that this would be something cool to get pictures of, so here are a couple of neat ones.

Here are a bunch of old tractor parts that we were parked next to as we waited in line to drop off our trailer of metal. Note the bird in the little tree on the right.

Now, when it was time for our trailer to get unloaded the big grappler came down and picked the metal off the trailer.

Here it is taking off some old chicken nesting boxes that had seen better days. (Did I ever tell you that when I was little we had laying hens? My mom used to supply one of the local restaurants with eggs as well as bring them in to sell at a couple of the small factories here in town. I only vaguely remember her doing this, so I think she stopped selling eggs when I was 2 or 3)

Lastly, knitting has been taking place.
These jaywalkers are almost done. I called them my Rocky Mountain Jaywalkers because I started to make them a couple of years ago (long before my pink knee highs) when Dan and I went camping in Rocky Mountain National Park and the way they were turning out looking a lot the mountains in Summer.

Well, have a great day all!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

May Day!

Happy May Day everyone!

This is always one of my favorite days because it usually means the wild flowers are blooming and beautiful, but not so much this year. Last year I had already gone out and taken some pictures of the local flowers and the tulips were in full bloom in my yard. This year the tulip greens are up and I am just starting to see the fist buds coming up out of the ground.

Still, they will be here soon, so even though 30's and 40's are on tap for this weekend, Spring is here and it is time to be out and enjoying the weather (possibilities of snow and all). Since I don't have any pretty spring flowers to show the pictures you are seeing are of the maple sugar I made last weekend from my last batch of maple syrup.

You make maple sugar by getting maple syrup up to 240 degrees and then you whisk it until it starts to cool a bit and you can kind of see that there are granules forming. (it should still be liquid-ish and not too stiff) Then you pour it into forms and after it all cools down you pop it out of the forms. It took me a bit to figure what way to get the sugar out of the forms. I used some old cast iron heart forms and even though they were well seasoned the first sugar I made didn't want to come out of those pans. I ended up heating up the pans in the oven to soften the sugar so I could redo the whole process and sprayed Pam into each of the little forms. It still took a fair amount of cajoling to get them out, so I think I will get a whole bunch of little cookie cutters of the same shape and use them next year. (if you want to make candy or stuff like that you should really think of getting a candy thermometer--although, because I am a lazy person I ran into my parents' apartment and took their thermometer from the kitchen drawer--their apartment is right next to the gallery and it is soooo much closer than the grocery store (a block away)). ****Make sure to keep a steady eye on the syrup and that you put it into a pan that looks like it is too big for the amount of syrup you are putting in there because the syrup can boil up and over the sides pretty quick even if you do keep a good eye on it.****

Maple sugar is kind of a hard packed sugar sort of like brown sugar. To granulate it you could take a piece of the packed sugar and break it up. It is kind of hard to explain exactly what it is like if you have never seen anything like it before. I would suggest reading about sugaring and stuff like that in Little House is the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder and you might understand the whole process a little better. It seems whenever I think back on how to make old fashioned things, I think of what Laura Ingalls did as a little girl and it all makes sense to me.