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Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Hangin' Tree & Renderin'

The bluebirds are constant visitors around our place now that spring is near..Lacy Diamond Dishcloth
And I've done bit of dyeing with this wool rug yarn for an upcoming project.
Here's the result hangin' to dry on our "hangin' tree"  Besides giving nice shade to the yard it doubles as a dryer sometimes.
As you may remember from a previous post or two, I make all of our soap. I got this beef suet from a butcher for renderin' down for soap.
I like to get it pre-ground, but this time it was in huge chunks so I had to grind it in my meat grinder. The smaller the pieces the more tallow you get when you render it down.
So I spent another day at the fire pit adding water and suet and letting it boil till all the fat was released.
I had to strain all the bits of non-fat out before it could be used for soap, so I did that and put the leavin's into pans to freeze for feeding birds. Suet, for the birds. That's how that's made.
Now, for soap - I used the tallow for a pretty large batch of soap which I pour into all sizes of molds...
There are lots of soap recipes online and in books at your local library. I use Norma Coney's The Complete Soapmaker as my soapmaking and rendering guide.
This is a batch of plain soap, pure and natural.
I make a lot of different sizes. It takes 2-3 weeks for it to dry. We're looking forward to using it soon as we are running low on plain soap. I used to make a lot of scented soap, but Goodman prefers it plain these days.
(Note: I've been having trouble with leaving comments at two or three favorite blogs that I read. As you know, I read them from my phone these days and sometimes the comments just disappear or I don't get a link to leave them at all. It's very frustrating after all the time it takes to text it in to begin with, and I hope you understand if that happens.)
(Edited to say: Thanks to A Joyful Chaos I found out that the fairly newly chosen embellishment to transform my quite dry sounding profile ID Tea to something more fun was strikingly similar to political events taking place around the country. (Well, how dare they use my new moniker! ;) Anyways, I don't watch the news or anything really since I don't own a television so I was in the dark about that. I'm happy this way so don't worry about me, eh. My tea events actually involve tea with milk and sugar and a lot of knitting besides. :) Btw, if you haven't visited A Joyful Chaos you might want to do that. The author Mary Ann grew up Amish and has gifted us with many wonderful stories about her childhood and young married life. I'm enjoying it quite a lot.
Here we are nearly done with February...
Have a great week, Y'all!

This post may be shared with...   From the Farm Blog Hop,  Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways,  The HomeAcre Hop The Art of Home-making Mondays

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sugar Trees

                                             Summers Acres: The HomeAcre Hop
Goodman & I planted three sugar maple trees beside our house about 18 years ago, shortly after we bought our little farm. We knew it would be a long wait before they would be old enough to tap so we didn't expect to do that anytime soon. The trees have served us well shading the west side of our brick farmhouse from the afternoon and evening sun and providing homes for a lot of watchable birds every year that we've lived here. We've loved them just for those reasons until....

A couple of weeks ago we noticed one of them had a lot of woodpeckers and a yellow-rumped warbler frequenting it constantly. The newer holes appear brownish in color. It was, also, dripping sap from an upper limb...really drippin'.
I consulted my Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery and found that the trees were just large enough to tap. And the sap was obviously runnin'. Eureka. O.O I was on the verge of an old-time adventure even if it was new to me. I immediately enlisted Goodman to bore the tap holes with his trusty drill....
He used a length of pvc pipe for the taps which were then pushed into the holes he drilled in the trees. Too bad the ones made by the woodpeckers weren't large enough. I gathered buckets to place below the taps and glass containers to store the sap in until I had enough to boil down. The ratio is 32 to 1. I needed a lot o' sap.
From three trees it took 2 1/2 days to collect about 12 gallons of sap. Next time I plan to tap the river maples on our property also as any maple tree may be tapped and the sap used for syrup. Sugar maple trees have the sweetest sap though. How fast the sap runs has a lot to do with chilly nights and warm days which were perfect. I used large canning jars, empty pickle jars, etc. and kept the sap in the fridge and some in our chilly basement until we could start a batch cookin'.
We built a fire in the firepit and started the process of boiling down the sap.
The sap is clear and only slightly sweet to the taste when fresh from the tree.It boiled for hours as we kept adding more of it to the sixteen quart pot. We finally took it off the fire after dark and brought the remaining 4 gallons of liquid into the house. It was late by this time so we went to bed asap.
I finished boiling it on the stove in the kitchen the next morning...
It cooked waaaaaaay down....
to just 1 pint and a bit extra that I put in a tiny jar for just tasting. It has a light buttery maple flavor which is just delicious. The result for several days of gathering and cookin'. Was it worth it? You better know it. A total thrill of a lifetime for this ol' homebody.
Knitting...I did another hat using the same pattern I used in my last post. I used some wool I'd bought at a flea market several years ago. This started out a tan color. I used Wilton's icing color to dye it a nice purple color.
This picture is dark, but truly the color shows about the same here as it is really dark purple.
Some locals are already scouting for homes this year.