Friday, March 11, 2016

Sugar Sugar

Finally getting back to the blog! Julia is back at school and I have been wrangling all the book-keeping requirements of having 2 businesses of our own. Glad that is done. I get so worked up over it all. But it is all put away until next year. Now back to the blog and the book and the sheep and the farmer's markets.

We have barely had winter here in western Massachusetts. After last year's horribly cold and snow filled winter, we were expecting the worst. But it barely happened. We shall see what next year brings.....

Over the past few weeks, the hills around here have been humming with activity in anticipation of the sap running. It has been a short season, I think. On Wednesday, it was 70 degrees and I fear that the sap has stopped until next year. Some of the trees are beginning to bud and there are signs of spring all around - like the birds coming back and singing their gorgeous songs. 

Sid's 250 gallon tank collecting sap from several maple trees
Yesterday I was out and about and I thought about how the season was changing so quickly. I decided to do a quick driveby of three of the sugar houses that are within a mile or two from our farmhouse. All of them "were boiling" - I could tell because steam was bellowing out of the vents on the rooftops of the sugarhouses. 

Louis' Sugarhouse

Sugarhouse (sometimes called sugarshack) is such a strange concept for me as I didn't grow up where maple syrup was made. Now, I am totally endeared to the often homemade little buildings that dot the New England countryside. Many are abandoned because whoever was interested in making maple syrup is no longer around and their family members don't have the time or inclination to make it. 

The steam vent at Louis' Sugarhouse

I love the fact that there are still many maple farmers in our town that are active in sugaring season. Although there are a couple big commercial sugarhouses, I'm partial to the little buildings that sit next to farmhouses or in the woods not far from them. They are bare bones basic - handbuilt with wood harvested on the farm. Often the tin roof is made of re-cycled bits and it seems there is always other "important odds and ends" sitting around near them - to be used in the future "if needed." (I live with a farmer who doesn't throw anything out - in case he might need it one day so I know all about this "might need it someday" mentality. Have you ever read String Too Short To Be Saved by Donald Hall?) 

Carl's Sugarhouse - Front View - notice the wood on the side
We don't make maple syrup here at our farm. We did make it for our family's use when Julia was younger. She was diagnosed at age six with Juvenille Diabetes, so we stopped. Now we purchase our syrup from our friends Marian and J.P. at Justamere Tree Farm at the local Farmers Markets we sell our lamb at. Justamere also has an on-line business and will ship all of their maple products to you. Check them out here if you want to sample real maple syrup

Carl's Sugarhouse - Back view - I love how it is set into the hillside
When Julia was diagnosed with diabetes, I knew how much it would impact our family's life. My dad was diagnosed as a Type 2 Diabetic when I was 12. I lived with all the ups and downs of the disease including the different health complications it causes. 

Carl's Sugarhouse - notice the sap tank at the left

The treatment of Diabetes has changed so much over the years - all for the better. Julia has been on an insulin pump since she was ten and she manages it all herself. We just went to her 3 month check in with her doctor and her A1C (a number which scores how good you are monitoring and controlling your disease) was excellent. I am so proud of her and hope she will keep it up. 

Ed's Sugarhouse

We love Julia's doctor and the incredibly helpful staff that works with her. She keeps asking the doctor about all the latest changes and possible treatments and cures. This appointment Dr. Allen told us that there is even more progress towards an insulin pump working with a cellphone to read real time glucose monitoring and dose insulin automatically via pump. It is only a matter of time which is pretty exciting if you or a family member is living with this disease. 

We were talking about the day in November 2004 that Julia was diagnosed with Dr. Allen today. When we got home from the doctor, loaded with unfamiliar supplies including insulin, needles, prescriptions, testing supplies, and nervousness to boot, there was a package waiting for Julia. In it was "Kit" - an American Girl Doll sent from her grandparents. Kit was such a great distraction for Julia. She went everywhere with Julia for a very long time. I only bring this up because if Julia were into Kit now, her doll would also be able to wear an insulin pump and be diabetic. The American Girl Company responded to this diabetic girl's campaign and has put an entire diabetes wellness care kit into production. Kudos to them for helping young people living with a disease know that they aren't the only ones.

So in closing today's sugar post, I share this video that Julia and I love from Maroon 5 called Sugar. 

Have a great weekend everyone! 


Patricia said...

will you be doing your summer classes this year?


Kristin Nicholas said...

Hi Patty -

Hoping to organize within the next 2 weeks. Do you have anything in particular you want to take? Last year, I taught 2 fabric printing classes, 1 crewel embroidery and 1 knitting. Let me know. Also - if you have a particular weekend you want to come, let me know and I can schedule one around you.

Thanks - Kristin

Beth in Maryland said...

Julia is awesome!! And I hope she's feeling OK now.

Monica said...

Your blog is always a bright spot in my day! I have been reading for years and I love to hear how Julia is doing (as well as your creative work and farm updates!) thank you

Patricia said...

I am interested in the fabric painting class, June , late July or August.

Auntie Shan said...

You know, if those trans-continental pipelines ever get built, we'll probably be pumping maple syrup south to you guys from up here! ;-}

Well, THE MELT has been going on for almost 2 weeks now... Thankfully at a slow rate. Temps have only been between 30 to 50 at best, but along with a bit of rain on the odd days, it's been just enough to get the process going! In only a few days, my once 6-ft high snowbanks are now half that! - I'm not seeing the lawn yet, but we're getting rain this week, soon it should be soon!

Actually, I found a couple of 4" sprouts along the foot wide exposed bit of earth next to our foundation on the south side, yesterday. They were under a foot of snow just a few days ago. I think they might be daffodils..? - Mom's the Gardener. I'm just the CRYO-HYDROLOGICAL KINETICIST [snow-shoveller] around here!

Anyhoo, glad to hear that Julia is feeling well enough to back at school and that lambing is mostly done with. - Geez, all of that "FREE"-TIME you have now, *WHAT* will you DO?!! ;->


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