A Sad Maple Season

This turned out to be a really strange maple sugaring season. 
We tapped the tree back in February when we had a bit of a warm-up, and at first things went really well. Afternoons were warm, and we started out with a strong run of sap.
Then it got too hot, and the sap stopped running because the temperatures didn’t drop below freezing for several nights in a row.
And thentemperatures plunged, and it didn’t get above freezing for almost a week. So still not much sap, but for the opposite reason.
Then on our final weekend of boiling, this happened:

It started as rain but turned to snow while we had the fire going. Not that big of a deal, but not exactly pleasant. But since we weren’t exactly keeping a keen eye on things, we also ended up burning a batch that boiled down more quickly than we expected.
And by last weekend, the sap had turned:

Once it runs yellow, the season is over. This sap isn’t sweet at all, so I’ve been using it to water seedlings — I’m thinking that the minerals sho…

New Year’s Resolutions, Month by Month: March

I’ve decided to write about each of my month-long New Year’s resolutions after the fact, so I can share how the whole thing went. In January I gave up added sugar; February was a major caffeine draw-down. For March, I decided to give up alcohol.

This was really not a big deal.
I’m not a daily drinker by any stretch, and mostly enjoy a beer or two with my bandmates or a glass of wine at a restaurant. 
Though, if truth be told, I had more wine that usual during the election season (entertaining) and its aftermath (not so entertaining). 

So despite the occasional hankering for an evening drink during the first half of the month, I really didn’t miss it at all. In fact, there were a lot of positives to note: Better Singing: Alcohol is really pretty bad for your voice, and when you pair it with staying up late and talking a lot, it’s a recipe for laryngeal disaster. I took the opportunity to do some real warm-ups and singing this month as well, which has been great for getting back in bett…

Chicken Trickery

The additional daylight in the spring means that the chickens begin laying again, after a sporadic winter of not doing very much. Martha and Rachel got the memo weeks ago and are going their jobs well:

Sally is also a champ. But sometimes this happens:

As you can see, Sally’s eggs has been pecked open and eaten. That blob on the floor of the nesting box shows that several eggs have been raided and destroyed over that past few days.
This is not a protein or calcium issue, as they have plenty of extra seeds and oyster shells to eat. This seems to be about spite. I caught Abigail — who, it should be noted, hasn’t laid an egg in months — pecking away at one just the other day. jerk.
Kirk and I were also talking just lat night about how Lizzy — the worst chicken — also hasn’t laid any eggs in recent memory, and how she’s generally not earning her keep at all. 
And then today I found that she had, in fact laid an egg. 
And it was eaten. Along with a couple other eggs.
Four eggs from six ch…

New Season, New Look

It’s been a tough stretch of weather, with blizzards, power outages and freezing rain, even though spring is officially here. There are a few signs, of course:

But most of the garden looks more like these tree peonies, buds curled tight and waiting out the cold:

So in the meantime, I decided to switch up the look of the blog to brighten things up. This June will be its sixth anniversary, so it’s definitely high time for a makeover. Let me know what you think!

New Year’s Resolutions, Month by Month: February

ICYMI: I decided to make my New Year’s resolutions last all year this year by working on 12 mini-resolutions instead of one big one. In January I gave up added sugar; for February, I decided to tackle something even more difficult: cutting out caffeine.

I really do love coffee, and when I was still teaching, I had quite a bit of the stuff — truly necessary fuel for someone who had to get out of bed at 5 a.m. every day and be stuck in traffic for close to 90 minutes each morning. 
It was not fun, but at least I always had a full — large! — travel mug of coffee in my hands to make the commute bearable.
Fast forward to this February, where I found myself six months into my new life working full time from home. I had somewhat cut back on the coffee just by using a regular mug instead of my double-sized travel cup, but now that I have been allowed to let my body decide when to wake up — emphatically not before the sun comes up — I no longer actually need  caffeine.
But I do still like to …

New Year’s Resolutions, Month by Month: January

This is a very belated post, but I did something different with my New Year’s resolutions this year. Instead of one big resolution, I decided to try 12 limited-term resolutions instead — one per month of the year for 2017. This seems like enough time to build a new habit — experts say it takes three weeks — but not so long that you’re deprived of something forever. It also offers a chance to pause and reflect to see if that new habit is one I actually want stick with or not.

The last time I talked about a New Year’s resolution on the blog, we ended up cutting $20,000 out of our annual spending, so I am expecting some interesting results — and success — with these mini-resolutions as well.

To play a bit of catch-up...

January: Giving Up Added Sugar For starters, I opened 2017 by giving up added sugar from my diet. After a long holiday season of lots of eating and drinking — and a whole lot of sweets! — this was a significant change. For my purposes, added sugar meant sugary drinks, des…

Homemade Nutella

Have I ever mentioned how much Tiegan loves Nutella?
Probably not. She’s kind of obsessed. I mean, I think the stuff is alright, but she would eat it all the time if we let her. (Note: We do not. It’s crazy expensive, and there’s a ton of sugar in it.)
Anyway, a couple weeks ago she got her hands on a recipe and gave it a try, since Kirk inexplicably brought home a bag of hazelnuts from the grocery store — and then had to buy a nutcracker to shell them. (None of this passes Trim the Fat Tuesday muster, by the way.)
Anyway, she had fun doing it, and it did turn out pretty well. You could modify the recipe to make it somewhat less sweet, I suppose. The end result isn’t as smooth as what you buy in the store, but I kind of like her slight chunky version better.

To make it, you’ll need to crack and shell 1 cup’s worth of whole hazelnuts (measured after shelling, not before). Then you blitz them in a food processor and add 1 cup of powdered sugar. Blend again and add 1/2 cup cocoa powder.…