Ithaca, NY March 2014

Mud season!  Maple syruping!  Guests!  Norwegian Fjord horses!  Snow! Tree house casualties!  Pond walking!

We have historically avoided the cabin this time of year, but from now on I will think differently.  We went up to try tapping our maple trees and expected the mud season madness of leaden shoes caked with the stuff, tracking it in the house and car, and difficult schlepping of necessary items to and from the cabin.  What we experienced, though, was a lovely mix of three seasons and an exciting sap run as the weather shifts from cold to warm in upstate New York.

Maple tree tapping

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The idea is really simple, but the 40:1 ratio we keep hearing about is intimidating.  Yes, that’s 40 (some say 50) gallons of maple tree sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.  We just wanted to try, so we got a set-up for each child – spile (tap that goes into the tree), hook, bucket and lid – and got to work.  We put two taps on an old maple tree of about 11′ in diameter, and one tap each in two smaller, maybe 2-3′ diameter trees.  We immediately could see sap dripping into the buckets, which had us all jumping around in excitement.  I suppose the excitement wears off if you have taps that number in the 3-digits, like our neighbors who have 135 taps that drain into a hose system that goes directly into their sugar house.  They told us they produced 20 gallons of maple syrup last year, so yeah, we are not any competition for their operation.  We thought we might get a cup or so of the sweet stuff.  We let the taps drain for the 4 days we were there and started the boiling process our last day.  We were surprised that the big old tree did not produce much sap, and that one of the smaller trees – but not the other right next to it – was a strong producer.

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The cabin was steamy as it snowed outside, and the smell was wonderful.  We boiled for several hours and took the result home to finish.

Trumansburg and some denizens

T’burg is like a little sister to Ithaca, smaller but still progressive and boasting of a stellar waterfall – Taughannock Falls – a good coffee shop, the rollicking summerfest of the Grassroots Festival and the lovable Trumansburg Fair.  We took a little field trip to see gifted writer and Fjord horse aficionado Ms. Plumlot and family there.

Ms Plumlot has an abiding affection for animals and a daunting knowledge of various topics including not limited to: fracking, Elkhounds, NYC, guernsey wool, Covert Township politics, cloth diapers and Norwegian Fjord horses, of which she owns two.  We love visiting her, the Mr., the 3 Plumlets, and whatever combination of animals are on hand at the time.  They also have a beautiful cedar-shingled house warmed with a wood stove, and unbelievably, space upstairs in the red barn for 6 Fantastics to crash for the night so we could maximize hanging out and minimize driving.  It was late-winter bliss, thank you Plumlots!!!

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picture from another visit – Ms. Plumlot and I photobombed by Fenya!!

 

The cabin + our land 

We were so pleased to have the lovely and talented Sylvia Starlight and kids join us for a few days!  The kids had such a great time, using the balance board (I loved this, too!), playing board games, hearing stories, playing in the treehouse, and generally running around outside.  There were two unfortunate episodes in which Really, and later Truly, each fell out of the treehouse but there were no serious injuries and the sun and cold were a joy to experience outside and inside.   The heater is still broken, but the passive solar energy, the oven, and the 6 kids running around warmed the place nicely.  We even had a fire outside and roasted marshmallows!  Also, the little ravine creek was running, and there were patches of snow everywhere.  The colors were beautiful in the waning winter.  We had snow and sun, mud and ice, brisk air outside and warm wood in the cabin.

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The pond

I stepped on it gingerly as Mr. Fantastic and I collected sap the last day.  It seemed solid, I didn’t hear any cracking.  Looking around, the perspective was new since one usually can’t stand in the middle of the pond.  By the time we got back to the cabin, I decided it was safe for the kids – after all, they weigh less, right?  It was awesome!!!

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the cabin as seen from the pond

 

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