Sunday, April 10, 2011

spring arrives

feeling spring
 Today was supposed to be rainy- yesterday was supposed to be sunny.  Who knew it would be the other way around.  Today, for the first time in a long time, the outdoors felt lush.

As it was, we had planned to take our out-of-town, out-of-country guest to the big mall in Bloomington today, so we went there, indoors, even though it was the first day of the year where it was comfortable, even preferable to be outside without a jacket. . 

But not before I spent a little time playing outside with the kids.  I was able to get a few snapshots of what is coming up in the yard now as well.

 The crocus continue to be beautiful.  The orange ones are taking center stage now, while the purple ones begin to decline.

 The siberian squill- Scilla siberica is finally blooming as well.  It carpets half of the backyard, and I've been working on establishing it in the front yard as well.   There's nothing edible about it, and I don't consider it a part of our edible landscape, but it's the second thing to come up in the spring and it always makes me happy.

 Seeing the robins and the cardinals come back makes me happy too.  This isn't the first robin of spring. I don't think they really migrate any more- due to the milder winters and people feeding them, but it still feels like spring when I see them digging for worms in the yard.  We have plenty of worms.  We can spare a few.  And we can use the bird poop as well.
 The garlic I planted along the retaining wall last October is popping up now too.  I planted it as an experiment, and it seems to be panning out.  I've never been organized enough, or motivated enough in the fall to plant garlic, and it's always been something that just hasn't happened.  One of my resolutions this year is to pay more attention to the perennial veggies and the fall-planted stuff.  It's so satisfying to see it come up in the spring, that it makes the extra planning worthwhile.

Speaking of- we should have strawberry plants and asparagus crowns coming soon.  Those are going in the stepped planter that will be the support for the patio I plan to build this spring and summer.  More posts on that to come.  Right now it's a disaster and I'm embarrassed to look at our back yard.

Here's the postscript for the maple syruping.  I pulled the spile out mid-week last week when the syrup was cloudy and a bit funny-tasting even after it was boiled.  The silver maple we tapped is too tall to be able to see whether the buds are swelling-- the lowest buds are about 40 or 50 feet up-- so I based the decision partly on the fact that the lilac buds were starting to swell.  And I've seen some other maples that look like they're swelling.  So that's the end of maple syruping season for us.

Just as well-- Gita was getting tired of the sap constantly boiling on the stove.  We were getting almost 3 gallons per day some days too.  We were boiling sap for most of our waking hours at home.  Even though we kept the ceiling fan going in the kitchen and two windows partly open, we could feel the condensation on things like the handrail on the stairway, and see the steam condensing on the living room corner window.

The productivity of the tree varied wildly based on the weather.  The days in the 50's with high humidity seemed to be the best.  If we do this next year, I may wait to put in the spile until the temps are consistently higher.  We got almost no sap when temps were under 35F.

It has been a good learning experiment though.  We ended up with 3 quarts of syrup, boiled down from (I estimate) 25 gallons of sap.  If it was that much sap, we ended up with a pretty good sap-to-syrup ratio.  That would be closer to what one would expect from a sugar maple, but again, this isn't scientific.  Next time I'll keep better track of how much sap we actually get.

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  1. Wow, if I'd realized how much boiling was going on, I'm sure we wouldn't have minded watching a boiling pot as well as the kids!

  2. Hello;
    Nice relevant and entertaining blog.
    In my limited experience syruping, the best time to tap is when it is 40-45 in the day and 20-25 at night. (Kind of acting like a pump.)
    At 40:1, you were working long and hard.
    Thanksforthe posting,
    John in Saint Paul

  3. Thanks John,

    You made me re-read what I wrote last spring. I doubt we'll be maple sugaring this spring again, but maybe next year. It was hard work. I'll try it again after I get a setup where I can boil the sap outdoors over my fire pit. Thanks for the tip on timing. BTW- have you done syruping within the city limits? If so, where?