Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

First Time Tapping For Maple Syrup

We have successfully completed two maple sap runs this year!  We have 24 taps that are collecting sap in metal buckets and we're boiling it over an open fire.  There are only 2 sugar maples and the rest are silver or red maples.  From what I read, silver and red maples produce a lower quantity of sap, less sugar to sap ratio, and make a cloudy syrup.  According to some, it's not worth tapping silver and red maples.  Well, we decided to go ahead and tap the trees anyway and find out for ourselves.


We have completed 2 small boils.  The first one was boiled over a fire in the picture on the left and the flavor was smokey.  To help draw smoke away from the syrup, Jon revised the fire setup and made a chimney as shown in the second picture.  The second setup was an improvement but too much heat went up the chimney so Jon is revising it again before the next boil.  From the picture on the right you can see a pot sitting on the chimney; that is water boiling for lunch and hot chocolate!  A piece of sheet metal covered the entrance when the wind was blowing.

 Transporting the syrup around the property can be a challenge with mountainous terrain and trees not located near trails.  With our small operation of only 24 trees located in 3 main areas, we decided to haul the sap in a hiking backpack!  The pack can hold one of those 4 gallon water coolers real easily.  In one of the pictures you can see Jon and Paul pouring the sap into a funnel that pours into one of the water coolers inside the hiking pack.  It's a pretty easy system enabling us to have our hands free in case we fall or need to push tree branches out of the way.  This is a much better system than carrying buckets!  We don't mind the extra work because this is how we get need for a gym membership when we have mountains to climb and sap to haul!  Instead of an ATV, we use a wheel barrow, and instead of a chainsaw, we use a handsaw.  Jon and I try to maintain a simple lifestyle and this is one way we accomplish that.

When filtering the syrup, we used 2 layers of clean scrap fabric for filtering out ashes and other solids; and a wool filter was used right before bottling for collecting sugar sand and other small particles.  I took the picture after the fact, but I wanted to show you how we managed to prop up the wool filter by using a fruit masher/strainer.  We didn't realize how large this filter was when we ordered it but we still use it!

All of the maple syrup supplies were purchased used except for the wool filter.  The total cost of supplies, including shipping was: $286.94

Seed Catalogs and Fruit Tree Addictions

It's that time of year...when Jon gets squirrely because seed catalogs arrive in the mail.  "Can we get these...let's try this variety...look at those plump berries...perhaps we can find room for a few more fruit trees..."  These phrases are like mantras repeated in the house until an order is placed and the pages of the catalogs are sufficiently dog-eared.  We only ordered 2 catalogs this year but received others as well.  Hmmm...someone must be selling our information?  For a few weeks now Jon and Paul have spent hours perusing the catalogs and drooling over the pictures.  There must be a support group for those with a spouse addicted to these catalogs!  Now that an order has finally been placed, I did an official count and we now have 26 fruit trees, 14 blueberry plants, and a bunch of other miscellaneous fruits such as kiwis, blackberries, raspberries, honeyberries, etc.!  We may have 17 acres but we are soon running out of open space for everything; so Jon decided to bring the trees inside...we have tropical trees now...lemons, limes, oranges, olives, and tangerines!  I can only imagine the amount of fruit there will be in 10 years....

In addition to the catalogs, Jon is making a seed inventory.  Surprisingly we only have a few vegetables to purchase this year because we saved so many seeds last year. 

Mushroom Foraging and Plugging

Recently on a nature walk on the property, Jon and Paul discovered some mushrooms.

Jon identified these as oyster mushrooms.  He has eaten several of them without any ill effects!

The deer have discovered this cluster of mushrooms and have eaten them, unless some other wild creature also eats mushrooms?

Are these turkey tail mushrooms?  They are really pretty to look at. 

If you set mushrooms upside down on an old window overnight they will leave behind their spores.
(the white hazy stuff)

Jon was so inspired by all of the wild mushrooms and harvesting from the logs we currently have, that he impulsively bought 500 Shitake plugs from  We used oak logs that fell during the Hurricane Sandy Snowstorm.  From the picture, you can see we ran out of wax and didn't cover the log ends.  
Previous posts about growing our own mushrooms: 

Making Curtains from a Tablecloth

I am so thankful to have a mother who is handy with a sewing machine and has an eye for color!  Even better is that when she visits, she passes down her skills!  This past Christmas she visited us for 10 days and during this time we accomplished a few sewing projects including: pajamas, tank tops, and 8 curtains!  I am thrilled to finally take down the awful country-style curtains that are probably as old as the house...18 years.

This picture was taken before we moved in (sorry about the picture quality).  This fabric came in handy when making the mummy costume this fall!

I originally planned to make the curtains by hand but was faced with the fact that it is usually cheaper to purchase ready-made curtains than it is to buy the fabric and lining and make them by hand.  With my mom being handy with the sewing machine, she altered some store-bought curtains into a different style.

I prefer tab tops more than the ruffle.

For the breakfast room we made 3 simple valances using a 60 x 80 inch tablecloth we found on clearance for $10.50. There was even extra fabric for a table runner and some napkins with fabric still leftover.  If any friends and family reading this would like some cloth napkins, let me know!  With a little creative thinking outside the box, we have nice curtains to make this home feel more like our own.  Of course we still have painting to do, but curtains make such a difference!

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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