The Gang

The Gang
October 2008 Sweet Potatoe Harvest

About Me

I am a busy mommy of 6, seeking to be a loving, godly helpmeet to my husband and a biblical discipler to my children. God has blessed us with a child with Autism. May the lessons that the Lord is teaching me and our family be a blessing to you and yours!

My Favorite Books

  • Bible
  • Created to be His Helpmeet by Debi Pearl
  • Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman
  • Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver
  • Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll
  • Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
  • Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp
  • The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace
Saturday, March 21, 2009
This morning we were so excited to wake up to what Laura Ingalls Wilder calls a "sugar snow" in Little House in the Big Woods. We have not gotten much sap this week because of the very warm temperatures then the very cold. On Thursday I cooked down the 18 gallons we had collected during the week. This second cook down went SOOO much faster. We finished the syrup in less than 8 hours that is a HUGE difference compared to the 18 it took us green horns for the first batch.

Today we gathered almost 25 gallons of sap! YEAH!! We will gather again tomorrow then on Monday another home school family is coming over to learn about the syruping process. They are a family from our church who has 4 girls and 1 boy. Their children's ages match up almost perfectly with our kids, and Eliza loves having them over since the girl count is almost equal to the boys when they are here! :-)
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Yesterday was a VERY LONG day. Phil started the fire up at 7 to start cooking down the 20 gallons of sap we had collected on Saturday and Sunday. We learned a LOT our first day.

1.Keep the fire REALLY hot. The faster the boil the better quality syrup and the faster it will be done. Our fire was not hot enough most of the day. I was so nervous about the sap boiling over that I didn't let it boil for most of the day. Finally at about 3 in the afternoon when it was going SOOOO slow I decided to stoke up the fire and found that I could allow the sap to boil nicely and it didn't boil over.
2.Keep the sap on the outside fire until there is only between 1 and 1 ½ gallons of sap left. We brought ours in too early which meant we've spent a lot of time finishing it in the house. So much time that it was midnight last night and we still weren't done. We finally went to bed and I finished it this morning.
3.We should have read more about the process so we would be more confident in what we were doing. While we were trying to finish the syrup inside last night we went online and read a lot. It was helpful to know the areas we need to change before we cook down more sap on Wednesday.
4.Spring is beautiful but the mud is a major magnet to little boys!! At one point yesterday three of the boys were covered in mud from head to toe. Because I couldn't leave the fire to give them baths Elizabeth had to bring out several 3 gallon buckets of warm water for me to get off the first layer of mud. We even had to dunk Philip & Nathan's heads into the water because they had mud pies for hair!
5.NOTHING gets accomplished in the house when I'm having to be out by the fire all day. The kids are ok out there monitoring it for a few minutes, but adult supervision is needed with boiling sap.

This morning when I finished our syrup we ended up with 4 full quarts of syrup. So our first day's ratio was 25 gallons of sap to 1 gallon of syrup. When Phil and I were researching last night we found that the sap to syrup ratio ranges from 20-60 gallons of sap to equal 1 gallon of syrup. From what we read the type of tree tapped along with the weather and sap quality can change throughout the syrup run. So we don't expect to get so much syrup each time even though many of the trees we are tapping are sugar maples. Total time for our first gallon of syrup. 18 hours of cook time. Like I stated above I don't think we had our fire hot enough yesterday. Hopefully next time we'll be able to shave off at least 5 hours from our cook time. That is the goal at least!! :-)

Today I have to take Thomas to Green Bay so we are not cooking down the 10 other gallons we collected yesterday. I hope we will get another 10 more today but with it being so warm, I'll be surprised if we do. I'm thinking that for us it might be a good idea to cook down sap every other day just so we can keep a handle on the house chores and laundry, while the sap run lasts that is. I'm concerned that with the weather being so warm the sap might stop running. The good thing is that many of our trees are in the woods where there is still snow cover and it is cooler. We are even thinking about tapping more of the sugar maples in the woods because we found a couple more taps and we have plenty of buckets. Anyway, further thoughts on cooking it down every other day...... by doing it that we it allows us to do school every other day in order to finish off their workbooks for each subject. We do math while making the sap by talking through how many cups are in pints, quarts, gallons, 5 gallons, etc. and have talked about the science of evaporation too.

Update: We only gathered 6 gallons of sap today. :-( Phil talked with one of our friends that has been sugaring for 7 years and he said this year may be a REALLY bad year. In other words, the run might be almost done because of the warm nights last night and tonight.... how sad!! We are still thankful for the little bit we have been able to make.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Today is my 37th birthday. Yes, I am a woman who just admitted my age! :-) I guess I don't feel 37, except when I'm in the garden all day and can hardly move by the evening. I plan to start walking this week so I can get ready for the heavy garden work this summer. I'm sure hiking in the woods gathering sap each day will help to build some strength too!

We had a lovely day worshiping the Lord this morning at our church First Baptist Church of Kiel. Phil and I are so thankful for the solid Bible teaching and preaching at our church. Our pastor is teaching on the doctrine of man using Ryries Basic Theology book as a guide, and the morning message was from John 9, the first 12 verses. We were reminded that we must not be blind to those around us and miss opportunities to do the work of the Lord. It was a convicting message, especially for a busy mom who is easily distracted by the tasks of a day, and not as sensitive to teachable moments with my kids.

After church we headed for home where I had Venison Stew in the crock pot to be served with the bread I made yesterday. I was surprised when I got home to find out that Phil was taking me out to eat while Elizabeth served the kids stew at home. It is very nice having a child old enough to hold down the fort for a couple hours. Phil and I had a lovely lunch at one of the local restaurants. When we returned home we headed out to check the buckets for sap. It is a beautiful day which made the walk in the wood so pleasant. We gathered a little over 10 gallons of sap today. Which brings our total to a little over 20 gallons of sap. Tomorrow morning I will start to cook down the sap into syrup. If I do it right we should end up with about 2 quarts of syrup.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
I have to post a funny story about two of our children who were trapped in the garden today. Thankfully spring is arriving here in South Eastern Wisconsin which makes for a muddy garden. My youngest two children decided to wander into the garden, I'm not sure why, but they were quickly sucked into the mud! I glanced out my kitchen window to see Nathan (almost 4 years old) trying to take a step. His upper body kept moving while his feet were firmly stuck in the mud. He fell face first and was quite upset. Philip (5 years old) saw his brother in distress and tried using a stick to free his feet. Thankfully, Phil was on his way outside so while I was laughing I asked Phil to go rescue the kids from the garden.. In the meantime the struggle for freedom continued. Philip moved to another part of the garden which caused him to get stuck and step right out of his rubber boot. All the while Nathan was still crying because he couldn't get his feet loose. He'd lean his body forward and spring back because his feet were firmly in the mud. I only wish I would've thought to grab the camera.

The boys came to the house with mud completely covering their rubber boots, the front part of their pants, hands, coats, etc. I only wish the outside hose was thawed so I could've hosed them down before bringing them in for a bath!

I guess my hopes of getting in the garden soon are a little premature... I don't want to get sucked into the mud and I'm quite sure my children wouldn't come to the rescue! :-)
Monday, March 9, 2009
Yesterday, we were hit with another 5 inches of snow just as we were starting to see beautiful dark rich soil in our gardens. I'm thankful for the good moisture but was a bit daunted in my hopes for spring when the forecast showed a cold next two weeks. However, yesterday when I checked the 2 week forecast on it look much more promising.

We've been tossing around the idea of trying to tap trees for maple syrup and had just about given up on the idea when we learned that a friend at church used to tap trees but hasn't for a couple years. He has all the equipment we would need and is willing to let us use it. Phil is going to talk with him tonight to find out if he would like to join us in maple sugaring along with his two boys. Phil and Rob got to hunt together this past fall and they really enjoy each other’s company. It would be a wonderful time of fellowship for the men and boys, plus it would be GREAT to have someone working with us who has made syrup before. If all works out we will start tapping this week since it is supposed to warm up on Saturday and be perfect sugaring weather thereafter.

Elizabeth's little incubating experiment continues. She has 8 duck eggs that she is incubating. We are also collecting goose eggs and will either try to get the goose to sit on them this weekend when it warms up, or we will try to incubate them too. We are going to be drowning in science experiments over the next couple weeks with the incubation and syrup making projects! How fun!

We are starting a new blog. For a while now we've been contemplating doing a gardening blog and have decided to do it. So for those of you who aren't interested in our gardening adventures you won't have to read about it any longer on this blog. If you want to follow along with our garden journey than you'll want to read Gardening In South Central Wisconsin at
Thursday, March 5, 2009
I'm not doing a very good job blogging in this new year. I've composed many blogs in my head that have never made it onto the computer for various reasons. February flew by with a few colds, more dead chickens, and lots of school. We are pushing to complete the majority of our school work by the end of March because we have gardens to plant and fences to put up. Once that is done we will resume "school" by doing a summer review book for each of the kids.

Our chicken flock has gone from 70 to less than 40. Some of the hens have finally started to lay again and we are averaging 10 eggs a day. We've ordered 25 meat birds which will arrive in April and be butchered in July. Twenty five new hens will also be added to the farm in May.

The goats are looking pregnant which is a good sign. They aren't due until the end of April. A couple of them are getting quite large, so they might be carrying triplets.

Elizabeth has decided to try to incubate duck eggs. We will know in a few days if the eggs are fertile or not. She did the research and has a little home made incubator in her room. We had one female and 2 males survive the dog and mink attacks. We hope that the female will eventually get the motherly urge, so if our attempts to incubate fail, we will still have some little ducklings sometime this spring. We have also discovered that we have one goose. A goose egg was found in the barn two days ago. Only time will tell if we have a pair that will mate or two geese.

Phil and I have been researching Maple Sugaring and will tap 12 trees this weekend to start the process of making our own Maple syrup. This year is supposed to be a good year for the sap run, so we hope to make a gallon or two for our first sugaring season. I'm sure it will be quite an adventure!

We are very excited that over the next 15 days 10 are supposed to be at or above 40 degrees. That is perfect maple sugaring weather.... and it will allow all the snow to melt so we can start to clear the upper garden and plan the lower with some early spring food (spinach, peas, lettuce, kale, etc.). I'll be starting many of my garden plants over the next week in the living room.

The boys have been enjoying "hunting" on these warmer days. They dress up with their swords, archery items, and shields, and head out to walk along the creek in hopes of spotting animals. Nathan and Philip love trotting after Sam on these adventures.

Caleb has new glasses and can now see out of both his eyes, PRAISE THE LORD! Samuel will be getting his new glasses next week and I get to have an appointment for contacts next week too! YEAH!! I haven't had contacts since Phil lost his job at NBBC, over 3 years ago. I'm looking forward to getting to wear sunglasses this summer while I work in the garden.

We hope you are all enjoying the coming of spring in your neck of the woods! For me Spring is a reminder of the New Life we have in Christ. It also causes me to be so thankful that God never gives up on me, He forgives me of my sin when I confess it and allows me to start fresh and clean in my efforts to serve and please Him.