We are waiting for our third snowstorm in two weeks. Even so, the air, light, and birdsong feel like spring. Our earliest seedlings–onions and leeks–are lined up in front of the upstairs southern window, with kale, chard, lettuce, and peppers soon to follow. And this year, we were even more aware of signs of spring because we tapped maples for syrup.
The sap has been running for several weeks and there’s such a good flow this year that we actually have too much to use. We only tapped three trees and one–the big house-side maple that turns brilliant crimson in the fall–had such thick bark that we didn’t drill deep enough and gave about a third of the amount of sap of the other two. But, even so, we are drowning in sap.
On our first boil, we used our lobster pot on the grill-side burner outside. It is supposed to take about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, so it has to boil for a long time. A very long time.
We finished it off on our kitchen stove indoors.
We ended up with about a quart and a half of syrup on the first boil.
We decided to do all of the second boil on our kitchen stove. It was much faster and we can use the added moisture in the air.
Our trees are red maple rather than sugar maple and the syrup has a distinctive vanilla-like flavor different than commercial syrup. Since we have so much sap, I’ve been drinking it. Delicious.
Aside from gathering sap, gathering wood, and our usual walks, we have been enjoying the last of winter’s snowbound inside days. As soon as the snow melts, we’ll be out pruning , readying the gardens, and starting building projects.
I have loved the inside time. I made a small quilt to cover the couch for the dogs.
But I spent most of my winter blissfully spinning, restoring wheels, and weaving–for the first time in decades.
George resurrected my old loom.
He made a new square beam, tightened up joints and glued a break, and made new dowel pieces for the sectional beam.
I made a new apron and replaced the old cords and tie ups with texsolv, a wonderful easy system using eye-looped cords and plastic pegs.
It’s a unique and wonderful little loom. The woman I bought it from in the 1970s said that her grandfather made it for her grandmother early in the 1900s.
The loom was thoughtfully made, and includes lights conveniently placed front and back. When George brought the lights in to have the wiring brought up to code, we found that one of the lightbulbs had a tungsten filament and dated from the 1920s. It’s still working.
I had forgotten how much I love to weave.
Unlike some weavers, I enjoy all of the preparation steps–
winding the warp,
threading the reed and heddles,
and seeing the neat warp all wound on, miraculously untangled and ready to weave.
For this first weave, I made twill dish towels, without any set color or treadling pattern, just experimenting with both.
I also took some Soay yarn that I have been spinning and did a quick sample, thinking I might use it in my next project. But I liked it so much that I wove enough to cover the seat in my spinning chair. Soay sheep shed their wool in lumps rather than being shorn, and the wool is fine and crimpy but with lots of short strands and little clumps.
I spun it nubbly, thinking it might look interesting in a traditional twill, and was surprised at how much I liked it in this rosepath twill.
My wheel herd continues to grow bigger and I have all of them spinning. Now to find new homes for some of the rescues.
Our aggressive male bluebird continues to plague us daily. He continued to attack the windows even on the most frigid winter days. I wish we could have him neutered.