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Category Archives: food

The Emergency Orders came out on Thursday, they completely closed our Personal Use Set Net fishery. Devastating to our family. (Pic from previous years.)
I dug out apx 16" of soil in order to make a hotbed in our newly renovated greenhouse.
Six baby Bronze Turkeys to add to the flock.

Last Friday we stayed home from work due to Dean being under the weather. So the kids and I used the opportunity to start on the garden plot, do a little barnyard clean up & to get some fresh air. The garden plot was quite the mess.

We enjoyed watching the goats and ducks being released from their winter quarters and go a little wacky on the barely there green grass blades

First thing we did was assess the old derelict greenhouse frame. It needs to be disassembled, repaired and re-sheeted with siding and greenhouse plastic. Lil Bit and I took stock of our materials so we could plan the new structure. As it is currently, about 15 feet long and 8 ish feet wide. We’d like to maintain that size, just move it over to the left about 2-3 feet.

Then we found a couple old pallets that we hauled up to the garden plot to add to our existing compost bin. The original bin was filled up over the winter with kitchen scraps and barn litter. We’ll let that side sit and work this summer to add to our beds next year.

Then we got started on the clean up part. Thing 2, AB and Lil Bit all pitched in. We cut down all the wild raspberry canes, some Willow shrubs and tall grasses down. We raked up dead grass and leaves to fill our new compost bin about half way. The kids hauled barn litter over and dumped into the old bin. I gave some of the raked up dried grass to the goats, they loved it.

I cleared out the strawberry patch of last year’s dead leaves & weeds, cut the runners loose and mulched with fresh straw. We topped off the two beds and all the tire stacks with more soil. And we stretched an old tarp (that we repurposed for ground cover & saved from going to the landfill) out over the area we just cleared to keep regrowth down to a minimum. We will eventually top this with sawdust and wood chips for pathway maintenance after we build the new beds.

This tarped area is where we plan to construct two more raised beds and put additional tire stacks around the fence perimeter.

Lil Bit’s 4H project is gardening so she has been busy tending her starts in the mini greenhouse in our bathroom. And getting more excited by the day to start her outdoors garden & greenhouse.

Lil Bit’s starter garden. She’s got bell peppers tomatoes, squash, cucumber and a big pumpkin on the right.

While raking and checking for signs of new growth we discovered the lilac Thing 1 planted last year has some buds on it!! It’s always a happy day to see your plants made it through the winter!!

Rhubarb patch coming to life!

Besides the greenhouse renewal & new raised beds to build, we have some fencing repairs to make. I’d also like to test our soil this year so we can make amendments based on need. We’ll see how that goes. 🤪So our work isn’t done but we feel good about getting it started.

It was a short week, 6 days ago, that I tapped our Birch tree. I probably could have tapped it a few days earlier if not for just being too busy. But better some sap than none!

With the speed of the melting snow the Birch sap has slowed it’s flow.

Checking my Sap Bucket.

Our first gallon I poured into individual collapsible water bottles for drinking later. I found these new at the thrift store, a great find! They came with mini carabineers to clip onto your pack or belt while hiking this summer. Into the freezers they went.

Hiking refreshers.

Next, I used 3.5 gallons to try our version of Birch Beer, similar to root beer, and made about 3/4 of a gallon of flavored concentrate. I slow-simmered the sap in my turkey roaster until about half with a few Birch twigs. Once done I turned off the heat, added a vanilla bean and cinnamon stick and 1/2 cup xylitol to sweeten it a bit more. To serve, pour concentrate into a glass, half full, add a squeeze of fresh lime, a little more sweetener (to individual taste) and top off with seltzer. It’s got an earthy taste, faintly reminiscent of a root beer but not as herbal. I like mine less sweet, the kids like it more sweet. But they like it, that’s good.

It’s nice to have a natural soda alternative that’s not 44 grams of sugar per serving or full of who knows what.

I also put about half a gallon into some reusable popsicles for a cold summer treat. I made 20 of these, Alaskan style Otter Pops, all natural, no artificial dyes, flavors or sweeteners.

Birch pops.

I did learn that we have another native tree here that can also be tapped: Alder. I experimented and tapped a couple larger trunks (they aren’t very big here, 3-5 inches in diameter). I wasn’t set-up properly for collecting the sap so missed a lot. I did get enough to taste it. It’s similar to the Birch water, less flavor tho. Overall good to know in an emergency but not likely to try it annually.

What remains of our harvest is apx 3.5 gallons, which I’ll turn into ice cubes and jugs of sap to freeze and use later. I’m going to try brining my salmon in Birch sap and salt this summer.

Overall we harvested about 9 gallons from a single Birch tree in 6 days, 1.5 gallons a day on average. This is important to know if we want to harvest enough for a larger batch of syrup or beverages. Since Birch water doesn’t keep for more than a couple days without spoiling, it has to be used or frozen quickly. So if we needed 5 gallons to process into wine we would need to tap 4-5 trees for a larger daily quantity.

I pulled the spile early Saturday morning. And another foraging season has come & gone.

Next up for wildcrafting is cottonwood buds, fiddleheads, fireweed shoots, spruce tips and morels. Oh boy, I can’t wait!! So much to do, so little time!

Last year Thing 1 wanted to try her hand at tapping Birch trees. We found that we all quite enjoyed the flavor of the fresh Birch sap/water so we’re at it again.

I actually found some time to tap one tree today and hopefully will tap a couple more over the next few days

I picked this nice Birch near our house.

You want a good sized healthy tree. We try for a 8-10 inch in diameter tree or larger. We also only tap an individual tree once then let it rest for a number of years before ever tapping again.

I drill a slightly upward angle with a drill bit close to the size of the small end of the tap. Going into the tree about an inch and a half or so. There’s plenty of instructions online of all the technical steps if you want those.

Once the hole is drilled you just hammer the tap into the tree until it’s secure. Hang your bucket and let it drip.

Bucket in place

We check the progress frequently to see how fast the sap is flowing. Also, anxious-to-drink-the-sap kids go out and fill little glasses to sample. That’s the trouble with having a tapped tree so close to home!

After about 7 hours we had a good 3/4 of a gallon. We poured off two quarts and filled some freezable bottles for a cool summer treat. Tomorrow we’ll see how much more we get.

Drip, drip, drip.

Birch water is a great source of minerals and other good stuffs. Check it out! I’m not really a fan of the syrup yet, but I’d like to try Birch beer (non-alcoholic) and Birch ale this year, if we get enough sap. And of course filling up several freezer bottles and popsicles for summer!

All snuggled up!
This. Plus rice and creamy cucumber salad.
Spring is on the way, remember to start your seedlings and file for your PFD today!