Thursday, May 19, 2016

A lazy morning saved the day? Guest post by SP


“Hey, where you going?” “I need to get started boiling sap.” “No! Snuggle me!” “But I really have to get started.” “Nooo. Snuggles.” she said emphatically.  Madz was right, snuggling sounded way better than going outside and starting work so I crawled back into bed and we fell back to sleep for a while. Upon waking we snuggled for a while more (we're really good at it) eventually we both decided it was probably time to get this sap boil started. So I got out of bed, dressed quickly, and headed downstairs.  I met Bruce in living room and we both observed it smelled little smoky. I sniffed over by the fireplace to check for a downdraft- nothing.  Upon opening the basement door I noticed smoke in the stairwell and assumed the woodstove it back drafted… Again. I headed grumpily down the stairs. When I flipped the light switch the basement lights didn't come on- that was the first clue that something was wrong. When I got to the bottom of the stairs I looked over at the woodstove but I was drawn to the glowing fire in the ceiling along the wall. Oh shit! There's a fire! I bolted up the stairs, told Bruce there was a fire, and tore out to the garage to fetch a fire extinguisher. I ran back down the basement stairs and emptied my fire extinguisher into the burning hole in the basement ceiling/1st floor. Not sure if the fire was out I dashed back upstairs to grab the kitchen fire extinguisher. Bruce met me with it in the living room.  Back to the basement only to realize that fire extinguisher does not work. At that point I pounded up the stairs all the way to the second floor, burst into our bedroom, and told Madz there was a fire, I needed to call 911 and she needed to get everyone out of the house.  Coming back downstairs I step out on the front porch, call 911 give them the details, and go back to the basement. There I discovered that the fire had rekindled so I ran out to the front yard,  grabbed a length of a garden hose, ran back to the basement, quickly attached it to the cold water tank and extinguished all the fire I could see. At that point the fire was out so I opened the bulkhead door and moved around some of the basement furniture to make access a little easier for the firemen and I carefully move the tables of Legos so they wouldn't get tipped over and the creations ruined. When I heard the sirens I went back upstairs and out on the front porch. I flagged down someone who looked like they were in charge and bade them,  “Come with me.”  I was concerned they might lead with the hose and knowing what a mess that could be, I took this firefighter to the basement and showed him where the fire had been. “Did you put it out?” he  asked? “Ya” I replied. “Good job! Now go get some fresh air.” I went up to living room and move that furniture around just like I'd done in the basement it was then that I noticed there was more fire burning in the wall to the left of the hearth. When I stepped out on the porch a small group of firemen were in a huddle discussing a plan, I got their attention I told him of the fire in the wall and said, there's some work for you guys to do too. At that point I went outside and hugged my wife and our friends, and milled around until the cleanup was over. 

*I know staying in the house and breathing all that smoke was not a smart decision.  I know that in a fire situation one is supposed to gather up the occupants, exit, and leave the work to the firefighters (I’m the son of a volunteer firefighter for gosh sakes.) but that knowledge not withstanding,  I could not bring myself to stand on the lawn while my house burned waiting for the fire department.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

I shit the house on fire. A guest post by FWB

FWB (our dear friend Fireworks Bruce) was the first person to wake on the fateful April morning. Here is his guest blog post. He is shown in this picture.

"I Shit the House on fire

A CPAP is not a sexy thing on a 45-year old obese man, but it makes for a good night's sleep, so I cut it a break for getting me off the LDs' couch first thing in the morning. I'm a light sleeper, so I'm pretty sure I'm the first one up, and a short shuffle into the kitchen confirms that. Continuing down the hall to the bathroom, I fight with the drawstring on my fleece pajamas while hopping from foot to foot in a hilarious and desperate rendition of the pee-pee dance. 90 seconds later and I'm walking back into the living room, where I attempt to turn on the TV, and after 3 minutes of unfruitful fumbling with the touch controls in the dimness of the morning, I give up and crawl back into the couch. Where it becomes immediately apparent that maybe I left the bathroom a hair too soon. Snatching up my iPad, I bolt for the bathroom, and settle down to some light reading while I wait for nature to take its course. 5 minutes later and I'm out the door again, this time bumping into Shane as I turn the corner, where he looks at the ceiling and says, "It's really smoky in here, isn't it?"

I look up myself, and realize the smudgy vision I thought was the result of a late night of drinking and early morning strenuous "exercise" was actually a moderately thick layer of smoke gathering beneath the ceiling.

As if they heard our conversation, the house fire alarms start blaring.

My morning brain tried doing its morning brain things, and the next thing I knew, Shane had donned a headlamp and gone into the basement. I crawled into the couch again once more, but was up on my feet quickly when Shane came running up the basement stairs not-quite-yelling, "There's a fire in the basement!"

Shane sprinted for the garage, and I ran for the office. I met him coming back through the kitchen with one of those industrial-sized fire extinguishers the size of a mailbox, while I had grabbed the thermos-sized extinguisher from the office. He tore around the corner and was down into the basement and out of sight when I got to the top of the stairs. Smoke was at this point pouring out of the pitch-black basement, and when I flicked the light switch, there was no response. I ran into the kitchen, looking for a headlamp, under the toaster, in an empty can of coffee, behind the fruit bowl, all the usual sorts of places you'd find a headlamp when the house was burning down.

Shane came back up the stairs and I shoved the smaller fire extinguisher into his hands as he yelled, full volume this time, "There's a fire. We need to call 911 and get everybody out of the house!" He ran up the stairs and I could hear him calmly but firmly waking up Madeleine, while I threw all of my belongings around the living room, searching for my phone. After exhausting all the usual hiding places for my phone, I realized my searching had been slowed considerably by the fact that I was only using one hand, because the other one was clutching my phone. From upstairs, I could hear Madeleine saying, "I don't even know who's here? Who's sleeping here?"

"ABBY!!" I shouted up to her, hoping that Abby would hear me even if Madeleine didn't, while I tried to make this weird black rectangular thing in my hand do something, but I couldn't quite remember what the thing was I was trying to make it do: tell time? add numbers? It looked sort of calculator-y, what with it's 9-point pattern on the front. Oh right! It was my phone! I had to put in the passcode and call 911! What the FUCK was my passcode?!? Wait, was this my phone? What if it was someone else's phone and I put in my passcode? Would I only be able to talk to their friends?

Shane came down the stairs, still calm, exuding competence, and waved me toward the door. "Just get outside. I'm calling 911." Thank fuck for that, because I couldn't call 911 with this stupid calculator! I ran the 7 feet required to get me out the door, then turned around and ran back, threw all my shit into my suitcase, slammed it shut without latching it, and chucked it out onto the porch, like I was boarding the last lifeboat on the Titanic. I took the three steps to the porch, leaving the door open to clear out some of the smoke, and saw Abby come down the stairs without actually taking a single step. Madeleine follows, carrying something my brain immediately edits out, but I do notice that neither of them are attired for the 30 degree morning, nor am I, so I step back inside the house and put on my shoes and grab my coat, all while standing next to the door. Shane quickly joins us on the lawn, as Madeleine literally hops around the yard, screaming, "Sirens! I just want to hear sirens!!" until the first tanker truck appears."

Monday, May 2, 2016

We had an electrical fire in our house.

April, on the heels of March, certainly came in like a lion. On Sunday April 3rd, we had an electrical fire in our basement. We are so very fortunate, because everything that could go right, did go right. We have been blessed during this past very busy month with an excellent insurance company who took care of us and met all of our needs. We were not displaced from our house either. The structural damage was limited to two rooms. Our babies were not home and were spared any trauma. The amazing folks at Service Master spent two and a half weeks cleaning every single surface of our house. Reconstruction began this weekend. Painting, every surface of the house requires repainting, began today.

It was decided that in order to properly share the jarring story, I would invite guest bloggers to tell the tale from their perspective, in order of who rose first at 9ish am on Sunday April 3rd.

 We had two friends over, since we were planning on making our final batch of syrup that day. Abby and FWB were both here and will share their stories, along with mine and SPs. I am so happy that Beth was away in VT because if she was here someone would have been asleep in the basement and that person might likely have been overcome by smoke in their sleep.

Our lives are forever altered by this overwhelming experience. Someone was certainly looking out for us. We are so very lucky. I have the first one ready to go.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Butter from Houlton Farms Creamery

I have been sitting on these pictures for far too long. Puckstopper is now a senior who will graduate from MSSM in less than two months so my visits to the North County will end. One of the many amazing finds I have made since he started school in Limestone is this amazing butter.

Meet Holton Farms Creamery's most amazing butter. 

We also refer to it as Butter cheese because of its amazing color.
We usually buy Cabot butter, and fill our butter bell with it.

Cabot is GOOD butter, but can you see that color difference!!??

I highly recommend buying some of it. I am not sure if it can be mail ordered or not, but it is worth it.

Spiffy new paint job

It's amazing what a little paint can do!

Monday, March 28, 2016

2.5 Gallons of rich dark Syrup!

It went from this....


Saturday, March 26, 2016

When Boiling feels like a well oiled machine

There has been so much progress in the last month.

It's hard to type this post retroactively, knowing that there's a major life changing event that has happened since. I almost have little to say about these photos since it seems so minor in comparison.

The vivid green emerging from the recovering moss.
There was a lot of beauty and color in the places I looked.

Look at all those hues of red!
I think the most amazing event of this boiling weekend was the rebirth of Junior our tractor. That is all thanks to Uncle Gerome, who fixed the Magneto and brought the spark back to Junior.

SP was very happy to be skidding logs again. All is well in this world.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


He thought they were chaps so I got excited but it turned out to be a man apron or a maple apron but we will call is a m'apron. It's still hot!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The darkest syrup ever!

Another beautiful Syrup Sunday happened at our happy Homestead.
It was nice seeing SP get to relax this time, instead of all the cutting and chopping he did days earlier.

There's that m'apron again, mmm hmm!
Getting the sap out of the pan was the only struggle and a little creative siphoning fixed that easily.

Getting it tipped up was a little bit tricky but it worked smoothly.

What was left behind was the most beautiful sediment Delta in the bottom of the pan.

It was really much more beautiful than either of these pictures capture.
It turned out to the be the darkest, yummiest syrup yet with a fantastic viscosity to boot.

We got over 2.5 gallons of the heavenly stuff too!



Saturday, March 19, 2016

The day the Bellows Died! (Sung to the tune of Ms. American Pie)

Today was the day we could finally use our fancy new evaporation pan.

Isn't she a beauty?

It really makes the unpainted boiler look horrible! We need to do something about that!
The new pan makes the most gorgeous sap!

A man uses various tools, including a piece of beveled edging.  I'm a fan of the m'apron of course. The foam sifter is pretty neat too.

 I didn't realize how nasty it actually looked in there.

Today was such a lovely day. Scout had a lovely day bathing in the sun. And wood chips.

Today was the day the Bellows died. Adios shop vac - you've been good to us.
 Luckily I am not a girly girl and really don't care about my cheap hair dryer because it has been re-purposed.

We played with some really cool sap shadows... I swear some smart Alec is putting up their middle finger.

Oggled the m'apron at work....

went for a chilly convertible ride....

and played with some chickens. Hey Slip!

Yes, Slip got her name from her slipped wing.
It was a long day, as there was over 120 gallons of sap to go through so we were out there well after dark.

I like the subtle shadow of Stephen as he leans in to smell the nearly "ready for the finisher" syrup boil.
It is such a wonderful smell.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Shame on you Hannaford

For taking the fun out of a childhood tradition!

Some things do not need to be simplified and done for us!

Barrel Stove Kit

For those wondering, they sell barrell stove kits at the hardware store.