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Restistance is Futile


Dark as night at 6am. It takes some getting used to. And just as things feel acclimated, June is here and daylight will appear around 5am, almost too hot by 9am. As a gardener I struggle with deciding whether to work in the early morning, knowing I will be the featured item on every blood-thirsty black fly and mosquito’s breakfast menu, or, do I work under the heat of midday, when the biting insects have retreated to shade. Now in my 43rd year, I’ve yet to figure out the best arrangement.

I promised myself I wouldn’t garden here this year. I plan to spend as much time as possible up north, preparing the land and soil for gardens and perennial fruit plantings. Realistically, I can’t do both. But yesterday I was in the garden looking around and I’m just not sure how I can resist. I mean, it’s right there. The seeds are in hand. Seems the two just need to come together and the details will work themselves out.

We are in the thick of hearing back from the colleges Emily has applied to and trying to make careful decisions about how she’ll spend the next four years of her life. It’s a lot. Ultimately, it’s her call, but of course there are several family considerations that come into play. How far away is the school? How competitive is their scholarship offer? Does she want the big university or the small liberal arts college? We are hardly the first family to find ourselves here, but certainly this is the first time for us. As with many things this year, we’re filing this under the “transition” chapter in our family story, and of course, we’re hoping to make wise and thoughtful choices throughout the process. It’s a very surreal feeling to place this process in someone else’s hands, a complete stranger no less. Homeschoolers are accustomed to making decisions about learning for themselves; applying to college requires a level of letting go that I’m not entirely comfortable with. But, the only option really is exactly that - trust and release.

Around the new year I shared that I see some changes to my work coming up. While I don’t know exactly what that means just yet, I have some solid ideas for new projects. Not so much for 2016, but looking ahead. These things take time. In a few days I’ll be opening registration for Whole Food Kitchen; the timing is right as many of us are feeling the seasonal shift and are ready for some inspiration in the kitchen. This is a beautiful workshop that has transformed many people’s relationship with, and definition of, eating well. It is a workshop about permission and freedom and acceptance. No dogma here. Come as you are. Be who you are. Whole Food Kitchen is a substantial workshop; if you’ve been meaning to take this class but never had the chance, this spring will be the time to do it as I will be retiring it after this session. While the bulk of the class is solid and perennial, I will be creating all new cooking class videos for this session (it’s sort of my quasi-live element to the program). Aside from making a few videos in advance to kick off our time together, my preference is to make most of the cooking videos throughout the session. This allows me to answer questions that come up in class, and generally steer the instruction in the direction our current class is leaning. Plus, it’s just more fun this way. Gives everything a more vibrant pulse.

Just a few things that are on my mind this morning. I better run now, the rain is winding down and I’ve got a few handfuls of peas to get in the ground. Resistance is futile.

Sugaring Season

Before I jump into today's post, I wanted to say thank you for such connection and understanding on my last post. Really generous thoughts were shared by many of you and I'm grateful. xo



If you blinked, you might have missed sugaring season this year. Leading up to it, after the  ho-hum winter we’ve had, sugarmakers throughout the northeast and beyond just weren’t sure how good it would be. When we first tapped, the trees quickly gave up over  40 gallons of sap in under 24 hours. In theory, yielding that kind of sap (on most days) over  a 2-3 week period could produce quite a nice amount of syrup. But there wasn’t a "feeling in the air" for a bumper crop in the maple syrup world this year. And as suspected, sugaring season in our region didn’t pan out as one would hope. Although we did have a storybook sugar snow one afternoon, leaving behind a sticky white blanket that quieted our world as only snow can. Through the hush of fresh snow, the only sound to be heard was plink, plink, plink... sap falling into buckets. It was an idyllic moment, for sure.

Maple collage 1

Maple collage 2

Then the weather became temperamental (too cold during the day and windy); we had a full six days of barely flowing sap and collected only another forty gallons during that time. It was just too cold. We were nostalgic for the abundance of opening day. Fits and spurts - that was the theme for this year.

My uncle’s guru reputation precedes him in the maple world around here; when he speaks, we all listen. His information is always useful, prophetic at times, and steeped in decades of sugaring experience. He took this year off from tapping, but is still very much in the loop as far as sugaring community news. He shared with us that a friend of his reported producing two grades of syrup this year - dark, and driveway sealer. A degree of dark he had never seen before. In a more typical year, we can produce anywhere from two to even four “grades” (color) of maple syrup, depending on which point in the season the sap was harvested. (There is also some grade variation that comes into play if sap sits for a longer period of time before boiling, but generally the color has to do with timing in the season. Early season syrup tends to be the lightest, and it proceeds from there, getting darker as the weeks goes on.)

Maple collage 3

Maple collage 4
Our low tech filtering process in the bottom two left-hand photos. This is our screen porch. That pole stays up year round as we hang garlic from it in the summer, hunting clothes during November, and syrup filters in March. Who knew it could be so handy! Highly recommend the wool felt filter with liners. The combination produced our clearest syrup to date. 

Is this a whole lot of maple geekery to take in? Maybe next year I’ll create a video during sugaring season, sharing the entire process, all the way from tapping to filling the pantry shelves... now that should fully illustrate our obsession! Or, maybe it would be useful to someone. We’ll see.

The driveway sealer did not make it into this photo... think molasses.

In the end, we were mostly in line with other sugarmakers reporting “dark, and driveway sealer,” this year. We’ve never seen anything like it. We did produce a small batch of A grade (light) with our first boil, but no Fancy this year (lightest). After the batch of A grade, things darkened pretty quickly. All told, it was not a very productive season. Just as my uncle predicted. Of course. For now, our pantry is filled with about seven gallons of this liquid gold (and a small bit of driveway sealer), and we were able to set some aside for gift giving, as well. 

Since we started producing maple syrup it's become just about all we use for sweetener, save for some holiday and special occasion baking. I'm asked a lot how to substitute maple syrup in any recipe, I'll explain below how we do it.

Substitute Maple Syrup for Sugar in Baking

  1. I usually use about 3/4 cup syrup for every cup of sugar called for.
  2. Reduce liquid in recipe by 3 tbsp per cup of syrup. Adjust that number accordingly if you're using less than a full cup.
  3. Reduce oven temperature by 25ºF as maple syrup caramelizes at a lower temperature than sugar does.


Producing sweetener from the land, with no special crop planted or any real maintenance involved... it never gets old. In fact, it's one of the most fulfilling things we do around here. Cheers to another good season, and cheers to a fresh supply of syrup. And hey, if our driveway needs any maintenance we've got that covered, too.

Point of Return


Five days a week I leave the house to take Emily to classes. I’ve been doing this for a full year and I’m not sure why, but I can’t get used to it. I wonder what it would feel like to comfortably exist within the pace of this world. Hustle, bustle, get 'er done. I could really use that superpower most days. Shuffle, drive, cook, clean, work, grow, facilitate, make, study (coupled with lots of internal dialogue about what I am studying and why), rinse and repeat. Life used to be quieter, and it will be again someday, just not today. For what it’s worth, even though things feel at their limit these days, my level of "busy" pales in comparison with our societal norm. Which to be honest adds to my frustration because it’s just another reminder of my inability to “deal.” I recently read something that suggested certain people "need large swaths of down time in order to protect their health." This makes sense to me. Our homeopath shared a nugget of wisdom years ago when we were trying to figure something out health-wise; he told us that “some people simply need to exist in a low stimulus environment.” Like, that’s the whole kit and caboodle. The Rx du jour. The 411. I was floored by how simple yet paramount his suggestion was. A most effective treatment that is absent from any healthcare plan that I know of.  His words gave permission for what has become a vital remedy in our home. I've recently slipped away from the prescribed low stimulus environment because I'm human and I have to exist in this world as an adult. More specifically, an adult who is responsible for raising another human and has to get out and about to do so. But that work is mostly done so I am beginning to look forward to a new way of living and Dr. Shevin's message is in the forefront again. A low stimulus environment. My point of return.


Unrelated.... about six months ago I began giving up caffeine. I say began because it took time. Now, after a long yet painless process, I no longer consume caffeine on a daily or even monthly basis. The reason I gave it up has nothing to do with caffeine being good or bad, I just feel better without it. A lot better. If your body is cool with caffeine, then by all means keep throwing it back, I am not here to suggest otherwise. If however, you feel like I did, that it was time to shake the habit so your nervous system and adrenals could function properly, then you might be interested in how I kicked caffeine. I still love coffee. Even though I go through spurts during the year in which I have herbal tea in the morning, for the most part I'm a coffee with the sunrise kind of girl. So I wasn't interested in letting go of coffee, just caffeine.

First, don’t even think about going cold turkey. You’ll most likely be back on caffeine by the end of the week if you try that. Instead, give yourself time. I took a full month to be 95% caffeine free, then another few months to let go of that remaining 5% - and really that was only because I was using up the last of my precious and delicious Mind, Body, and Soul. Waste not, want not.


Here is what I did:

  • Week One - brew coffee with 3/4 regular, 1/4 decaf
  • Week Two - brew coffee with 1/2 regular, 1/2 decaf
  • Week Three - brew coffee with 1/4 regular, 3/4 decaf
  • Week Four - brew coffee with mostly decaf, and a pinch of regular
  • Week Five and beyond - straight up decaf, or, if you’re like me and have regular around still, keep doing week four until you run out of regular


And that’s about it.

Oh! If you’d like to skip the chemical solvents that are used to produce the majority of decaf coffee on the market, choose one that uses natural methods to decaffeinate beans. Equal Exchange is very upfront about their process, and local to us is a coffee roaster called Ben’s Beans; their decaf is free of chemical production.

Anyway, the caffeine removal process was simple enough, and I feel a lot better for it. Plus, its absence can only contribute to slowing down the pace of life. I hope.