Directing Our Energy

What if, instead of going to war in Iraq, instead of continuing on in Afganistan, we had spent those billions of dollars, hundreds of days, and thousands of young soldiers' arms to erect wind towers and solar fields? What if instead of securing the angst of an entire region and a dying energy source, we had secured our nation as an energy-independent superpower?

How much safer do you think we would be today?

How much more secure, as a nation, do you think we would be?

What if we started tomorrow?

When we change direction, we shift our entire perspective.


Maple Beer, Acer Ale. Sweet Times!

With gallons of maple sap dripping into our buckets every day, there is a lot to do! Maple Syrup is easy -- just boil, boil, add more sap, boil, add more, boil, add more, boil, and pour into sterilized jars. It takes me about 2 gallons of sap to make 1 pint of syrup from my trees. Yum!

I like syrup, but I also like beer and wine, and they require a LOT less boiling to make!

Here are the recipes I used this year. I haven't made these before, though I have made similar ones.

Acer Ale -- A Quick Old New England Recipe

* 3 gallons of Maple Sap, boiled down to 1.5 gallons.
* Champagne Yeast

Cool boiled sap to 70 degrees, pour into sanitized fermenter, pitch in yeast. Ferment until it is finished, prime bottles (preferably with maple sugar or syrup) and cap. Ready to drink in two weeks.

Maple Beer -- Adapted from an old Zymurgy article
* 7 gallons fresh Sap
* 4 pounds light malt extract
* 2 oz. hops
* beer yeast

Choose ingredients that are lighter in flavor to let the maple come through better.
Boil Sap for 40 minutes to kill any beasties in it and set aside. Boil one gallon 45 minutes with hops and malt extract in it. Strain and add to fermenter. Fill fermenter to 5 gallons with remaining sap. Cover and let cool to 70F, pitch in yeast, cover again, ferment until completion. Prime sanitized bottles w/ maple syrup or maple sugar and cap. Ready to drink in two-three weeks!


Smartipants Diapers -- A Review

With my son, I used cloth diapers for over three years. For the first year I used mostly prefolds and covers, with some cute fitted kissaluvs thrown in for fun. Then I discovered Bum Genius, a one-size pocket diaper that comes in cute colors and fits newborns up through 35 pounds. They were great, except the leg elastic had a tendancy to give out after 6-12 months, and the velcro fasteners can come undone in the laundry, resulting in lots of "pulls" on washclothes and other fabrics. I used them with my daughter for the first 5 weeks, too, but they were on their last legs. Enter SMARTIPANTS!

Smartipants are fantastic diapers. These diapers are constructed very similarly to BumGenius, but they use snaps which don't catch on fabrics. They fit my 11 pound daughter very nicely, and my 37 pound son, too. Their pockets, which hold the SUPER absorbant microfiber inserts, are open on both ends so that they agitate out of the diapers by themselves in the wash -- no more reaching for the insert through poo and muck to remove it. A nice bonus, indeed. They are also very trim, even trimmer than the BumGenius, and hold more pee with less leaks (how they manage this, I don't quite know, being so trim, but do it  -- they do!)

Granted, I've only been using them for 1 week so I can't say that the elastic will last forever, but the owner of the company is one of the foremost names in cloth diapering, having invented Wonderoos years ago, so I when she says they use the best elastic they could find, I believe her.

All in all, a great diaper for a price that is nice. They are several dollars less than similar one-size pocket diapers, as well as less than most fitted/cover combos. The company offers them in three packs for those looking to save money, but then you can't choose your colors. I bought mine through thanksmama.com, whom I've dealt with before and like quite a bit. They also offer them in three packs, but let you choose your colors, and right now they have a 5% off sale if you use the coupon code "mama."


Gentian Violet for thrush... and crafts?

Gentian Violet is an old remedy for fungal and yeast condition on the skin and within the orifices. It is not made from violets or from gentian, but does have the stunning, vivid purple color of a gentian flower. You can get it through most drugstores by order without a prescription for around $2.00. One tiny bottle will last a lifetime, as you only use a tiny bit. When babies have oral thrush and/or mama has sore, red nipples from thrush, a tiny bit painted on the nipples before feeding once per day, for three days, will almost always clear it up. Baby will have a punk-looking purple mouth for a few days, but the staining is not permament. I have used this remedy once with each of my babies for minor thrush at the beginning (both births had me on IV antibiotics throughout the delivery, creating the perfect environment for this condition in my body and my babies').

Gentian violet WILL stain any clothes it comes in contact with, and so it is generally recommended that you wear black and use old black t-shirts for burp clothes for a few hours after you use gv as a treatment... I got a tiny drop on my daughter's onesie, and it came out of the wash with a stunningly beautiful bright violet spot on it. Which of course gave me the idea: why not die the whole onesie with spots? And why not die a few more onesies and socks a plain purple? So I dotted the one onesie and let it dry, and then placed it in a bowl with some vinegar and water to set the stain (not that GV needs much help in that department!) Then I also made another small bowl with 1 tsp GV, 1 cup vinegar and 3 cups water, and soaked the other onesies and socks to get a nice solid purple color.

Here is a pic of the bowl of clothes before washing: the violet comes out a bit lighter, and more vivid, in the end. You can see the onesie with spots after it came out of the wash, still wet :)  If you get any on your counter or staining your sink, a tiny bit of bleach in water will take it right out.


Love Notes from the Universe

Little blessings abound. I like to call these "love notes from the universe." Finding a 5 dollar bill when picking up trash at the local park with my son (I'm all for being a crazy teenager when one is at that age, but really guys, do you have to throw your gatorade bottles, pints of vodka and condom wrappers out your car window into the parking lot? Yuck!) A donation from family so I can buy good new cloth diapers for the baby, now that her brother's 3 year-old ones are all worn out. And now, an unsolicited offer of a free 3-year old water heater to replace ours which just died.

The water has seemed just a little less hot the last month or so, but I didn't really think about it -- it was the coldest month of the year, after all! Then yesterday there was almost no hot water when I tried to shower (emphasis on tried. I didn't last long in the cold.) I assumed it was because I had just washed a load of diapers on hot, and forgot to adjust the load size down from "large". But today, sure enough, no hot water again. None at all. No breakers are tripped. The heater is on but not working. So when I stopped at my husband's work to report on my findings, a coworker overheard us talking about heater shopping tonight and asked if we wanted his. Apparently its a great brand that he received from a company for a special trial offer: use for three years, review it, and then get another BRAND new one installed free at the end of that time. So he did the trial, and has had this great hot water heater sitting in his garage unused for the last 9 years. It's twelve years old, but was only used for three. All we have to do is clean the fittings, and my husband can easily hook it up! It is 12 gallons more than ours and a little taller, but will fit perfectly. And since ours was TWENTY TWO years old, I am sure it will still cost less to run.

Oh, the joy :) This is such a blessing, since we really don't have $500 lying around right now for a new heater. In thanks, I went and picked up more trash from the same park parking lot -- that make 6 bags now! And there's still more...

How do you juice a tree?

Can you do it? Would you do it?

My son asked me these questions last week. And I said, of yes, yes you can! And oh yes, yes I would!

Yesterday my mother and I walked around her property talking to the old Maple trees and asking their permission to tap them for sweet, healthful sap. They all said yes, all except one. The most ancient tree on our property, the 2nd oldest sugar maple in the state according to a local tree expert, we did not tap out of respect (We call her the Mother Tree), but we did tap her daughter.

Tapping is fun!

This was my first experience with tapping, so I followed all the experts instructions. I bought a 7/16th" drill, and drilled holes at chest height (about 5 feet up), 1.5 inches deep. The whole time, it smelled like crepes, like caramelized sugar wafting from the street vendors in Paris, a fond childhood memory I have from visiting Dad there every year. Mmmmmm.

I positioned the holes under large branches and/or over large roots for optimal sap collection. Next year I will not use the same holes, but tap at least two inches the right or left of them (not above or below, that still uses the same "veins".) The sap began to flow right away. We've been having warm days and cold nights for a week now, which is the best weather for tapping. I had to wait until my taps arrived by mail, though!

I drove the spiles (taps) in by hand,  and hooked on clean gallon jugs to them. That's it! Now I just need to check them and collect the sap every day or two, and begin the boiling process on the wood stove to make syrup. It takes 30-40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup, and I doubt I'll make anywhere near that much. BUT I am planning on drinking the sap (it's naturally sterile, totally filtered, full of minerals and enzymes, and yummy yummy, even tho its just 2-3 % sugar). In Korea they drink the sap as a health ritual every year. And I also want to make Maple Beer and Maple Wine. Yum yum yum. I will include the recipes I have for those and my experience with them when we do that!

All in all we tapped 7 trees, even tho we had taps and 10 jugs, my mother and I aren't sure we can use that much sap! We both have wood stoves and plan on splitting the sap between us. She is very excited, and followed me around holding the jugs on a long rope, declaring how proud she was of her "homesteading, pioneering daughter." LOL. We'll see if said daughter can make some good, consumable items out of this sap before my inner jury decides :)