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Maple and Mush

March 25th, 2014

Last monday I finished my first batch of maple syrup and yesterday I finished my second. Both were two cups shy of a gallon, so I’m well on my way to getting a decent harvest this year. My goal is always five gallons of syrup, but I’ve only been able to get that much one year. Usually I end up with about three gallons, this year looks to be the same with the less than stellar weather.
homemade maple syrup
Usually I make pancakes when I finish the first batch of syrup, this year I decided to make my favorite – fried mush.
fried mush 1
I had some local corn meal in the freezer, so I whipped up a batch. Every time I make it I’m amazed at how much one cup of corn meal grows into! This is frugal eating at it’s finest – especially with free homemade maple syrup.
fried mush 2
People often ask me the success to cooking mush without having it stick to the pan – patience. Put a little coconut oil, lard or ghee in a cast iron skillet and then add your mush. Don’t even think about peeking until you start to notice it getting brown around the edges. You’ll know it’s ready to turn when it will move on it’s own in the pan. If you try to turn it too early it will stick and all the crunchy goodness will stick to the pan.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy maple syrup?

Maple Goodness

March 24th, 2014

Yesterday, my neighbor BJ and her twins and I all loaded up in her car and headed out for Maine Maple Sundays. We visited three sugar houses, the first one was our favorite. It was Simmons & Daughters Sugar House, awesome, usually it’s so-and-so and sons – but he had four daughters.
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We weren’t as impressed with the other two places we visited, one was maple syrup on an industrial scale and the other one was just not as quaint and friendly as this one. Of course I didn’t buy any maple syrup as I’m making my own right now. After finishing up this current batch of sap I should have about a gallon and a half. I probably won’t get the 5 gallons I was hoping for, but I may get lucky and get 3 gallons. That will provide me with all the sweetener I need this year.

What’s your favorite natural sweetener?

Celebrating Sweetness

March 26th, 2013

It’s no secret that Mr Chiots and I LOVE maple syrup. Typically we make our own, sugaring is one of our favorite activities. This year it wasn’t in the cards, with the move, travel and lots of work, we just didn’t have the time. Not to worry though, we got our fix of sugaring this past Sunday on Maine Maple Sunday.
Maine Maple Sunday 15
We visited two different sugar houses with our neighbors. One that usually makes around 80 gallons of syrup and one that makes around 600.   The difference in the two operations was amazing. Here is what maple sugaring is all about in Maine.
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Around here, maple syrup is our main sweetener. I use it in just about everything from pumpkin pie to hot cocoa.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy maple syrup?

Quote of the Day: Joe Eck & Wayne Winterrowd

February 19th, 2012

Part of the satisfaction of sugaring is of course the flavor of the maple syrup, which has no substitute and which cannot be convincingly reproduced synthetically (“imitation maple syrup” is an oxymoron). But another part is its connection to the past, it forms a continuous link back to the first settlers, and to the Native Americans before them from whom they learned the art.

Joe Eck & Wayne Winterrowd in Living Seasonally: The Kitchen Garden and the Table at North Hill

It’s been a busy week of sugaring. In fact, after spending the last 2 days gathering sap, straining it and boiling it down I was ready to settle in with a cup of tea and good book to relax until I realized I hadn’t written this blog post. Luckily, Friday night I spent some time outside documenting why we love sugaring so much. There’s definitely a calendar image in the lot for next year!




Sugaring really is about so much more than making your own syrup. When you buy a bottle of syrup at the store you miss out the entire process, the hope you feel when you tap the trees, the joy of the first drip of sap, the healthy movement from collecting gallons and gallons of sap and walking many miles, the relaxation provided by tending the fire, and the wonder that comes when you taste your first sweet reward.


One of the things we love most about sugaring is that it gets us out of the house during that time of year when we might not otherwise. It’s wonderful to bundle up and be outside during that magic hour when the sun sets. Sugaring is probably one of my favorite activities of the entire year, each year I eagerly anticipate it’s arrival and am very sad when it’s gone. Perhaps it comes at just the right time.

What activities are you especially appreciative of at this time?

If you want to read up on maple sugaring I’d highly recommend these books:

The Cycle Begins Again

February 8th, 2012

The weather seemed perfect on Sunday afternoon, so we decided it was time to tap our maple trees. Out came all the supplies, the spiles and jars were scrubbed, the extension cords were brought out and the first tree was tapped.


As soon as the hole was drilled sap was running down the side of the tree before we could even get the spile in. Thirty taps later and we were done. That evening we collected five and a half gallons of sap and so the cycle of collecting and boiling has begun again.

Last year was a long sugaring season and we got 5 gallons of finished syrup. This year we tapped more trees because we think the season will be short, which is the usual here in our area of Ohio. In total we have 30 taps going and are hoping to get a few gallons of syrup once again.

The little black garage cat (aka “The Sweets”) loves it when sugaring season rolls around. Just like her mama used to do, she followed us around the woods as we tapped trees and she runs ahead of Mr Chiots on the paths when he collects the sap. No doubt she’s enjoying some human companionship after a long lonely winter in the garage.

Our maple syrup is precious and since we use it as almost our only form of sweetener, we use it sparingly throughout the year. We’re always happy to reach the next cycle with a few jars of syrup left in the pantry. When I checked last week we still had almost 2 gallons left.

What’s your favorite way to use maple syrup?

If you want to read up on maple sugaring I’d highly recommend these books:

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About

This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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