It was a nice, sunny day. A perfect farmer's market day. Until the sky turned black and the downpours stared. Then it was mass panic and chaos as us vendors tried to quickly pack up our products before they were ruined and take down tables and tents, knowing full well that getting soaked was inevitable. My 45 minute drive home seemed to take forever, but I was glad it was cool enough outside that I could leave all the product in the car until the next morning. Luckily, it had stopped raining overnight, and the next morning was sunny and beautiful. I went out to the car to start unloading the maple products. I started to head back to the house when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned slowly and saw a deer standing about 10 feet or so in front of my car. How cute, I thought as I gently put down the box of candy and slowly pulled out my phone to snap a picture. The deer, with its head up high looking straight at me, snorted. I backed up a few feet and picked up my box of maple candy. The deer continued to eat, so I started back to the house. Then the deer snorted again. I turned quickly and saw the deer coming towards me. I traded the box of candy for two half gallons, one in each hand (for self defense in case the deer decided to charge - a half gallon could hurt, right?), and ran like a girl back to the house. I slammed the door shut and ran to the window, peering out between the curtains, watching the deer's every move. The deer circled my car a few times before heading down the driveway towards the road. I went back to the door and opened it ever so slightly, making sure the killer deer was nowhere in sight. I ran as fast as I could to my car, grabbed a box of maple candy, and sprinted back to the house. Then I ran to the window, on the lookout for that monstrous deer. Coast was clear so the process started over again: opening the door just a crack to scan the yard for the vicious wild animal, dashing to the car to grab the next box of maple products, and rushing back to the house before the ferocious deer returned. It should have taken about 30 minutes to unload my car, but that day it took me two hours. Two hours of panicking, worried for my life if that vile deer returned. I was glad my husband was working and not home to watch the spectacle. He would have teased me for being scared over a silly little deer. But, thanks to that deer, I am a lot more cautious before just running out to my car and am aware of the animals that could be around. And now that we have a dog, our yard, at least, seems to have a lot less wild life in it. Too bad we didn't get her a few months earlier!
I am one for shortcuts - anything that will save time and make things easier. I do usually "cheat" and purchase lemon infused olive oil from Your Kitchen Store (http://www.yourkitchenstore.com/) since I do not often use lemon juice for anything else and squeezing lemons is a step I would like to avoid. Luckily, I do know a few places where I can get my hands on some award winning pure maple cream (http://woodardssugarhouse.com/).
Still not convinced this is quick enough to make with your busy schedule? That's ok too. We do sell the vinaigrette already made at our local farmers' markets! Find us at Fresh Chicks Local Outdoor Market in Peterborough, NH; The Farmers' Market of Keene in Keene, NH; Peterborough Farmer's Market in Peterborough, NH; and Hinsdale Farmer's Market in Hinsdale, NH.
I would like to apologize for not keeping up with this blog. It was a busy sugaring season, and while it would have been optimal to write about it as it was happening, there was just never enough time. With classes, the kiddo and family, and the long days and nights of boiling all keeping me busy, any "spare" time was spent sleeping. Now that I am somewhat caught up on sleep (and everything else) I suppose I should recall the highlights of our season.
I have had a lot of "firsts" in our sugar house. My first "date" with my husband, my first time bottling syrup, and, this season, my first time boiling without the hubby home. I never thought the day would come. I had set up, run the evaporator, and shut down everything in the sugar house successfully many times without incident. I have never burned pans, boiled over, or run out of sap. The hubby is just really particular about how things are done and nervous about letting go of the reigns. The slow start to the season didn't help. Most of the sap we gathered had to be saved to boil on the weekends when we had our open sugar house, as the temperatures would drop and the sap wouldn't run when we had visitors. In April that all changed. We had added 150 or so taps on our vacuum line for this season and once mother nature finally started cooperating, we were inundated with sap. Unable to keep up just boiling at night after the hubby was home from work, he finally gave in and let me boil during the day. The first day was nerve wracking and liberating at the same time. I was confident, yet worried, knowing how nervous my husband was. He would text me every ten minutes or so to see how things were going. Every siren he heard throughout the day put him in a panic and he would call to make sure the sugar house wasn't burning down. I had it under control. We run a pretty efficient operation and have many fail-safes in case something should go wrong. Luckily, I never had to hit the emergency shut off switch. Boiling is my favorite part of sugaring, so I was pretty excited to run the show all by myself. There's something about the steam, the sweet smell, and the transformation from sap to syrup that makes boiling so fascinating. There was no way I would screw up my chances of being able to do something I love so much. I followed all of the hubby's rules to a t. My husband became more and more comfortable with me boiling during the day as the season went on. Which was great, because there would have been no way we would have kept up with the amount of sap we had otherwise.
NH started adopting the new syrup grade changes this year. Everything will now be considered grade A (no more grade B). This new system will be used throughout the maple industry, including Canada, Vermont, New York, and others. This season we produced a lot of light grade (or golden delicate) syrup, which is good for us since we use the light to make our yummy maple candy and maple cream with. Luckily, we also made some medium (amber rich), dark (dark robust), and b (very dark strong) for all of our customers to enjoy! Confused by the new grading system or not sure which grade you would like? Just ask! We are always happy to help others enjoy our pure maple syrup and maple products!
This time of year we tend to check the weather a little obsessively. Yes, we like to know what to expect for the next couple days, whether a storm is coming, what we will have to deal with. With the cold weather and many of us with cabin fever, we are hoping for sun and soaring temps. I could now care less about the amounts of snow we will get, unless it's a few feet and I have to go out and clear off the mainline. My main reason as of late to check the forecast constantly, even a month out, is because I am ready for sugaring. When I say I am ready it just means I want to boil. I've got the itch. It has come to be one of my most favorite things to do, and there is only a short time frame in which I can. And, I want to use my new drill I got for Christmas. We still have a lot to do before we are "ready." We are in the process of getting a dry line put up, we have a few taps on the new 3/16" tubing to get out, and possibly adding more taps in another section of woods. We are by no means "ready" to tap and boil. I just want to. Last year I would have been more worried about the weather for work reasons. What would the conditions be for delivering the mail? I still worry about that for my husband's sake, but I am more concerned about when the temps are going to raise enough, consistently, so we can start making syrup. I'm ready for some sun and 40 degree temps. It's hard being in an industry that is dependent upon the weather. So, Mother Nature, what do you say? Please don't let us have to wait too much longer!
I suppose I should state how this whole maple thing started....
I first laid eyes on my (now) husband through the window I had in the office where I worked. The window was great, and was probably the reason (other than my friends) why I lasted so long in the job. When the sun hit just right, people couldn't see in and would use the window as a mirror - adjusting their clothes and hair, applying makeup, picking their nose - you name it, we saw it. People would walk by all day long, posing a distraction at first, but you learned to block it out until something really grabs your attention from the corner of your eye. The mailman was one of those distractions. Cute, kind eyes, and a nice smile - it was lust at first sight (cuz can it really be love if you don't even know them yet?). To make a long story shorter, it took a few months of smiling and waving to each other through the window to finally give me the courage I needed to go outside and talk to him. I saved my mail to bring out with me (I needed an excuse) and had planned out exactly how I would introduce myself and what I would say. That day seemed to go ever so slowly. The time finally came and the cute mailman came to the collection box that was located conveniently outside our office windows. I ran outside so as not to miss him (I needed my bills to be mailed out). I handed him my mail and then the worst thing happened - he spoke first.
"Hi, I'm Mark. What's your name?" I froze. My plan unraveling as I looked down to my name tag. "Umm, Kati." We exchanged a few more words and then he handed me his card for his maple business. I scored his number, so I hadn't completely blown it. I debated calling that night, but you are supposed to wait, right? The next three days were complete agony and, at the time, were the longest three days of my life. And then I finally called. We ended up having a few conversations and I became the luckiest girl in the world. Our first "date" was in the sugar house. It was cold and fun. I would bring coffee and in turn get to sample the delicious syrup, candy, and - my favorite - maple cream. Sugaring became a passion we shared. I loved it from the start. That first season we bought sap. Mark and his dad had built the sugar house in 2005, but he had yet to tap the trees in the area. That next summer right up to sugaring was spent in the woods putting up wire, main line, and tubing. Getting all aspects of sugaring, not just the fun of boiling and consuming, made me love and appreciate it so much more. After a few career changes, I am now producing and promoting our premium maple products full time at farmers markets and other events in the area. I truly love my "job." It's so rewarding to be able to do something you love and are passionate about. I have been thinking back to our "how we met" recently. I am appreciative for the arduous journey of life that got me to this point - and so grateful for that office window.
Lower debt/Save money. It seems that the new year is always when the budget is tight. We always try to not go overboard on Christmas gifts and such, but we always end up spending more than planned. We resolve to pay off our debt and put more into our savings this year. Finding ways to cut back is not that easy. We just have to think about our purchases and gear them towards necessity versus desire. We resolve to save more money and reduce frivolous purchases.
Drink more water. I guess this could really fall into the eat healthier/get in shape category, but we really want to make a point to drink more water. When I first got back into working out regularly I realized I was not getting enough water. I would tally each day until I drank my eight glasses. I have been off the wagon for a bit, and I find myself dehydrated often. It is hard this time of year to get adequate water intake. The colder weather makes us crave the warm drinks - tea, coffee, cocoa. I resolve to start my day off with a bottle of water and increase my intake.
Support local farmers. Since being in the farmers market circuit, it has made me so much more aware of what we eat. During the summer months I was vending at six markets a week, which was great as I could bring home fresh fruits, veggies, and meats daily. I love knowing where my food comes from and what is (or isn't) in it. Personally knowing the producers (and fellow vendors) is great. The winter months proves a little more difficult as we only have two markets that go year round and some of the produce is not available or is in short supply. We resolve to support our local farmers and farmers markets.
Hard maple candy. We have had so many requests for hard maple candy. My husband has perfected his technique and taught me how to make pure maple candy that is so soft and creamy in the middle. But hard candy is something we have yet to really venture into. We tried once with not much luck. The lollipops we had molded melted. My goal for the year is to figure out how to make hard maple candy.
Get caught up on paperwork. I'll admit it, I'm a procrastinator. I have a stack of paperwork right next to me that I should be entering, but instead I am writing this post. Maybe because it seems so daunting. And tedious. But they are not going to enter themselves into quickbooks nor file themselves afterwards. I resolve to get caught up on paperwork and stay on top of it this year.
Stay focused on school. This should probably be "not procrastinate." But why ruin something I have perfected? So instead I will resolve to focus on my classes this semester and not wait until the due date to start my homework.
Spend more time with my kiddo and husband. We often find ourselves too busy to pay attention to the things that are important to us in life. Juggling work, school, schedules, and running a business is not an easy thing to do. Those who are important to us often get lost in the shuffle of life as we are running late to the next place we have to be. I resolve to try my hardest not to get caught up in the hectic schedules and make a point to spend time my family.
We hope everyone has a fantastic new year! We wish us all luck on completing and sticking with our resolutions for 2015!