Little Happenings Hereabouts

Dateline: 12 April 2006

The maple syrup season is over for another year here in central New York. The sap was getting cloudy and last weekend’s boil was very dark. We ended up with only 4-1/2 gallons of syrup this year. We’ve had much more productive years with our little backyard setup.

My two youngest sons worked to disassemble and put away the sugar shack last week. Today I pulled the taps, cleaned & dried the sap buckets, and put them away for next season.


I planted some peas and spinach last weekend. it was chilly but the ground worked up nice. The best part of planting was the bluebirds. I heard a ruckus, looked up, and there were four bluebirds not ten feet away from me. They seemed to be quarreling.

The boys and I made Peterson bluebird houses a few years ago. I have four of them on poles around my garden. We usually get at least one bluebird family in them. Swallows will fill the others. Both birds are fun to have around and good insect eaters.


Last year we grew a small bed of popcorn. For some reason it did not yield well. We harvested about 10 small ears. They were supposed to be small, I think. They have red kernels. I tied the ears together and hung them outside, under cover. They were there all winter. Day before yesterday I took them down and worked the kernels off the cobs. I ended up with a quart canning jar full.

Later that night, Marlene tried popping them. Wow, the kernels popped fast. They were smaller than the storebought popcorn and they were “denser” but the popcorn was much more flavorful. I think I’ll grow popcorn again now that I know it works.


My 15-year-old, Robert, will probably be doing even more farm work this summer. With that in mind, we are having him take a farm safety course through the extension service. It starts tomorrow night and runs for one night a week for the next several weeks. It’s for kids under 16, but I’ll sit in on it and learn something too!


Marlene is making soap, soap, and more soap. She bought a 50 pound bag of lye. Only serious soap makers buy 50 pound bags of lye! She is gearing up for the farm market sales. I do not make soap but I slice it. First, I cut it out of the “brick” molds. Then I hand slice each individual bar off the brick. Last year I used a small band saw to cut the bars. A band saw works very well for the job but it does make a mess of the inside of the tool. The saw is something I bought the kids to use for their little projects. They were not happy with all the soap residue and said I ruined their saw. I did NOT ruin it, but I did make a mess of it. So I decided to go back to hand slicing with a large drywall knife. I know how discouraging it is when someone messes with your tools.


The lady from the Grange called a couple days ago to tell us that they have accepted our purchase offer for the old Grange Hall out on Jugg Street. My tax preparer called me last night to let me know he was done with my taxes and I told him we were buying the Grange Hall and he told me he knew about it already. My mother in law also knew about it before we told her. I think everyone in town knows. And I'll bet most of them knew before we did! I guess 12 remaining Grange members is more than enough to get the word around in this small town. I’ll have more to say about the Grange hall and hope to post a few pictures of the place here soon.


I have made mention here in the past few months of an agrarian project that I’ve been working on. It looks like it will come to fruition early next week. I will have much more to say about it then.

Stay tuned....


The Bradshaws said...


That's great about the Grange hall; sounds like things are really happening with you all.

Mary Susan

Christine said...

Where did you find the popcorn seed? That sounds like a great project!

I wish I was closer so I could stop by and watch Marlene make soap. I've tried a couple of batches unassisted, and they were hopeless! I haven't seemed to have time to make another batch- I know practice makes perfect- as KSMilkmaid has shown us!

Congratulations on the Grange Hall- that is exciting!

Leslie said...

Congrats on the Grange Hall!

What a newsy and informative post. Popcorn, soap making, proper care of borrowed tools... really liked it.

Emily said...

You're getting the Grange Hall! How exciting for you. I can tell your level of busy-ness will be on the increase but what a blessing to have a place to expand.

Four and a half gallons of syrup sounds like a lot to me! Are you going to sell any of it or is it all for personal use? Being a native New Englander I have a special fondness for it, and that maple sugar candy...mmm mmm.

So am I to understand that putting peas and spinach directly in ground when there are likely several more frosts to come advisable? It must be or you wouldn't have wasted your time! We're still waiting to get our garden area tilled up but that doesn't stop my daughter from trying to stick seeds in every bare patch of dirt she sees. She has her own set of tools and she means business. :)

Scott Holtzman said...

Perhaps I might be able to get a 'grand' tour when your done with the closing?

After a long winter and being house bound, I'm itching for road trip....

Congrats on the Hall. Keep 'er in working repair!


Scott M Terry said...


Seems like we do the same things at the same time, brother. We have some peas and spinich in as well. We ended up with about 5 gallons, far cry the 25 I was hoping for. You should throw a old Grange Hall Dance for the North East Agrarians, kind of like F. Sander's big hoedown at the Top of the World Farm.

Tom Scepaniak said...

Hmmm, a Grange Hall Dance for North East Agrarians, maybe us Midwesterners should whip something up in our neck of the woods :)


Herrick Kimball said...

Homestead herbs: I think I got the popcorn seed from Johnny's Seeds.

Emily: 4-1/2 gallons will hopefully get us through this year. We tend to use a lot if we have it. I don't sell it but I think it would be wonderful to have a real sugar bush and make lots of syrup so I could sell it.

Spinach & peas can usually take the cold. In fact, they preferr it. It's great that your daughter is a willing gardener. Most kids are and I think we parents need to "cultivate" that natural interest.

Scott Holtzman: The grange is not really all that grand but you are welcome to visit. We will probably not close on the building for a couple of months yet.

Scott Terry: Yes we sure do have a lot in common. Sorry your Maple syrup plans did not pan out like you hoped. 25 gallons is a LOT of syrup.

Your suggestion for a Northeast agrarian get together is something that has me thinking. The Grange hall and grounds would hold quite a few folks and the building's kitchen/bathroom facilities would make things easier. Perhaps we CAN do something on a very small, informal scale later this summer. Even if only your family and Scott Holtzman showed up it would be nice to visit for awhile. I haven't the time or inclination to do something on Franklin Sanders' scale but if we kept it simple, it could be a nice time. I'll think on it and we'll see what develops.

Northern Farmer: Hey, I remember you! It's great to have you back in the agrarian blogsphere! Yes, you midwest agrarians should get together.