Saturday, May 24, 2008

Crop # 4 Rosy Rhubarb

Spring is here in all its glory and our gardens are being planted. Five nice rhubarb plants are spewing forth stems of nutritious tartness. I don't know if rhubarb can grow in all climates but it surely does flourish up here and one plant could give a family quite a good and cheap source of vitamin C and iron. Maybe there should be a campaign to make rhubarb a daily part of all Americans' lives. All we'd have to do is claim that it removes fat and wrinkles and it would become a hit.

Remember the flowers that spent the winter in our spa room. Well, the picture shows that they thrived and here they are on our deck waiting to be planted around the yard and the meandering path. Bing made the nice cart for the flowers many many years ago.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Crop #3, Asparagus

We had our first asparagus spears today and we loved it. I was curious to see if asparagus or rhubarb came next in our food gathering and the yummy green asparagus beat the pieplant. Most of the years as the kids grew up, they and Bing didn't like asparagus and I got to eat all of it . Now everyone likes it and I have to share. ASparagus is packed with folate and vitamin B and it's a diuretic. If you eat too much at once, you may pea green. The tulips, daffodils and tulips are blooming now and the trilliums are just opening. A pretty spring world!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Chives the Strongheart

I think I'll try to show you folks each crop as it comes along up here at Lakeside Gardens. After the Maple syrup harvesting, the sturdy little chives appeared. Chives are an edible perennial and they are usually snipped with a scissors and sprinkled on salads, pastas, potatoes or maybe wherever you might want to sprinkle them. They taste like the green part of green onions and since they're dark green in color, they're probably good for you. It seems like the more colorful the food item, the better it is for you. I called them "Chives the Strongheart" because they never fail to pop right up even in the nastiest of Springs and they live through the freezing nights that often appear in our Mays.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

I've been a mother for thirty seven and 11/12ths years now and that gives me the credentials to comment on Mother's Day and what I have learned about mothering. Here's what I know. There is no one way to be a good mother. Each of us is an individual with our own set of personality traits, talents and flaws. We carry with us the parenting styles of our parents and grandparents and we read and learn as we grow. Society and schools and churches help us with our parenting and we watch how other families interact. But, if we begin with a personality and character well formed enough to think of our children's needs as well as our own, deep in our hearts there is an indistinguishable light that burns, a desire to help our children become loving, caring humans who are able to wend their way through their own stories complete with all the joys and sorrows that life presents. My three sons are wonderful young men now. No brag, just fact. It lets me say to myself - Good job, Eileen. You and Bing did the best you could and it seems to have been enough to send our precious gifts from God out into the world. And the world is a better place because of them. Happy Mother's Day to all mothers. May our loving Blessed Mother Mary watch over you as you heart bursts with love for the little ones entrusted to you.

Monday, May 5, 2008

A sweet sappy story

Wow, I had quite a brain freeze there - no blogging since St. Patty's Day! But here we go again.

This is an entry about one of the hobbies that Bing and I picked up in spring of 1972. At the time we lived in a rented house in the city of Rhinelander. Bing and I were thirty years old and Bernie was nearing 2 and Danny was a wee infant. There was a social worker colleague of Bing's who lived on some acreage in Tomahawk and every spring he would tap the Maple trees on his land and make Maple syrup. Bing was instantly fascinated with the idea of receiving such a marvelous product free from nature. He quizzed Kenny about the process and I went to the library to research the canning end of it. Another colleague offered us the use of some of her Maple trees a few miles out of town. And so began the sweet journey of catching the earliest crop of spring which continues to this day. Our efficient procedure now is quite a far cry from that first year when we clumsily boiled our sap in the rented kitchen. And, I do mean boiled and boiled and boiled, because that's what you have to do to get the priceless amber syrup. It takes 25 to 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup and imagine that little kitchen of ours humid and slippery from the evaporating liquid. The pot was boiling under the cupboards and the dirt and varnish of all the yesteryears of that little house was dripping right into our product but in the end it still tasted supreme and we were smitten with nature's bounty. We moved out to our present home that July and were happy to find that there were some Maple trees that would be good sap producers on our property. A Maple tree has to be about fifty years old to be tapped so it was particularly nice to find a few good ones. For a few years we just did about a dozen taps and made a few quarts of syrup . Then Bing, who had noticed acres of Maple trees in the neighboring Bible Camp, asked if we could tap some of their trees. Wahoo, we got the Ok and that continues to this day. Now, in retirement, Bing knows just the right time to get the taps out there and he uses a portable power driver to make the holes. He put in 65 taps this year and we made eight gallons of syrup. It was a tough year for gathering the sap because the snow was a couple of feet deep and the five gallon buckets weigh about forty pounds. The plastic bags hang from the taps on the trees. He uses our trusty four wheeler and ice fishing sled to travel through the woods and what a great help that is. He stores the sap in the garage in clean thirty gallon garbage cans until he gets about 100 gallons of sap. Then comes the full day of firing up the outside hearth that he made and boiling the sap for about twelve hours. Throughout the day he stokes the fire and adds more and more sap. The sap tells you when it is the right consistency and it is a crucial time in the process. He takes the big rectangular custom made pan off the hearth and pours the liquid into the pot from the turkey deep fryer that Bernie and Shelly gave us a few years ago and finishes off the boiling and clarifying in that over a propane flame. Then he brings it in and we keep it hot and filter it through flannel and can it. We label it and hand it out throughout the year to family and visitors and for door prizes. Once in a while we've sold a gallon or two but we don't make it for that. Recently I read that the USA is the only country with Sugar Maple trees so it seems like an especially sweet gift from God here in the northwoods of Wisconsin.