Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Maple syrup among other things

Our biggest accomplishment of the week was.....drumroll please.....We made our own maple syrup!!!!!!! In late February my Uncle Teddy came up and tapped two of our maple trees for us. We have been collecting sap everyday since then and boiling it down to a concentrate (almost syrup) and storing it in the fridge. On Monday the sap stopped flowing so we decided it was time to boil all of the concentrate into syrup. I don't have any fancy equipment so its sort of a hodgepodge process but we managed to get about 30 oz of syrup or so, enough for a few servings of pancakes anyway. Its not perfect (it came out a little cloudy and is crystallizing a bit) but it sure did taste good when we had a whole grain pancake feast w/ our own syrup on Tuesday morning. Next year I may invest in a thermometer for boiling down the concentrate so I can get it just right. We also might try to tap another tree or two and make some more for sharing! Overall it was a fun and rewarding process!

The kids loved checking the taps everyday. We didn't have covered buckets so we used some juice bottles. They worked great and kept the bugs and debris out very well.
After all of the boiling (good thing we don't have wallpaper we would have steamed it off the walls) and lots of waiting we finally enjoyed the fruit of our labor, and it sure was yummy!

The weather is finally getting beautiful even way up here in the Berkshires!!!! We've had so much fun getting outside. It's our first spring in our new yard and we are having so much fun cleaning up and discovering new things and planning for the future. We put the kids swing set up today and they were so so so excited. The boys have a designated spot for digging that is hidden between our two sheds. We tried to have a sand box for the last few years at our old house but it was never as appealing as real dirt. This year I gave up and decided to forget the sandbox and just give them a place to dig holes that no one would trip in. We've finished cleaning up most of the backyard and I will probably clean out the gardens in the front tomorrow. I am so excited to see what emerges in my new gardens! I have a lot of plants from Monson that I put in a holding bed at my moms so I have to figure out where to put everything! The kids are excited to help too. They love helping with yard work and gardening and its wonderful this year that everyone is old enough to actually be helpful!
Despite our outdoor adventures, which are of course learning experiences in themselves, we have still managed to get a good amount of schoolwork done. This past Friday was a neat day for the kids because they got to have a few different teachers at home. Early in the day Crystal watched them while I ran a few errands and she taught them some more Spanish. I worked on Mosaics with them and then later my sisters came for a sleep over and my sister Kimberly read to them about lion cubs. I think the naturalness of homeschooling is really interesting. I hadn't asked Crystal or Kimberly to "teach" the kids anything, yet they both accomplished things on my weekly lesson plans and added their own personal touch!
My sisters weren't the only ones who came for the sleep over. My niece Madilynn came too!!! It was her first sleep over anywhere and we were so excited. She was ridiculously adorable when she arrived in her leopard print jumper dress that of course matched our African theme perfectly.

The time together with my sisters was wonderful. It was such a refreshing time to laugh, cry, relax and scrapbook with my sisters. I wish we could do it more often and I cherish the times that we can.

So far this week has been really wonderful. We don't have any plans or commitments and have been able to accomplish a lot. We started our park explorations. I promised the children all winter that when it warmed up we would check out all of the playgrounds we could find. There are so many! Pittsfield has lots of parks and there's a bunch of elementary schools too, not to mention all of the other surrounding towns. We've got a lot of exploring to do. Saturday we went to the one closest to us at Capeless elementary. It has a little "fitness circuit" where the kids can use specific equipment to "work" different muscles or abilities. They loved it. They pretended they were at the gym working out. It was cute. On Monday we went to a small playground at Onota Lake (also very close by) and then explored the shore and threw some rocks in the water. It was just so nice to be outside enjoying God's creation with the three beautiful children He has blessed me with.

I just love playground pictures!


Anonymous said...

Playgrounds are the best! I still LOVE to play on them, with or without bringing kids with me!
Love the pics of your kids enjoying them.


Alison said...

Looks great hun... we should meet at the lake..we spent about 3 hours there yesterday!!

Jenn Y said...

So glad to hear you had some sister time! The boys ask every day to go to the park too and I'm just so excited to be taking pictures outside again. Glad to hear you are all well!

Gishtu said...

Aww those pictures are SO cute! I love my cousins =]

I hope our maple syrup turns out that splendidly. I'll have to save some for wildebeest pancakes.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to hear you guys are enjoying this great weather! (minus today) The kids are so lucky to experience all of these interactive ways of learning. It is definitely the best education there is and I can't stress what a great mommy I think you are!! :)<3Audry