Thursday, March 3, 2011

March, a Month of Anticipation.

Buck and Star vying for my attention!
Someone recently asked if the puppies were growing.  I had to reply that while I wasn't sure about Star, Buck is growing like the proverbial weed!  Still cute as heck.  He is very confident and moves among the alpaca legs without a worry in the world.  Star is doing a great job of patrolling the fences and barking, which is their job.  I need to work with both of them on walking on a leash so they can go to the vet for shots, etc.  I have to say it is so nice to have dogs in the barn again.  

Yes, March is a month to anticipate many things.  We anxiously look forward to the arrival of spring, the longer hours of daylight, warmer temperatures, going outside without layering on coveralls and neck gaiters.  It is also a time to look forward to the things that spring brings like shearing season and birthing season.  I was looking over my records the other day and it seems we have 6 crias due starting about mid-May:  Miracle, Tunita, & Micki have all had crias previously  and then we have 3 new moms, Margarita, B'Nita, & Carolina .  New moms are always the ones we have to keep a good eye on.  But as I said, we have a couple months before the crias start to arrive.  Spring also means we will hopefully get rid of the mountainous pile of POO that has accumulated outside the alpaca barn.  Most will be spread on the hayfields, but some will go into the gardens.  When you dig down into it, it is rich and hot and nicely composted.  It makes great fertilizer.  And yes, the garden is another thing to anticipate.  I have already purchased some peat pots to start some tomato plants in.  I wonder how much asparagus our now 2 year old bed will produce?  We only tasted a few spears from it last year, but this year, we should get a decent harvest.

And speaking of production, the sap harvest seems to be slowing down.  Last weekend was our peak, where we boiled down sap Friday (8 buckets), Saturday (6 buckets) and Sunday (11 buckets)!  Remember, those buckets are 3.5 gallons each.  On Tuesday, I boiled down almost 6 buckets.  Once we boil them down to about a gallon of syrup, we bring it into the house and finish it on the stove where it is easier to control the temperature.  Here is the result of Tuesday's boil-down:

filtering prior to finishing
starting to re-heat this is a 5 quart pan

I filter the syrup prior to finishing.  We need to bring it up to 7 degrees above the boiling temperature of water before it is done.

All these tiny bubbles are a sign that the syrup is about done, so we have to watch the thermometer closely.  If we overboil, we end up with a pan full of solid hard-tack, which would be a sad end to several hours of work!

This pan yielded about 3 pints of finished syrup after the final filtering.

There is one word that currently describes the state of my kitchen:  STICKY!

On the other hand, I have the bathroom mostly finished.  Just some touch up work to do and the tub still needs to be painted.  I should finish that this weekend.  It looks much better.  I am
very happy with the color.

I have to admit I did NOT finish everything on my February to-do list.  But I got close.  The syrup making has taken up more time than I thought it would.  I plan to finish putting up insulation in my studio this weekend and then I will get the paneling and get it finished. 

I have mentioned in past posts about our compressed natural gas car but have not posted any photos of it being fueled.  Well here it is:  

 It takes several hours to actually fill the tank.  My father-in-law went to an auction last week and purchased a dual-fuel pick-up truck, so he will be able to re-fuel at our place, too.  He can bring his truck to our office and swap it out with our car and pick it up the next day, re-fueled and ready to roll.

As I said, I anxiously await spring's imminent arrival.  I can hardly wait to get my deck furniture out of storage in the barn and clean it up and have dinner on the deck again.  I think the barn cats will miss it though!

Chuck (right) and Grayson (left) have enjoyed lounging on the swing cushion all winter.  They are handsome, friendly boys who came from the Humane Society here.  They are 2 of our 4 barn cats and are the youngest.  Both the other 2 are senior cats. 

March is off to a good start so far, with sun and mild temps during the day.  Of course I know that any and all weather is possible and probable in this month of change, so we'll see how it goes!

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