Spring seems to be a very back-and-forth event here in Maine, and the month of March has greatly alternated between snow-storms and sunny days, between warm spring previews and freezing it-aint-springtime-yet reminders! The time has gone by quickly, and we’ve been undertaking a wide variety of activities, and learning a lot. Each day remains an exercise in asking, “What should we do today, Lord?” and following His plan to the best of our ability!
The work is always pleasant, though it sometimes seems slow-going. It’s not always what we expect, but it’s always exactly what’s needed. For example, on one particular sunny day, we felt we were supposed to do some clean-up. We segregated a large metal pile and dismantled a fallen-in shed, loading up our trailer with almost 1,000 pounds of metal to take over to the recycler the next day. As soon as we dropped off our recycling, it began to snow, and promptly re-buried the spots that we had just cleaned out! If we hadn’t done the work that day, it would have had to wait for another few weeks, and I could just feel the Lord scheduling our activities, better than we could do it even if we did pay attention to the weather forecast, lol!
So, let’s see, what have we been up to this March?
We enjoyed an outing in the last of the deep snowfall…
…where the kids built a snow-man along the ATV trail, complete with a bowl of salad and a cup of coffee!!
One cool, gray day, we took a drive through the bright winter blueberry fields, and saw the snow-buntings wheeling and swirling across the hills, almost too fast to follow, definitely too fast for me to get a picture of, with their beautiful white bodies and black wingtips…This is the southern end of their range (strange to think), and they will soon be on their way further north for the summer!
We visited Acadia again on a lovely sunny day, which was, however, not warm! This beautiful, still pond is actually frozen solid. At our last visit, it was covered in snow, and covered with the distinct pitter-patter of river otter tracks, but today, it was a sheet of glass!
Along the coast, the water was brilliantly bright in the winter sunshine, but we did all of our bird-watching from the warmth of the car!
The sap has been running, and we’ve taken our first steps into making our own maple syrup…We started with a few trees close to the house to see how it would work. We collected the sap…
…and poured it into a big pot on the wood stove, just letting it simmer away throughout the day, filtering it a couple of times as it boiled down.
It’s said to take about 30-40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. Our first gallon of syrup yielded this little spoonful of amazing golden sweetness! It was like a combination between maple syrup and honey, very bright and almost flowery-tasting, and it smelled exactly like cotton candy! It was just enough for each of us to have a dollop on a pancake.
So, we decided the maple-syrup thing was worthwhile, and put out a few more taps for the year. We’ll venture further into our forest to tap some more trees next year, but at this point, it’s just a nice treat that we’ll finish out the season with. We’ve already enjoyed a second batch, which we happy-accidentally overcooked until it reached the sugar stage! Maple sugar was delicious on buttered toast! It’s hard to imagine doing this in really large quantities, but for now, it’s just easy to pour sap into a pot on the stove, which is busily heating our house anyway, and wait for the magic to happen!
We also set up a sawmill so that we can begin making planks for future use. A downed cedar made a great work surface, after Joe cut a v-groove in it to hold the logs. Then, with an attachment that fits on his chainsaw, he can slice down the length of a log to make planks.
It’s a neat combination of modern power-tools and old-fashioned hand-tools. The chainsaw makes it much quicker to take down trees (only dead ones right now), and the attachment makes it much quicker to make a board, but it’s still just as fast for us to haul the logs with a pair of logging tongs, and flatten the surfaces with an adze, and de-bark the planks with a draw-knife.
Some of the planks have been set aside to dry for future furniture projects, like chairs and tables, but some went right into our garden table, a quick way to get some vegetables growing inside while it’s still too early to plant outside.
And some wood is used green, right away, to make simple stools and benches…
Bringing in wood from the forest has the added benefit of the occasional surprise-science-project! I don’t know what this was, maybe some kind of little spider egg-sac, but it was amazing to see, and we spent a lot of time being impressed by it under the microscope!
A spider spinning filaments of gold? That sounds like the mark of a glorious Creator, right there!
Joe found that he can make his own tools right here at home, cutting and shaping blades in the workshop, tempering them in the wood stove, and making handles from the beautiful applewood that we brought with us all the way from our house in Bellingham!
We’ve gotten pretty good at cooking on our wood stove and little propane campstove, and we can even make our own bread now! Asher is taking more and more interest in cooking (though, really, he takes interest in pretty much everything), and especially likes to take over any chopping duties.
Oh, my happy little chef!
And on those wonderful, warm, sunny days, we keep moving forward with clean-up and trash removal, having hauled two more trailer-fulls of debris off for disposal…
And we enjoy the forest! The forest, which continues in all seasons to be a source of beauty and wonder!
The sunny spring-like days bring out the liveliness in all the little forest creatures, with squirrels and chipmunks running and chattering and birds chirping and fluttering, and the occasional porcupine sun-bathing in the upper branches!
Oh, this cute little guy…We really threw him for a loop when we demolished the fallen-down shed behind the house. We caught sight of him the next morning as he made a round of our property, and he just paced back and forth where the shed had been, thoroughly confused, and finally sat up on his hind paws to consider the mystery, before ambling off to one of his favorite snooze-holes under the mobile home. I hope we get to see his reaction after we demolish that thing!
One morning, Joe caught sight of a Bohemian Wax-wing out of our window. They winter here, and leave in the spring, and we had the good fortune of watching a flock get all fueled-up for their journey, munching on last year’s apples that were still hanging on the branches.
They were amazing to watch, and to listen to, inspiring a full-fledged nature observation outing, right in our driveway, armed with notebooks and pencils and binoculars and cameras for these wonderful little birds!
Although sometimes the observer was nowhere to be seen…
…and sometimes we were the ones under observation! This squirrel spent half of his time chasing the waxwings away and grabbing apples, the other half balancing an apple the size of his head in his mouth as he made his way down to the ground to eat it…And when he was done, he wandered over to check out Joe and his camera equipment!
One day, we took a walk on a sunny day to see how the stream was flowing – only to find that it was still under snow and ice…Yay, still a winter wonderland! Spencer had the idea to give the stream-bank a try as a sled run, and soon we all joined in, on what must be the last sled-run of our season (I….think….)!
It does, of course, tend to get a little snow in your boots…
But it was well worth it!
So, to take stock of the month of March, we’ve got a snug little house that saw us through the winter, we have ordered all of our seeds for this year’s planting, we have starts growing in the garden table, we’ve made some maple syrup, we’re baking our own bread, we’ve got an operational workshop, and a functional small sawmill, we can temper steel, we can harvest all our own firewood, we can make lumber, we can make green-wood projects like utensils, bowls, and stools, and we’ve got lumber drying for future furniture, we’ve completed third- and fourth-grade curriculum for the boys, and Vivi’s progressing through Kindergarten, and we’re well underway with our outdoor clean-up efforts! Every day, we read the Bible, every day, our school lessons are brought back to God, every day we see Him in His creation all around us, and we thank Him for his provision, for our food, for His strength and grace and mercy and love…It’s a good life!