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The different types of
sugars in birch sap compared to maple sap make birch syrup a little
trickier to boil down. It's imperative not to allow the developing syrup
to get above 200 degrees Fahrenheit with birch sap unless you want the
sugars to caramelize, darkening the color and impacting the flavor. In
addition, it's a bit trickier to know when birch syrup is done since it
doesn't get as thick as maple syrup, so you'll need to make your best
guess, then weigh the finished product to determine how close you are to
the optimal 11 pounds per gallon.
Lucy went on a trip today to
visit our nice vet in the big city.
Kayla and I enjoyed a girl's day out Thursday --- we attended the annual grafting workshop
at the Gate City extension office. I've been to nearly half a dozen
grafting workshops now, and this one was by far my favorite. Not only
was it held at 2 pm so we could get home before dark, but the selection
of scionwood was astounding. I came in the door with nine pieces of
scionwood I'd brought from winter trades, planning to just graft what I
had...but I walked out with sixteen apple trees. (Good thing they were
willing to sell me extra rootstock for a dollar a pop.)
In addition to the copious scionwood choices, the organizers had three
apple books on hand, so I could look up each variety to see whether it would hit the spot. Yes, I did spend
an hour paging through the books to determine which types of apples were
worth a try. Even though the pages were simply text, I found the most complete book was Fruit, Berry, & Nut Inventory --- I may have to get a copy for future variety selection.
But the positive points
of this workshop went far beyond excellent scionwood selection and a
good time of day. The instructors were also pros who helped me learn
safer and more effective methods of making the classic whip-and-tongue
graft. First, start with their "rule of thumb" --- grasp the rootstock
where the top roots branch off, then cut off the top where the tip of
your thumb reaches. (I figured my thumb was a little shorter than the
digits on their male hands, so cut just a little higher.)
Why did I secure a chicken
door with pipe strapping in the goat barn?
If you've sent me an
email or given me a call recently and I've been extremely slow to
answer...blame it on the sun. This bout of stunningly gorgeous weather
means that our usual schedule of half a day working inside and half a
day working outside went right out the window. Instead, Mark and I have
been catching up on all of the fun garden tasks that got put off when
snow was on the ground, barely coming inside for meals and then
collapsing at the end of a long, glorious day. I promise to be a better
correspondent once the cold, wet weather returns this weekend.
A short section of nylon rope should keep our foot bridge from floating too far during the next big flood.
It's been a long time since I took our goats out to play. First, the honeysuckle
started to give out, then the snow fell and completely covered
everything edible. But now our grass is just barely starting to grow in
the sunniest part of the yard, so I decided it was high time I started
reconditioning our herd's gut bacteria. Five minutes longer nibbling on
grass each day means that our goats' digestive system will stay happy on
the fresh greenery, and I figure within a week or two the ruminants
will be safe to graze lush grass at will. Abigail thinks this plan is
the ultimate in human stupidity...but I hold the leash.
Well, I try
to hold the leash. I'd meant to walk our little herd to the other side
of our core homestead where sun is really making the grass grow, but as
soon as Abby saw the tall rye coming up in the front garden, she decided
it was time to dine. Rye held little to no appeal this past winter, but
I guess the lush new growth tastes sweeter now --- the leaves even
smell sweeter as I stand by and watch our doe chew. She also went for
tiny new clover leaves barely pushing a quarter of an inch above the
ground, in search of protein to go in her milk, I suspect. Those alfalfa
pellets we bought are being eaten avidly, but who wants dried when they
can have fresh?
Abigail has a voracious
appetite --- making milk uses up lots of calories. In contrast,
Artemesia is just learning to walk on a leash, so our smaller goat spent
much more time figuring out how not to get her feet tangled than she
did eating. As for Lamb Chop, he apparently thinks dirt is tastier than
grass. And who really needs to eat solid food when the milk bar is open?
At the moment, Lamb Chop
is also too young to need a leash. Which is a good thing since I'm not
sure I could handle three goats in my two hands. On the other hand, our
buckling is much braver at two weeks old than Artemesia was at six
months old. When Mark came out for our photo shoot, Lamb Chop kept
trying to follow my husband across the yard rather than staying with the
goat herd. Maybe our buckling has realized that he's one of very few
males on our farm and figures the guys need to hang together?
We finished up our new
mushroom logs today.
Are you pulling out your maple taps and plugging the holes? Maybe it's time to tap a birch!
Mark and I aren't
interested in selling birch syrup, but since our maples stopped running
last week, we figured we might as well tap a birch tree and see what all
the fuss is about. I have to admit that I've only boiled down the
barest smidgen of syrup (made from about three pints of sap), but I can
tell that birch syrup is very different from maple syrup. For one thing,
the former is much darker, even in the sap stage. The photo above shows
condensed sap that began life as one gallon of liquid and will still
need to be boiled down considerably before it becomes true syrup. As you
can see, the condensed sap is already much darker than the box-elder syrup beside it.
between maple and birch syrup is flavor, although this factor will vary
depending on which species of birch you're tapping. Most birch syrup
sold in the U.S. is made from Paper Birch or Alaska Birch grown in (you
guessed it) Alaska, but our much more southern clime means that Black
Birch is our common species. Although Black Birch twigs taste strongly
of wintergreen, I didn't notice any wintergreen flavor in the syrup we
sampled. Instead, the dark liquid reminded me of sorghum molasses, and
I'd likely use my birch syrup in the same recipes I use with that
southern staple sweetener.
We cut our swamp
bridge in half and moved
it to a new location.
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