The Sweet Things In Life

The stars just didn’t line up today.  Messages weren’t received in time and traffic was too dense so I didn’t get to cook today.  It was quick, crappy pizza and I’m left feeling disconcerted from the lousy dinner and the lousy day.

I should have had the Fettucine from last night.  It really was comforting and delicious.

So no post about my cooking adventures but I do want to talk about food.  Maple syrup to be exact.  And how it changed my life.

MR’s sister and her husband bought a “farm” upstate close to Cooperstown.  When they first moved in, it wasn’t much of a farm- it had land, a lake, a cornfield and tapped maple trees, the latter two both rented out to other people to harvest.  In four years, they’ve fixed up the house, built a barn, adopted chickens, turkeys, goats and a pig.  Most importantly, they took over the tapped maple trees and built a state-of-the-art wood-burning organically certified sap house.

It’s an amazing process.  The pumps suck the sap into the huge vat, which feeds into the boiler.  When it reaches a certain temperature, it pours into the barrel.  It can then be bottled or dried into maple sugar.  When you enter the huge house, it’s warm and smells delicious.  You have to raise your voice to be heard over the pumps and the oven and the boiling.

I am simplifying everything, of course.  Except for it smelling delicious.

When we go up, we help out.  At the grand opening last year I made pancakes, sterilized bottles, poured and capped, checked the lines, folded t-shirts and hauled wood.  It’s a great experience and it was all worth it when a customer stopped in the store and bought freshly bottled syrup.  Their sap house was on a “trail” of maple syrup business in New York State so people were stopping by to see the process and taste the syrup.  We never experienced anything like this.

I wanted to do something similar.  MR and I were so impressed we talked all the way home the last time, trying to figure out what we could do that would be as awesome as what Ray and Paula have with Elk Creek.  We obviously can’t tap maple trees on Long Island- all of the trees on our property are oak.  We can’t farm- the aforementioned oak trees are too damned tall and we get very little direct sun.  Besides, our property is a whopping .092 acres- can’t do a whole lot with that.  I’d love to have chickens but we have too many predators.  What crazy scheme could did we come up with?

Bees.  The honey kind.

I have all my bee adventures written out for when we purchase a proper storefront/blog, so I’ll make this long story short to post here.

I took an eight-hour class to learn how to be a beekeeper.  The instructor (aka My Bee Guy) while knowledgeable wasn’t a very good teacher.  I think he’s been doing this a long time and I got the feeling he expected us to know a lot before we even got to the class.  However, he was available via a Yahoo group so if we had any questions we could ask.  We bought two hives from him as well as our NUC (nucleus) of about 10,000 bees and a queen.  We successfully installed them into their new hive on a warm spring day and we were one of the few new owners who didn’t have a swarm in the following weeks.  They stayed put and prospered so well we split them into the second hive.

Fast forward through a bout of infesting beetles, three stings (me, of course), a fierce yellow jacket/honey bee battle to the death in our backyard, countless internet hours of research and the discovery that my neighbor four doors down has been a bee keeper for 30 years for the neighboring farm.  Four months later we get to honey production.  Said neighbor loaned us his spinning extractor and showed us how to uncap the comb and spin the honey out.  The process of spinning the frames and bottling the honey took me right back to Elk Creek Sap house and I was happy.  We have 25,000 employees working their hearts out for us and yes, we totally appreciate it.  Each drop of honey is precious to us because we now know how intensive the procedure is.

And delicious. Just like maple syrup.

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