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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hedge-apples for Spiders: Fact or Fiction

Not a fan of spiders. I saw the movie 'Arachnophobia,' which was single-handedly rated in the top three worst choices of my life. 

Chris Pine

Fear of spiders is so common that it is estimated that about 50% of the population say they have an aversion to the creatures.  While I wouldn't exactly say I am afraid...I certainly do not like suddenly seeing one unexpectedly.  They are just so silent in their movement and the way they skitter about can give me the creepy crawlies.  Not to mention how unpleasant it is to walk into a web unexpectedly...and I feel bad for all that work was put into spinning and building it being wasted.  Spider webs have a true beauty in construction that I find fascinating..but I digress. 

Spiders outside I like.  I like the work they do and that they have an appetite for insects like flies and mosquitoes.  That makes them pretty useful around the farm.  However, spiders inside the house (or my car as I was recently surprised by one  quite unexpectedly!) I do not like so much.

Since I strive for using as natural products as possible in my home, I'm not a fan of using chemical sprays for insects.  I started seeking more natural ways to discourage spiders from residing within my humble abode. 

When we first moved here, I started seeing these green ball-like fruits all over the place.  We have an abundance of Osage-orange trees on our property.  Most of the time, we are frustrated having them because they have very long, sharp thorns that can puncture a lawn-mower tire...but at this time of year, they bless us with their fruit.  This fruit is non-edible (for humans or animals) and after doing some research,  I found that they are traditionally used as a insect repellent.

Toxicologists at Iowa State University tested compounds from hedge-apples and found, if concentrated enough, the insect repellent factor was effective.  However, in the natural concentration in just the fruit alone, it was not as effective.  

So, I tried them...I didn't have anything to lose.  I placed one in nearly every corner of the house and did see a decrease in the spider population.  They have a scent reminiscent of citronella so that is probably the reason they are effective.  In full disclosure though, there was one corner of the living room where a rather large wolf spider made it's home right next to the hedge-apple.  

I can't say it is a foolproof method but I think the hedge-apple treatment helped and had the bonus of being natural and FREE!  Do you have hedge-apples where you live?  



Thursday, October 22, 2015

Join My Team - Helping Hands

Many hands


light work.

One of the reasons I started blogging was to share.  Share my experiences, share my quest for knowledge and to help others.  One day, I intend to make Estle Schipp Farm my full time work.  In my future, is a farm school where I teach others skills I've learned over the years. 

One necessary part of making this dream come to fruition is to create multiple streams of income so that we are not overly dependent on any one source. We also have a couple of boys nearing college age and I intend for them to attend debt free. I accidentally found another stream of income right at my fingertips - literally not figuratively. 

As a birthday gift, I was treated to a Jamberry manicure and realized how much I missed having beautiful nails.  Many ladies who do lots of chores know the disappointment of freshly polished nails being ruined much too quickly.  I gave up on having pretty nails and just put it behind me. 

Imagine my surprise when I applied a floral wrap called China Rose.  I couldn't stop looking at my nails...and then they lasted.  They lasted through work in the chicken coop,  house cleaning, heavy gardening, window washing and general housework.  I could hardly believe that I got two weeks wear out of that first manicure. The real story is that it gave me a sense of feeling lovely again.  That feeling has carried me forward to exercising more, working on my art projects more, spending a little more time on my appearance and generally feeling more confident.  It may sound way too simple but it all started with a genuine smile that lifts my spirits every time I look at my hands. All #becauseofjamberry

Hands are for so much more than sporting pretty nails.  Our hands are caring for others...feeding others, loving others, clothing others, calming others, helping others and communicating with others. I decided I wanted to help others find a reason to care for the hands that unfailingly care across the whole of a day and a whole lifetime. 

Yes, I became a Jamberry consultant.  I became a consultant to share this feeling with others - to make a bright spot in the day for women who need a lift.  I'm not selling nail wraps - I'm sharing moments of feeling beautiful.  I'm sharing the permission to spend 15 minutes every two weeks on yourself as a touch-point throughout the day to remember that you are important.  

I'm putting together a team to share this opportunity.  I hope you will consider joining me.  You can share some stylish nails, some moments of real caring for others and receive a discount on your own purchases too.  I'm calling the team Helping Hands and would love to share more about it.  Please join me!

Email me for more information:



Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Growing Garlic

You can never 
have enough 
garlic.  With 
enough garlic, you can eat the New York times. 

Morley Safer 

On a recent visit to the local farmers market, I paused in front of the booth with all the beautiful garlic - there were baskets full of more types of garlic than I ever knew existed.  In that moment, I decided that garlic needed to find the way to my garden. 

The garlic lady who noticed my interest asked if she could help me.  "Yes, I want to grow some garlic"...somewhere in my memory was the file that told me that fall was the time to plant garlic so at least I appeared somewhat knowledgeable.  "Great!  October is just the right time to plant" she said.  I stood a little taller feeling like I had some gardening 'cred'.  LOL 

Her next question, took all the 'cred' out of my stance for sure.  "Are you looking for hardneck or softneck?"  Her question was meet with a blank stare....I had only ever gotten garlic from the bin at the grocery and had no idea there were different types.  Thank goodness she was kind and patient.

Softneck garlic is the type you usually find in the grocery.  It is mild and stores very well.  These are the types you might find in a cute little braided wreath which sounds like something I might like to do.

Hardneck garlic is more like wild garlic and has stronger and more complex flavors.  They won't last as long in storage but if cured can last six to ten months which seems plenty long to me.  The most wonderful thing about hardneck garlic is that the growing stalks produce the scape which is something I love to have in the summer. 

So, with the help of our local garlic lady, I chose some bulbs of both types - and the cloves are already separated and tucked snuggly into the garden bed.  You can easily tell them apart when you pull the cloves from the bulb.  The hardneck varieties have a definite hard stem right up through the middle of the bulb.  

To plant, carefully break the cloves from the bulb.  Plant them about 2 inches deep with the pointed end upward (root end down) and space about 8 inches apart.   Cover with some mulch and water weekly but do not over water which may cause the garlic to rot - garlic does not like overly wet soil. 

When the leaves above ground start to turn yellow or brown, it is time to harvest.  This will likely be toward the end of the summer and into autumn. Wash the soil away, let dry in a well-ventilated space and enjoy your harvest!   

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Time to Crush Some Eggshells

Oh eggs within thine oval shell, 
What palate tickling joys do dwell.

As you know, we have chickens at Estle Schipp Farm.  I so love having fresh eggs only a little stroll away from my kitchen door.  We use a lot of eggs every week.

When you keep chickens, you quickly learn that you need to supplement their nutrition with something to help them lay eggs with strong shells.  A strong shell protects the contents of the egg and also acts as a barrier from the introduction of bacteria to the egg inside.

One way to supplement their feed ration is with commercially available oyster shell that from your local feed store.  But, since I want to keep the cost of feed and nutrition at a reasonable level, I wanted a less costly solution and I had to look no further than those eggs I cracked for breakfast this morning! 

Chickens do very well with crushed eggshells as a supplement.  I keep an open bowl on the kitchen counter with the egg shells I used that week.  By sitting in the open air, the shells dry out and are easy to crush.  I have a small (about two cup capacity) food processor that pulverizes those dried shells into very small pieces as you can see in the photo in this post. 

So, once a week, I crush those shells and put them near the chicken feed.  Each hen has free choice for taking as much or as little as she may need.  Since I've used this process, those eggshells are sturdy and healthy. :) 

You may wonder why I crush the shells and that is a very good question.  Never just put down whole pieces of shells for your hens since it will encourage a very bad habit of egg eating. If your flock becomes accustomed to the idea that you want them to eat shells that look pretty much like whole eggs, guess what they will do.....they will start cracking open freshly laid eggs too. Once a hen starts doing that, it is nearly impossible to get her to stop.  

I'm very happy with this method of supplementing the nutrition for my girls with something they need for their health.  The fact that I've found another way to use every bit of a product without waste is an added bonus!  

If you don't have chickens (yet) but have a neighbor who does, offer to save your shells to share with him or her.  If you don't have a friendly chicken lady (or gentleman) near you, consider other uses for those shells - such as composting, fertilizing the garden, pest control, a natural antacid or even make sidewalk chalk - google "uses for eggshells", you will be surprised at all the results. 

After breakfast tomorrow, save those eggshells - Don't TOSS it, CRUSH it instead!  

Peace be with you, 

Star Schipp  

his post may contain affiliate links which means if you make a purchase using one of those links, I may receive compensation at no extra cost to you.  It is a great way to support your favorite hobby farm blogger.  Thank you!   

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Stevia - How Sweet It Is!

When life gives you lemons, add sweet tea. 

It has been a wonderful few weeks in the garden at Estle Schipp Farm!  Everything is green and growing quickly.  We've enjoyed fresh, crisp salads and are eagerly awaiting that first ripe tomato.  The herb garden is also bringing great growing joy!  

The chives are straight and tall, the basil leaves are fragrant and green and the rosemary has taken root and sprouting new growth.  There is a new addition this year from a find at a local farmers market - Stevia! 

I was strolling through the tables laden with herb plants of so many varieties, enjoying the beauty, the fragrance and all the possibilities and I happened to see a single pot of Stevia.  I picked it up and the lovely lady farmer asked me if I had ever tried it.  I had not, of course.  "Taste a leaf - go ahead" I plucked a small one and placed it on my tongue.  Oh my is a intense sweetness and so different than the herbaceous flavors of other herbs.  I was intrigued, to say the least, to think of how I could use it.

The plant is already growing well in the corner of our herb garden.  The plant is not cold tolerant so I will need to either dig it up and place in a pot to over-winter indoors or else treat it as an annual.  We'll see how the season goes.  

Using Stevia is pretty easy.  The fresh leaves can be crushed and added to your iced tea for sweetness without the calories of sugar.  The leaves can also be dried, whirred into a powder in your food processor and used in recipes.  The sweetness of Stevia is way more than regular sugar so I'll have to do some experimenting to use it as a sugar replacement. I really like the idea of growing this plant myself and have options over white, granulated sugar from sugar cane - especially since I'm pretty sure that growing sugar cane in Indiana would be an exercise in frustration.  ;)

What new herbs are you growing this year? 

Peace be with you, 

Star Schipp

This post may contain affiliate links which means if you make a purchase using one of those links, I may receive compensation at no extra cost to you.  It is a great way to support your favorite hobby farm blogger.  Thank you! 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Save the Radish Greens!

The first gatherings of the garden in May of salads, radishes and herbs made me feel like a mother about her baby ... how could anything so beautiful be mine. 
Alice B. Toklas

The joy of the May garden is in full swing at Estle Schipp Farm.  The lettuce called Freckles is growing taller every day, the chives are already showing their lavender blooms that look like a flower that could house the little world of Whoville and the radishes are showing their beautiful red shoulders right above the soil.  I even saw the first blossom on the pea shoots today!  The May garden is full of greens for salads and greens for sauteing, all of which are so welcomed in my kitchen. 

I have a confession to make.  I had no idea you could eat the green tops of the radish plant.  I have always loved the crisp heat that comes from that radish pulled right from the ground and rinsed in the garden hose.  Some even make their way to the kitchen to go in the dinner salad.  I had always composted those beautiful, green, leafy tops.  What was I thinking??! 

Radish greens make fresh, peppery additions to your spring salads PLUS they are wonderful cooked like you would kale, spinach, chard, collards or beet greens.  Can you tell I'm on a 'greens' kick these days?  LOL 

I owe this discovery to Jenny at Nourished Kitchen who shared a soup recipe that called for adding radish GREENS to the pot after turning off the heat and letting them wilt just perfectly.  Today, I took the freshly picked bunch of radishes right to the kitchen and made quick work of cooking them right up and I loved them!  Here's what I cooked today: 

Radish and Greens Saute 
1 bunch of radishes with tops 
1 tsp. olive oil
balsamic vinegar

Wash radishes and greens well and remove the tip.  Quarter the radishes and chop the greens.  Heat the olive oil and add the quartered radishes.  Saute until golden brown.  Add the greens and cook just until wilted.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  (serves 1) 

I still cannot believe all the years I threw away this culinary gem.  The greens are full of vitamins and minerals too like folate, riboflavin, potassium, copper, B6, magnesium, manganese and calcium plus fiber.  We all love that!  The next time you see a radish, I hope you will try the tops...after all, there is more to this underappreciated vegetable than that red thing in the salad that you douse with dressing.  :) 

Peace be with you, 

Star Schipp 

This post may contain affiliate links which means if you make a purchase using one of those links, I may receive compensation at no extra cost to you.  It is a great way to support your favorite hobby farm blogger.  Thank you!   

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Growing Lilacs from Cuttings

Just now the lilac is in bloom
  All before my little room.
Rupert Brooke 

This quote made me smile as I remember that one of my granddaughters decided that the lilacs my daughter had cut and brought into the house *belonged* in her room.  "I need these" she declared.  

Few things can bring me as much joy as the lilac in full bloom.  The beauty of each perfect flower and the intoxicating scent fills my heart every single time.  Though the blossom is short lived, it always means that Spring with all her promise of growth and new life has arrived.

I think it is time to increase the number of lilac bushes at Estle Schipp Farm and I'm happy to report that it can be done from cuttings from existing plants. Here's how:

Growing Lilacs from Cuttings 
  1. Cut six inch stems from new plant growth. Older, mature growth is less likely to take root. 
  2. Remove all the leaves except for three leaves at the tip. Roots will grow from the area where the leaves were removed. 
  3. Prepare a pot with a light mixture of soil, sand and perlite.  If you are open to using it, moisten the stem and dip in rooting hormone.
  4. Make a narrow hole in the potting mixture with a stick and plant the stem.  Pat lightly so the stem stands upright.
  5. Keep the plant in a warm place, but not in bright light.  Water daily but never let the soil get soggy.
  6. It will take the lilac about two months to take root and start to have new growth but when you start seeing that, you have succeeded!  
I'm excited to increase my collection of lilacs in the garden in this very affordable way.  It will be such a sweet success to fill my home with the scent of lilacs in seasons to come. I hope you will add this lovely, old-fashioned floral classic to your gardens too!  

Peace be with you, 

Star Schipp 

This post may contain affiliate links which means if you make a purchase using one of those links, I may receive compensation at no extra cost to you.  It is a great way to support your favorite hobby farm blogger.  Thank you!   

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Spring is Here...Time for Spring Cleaning!

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. 
William Morris

Spring has definitely arrived on Estle Schipp Farm...the spring onions and radishes are growing rapidly in the garden, the lilacs are in bloom, the farm over on Highway 36 has new lambs and Bob has already fired up the, that can only mean it is time for SPRING CLEANING!  

This is the season of the year I both love and hate at the same time.  I love opening the windows and having the fresh air but deep cleaning not so much.  I am always happy when it is over - the cleaning, I mean.  

Over the winter, things pile up around here.  Projects get stashed away to make room for holiday gatherings and the natural cocooning I do over the winter does cause some clutter.  I also have some rather messy hobbies that add to the creative mileu we call home - painting, sewing, needlework all have quite a bit of equipment to store - not to mention the cheesemaking, food preserving, maple sugaring and all the fun things we do all year. 

And then there are the spring projects that are already underway.  Our dining room is full of honey supers in various stages of being built.  The kitchen counter has become a seed sorting station and very soon, the hobby table will be full of 4H projects.  So how to begin this project called Spring Cleaning

I had an epiphany as I was planning my cleaning time.  I realized that I need to consolidate our belongings so we know exactly what we have.  I think this will have at least two rewards - less time looking for a particular item plus seeing what you have can help you realize that you have a surplus and can donate some things.  I realized this when I started really looking with a critical eye.  Here are some examples: 

  • We have book shelves in the kitchen, bedrooms, living room and office...all with more books that we really need
  • I have yarn and fabric in my office closet, hobby room and in a basket by my living room chair....I'm frequently looking for a particular skein or cut of fabric and just can't find it
  • in Halloween and theatre...I found some in a tote in the hall closet, more in the closets of the children and for some reason a Captain Hook hook hanging off the back of a kitchen chair...LOL 
As you can see, I have some work to do.  I am confident that by consolidating our belongings, our home will be more organized and feel lighter and fresher.  The confidence I will have that everything has a place and that when I need it, I can find it will be so welcomed.  I have already found some duplication in belongings that were so unnecessary.  No one needs four size G crochet hooks - you only use them one at a time.  

I hope you will join me in lightening up our homes in this season of Spring Cleaning...remember William Morris' words:  everything in your home should be useful or beautiful (or even both!).  

Peace be with you, 

Star Schipp

This post may contain affiliate links which means if you make a purchase using one of those links, I may receive compensation at no extra cost to you.  It is a great way to support your favorite hobby farm blogger.  Thank you!   

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Lessons on Beekeeping: Dealing with Bee Stings

All the honey a bee gathers during its lifetime doesn't sweeten its sting. 
Italian Proverb 

About 6,000 bees made Estle Schipp Farm their new home yesterday!  The two packages we ordered were available for pick up and we got them introduced to their new home but not without incident.  Yep, both Bob and I received a few little defensive blows from our new residents.  

We do quite enjoy being beekeepers but we made a couple of mistakes in this our second year.  First, we thought we remembered how to move the bees from the box they arrived in to the hives we prepared for them....Lesson Number 1:  no matter how often you have done something, if it is something you do once a year or less, read the instructions before proceeding... 

Last year, when our bees arrived, our protective clothing had not even arrived yet.  Surprisingly, we had no problems with bee stings in the process that time.  So, when Bob asked if I was going to suit up, I said "nope" those bees are much more interested in following that queen than they are in us....Lesson Number 2: If have protective gear, use negotiating...

I am amazed with how comfortable I have become with the bees.  As a child, I was always quite afraid of them but have grown much more at ease.  No longer do I panic when several land on my clothing when tending the hives...except when they get too close to my mouth and nose or get tangled in my hair.....Lesson Number 3:  Never panic near the hives - this means slow movements and no swatting!  That swatting and panic spreads like wildfire through the hive and you will have a multitude of buzzing warriors chasing you through the yard. Yes, you would have seen Bob and I racing as fast as possible from that bee yard least it is LOL today, not so much yesterday.  Bees will chase you much farther than you think they will. 

So, we are wearing our beekeeper badges of honor in the way of a few bee stings a piece.  What are some good ways to tend to the wounds?  According to WebMD, here are the basics.

  • If the person who received the bee sting has trouble breathing, feels faint or dizzy, has hives or a swollen tongue, has nausea or a rapid heartrate:  CALL 911 - this is a true emergency!

  • If there is not a history of allergy to stings, first remove the stinger by scraping it out of the skin.  Do not squeeze since that can put more venom in the wound. 
  • Treat swelling with ice and elevation.  If the sting is on your hand, be sure to take off your rings before swelling begins. 
  • For pain, use an appropriate over the counter pain reliever like acetaminophen or ibuprofen if you can take them. 
  • For itching, an antihistamine can help.  A paste of baking soda and water to the sting can help too. 
  • Keep the area clean call your physician if you see any signs of infection. 
That old Italian proverb might say that the sweetness of the honey doesn't make up for the sting, but with proper care and attention, the sting can be avoided and the honey a wonderful gift from these hard-working, beautiful creatures.  I hope beekeeping finds its way to your hobby farm sometime soon! 

Peace be with you, 

Star Schipp 

This post may contain affiliate links which means if you make a purchase using one of those links, I may receive compensation at no extra cost to you.  It is a great way to support your favorite hobby farm blogger.  Thank you!   

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Saturday Skill: Planning the Garden: Size Matters!

Real gardeners know their gardens change size in the course of a year.  When they order seeds and plants in the winter, their gardens are the size of a football field.  At planting time in the spring, their gardens are the size of a postage stamp.  When it's 100 degrees outside in August, their gardens are the size of three football fields.  And in the fall, when it's time to clean up, their gardens don't exist at all! 
  Art Wolk 

Happy Spring!  Gardening has started in earnest at Estle Schipp Farm.  Rhubarb is sprouting and asparagus too.  The strawberry leaves are greening up and some garden beds have been planted with onions, potatoes, radishes, peas, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, swiss chard, spinach, kale and carrots.  I look out at the raised beds that Bob created for me last season and see a wonderful garden bounty in our future!  

I'm pouring over the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook and plan this year's garden as I do every year.  I am so very guilty of planning a garden than is larger than I can reasonably care for in the limited time I have for it.  This year, I promised myself to use restraint.

That restraint can be hard to come by! One of the worst mistakes I have made in gardening is making it so big that I cannot stay on top of weeding and being frustrated with the garden yield because of it. One year, I tearfully told Bob to just mow it down because the weeds overwhelmed.   

Now is the time to right size the garden for the amount of time you can spend per week to plant, water, weed, harvest and process the gifts your garden will produce.  Anna Hess, author of The Weekend Homesteader, suggests that a garden of 144 square feet will require a couple of hours of work per week.  That would be a prepared soil bed of 3 feet by 48 feet and would be a great start for the beginning gardener provided the correct plants are chosen.  

I bet we could all find a couple of hours a week to put toward growing fresh and nutritious food for our families!  Perhaps a little less time on the computer and a little more time in the fresh air and sunshine is in order.  :) 

So if you are gardening on a small scale this year, what are some plants you might choose?  Here are some of my favorites: 

  • Swiss Chard: A nutritious, delicious green that is also easy to grow
  • Summer Squash:  Yes, even zucchini!  These plants are easy to grow and produce prolifically so you get a lot of growing satisfaction with little work
  • Green Beans:  I love being able to pick these fresh and have on the dinner table in hardly any time at all.  Quite easy to grow too! 
  • Tomatoes:  There is nothing like a homegrown tomato...not one other thing on earth - please grow at least one plant :) 
  • Mint:  After some time in the sun weeding the garden, pluck some fresh mint to add to your ice water and you will feel cool and refreshed right away. 
  • Basil:  Homegrown tomatoes and fresh basil are a wonderfully fresh salad to add to your summer table with hardly any effort at all
Gardening is a year round event.  Planning in the Winter, planting in the Spring, tending in the Summer and harvesting/clean up in the Fall.  It is so easy to overcommit and not see the project through. 

This year, let's downsize that garden and take pride and joy in work well done.  Happy growing! 

Peace be with you, 

Star Schipp  

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A time to mourn...

While we are mourning the loss of our friend, others are rejoicing to meet (her) behind the veil. 
John Taylor 

Sometimes in a family, a season of mourning comes upon us.  It can come expectedly or unexpectedly but it always feels as if the world has temporarily stopped turning.  We are in that season now. 

The grief comes in starts and stops and we sometimes panic that we can't remember the sound of the voice of our loved one or think we see them across the aisle in a public place.  Sometimes, we dream of them and for a few sweet moments when we awake, we forget what has happened. Or we pick up the phone to call...

And then there are all the people...and the cards and flowers and food...all needing attention.  The scramble for clothing appropriate for the funeral service comes right when we least feel like the childrens' dress shoes even still fit them?  

The tears come profusely and unexpectedly or feel like they will never stop.  The intensity of emotion overwhelms.  Sleep won't can everyone else be going about the normal tasks of the day when the world has turned upside down? 

Everything is disorienting...and it is a time when caring for yourself and those you love become of the utmost importance.  Some ways to gently care for yourself can be: 

  • Get outside in the fresh air and sunshine and just be.  Sit quietly and breathe, let tears come, feel the sunshine upon your face
  • Wrap yourself in the warmth of a soft blanket - really wrap up and hug yourself
  • Listen to music that matches your mood and let the memories bubble up 
  • Take a quiet walk in a natural setting - surround yourself with nature - a place with trees and the natural sounds that come from birds and water and wind
The coming days will have low points and even high points too when you share a memory of your loved one with someone else.  Be patient. The coming year will bring special days and holidays that will be different than in the past.  Make new memories with those around you and honor the past traditions of your family too.

There is an old Irish saying:  Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.

We know that though we miss the one who has died, there are others in Heaven rejoicing that she is there.  

Peace be with you, 

Star Schipp

Monday, March 30, 2015

Every Monday Matters: Week 15 - Rideshare

They say the universe is expanding.  That should help with traffic. 
Steven Wright 

Welcome to week 15 of Every Monday Matters by Matthew Emerzian and Kelly Bozza.  I'm glad you are here!  The topic today is on Ridesharing and in a round-about way what you can do to ease the chaos of the traffic jam.  

Steven Wright is counting on the expanding universe to ease traffic congestion but we need a much more earthly solution, don't you think?  :)

According to Every Monday Matters, only 10.2% of workers rideshare to work.  That is a very low number, most certainly, but are Americans really interested in carpooling?  It seems not so much.  The statistics are all saved on car maintenance, gallons of gasoline saved, decrease in amount of pollution produced, a decrease in the wear and tear on the roads and your car,  all very good reasons to consider.  

But we love the convenience of it...getting to work when we want and leaving when we want the convenience of the after-work errand...all these are reasons that I never chose to rideshare.  

Fortunately, I don't fight traffic twice a day anymore because I found work where I telecommute so I am doing my part. If you would like to consider joining a rideshare, how do you start?  Many folks post on craigslist when looking to carpool or check the bulletin board at work.  Be cautious and use a trial period before committing long term.  It might be a great way to make a new friend...spending around two hours a day in conversation can be quality friend time. 

There are some websites too that match up workers wanting to carpool (or students even).  Sites like or may be good places to start.  Public transportation is another good way to get to work without contributing to the traffic congestion issue if it is available in your area.

So this week, Make Monday Matter by observing your driving habits and see if you can improve them...maybe by sharing a ride or planning and combining trips.  Couldn't we all enjoy a little smooth traveling at the beginning and end of our work day? 

Peace be with you, 

Star Schipp 

This post may contain affiliate links which means if you make a purchase using one of those links, I may receive compensation at no extra cost to you.  It is a great way to support your favorite hobby farm blogger.  Thank you!   

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Making Maple Syrup

In contemplating the present opening prospects in human affairs, I am led to expect that a material part of the general happiness which Heaven seems to have prepared for mankind, will be derived from the manufacture and general use of Maple Sugar. 
Letter to Thomas Jefferson by Benjamin Rush, August 19, 1791

Looks like times haven't changed all that much when it comes to the gift of turning maple sap into maple syrup and maple sugar. It does seem like a sweet gift from Heaven.   Sugaring was one of the goal projects at the hobby farm this year and I am happy to call it a great success! 

I'm sending a huge thank you to our daughters for the Christmas gift of the tools to tap the trees.  I'm looking forward to making pancakes and waffles for you throughout the year with delicious, pure maple syrup right from our own trees. 

Sap collection was very easy.  We checked the jugs a couple of times a day...sometimes they were half full and other days completely overflowing.  It was interesting to watch how the fluctuating temperatures and varied amount of sunshine affected the sap flow.  It was even more interesting to see that one day this tree produced more and then on another day, a different tree produced better. 

We boiled the sap down inside the house on the stove.  I know that is not recommended because of the amount of moisture it puts in the air inside the house.  We really did not encounter any problems with the relatively small amount of sap we collected.  

I say small but, in reality, we collected sixty gallons of sap in two weeks time.  I stopped collecting when I started to see tiny buds on the trees and when the sap flow started to slow down.  That sixty gallons of sap became one gallon of pure, amber colored, delicious, thick maple syrup.  That is about the amount of syrup we use in one year's time.  I am thrilled with the result. 

There was only one boil-over mishap and yes, that was quite a sticky mess but caused me to seek out some education.  Boil-over will occur very quickly when the syrup is getting close to the right consistency.  It can be calmed quite easily just by touching the surface of the liquid with a little pat of butter.  It was amazing to watch the bubbles that were climbing up the side of the deep pot retreat rapidly in the presence of that little bit of fat. The beautiful syrup was placed in sterilized canning jars while it was hot and is now being stored in the freezer to keep it perfect all year long.

Next year, Bob has promised me a sugar shack to do the evaporating in a more traditional way.  I think the addition of wood smoke will make the syrup taste even better! 

In true hobby farm fashion, I'm proud that I have produced all the maple syrup we will use this year right on our land.  The project was easy enough that we all agree to do it again next year....and maybe instead of tapping four trees, we will tap eight....I'll let you know :)  

Peace be with you, 

Star Schipp 

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