‘Misc.’ Category

Stay In Touch

Posted on October 7th, 2013 by Tonia 4 Comments

Hello faithful readers who wait and wait and waaaaaait for me to once in a blue moon post! I love you. I miss you. Thanks for keeping me in your bookmarks and readers so that I can occasionally unload a random stream of consciousness on you. There is an explanation for my major blogging drop-off.

The thing is, that feeling I started having a while back hasn’t gone away. I don’t know what changed or why, but blogging just isn’t my jam anymore. It makes me sad, because Itty Bitty Impact was a big deal for me and I fondly look back at old posts and wish I could hammer out some new ones that would inspire and entertain and provoke discussion the way I used to be able to. There’s certainly plenty to write about. But something inside me is telling me to hold back. Keep the stories for myself. Have some secrets. Explore privacy. Protect this delicate bubble of experiences that is my little life.

I know you understand and are probably nodding your head like, “Yep, our generation doesn’t know the value of privacy. We over-share and we rank our experiences by how many ‘likes’ they receive from others.” But that’s not to say you shouldn’t blog or read blogs- I certainly read the shit out of them. I appreciate those who take the time to put thoughtful, well-written work out there on a regular basis. I wish I still could. But it just doesn’t feel good to me anymore. Maybe it will again later, but not right now.

That being said, it has been an amazing last few months since I checked in with you all. Life is good over here on the edge of the lake. And I would love for you to follow along on Instagram if you so choose. Comment with your IG handle and I will follow you. That way we can stay in touch until the next time I decide to randomly post on here {which might actually happen more often once winter sets in and I find myself routinely hunkered down on the couch with the ol’ laptop and some tea. That right there is a recipe for some good old-fashioned blog posts.}

Stay well and stay in touch.

Maple Syrup Season 2013

Posted on April 29th, 2013 by Tonia 10 Comments

We came, we went, we made over 30 gallons of maple syrup.

Since my last post, I have swung wildly from “Still like winter! Winter’s OK! Take your time, I’m fine!” to “Oh my god, when will it eeeeeeend. I haven’t seen the sun in 8 long months. I’m going to die.” But turns out all this late-season cold weather and snow that we’ve (I’ve) been whining about made for a pretty great syrup season! It was like the old days, before global warming, when spring was an actual season that lasted a few months instead of just an afternoon melt session in March where winter cedes the win to summer in the time it takes to frantically brew iced-tea and shave your legs.

My maple-syrup-loving self was delighted that spring didn’t vanish before our eyes, but my I-NEED-SOME-DAMN-VITAMIN-D self was just a liiiiiittle crabby about the full-blown snowstorm we got on April 18. Yeah. We’re talking around 20″ of new snow.

So before we talk about our awesome maple syrup season, here’s a taste of what we were dealing with around here last week (I’m looking for a little sympathy here, in case you didn’t pick up on that.)

Ok, that’s quite enough of that. Moving on.

This was the first season in several years where we needed snowshoes for tromping around from bucket to bucket in the woods. The fact that the roots of the trees were insulated by all that snow made the season progress slowly and steadily, instead of the sap gushing out at light-speed and being done within a week. The slow runs made for easier collections because the buckets would only be 1/4 to 1/2 full each time we went out, rather than brimming/over-flowing.

The sugar content was very high and went up as the season progressed, starting out at about 2.5 and ending at 3.5. This allowed for a shorter boiling time and lighter syrup (the longer the sap cooks, the darker the syrup.) We achieved the ideal honey-amber color and smooth, buttery flavor with each batch.

My little brother Danny firing the evaporator and checking sap levels in the pans.

Lunch, enjoyed in the sap house while we worked: Curried butternut squash soup and fresh-caught trout.

Mike pouring finished syrup into the canner.

My mom, Sammi (Danny’s girlfriend), and me canning up a batch.

As a special treat in the middle of a particularly long day of boiling, we made up a whole pile of doughnuts and dunked them in the hot syrup.

You guys…I’m not even going to attempt to explain how out-of-this-world delicious they were. There are no words– just loud, happy, grunting noises and chewing. We will be doing this every year from now on.

As usual, syruping was a lot of work and we all sigh a little sigh of relief when it’s over and normal-life returns. But being together, working out in the fresh air and quiet woods with my family, joking and talking and laughing as we go, is what makes it special and worthwhile. It’s a yearly tradition that has taken place almost every year of my entire life!

Happy 26th season, Maple Moon Sugarbush! Thanks for the liquid gold, and the memories.

Oh, and Mr. Spring? In case you didn’t get the memo…it’s April. You can go ahead and warm up and melt all this snow and start pushing up tulips anytime now. That’d be great.

P.S. Posts from seasons past can be found here.
P.P.S. I promise I will start taking REAL photos again…Instagram is great for documenting little moments here and there, but I think we can all agree that my cell-phone camera compares poorly to the real thing.

Savoring the Remnants of Winter

Posted on March 26th, 2013 by Tonia 6 Comments

We still have two feet of snow on the ground around here, but I’m trying not to complain because this is the first “normal” (read: bleak, snowy, cold, seemingly never-ending…) winter we’ve had in about five years. Even though I am looking forward to the return of sunshine and greenery, there is something comforting in the fullness and earnestness of seasons. It just feels right–as if all is well with the world (plus, 5 months of cold weather means we have less scary bugs. Really, my favorite thing about winter is that it kills everything. If you’ve ever seen the hideous/poisonous life forms that live in the warm states, you will agree with me that an annual mass bug-freeze is a great thing. And not shaving my legs is my other favorite thing about winter.)

Spring should be showing up sometime next week, so before then I’m relishing the last hurrah of “winter activities”. Once the garden is cranking and there are things to be done outside around the homestead, there will be no time for listening to podcasts while baking glutenous, sugary “snacks” that are really desserts, organizing shelves and cupboards, therapeutically sifting through unused belongings and putting them into boxes and donating them, obsessively Googling things like “natural options for de-worming horses” and “essential oils for horses”, and sneaking snuggle sessions with Charlie in the middle of the day/whenever the mood strikes.

Mike has also been savoring the remnants winter. Lately he has spent a lot of time in the kitchen, plastic gloves on, radio blaring Punch Brothers, up to his elbows in ground pork. He cranked out two types of sausage last week: Spicy Italian pork sausage from our pig and tomato-basil-chicken sausage from the chickens we raised last summer. We ate the Italian sausage last night atop homemade pasta and marinara made from the tomatoes I canned last Labor Day…DELICIOUS.

He also started a batch of homebrew (and, ahem, sprayed the entire kitchen with foamy wort in the process), which is now fermenting in our dining room and should be ready to bottle and drink in a week or so.

It has been very fun to work on these quiet projects together. I’m grateful I have a partner who likes to learn and try new things, and that he doesn’t mind spending hours upon hours painstakingly creating stuff that, in the end, we eat! God I love food. Really, it’s all about food. Amiright? Everything. All of it. Food.

Every spring I go through the same horrible break-up with “winter food”. I freak out about the fact that we’ve been surviving mostly on pasta (gluten), stored root vegetables (starches), and baked goods (sugar) for five months and we need to “be better”. So we start making green smoothies every day. We grow a million kinds of lettuces and we eat mounds of salad. We work out (kind of). We drink more water. It feels great and it’s good and everything.

But we’re not there yet. That’s next week. This week we’re savoring winter. Cookies and pasta and pizza and beer are still happening. Don’t cheat me out of my last precious week of winter! I will kick you. And then I will eat another chocolate-chip muffin.

IN YO’ FACE, SPRING!

P.S. A big, huge, warm hug to everyone who left a comment on this post. You rock. I love you.
P.P.S. We’re all set up and ready to go for maple syruping, and we think the season will be kicking off this weekend! Stay tuned for lots of sugary fun!

Three month update

Posted on March 6th, 2013 by Tonia 21 Comments

Well, hi! Are you still out there? If so, thank you, and I apologize for my long absence. Three months without a post on here must seem strange after 3+ years of fairly regular posts, and I feel I owe you an explanation.

It’s not that there hasn’t been anything to write about. We’ve done a few {I think} blog-worthy things this winter, and I had several ideas for posts about low-impact living and homesteading that I was researching and preparing, but for some reason I’ve been feeling really disenchanted with the blog lately…or actually, the whole internet in general.

I struggle with striking a balance between documenting life and just living life. Sometimes it seems like we {it’s not just me, right?} are so preoccupied with taking photos, tweeting about what we’re doing, and updating our blogs that we don’t take time to simply savor the moment or experience something on our own terms instead of via social media.

There seems to be a lot of hypocrisy in writing a blog about a simple, low-impact, homestead lifestyle focused around the important things in life, when what blogging requires {to do it right, anyway} is an immense amount of time spent sitting in front of a computer screen instead of doing the things I’m writing about! It’s tough for me to reconcile this dilemma.

Why is this all coming out now? Probably because I’ve been blogging here for over three years and have never really taken a significant break from it. And maybe it’s natural to ruminate over things more in the wintertime, because we find ourselves in the dark with nothing but our thoughts. And also most likely because I’m feeling a little self-conscious lately about how hypocritical my life is.

For instance, I want to live as low-impact as possible but at the same time my life pretty much revolves around horses. I don’t write about it very often on here, but I teach riding lessons at a stable down the road, I volunteer with a hippotherapy program, I own two horses and ride every day, I attend clinics and I will be competing at shows this summer. And anyone who knows anything about the horse world knows that it doesn’t exactly mesh well with an eco-friendly lifestyle. Basically, the two most defining aspects of my life are at odds with each other. It’s very confusing. And that’s just one example of how my life is hypocritical…I assure you, there are many more.

All of these muddled thoughts are heavy on my heart lately, bringing me moments of clarity and then confounding me again. It’s a lot of work; figuring out where you stand in it all. And quite frankly it’s smiting my desire to blog. But that said, I miss sharing what we’re up to with you all, and I really do appreciate your patience while I get my shit together over here. I think I just need time to live my life without thinking about how it’s all coming across to others.

So, I’m not saying goodbye for good to the blog, but I can’t say when my next post will be. I’m going to let this play out organically. I don’t want to force anything…you all deserve better than a bunch of half-hearted posts. I tend to update Twitter and IG fairly regularly, because they’re so easy and quick. So if you miss me, please follow me there.

And now, just to prove that I am indeed still alive and kicking, here is a little taste of what we’ve been up to for the past few months:

January
1. Mike brought his camera to the barn and took photos of me with my horses as a birthday present to me. We had so much fun trudging around in the snow with the horses, who were feeling extra frisky that day, and I ended up with a series of really pretty photos to cherish. Thank you, honey!!
2. I got the flu and it SUCKED.
3. We made Lonza {a traditional Italian cured meat} out of a loin strap from our pig. It soaked in a fennel and orange brine and then cured in the root cellar for a month. It turned out delicious!! We’re pretty proud of ourselves.
4. We made bacon from part of the stomach of our pig. We smoked it in the smoker and cured it with salt. It turned out very smokey and salty…perfect for flavoring soups but a little too intense to eat alone. Going to adjust the recipe a bit and try again…

February
1&2. We have had fantastic snow this winter and we took advantage of it by getting out hiking and skiing as often as possible.
3. I’m knitting a cowl. It’s bright pink and makes me happy.
4. We usually follow up a brisk hike with a hot drink from Big Water Coffee in Bayfield. They know what they’re doing.
5-7. Mike’s big brother came to visit from MN along with his wife and their baby, Lainy. We took them hiking out to Lake Superior and watched the sun set over the frozen water.
8. I am a tree-hugger. This should come as no surprise to anyone.
9&10. We spend inordinate amounts of time snuggling our dogs.

March
1. We still have a lot of snow. A lot of snow.
2-6. We went to the sugarbush to scatter pails and set taps for the upcoming syrup season. My favorite time of year! Can’t wait for the sap to start flowing.
7. The little lemon tree in our bedroom–which we painstakingly kept alive all winter–is putting out tiny fruit!!!!
8. Our neighbors received coconut banana bread from us this year on Valentine’s Day.
9&10. A couple friends of ours took a road trip to Maine to do some fishing and returned with buckets full of fresh oysters that they caught! They invited us over and we gorged on fresh {the shells still had sea water in them!} raw oysters. Such a treat!!