Making maple syrup

Schumacher Farmhouse

Schumacher Farmhouse

It was a fun trip to the Schumacher’s farm to glimpse the annual rite of spring called maple Weekend. Their farm straddles the county line, with the sugar bush in Niagara County and the farm and syrup operations in Orleans County, but we claim them as Barker folk! You’ll find them at our Farmer’s market in the village park during  harvest season. On Saturday, the familiar  hoses on the trees were draining the sweet sap into buckets and the billowing clouds of steam from the sugar shack carried the scent of wood smoke and sweet maple. The old-fashioned wood-evaporator in the shack takes lots of wood to keep the fire burning and the sap boiling. If you have never seen the process, it is indeed fascinating for those of us used to getting our syrup off a supermarket shelf.

It takes forty gallons of sap and lots of wood and patience to make one gallon of pure maple syrup and once you’ve tasted the real deal, you’ll know it’s all worth it! Kathy and Bob have a web presence now (linked to the left) and you can even listen to them talk about farm life in their podcasts. It is truly an amazing thing to be able to sample nature’s best (okay, I admit I got a pancake-wrapped-sausage-on-a-stick to dunk into the syrup). Sandy Harvey was there with her uniquely crafted birdhouses and wood work (and her popcorn machine), and Cindy Chapman had her homemade goat milk soaps for sale. I left with a dozen fresh-from-the-henhouse eggs and the assorted nieces and nephews got to visit the big turkey, the rabbit, the chickens, some goats, ducks, a baby cow and Elijah the horse. It was a chilly day, perfect for syrup, but the blue-sky was a reminder that spring will soon behere to stay.

Bob in the sugar shack's steamy cloud

Bob in the sugar shack's steamy cloud

 On the way home I thought of people who never get to spend a day in the country and I said a silent prayer of thanks for the privilege!

Gratitude Watch

For some time now I’ve been enjoying the work of Daniel Brenton and his “Gratitude Watch” at “The Meaning of Existence and all that” I finally got around to adding the link in the sidebar so you can visit there as well. It’s the perfect place to visit if you are one of those people who believes in the inherent goodness of mankind, personal responsibility and the idea that we should really be grateful for the many blessings in our life. Daniel takes the time to gather the best offerings from cyberspace in one place and you’ll enjoy it! Visit now at http://www.danielbrenton.com/

and I am most grateful, Daniel, for your efforts to promote the goodness in life!

Don’t say Thank You

Please. Thank you. You’re welcome. How are you? Have a nice day.

We have a whole section of automatic responses keyed into our brains, so automatic that sometimes we aren’t even aware we’ve responded. When it comes to “thank you” it’s not so much the words that are important; it’s knowing that whatever we did that elicited the response was somehow notable, appreciated or just plain noticed!

If I do something thoughtful or nice, or aid you in any way, it isn’t the ‘thank you’  that makes me happy. It’s the smile on your face, the hug or the childlike glee you show. It’s just knowing that we shared a moment and that what I had to give was what you needed to receive. It’s important to know that we each have something worthwhile to give! Your smile of appreciation validates my existence and my place in the overall design of life. Every act of kindness  a new thread in the tapestry.

I hope that when you show me kindness or share a moment with me, that you know how I treasure those moments of paths crossed and life shared, even if only as briefly-passing strangers. We are, each of us, an endless vessel of giving and the sheer joy it lends to the giver is thanks enough. But, just so you know… you warm my heart.

Thankful for ‘Rainy Days & Mondays’

Okay, we have impending disaster here. It’s Monday. Ugh. It’s rainy, soggy and gloomy. Ugh. We lost an hour of sleep over the weekend and our internal clocks are off.  Ugh. Add to that tonight’s full moon (those born under the Cancer sign know what I’m talking about) and there seems to be no reason to come out from under the covers! Really though, it is a great day.

Just waking up makes it a good start! The rain has washed away all traces of the black, yucky ice and snow that has hung around for far too long. We know there’s a blast of winter still waiting (always around St. Patty’s Day) but it will come and go quickly. Far beyond those wonderful spring flowers that have begun peeking through the soil, we’ve got lots of farming to do around these parts!

Yes, rain makes mud and some areas do have drainage or flooding problems, but at least we don’t have to shovel it, salt it, or plow it. We need spring to come, and that means more rain, but the gloom gives way to the absolute wonder of the rebirth of the land. Driving the long, country roads becomes a mission of discovery as the landscape grows and changes. Nowhere is the changing of the seasons more dramatic than in farm country, one of the delights of country living!

The Canadian Geese are winging their way back in earnest, the cacophany of sound as they pass overhead in familiar vee formation cuts through the quiet days. They hang around here on the southern shores of Lake Ontario as a sort of layover before the forge across the expanse of the lake to Toronto and points north. Some stay here all year long.

If there’s a good thing about a Monday, it is that it always follows Sunday and leads to Tuesday. It is the constants in our life that ground us. The sun always rises, the stars follow the same path in the heavens and rainy muck gives way to glorious growth. In this hectic, unpredictable, roller coaster ride of life we need the constants to mark our passage and stake our place.

I am grateful for every new day I am given, even as I grumble. I always feel that each awakening is a validation that I have worth and something to put into this life; sort of a job to do in return for the breath of life and the many gifts I am given. For that, I guess, I’ll have to come out from under the covers….

Lessons in courage…from a 10 year old

It’s been a rough week for me as I battled a nasty sinus infection/bugaboo that has left me wheezing and whiney. After a weekend down flat watching lots of Harry Potter movies on television, I was chugging my way through writing my weekly column, cursing the germs that hit me with the misery stick.

I took a break to check my email and found that my friend Mykel had added a new journal entry on Caring Bridge. Mykel was a week shy of his 10th birthday when a hit in gym ruptured a Wilm’s tumor growing on his kidney, spilling cancer cells into his body. Since that Halloween day last year, Mykie has endured chemotherapy that attacked his liver, he is hooked up to an IV for ten hours of fluid every night, had surgery that removed his kidney, a softball size tumor and part of his diaphragm, endured radiation, and has had a few scary emergency trips to Roswell Park Cancer Center and Children’s Hospital when he needed transfusions or other treatment. Weekly chemo trips and nightly IVs continue.

So what does a 10 year old with all this pain and suffering complain about? Not much. Myke is always more concerned about his caregivers and others and hates to be a bother. He wants to go to school and is keeping upwith his work and church studies, even if no-one would mind if he took a break. Like the Energizer Bunny, my friend Mykie keeps going, and going, and going.

So, while I’m feeling sorry for myself, I read Mykie’s journal entry. Here it is- untouched.

hi everyone its mykel , just wanted to let you know that i am doing well! i have been very busy. I am making my reconcilliation next saturday. also i went to shool last week on tues and friday not all day but it sure feels good to be around my friends and teachers everytime i go in my class i sit and look around and see everyone face they look so happy to see me sometimes when this all first started you know when i first found out that i had cancer sometimes i was afraid i might not of got a chance to ever go back to school . but here i am beating this and now i am feeling like a kid again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! thankyou all for your prayes and please keep praying for me and all my frinnds at Roswell !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! One day i will be able to donate my time and take care of kids just like me !!!!!!

Thank you Mykie, for making me remember that my problems are small compared to those of others. Thank you for reminding me that being with friends and loved ones is what really makes us feel better. Thank you for looking toward the future and joining the fight against cancer! We’ll be behind you all the way, as “Mighty Myke Whips Wilm’s” and goes on to fight for the other kids who endure their battles so bravely.

You humble me, Mykie, and you make me proud. Very proud.

Gratitude Quote #11

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Sun is shining, sap is flowing and spring is on the way!

Down at Maple Acres, home to my good friends the Schumacher Family, the maple trees are dripping sap into buckets and barrells, the old fashioned way. It’s quite a sight to see and in two weeks you can stop by during maple sugaring weekend to see the sap turned into fragrant, delicious maple syrup!
Until then, check out their new WordPress blog to see some great photos of the farm and you can even listen to their podcasts about rural farming. Bob and Kathy and sons are a mainstay at our local Barker Farmer’s Market in the village park and they love to share their experiences and expertise with visitors. Go to http://www.maple4u.wordpress.com right now and see pics of the farm, saw mill, market and smiling Bob. Kathy seems to be camera shy but we’ll work on that. Once you visit via cyberspace, you’ll be itching for a real-life visit. I’ll add the link in the sidebar, too.