Apr 202014

Sugarbush 2014 started out pretty slow, but finally the Maple trees are letting their precious liquid flow.

Last weekend was our first boil of the season.  It was a cold, rainy, blustery day so Rick put together a canopy of sorts to keep any unwanted drops of moisture our of the boiling pans.


It wasn’t the most attractive contraption, but we use what we got and as long as it does the job, that’s all right in our book.

I think this year marks the earliest that we’ve gotten the fire going .  By 8:30 am we had a roaring fire and both pans in position and filled with sap.


Before the clock could strike 10:00, that sap was boiling and we were in business.

We processed 40 gallons of sap that day which got us 1 gallon, 2 pints, and one 1/2 pint of sweet, sticky syrup.  Nummmmmmm.

Unbeknownst to us, our sugarbush was not over yet.  This last week was pretty chilly and we didn’t pay much attention to the taps and buckets.  When Rick went to check them on Thursday after the snowstorm, he was surprised to find that the trees were still running and collected 16 gallons of sap!

I checked the trees Friday afternoon and hauled in another 16 gallons.  3 hours later Rick made the rounds when he got home from work and brought in another 13 gallons!!  Wow.

Saturday’s yield was 23 gallons bringing our 3 day total to 68 gallons.  Holy crap!!!

Our Easter Sunday will not be spent eating ham and gorging on chocolate, instead we will be keeping a roaring fire going and boiling sap well into the night.

I much prefer tasting hot maple syrup from the fire than processed chocolate any day.

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Apr 192014

Today marks 15 years since the passing of the one of the most remarkable women I knew.

As I tell others who have lost loved ones, it does get easier as the years go by, but that loss is never gone.  Neither are the memories, because those are what I draw on in life.  Sometimes they keep me grounded and other times they bring about a goofy laugh.  However they affect me, I know that they are there to keep me moving forward, striving to be the best that I can be.

On April 19, 2011, I wrote the following post and have featured it each year in remembrance of a woman of tremendous love, strength and humor, and who I am proud to call my Mom.


This time of year is always hard for me.

Not just because I’m so sick of winter that I could puke and crave the warmth of the sun and the fresh spring air.

No, it’s another reason that brings about a lot of memories.  I wish that I could say that these were good memories, but they are not.  They are reminders of an event that was very painful for me, and others in my family.

You see, 12 years ago today I lost my best friend:  my Mom.

This picture was taken when she finished nursing school in the mid-1950s.

As I’m sure you have guessed, today is not the only day that I think about her, but it is one of several days a year that I miss her the most.

When she quietly passed away, she was finally free from the pain that she had endured from Rheumatoid Arthritis for 7 years.  For those years, she was unable to do the things that she loved the most:  garden and crochet.  She had to end her nursing career early on in the disease because her entire body became affected, and at the time there was no medically known way to deal with it.  She became a guinea pig to the medical establishment, whose doctors were the best in the world.

I was looking back at some old files on my computer the other day, and found something that I had written around this time 8 years ago.

A real keepsake does not need to be a piece of jewelry or an item that is displayed in a home.  I feel that it can be something that a person carries with them in their mind and heart.  It has special meaning; a presence.  For me, it is my hands.  I look at my hands and see my mother, and the gifts that she gave to me.

She taught me that my hands could make meals that would feed my family.  They could dig the ground to plant seeds that would grow to can vegetables to store for future meals.  They would work the land, feel the dirt and pull the weeds.  They would also nurture delicate flowers to blossom and grow; to show beauty.

Her love for playing the piano that she passed down to me with lessons, encouraging me on with her words as my fingers played the notes and listened from the audience as I played in concerts.

The patience and time my mother would take to teach me how to knit and crochet… to create beautiful slippers, potholders, and afghans.  The blankets that I make, asking for her guidance as I work each stitch, hoping that they will turn out as beautiful as hers always did.

My hands look older than their 38 years.  They have planted many gardens, crocheted blankets for babies and families. Blazed trails and built bridges.  Flipped burgers and cleaned tables at restaurants   They have wiped tears and nursed cuts.   I look at my hands and see a lifetime.

My children often ask me what my mother gave me that I cherish the most.

And I tell them about my mother’s hands.

These are just a few of the things that come to mind when I think about her.  There are many other wonderful memories, like how we always used to spend our birthdays together (since they were a day apart) either getting our hair done, going out to eat or meeting up at a casino to gamble (one of her favorites).

One thing I never do is make this a sad day for myself, because there are so many wonderful things that I have in my life because of her.  The many things she taught me that I am able to pass down to my children and grandchildren.

I have to tell you I am not a fan of these kinds of posts.  I do not like to talk about sad things.  So instead of this being something sad, I would like to think of it as the remembrance of a truly remarkable woman and all of the good and happy things that her life represented.

Thank you for allowing me to share this with you.

Phyllis Mary (Papenheim) Larson

October 22, 1935 – April 19, 1999

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Apr 122014

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  It was a rough Winter.

Now that warmer weather is teasing us, the snow and ice dams on the roof of the house are melting great guns.  We’ve never cleared our roof in the winter as many people in the upper part of the state do.  Mainly because it’s got a decent pitch and normally we’ll have some days throughout the Winter months that will melt some of that snow off so we don’t have any damage.

Let me reiterate the word “normal”, which this year is not part of anyone’s vocabulary in the Northwoods.


Since we didn’t get those nice little breaks of warmth during December, January or February, teenie tiny mentions of melting caused huge ice dams to build along the edges of the roof.  And when warmer temperatures started descending on us a couple weeks ago, they didn’t want to melt all nice and purdy.  No, they decided to turn into glaciers of destruction.

One casualty was our back deck.


I was collecting sap across the road when I heard a gawd awful crash that I’m sure scared Thor out of his fur.

Reality check:  I was standing on the thing 10 minutes before it turned to kindling.

Thank goodness decks can be replaced.

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Apr 042014

Everyone who is sick of me complaining abut the snow and cold raise their hand.

I raised both hands.

Fortunately, the weather gods may be shining upon us soon.  The extended forecast calls for more “Spring-like” temperatures in the forties, flirting with fifties.

But before that happens we have to live through one more major dumping .  So instead of me grumping about it, I decided to just give you some before and action pictures of the homestead.

Sometimes pictures speak louder than words.










About a foot of fresh powder that will hopefully be nothing more than muddy puddles in the next couple of days, then maybe with any luck the trees will start cranking out the sap so we can get busy making maple syrup.



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Apr 012014

Right after I uploaded my last post regarding the mood swings of March, it started to snow.  Hard.  So I immediately started placing blame.

First I went to Facebook and blamed my son-in-law Erik for the snow, because he keeps ordering it and sending to the wrong zip code, namely mine.

Then I decided I should blame my co-worker who was laying on a beach in Hawaii sipping some drink with an umbrella in it.  Of course it could be her fault because she didn’t want any bad weather while she basked in the sun and surf, so she sent it all here.

While I was at it, I tossed the blame at Al Gore because, well, Global Warming my ass!

Then it dawned on me who the real culprit was:  March Madness.  That damn basketball tournament does it every year.  Who knew that basketball players were the catalyst for Winter storms.

Now here we are, on the first day of April, and guess what it’s doing outside.


Big white fluffy flakes.

Yes, another well played April Fools Day joke by Mother Nature who is probably off to some exotic land full of unicorns and rainbows getting her nails done.

Oh, and if you expected a picture, there ain’t none.  It’s snow people, if you’ve never seen it before, come up and visit.  I’m sure it’s going to be around for a while yet.

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