Brighter days

March 20

We did a very normal thing this week: We went to the library for the first time in over a year, and it felt amazing! They didn’t quarantine every book we touched, and although the librarian wore two masks and stayed safely behind a clear shower curtain, everything else seemed fairly normal.

It’s spring now, and even though we still expect frost or snow, for sure mud, and maybe all three together, it has been gloriously sunny for a week. We feel as though we have made it through the worst, and we are giddy. We go barefooted. We scope the yard for the bulbs that we planted last fall. We ride bikes. We whoop and holler when we find a pussy willow on our property. Brighter days.

New life around us includes our friends who have a brand new baby and her name is Addy.

We’ve been hosting some company, and it is really nice to have a little more space for visitors. The trampoline has been set up in the yard, drawing neighbor kids like a magnet. And we did a fun thing because everybody else seems to be making maple syrup and we don’t have any big maple trees or the equipment to tap them. What we do have is enormous shagbark hickory trees, and one day Rita noticed a section in our Backyard Foraging book that mentioned making syrup with shagbark hickory trees. So that’s what we did.

You don’t tap for sap like you do traditional syrup. You simply peel off a piece of loose bark, wash it thoroughly, break it into little pieces, and roast it in the oven for about 20 minutes until it smells deliciously nutty with hints of vanilla. I got that description off a website. It’s a good one.

The next step is to make a bark tea. I used 1 lb of bark to 4 pints of water. Once the tea is a nice dark shade, you strain the bark and all the bits you don’t want in your syrup out of the tea, then you add pure cane sugar to make a simple syrup. Again you simmer it slowly until it reduces. The syrup is done at about 217 degrees Fahrenheit. It has a lovely hickory flavor, and maybe it’s just me or maybe it’s the cane sugar, but there’s a definite hint of vanilla in it as well. If you want more detailed directions, here is the tutorial we followed.

We tried our syrup on waffles and they were quite yummy. So if you don’t have maple trees and you happen to have shag bark hickories, give it a shot. You too can have fabulous syrup that you made yourself.

March 24

We continue to be amazed at the benevolent rays of sunshine day after 70 degree day. A year ago we came to scope out this property, and it was miserable, wet, muddy, cold, and by all appearances, dead. This March there are buds popping on trees, bulbs poking out of the ground, (both the ones we planted and some we didn’t know were here) and it’s not normal at all, but I am loving every minute!

If my kitchen were a tadpole, it would now be in the stage of sprouting little legs and just about losing its tail. Gabriel removed the electric stove top and wall oven, and installed a gas range that we were happy to find at a local appliance store in their scratch and dent room. It is a lot more stove than we were even looking for, and I love cooking on a gas range! Apparently new stoves have a long wait time because of covid shutdowns last year, so I am thanking the person who scratched this one and knocked a cool grand off the price. The appliance store did get our dishwasher in stock very quickly, so that has been a great blessing. I’ll include some photos of the progress we have been making.

It was a little bit claustrophobic, this original kitchen. And it was carpeted, never a good sign.
This was a kitchen that was built with a lot of convenient features, back in the day. The appliances were JennAir and Maytag, top of the line. It would have been fine for a 2 person household, but the room was tiny and dark. The photo was taken from the doorway into the living room area.

We took out the dividing wall and lifted the ceiling up to the rafters, but we saved the lights as a nod to the way things were. And yes, this was the state of the kitchen the week we moved. It was frontier.

For quite a while I prepared meals with only a stovetop and a toaster oven. Eventually Gabriel brought in the section of cabinets that was formerly the island, and set the wall oven on top of them, where the shelf is on the left of this photo. Apparently I didn’t take a photo of that set-up.
The trestle table and the white countertop on the left are old doors. I have everything where I want it, within reach for when I’m cooking, for this stage of the kitchen, and I quite like it.

So now you see why I am cheering for the small legs on the tadpole. What we have in ample supply is space! There are not a ton of cabinets, but we can be cooking, mixing, baking, and loading the dishwasher simultaneously without constantly whacking into each other. Of course, it doesn’t take a beautiful kitchen for it to be the heart of the home and fellowship and hospitality, but it does help to have elbow room! I am very grateful.

Let me conclude with one photo of the first blooms of the bulbs we planted last fall.

Glory, Hallelujah!

4 thoughts on “Brighter days

  1. I’ll take the table and those blue stools any time you’re done with them πŸ˜‰πŸ˜„ those are beautiful!
    We did a very similar kitchen Reno at our new place this past year too. It is amazing what some paint and removing certain things and adding in others can do

  2. I don’t often take the time to tell you like I should…. but I enjoy reading your blog so much. 😎 I’m happy for you on the kitchen progress and you are so right on: light and space is essential. Keep us posted on the progress and yay for hickory bark syrup!πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ˜€β˜€οΈ

  3. I love to look at kitchens! I just love kitchens and houses!It looks very nice and homey too! A mother and housekeeper/homemaker is a very gratifying job and I cant imagine anything I would rather do than that. I find every season of life wonderful.But the years of having the children at home are wonderful years,so try to enjoy every wonderful minute!

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