Saturday, March 12, 2011

Germantown Farm Maple Sugaring

On March 5th, Carol planned a delicious day in the woods for us.  We met at the Germantown Farm in upstate New York.  About a 1/2 mile off the road, down by a stream Chris and Kaya had a maple shack set up.  Under the lean-to was a brick fire pit with large metal pans steaming above it.
There were light blue plastic tubes (lines) running down from the maple trees to large barrels that collected the sugar.  The sugar came in clear, which a few of us were surprised to see.  We imagined it brown like the delicious syrup we normally see.  The metal pans were split into two sections.  The first section is for the cold maple syrup to be slowly added into the mix.  This mixture of is kept at a constant temperature (around boiling point- 100 degrees Celsius).  The depth of the liquid also needed to be kept at 1.5-2 inches.  As the water evaporated out more syrup was added to maintain this depth.  The second section also had to be maintained at 1.5-2 inches.  When it got low they used a scooper to add syrup from the first bin into the second bin.  This was also maintained at a constant temperature.  There was much steam coming off the boiling liquid.  My favorite part was dipping our tea cups into the second bin and adding a tea bag.  It was the sweetest, most delicious tea and maple sugar mixture.  The second bin was darker and sweet due to the loss of water.
There were a few tasks we helped with while there.  A bunch of us went to check on the lines.  Carol and Michael fixed a line together that was twisted.  Carol had been up there a few weeks before to insert the lines, so she was like a pro at this point.
There was also lots of wood to chop.  Rebekah and I both attempted it.  However, we weren't that good at it.  Christopher chopped quite a bit of wood early on.  Michael fell into a zen-like mode of chopping wood later in the day.  It was amazing to see his skill and ease grow over such a short time.
We spent many hours there.  The farm folk were kind and generous.  They shared there food which consisted of many canned goodies- kimchee, mustard, etc.  The soup was a pheasant and vegetables with a magical combination of soothing spices.  They have created a warm and thoughtful community there.  It really was an honor to be a part of their lives for a short time.  They have dedication to conscious-living and community education.
Thank you Carol for planning this wonderful day in the woods.  We all needed the fresh air and beautiful surroundings in good company.
Pheasants in a pile: eery beauty

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

January 2011- Mt. Taurus, Hudson Highlands State Park

It was a windy, sunny hike up Mt Taurus (Bull Hill) trail on January 9th.  The crew: Tal, Carol, Rebekah, Michael, Christopher and Lauren.  This hike was led by Lauren.  We began our ascent on the white blazed Washburn trail which led us up to a quarry.  There were no white-tailed deer on this snow covered terrain, even though this is a common place to spot them in warmer seasons.  We continued up the white trail along the edge of the mountain, twisting and turning, and for the most part forging our own tracks with extraordinary views of the Hudson River, Cold Spring village, and the surrounding mountains.  It was a little worrisome at some points with the snow up to our mid-shins and the wind gusts ferociously blowing, and Rebekah, Tal and Michael were all wearing jeans and appeared to completely exposed to the wintry elements.  However, they kept smiling and trudged on.
Once we reached the peak of Bull Hill we stopped from a lunch break.  There were views of the Hudson River Valley with ice floats and Bear Mountain across the way.
Once we reached the blue blazed Notch trail it was smooth sailing down the mountain through stream beds and canopied woods to the red blazed trail then onto the blue blazed Cornish trail.  We passed some old stone structure ruins.  All I've discovered about it is that the first set was a Cornish barn and stable and the next set was from the Cornish mansion.  Michael suspects that the sunken well-type structure was a cistern.
The hike was about 7-7.5 miles and took approximately 4 hours which is pretty good considering the ice and snow.
Afterwards we attempted to warm up at the Bar and Restaurant in the old train station in Cold Spring.  The "Broken Leg" (hot apple cider and ginger brandy) was delicious!
Some great realizations:
  1. This was Carol's first winter hike in snow.  Yay Carol!
  2. Rebekah hasn't been hiking in the snow since she lived in Colorado.
  3. Tal has asthma, but she kicks ass and made it up that mountain without her inhaler.
I'm going to try to figure out how to post pictures of the group.
Thanks for a great day in the woods!

October 2010- Prospect Park, Brooklyn

Our first outing was a beautiful day spent with guides from the Brooklyn Audobon Society.  We [Rebekah, Carol, Tal, Kate, Lauren and Kim] met at the nature center to pick up binoculars and meet our guides.  We saw many birds: swans, Canada geese, robins, woodpeckers, and many others that I [Lauren] struggle to remember 4 months later.  If only I had used a science notebook.  Our walk took us through the forest as well as along the edge of Prospect Lake.