April 18, 2014

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Kylee Baumle


Was your garden winter strong? PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 7:09 PM

By Kylee Baumle

Gardening is an exercise in patience. Ours has already been tried for nearly the entire year so far. So much of gardening depends on the weather and we know how that’s been.

Lots of snow to move, school delays, cars that won’t start, spring that won’t come. Then it does and we go on walkabout through the gardens to assess the damage. Before we can find out what’s made it and what hasn’t, we give ourselves the standard pep talk to bolster our hopes.

 
Tapping and sapping maple trees PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, April 08, 2014 8:40 PM

 

By Kylee Baumle

If I could name one thing that I enjoy most about gardening, it’s that it is a venue for always learning and experiencing something new. Become a gardener and you’ll never ever be bored. Even if you don’t like some of the activities that tending a garden involves (weeding, anyone?), the perpetual classroom in the great outdoors more than makes up for it.

I suppose there are people who don’t crave knowledge, maybe because they didn’t have a good experience trying to absorb facts in high school, so that they could pass their exams. But so much of life isn’t a test as much as it is learning at our own pace, in the subject matters of our choosing.

Gardening is more than planting seeds, hoeing weeds, and pruning shrubs. It’s an opportunity to see nature at work and the miracles that happen every day if we choose to slow down and observe them. It invariably leads us down related paths, such as watching the insects we encounter while harvesting the vegetables or hearing a bird song that we never noticed before while deadheading the perennials.

An example of related activities occurred for us in late winter and early spring this year, when my husband and I decided to take advantage of the fact that we have maple trees and live in a part of the country with a climate that allows us to tap them for sap.

 

We’ve been around for about six decades now and neither of us had ever even thought to do this before. I’m not sure why we didn’t, because much to our pleasure, we found the whole process to be quite easy and rewarding.

Several weeks ago, we made use of a tree-tapping kit that I was given at one of the trade shows I attended last summer. Using a 1/2-inch drill bit, we drilled a hole two inches deep into one of the larger maple trees we have (probably a silver maple), and immediately the sap began dripping down the side of the tree.

We inserted the spile (that’s what the tap is called) and hung a 2.5-gallon bucket on the attached hook below, to collect the sap as it dripped from the tree. In order for sap to flow, night temperatures need to be below freezing and day temperatures above freezing, creating pressure that causes the tree to draw up groundwater through the roots.

Sugar that the tree stored there the year before is added to the groundwater and then it’s delivered as nourishment to the branches and developing leaves.

If you’ve never tapped maple trees for their sap, you might be thinking that it’s golden and sticky, sort of like pine sap. But it’s clear and thin, just like water, and in its natural state, tastes like it too. It has a very slight sweetness to it, and it’s very healthy to drink it this way, due to its antioxidant qualities and the micronutrients it contains.

In my opinion though, one of the best things about maple sap is boiling it down into maple syrup. We did this in small batches on our stovetop, but because of the amount of steam the process gives off, it would be best to do it outside, if possible. We have a good exhaust fan over our stove that vents to the outside, so it works for us to process it inside.

The maple sap collecting season varies from year to year, both in length and in the sugar content of the sap. The length can be anywhere from two to six weeks long, depending on the weather. This year, the season, which has come to a close for us, lasted about four weeks. Sugar content varies from 1-4%, depending on the type of maple.

Trees need to be 12 inches in diameter before tapping and we tapped three trees. In the end, we collected 42 gallons of sap and ended up with 1.5 gallons of syrup. We’re calling it good and the spiles and buckets are now cleaned and stored for use again next year. The trees will repair the holes by then with no help needed from us, not even plugging.

Until then, we’ll enjoy the maple syrup - nectar of the gods, really. I think it tastes better than honey and I really like honey. If you have maple trees, you should try it.

Read Kylee’s blog, Our Little Acre, at www.ourlittleacre.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OurLittleAcre. Contact her at PauldingProgressGardener@gmail.com.

 

 
Stop killing the trees! PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, April 01, 2014 9:15 PM

By Kylee Baumle

As the ground is thawing out from The Winter That Would Not End, even those of us that may dread the coming busyness of the spring season are chomping at the bit to get out there and do something. Anything.

One of the many things that spring is good for is planting trees. Fall can be a good time too and many will debate which is the best time, but as with perennials, I prefer spring. This allows the plant plenty of time to become established before winter.

No matter when you plant a tree, there are some things to remember. And as I go about my business, I see one huge mistake being made over and over again that costs many a tree its life - the mulch volcano.

 
The perfumerie in the garden PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 6:50 AM

By Kylee Baumle

Fragrance in some form or another makes up one of the most successful luxury industries the world has ever known. Few things that are by and large unnecessary, can boast of such popularity as the use of scent in our everyday lives.

Think of it - we don’t just use fragrance in perfumes and colognes. Cleaning supplies have it. We burn candles, plug cartridges into our walls and hang deodorizers in our cars. It’s even in our garbage bags. This makes it tough for those who are allergic to perfumes, because we live in a world that’s inundated with them.

Thank goodness I’m not adversely affected by perfumes, because I love fragrance and use it in all forms. In my garden, I grow some plants expressly for their fragrance, not because I think the plant or flowers they bear are particularly attractive.

 
I spy with my little eye PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, March 18, 2014 9:23 PM

By Kylee Baumle

Spring is almost here.  The calendar says so, even if the weather doesn’t. But Mother Nature always shows up for the party, even if she’s late.

By this time, I’m getting anxious for all the telltale signs of her arrival and thankfully, there are many.  If I don’t see the snowdrops because they’re still buried under snow, I can look somewhere else and see the spikes of crocus poking out of the icy ground.  (How do they do that?)

The plants out in the greenhouse and in our house have started actively growing again after slowing down quite a bit during the winter.  Lots of tender new leaves are popping out and some are even flowering, due to the lengthening daylight hours.

 
The power of a flower PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, March 11, 2014 10:16 PM

By Kylee Baumle

The doorbell rang one cold and snowy day last week. It was fairly early and I was still tinkering around upstairs, getting ready for my day. I peeked out of one of the bedroom windows and saw a Fed Ex truck backing out of our driveway.

I’d placed some orders recently, so I figured it was one of those that had been delivered. I also get quite a few books each week to consider for review and many of those arrive via Fed Ex. In any case, I didn’t run right down and see what it was until half an hour later.

When I opened the door, it was none of the things that I was expecting. The shiny black box with gold “FTD” lettering told me I’d received some flowers. Now who could be sending flowers to me?

 
The calm before The storm PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, March 05, 2014 10:03 AM

By Kylee Baumle

As I sit here looking out at what remains of the last few snowstorms, the sky is a bright blue and all is calm. And even though it’s a mere six degrees out there, the sun shining through the window feels warm.

But, there’s another round of snow on the way and nearly everyone I talk to is just tired of it. We are winter weary. Still, we make the usual preparations for what is to come, like buying milk, bread, and eggs (because apparently French toast is what we all will eat if it’s our last meal before we get buried in an avalanche).

 
Why do some trees still have leaves? PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, February 26, 2014 8:37 AM

By Kylee Baumle

One of the things that people comment on when they visit us is our very large, very old oak trees and how beautiful and majestic they are. We have three of them in our yard and one of the neighbor’s is close enough that it looks like it could be ours and we benefit from the shade of all of them in summer.

They really are beautiful and their age is estimated to be over 200 years. One is a burr oak, one is a swamp white oak and I don’t recall at the moment what we decided the other one was.

These are common trees to the Great Black Swamp and their age makes it certain that they were here before early settlers began clearing the area for habitation and farming.

 
On your mark, get set.... PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 9:16 AM

By Kylee Baumle

As we’ve done battle with record cold and snowfall this winter, it can seem like there’s no end in sight to it. But even while Mother Nature is asserting herself in this season, she is ramping up for the next.

Under all that white stuff, bulbs are doing what bulbs do at this time of year and even if we still have snow on the ground at the end of the month, experience has taught me that we’ll more than likely see crocus blooms by the time March makes its entrance.

Truth be told, if I could dig down through the massive drifts in our backyard right now, I would probably find the snowdrops poking their noses out of the ground. Two years ago, the double ones were in full bloom on Feb. 20.

 
For the love of plants PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, February 05, 2014 9:32 AM

By Kylee Baumle

Last week, as I was relishing our final days in beautiful Ecuador, I had impure thoughts. It’s not what you think. Surrounded by beautiful plants and flowers at nearly every turn, the first thing that came to mind was, “How can I get some of those home with me?”

Because of the ideal growing conditions that their location at the equator affords them, as well as having the Andes mountains, the Pacific coast and the Amazon rain forest, Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse places on earth. It is a plant lover’s paradise.

That also makes it pure torture, as U.S. laws don’t allow travelers to transport live plants into the country.  Don’t think that I didn’t consider sneaking some in though, because I did. I even went as far as purchasing two plants, just knowing that I could pull it off.

 
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