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Monthly Archives: February 2011

I admit it. I’m a geek. I’m your more classic kind of geek, OpenBSD server in a hand made rack mount hanging in the top of my utility closet, as well as your food and sustainability geek.

These things do in fact collide more often than one might think.

Case in point: I just made the dinner menu for game night. Game night means a Dungeons and Dragons style game, though for this particular campaign, we’re playing Pathfinder from Paizo Publishing, using my own game world. The dinner below isn’t a one off. This kind of thing is rather common.

Pre-dinner cocktail: Manhattans (Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon, Lillet Blonde, and American Spoon Balatons Cherries)

Main course: Venison stew

Side dish: Batate All’Abbamelle (baked Sweet potatoes with a sardinian honey and pollen reduction)

Dessert: Pannacotta kin Abbathu (Custard with abbamele and berries)

Wine pairing: Riverside Red from Purple Feet Winery

Beer pairing: Black Velvet (my own hard cider, with Faircy Irish Stout from Arbor Brewing Company)

I bake. Not quite as often as I’d like to or should, but I bake, and one thing that most baking requires is sugar. Living as I do in the Land o’ Sugarbeets, it’s usually far cheaper to get white refined beet sugar than cane sugar. But sugar takes many forms, and throughout the world and history, we’ve found ways of getting it.

It used to be that you couldn’t go anywhere in the Northeast or Midwest USA in February and March and NOT see buckets hung on the side of trees, collecting sap to be boiled down into syrup. Tapping ones own trees has fallen away from common knowledge though, and it makes me a little sad to look out my window, across the snowy yard, and count the GALLONS of maple syrup that could be derived from just the trees of this little subdivision.

Contrary to what many believe, you don’t need a Sugar Maple tree to make syrup. Sugar Maples are prized because they have the highest percentage of sugar in their sap, thus producing more syrup with less boiling, but ANY maple tree can be tapped. Around here, you’d be hard pressed to find a sugar type, but Silver Maples are everywhere.

Last year, I decided to try it myself, and tapped the massive maple tree in the backyard, as well as a couple at my grandmothers house. This is the tree in my yard, which I tapped last week in the warm weather. For perspective, that’s a 5 gallon bucket I’ve hung on the tap.

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Last year, from the 4 taps I ended up with about 3/4 of a gallon of syrup, but I was only taking sap for a week. I could have started sooner, and gone later, as I am this year. This cold snap has stopped the sap flow, but as soon as this tap starts again, I’ll tap the other trees, and put another into this one.

Chickens in a yard eating

Chickens, are not a source of sugar. The breeds shown here are: A Black Australorp (Bad Mama Jamma), Golden Polish (David and Bowie), White Cubalayas (no names yet), and Exchequer Leghorns (Alcatraz, Sing Sing, and one un-named).

These are the Apocalypse Chickens. When civilisation crumbles, and the yuppies are milling about unable to feed their families, I’ll have eggs each morning. Before that point I will need to make sure I have suitable roosters (The one Golden Polish in profile above is a cock, but GP are an ornamental breed). I’d like to increase the flock a bit to 8 hens or so, a mix of Australorp, Exchequer Leghorns, and some Chantecler. I’d REALLY like some Scots Dumpy Chickens, but I seriously doubt I could find any reasonably in the USA. It’s not one of the breeds available from Sandhill Preservation where I got these birds last year.

 

But snow is about to fly here. I enjoy winter, but I’m anxious for the maple to flow, and my chickens to enjoy the outdoors and be able to forage again.

I’m sitting in downtown Ypsilanti, in the newly opened B-24’s Espresso Bar, in the space that used to be Bombadill’s Neighborhood Coffee House. The previous owner decided he needed to sell, unable to make the coffee shop successful while dedicating the physical and emotional presence he thought needed to his family. I like Peter a lot, and it takes a lot of self-awareness to make the kind of decision he made. His assistant manager, though, worked out a deal with him and the landlord to rework the place and re-open it. Today, B-24’s opened, and it is FABULOUS. I’m currently drinking a pour over of Mighty Good Coffee Company’s Black Diamond coffee.

In other news, I’ve a job! I am now a full-time employee of Zingerman’s Mail Order! I worked as one of the temporary holiday Service Stars, starting in October, and wonderfully, amazingly, I was able to get a full time job there for the REST of the year. I am truly excited by this, not only because it’s a health care and paid-time-off providing company, but ALSO because I truly love the work. Yes, it’s largely customer service, but as I told one of the managing partners, it’s a job that has all the things I liked about my job at the ISP, without the drug dealing boss, mom-and-pop-shop drama, and it’s not Tech Support. I’m no longer slave to AT&T being idiots. Added bonus: My profession is now something I’m actively interested in. I’d long ago lost desire to work in the IT industry in any environment where I’m working with the general public. I’m quite content to be a geek at home, and to apply my geekery to things at work, without such work encompassing EVERYTHING I do. I’m far more interested in food, and sustainable living, than I am computer security and connectivity.

But, it’s back home for me. I’ve a pantry to finish building!

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