March Madness finally has meaning in my life once again and I’m not talking about watching college kids running around dribbling a ball either. March is typically the time that the maple sap starts flowing in Michigan and right now the flow is upon us. The picture above shows how the professionals tap a tree. This year I decided to actually tap some trees as well. My set up was a bit more creative and DIY, but I got the same results… gallons and gallons of maple tree sap. Watch the video below and see.Since tapping the trees I’ve been on a steady diet of maple sap for all of my hydration needs. If you have never experienced drinking a chilled glass of maple sap I encourage you to do so. The sap is 97-98% water when it comes out of the tree and from all appearances you would assume it is just plain water but you would be mistaken. It’s living water complete with organic minerals. The taste is crisp and refreshing with a slight maple syrup sweetness to it. I drink 2 glasses first thing in the morning. The first glass I drink straight and use it to throw back an MSM pill or 2. In the second glass I add some Oceans Alive marine phytoplankton. That’s the way to start the day. My only issue is that I have to keep the sap chilled in the refrigerator to keep it from spoiling. I’m not big on cold drinks in the middle of winter but I’m able to make this exception.
Here are some of the other creative ways I’ve integrated maple sap into my daily diet:
Smoothie base, use the sap instead of water
Tea base, I use an electric kettle, be sure to rinse it out because the sugar can collect inside the kettle
Raw granola and cookie recipes, I use the sap instead of water when making these recipes that will eventually be dehydrated
Kombucha starter base, my first attempt at this wasn’t exactly successful but I’m sure it was something I did and not the maple saps fault
Enjoy this video on how to harvest maple sap gadgetarian style. – Keep it Live!
It’s still a bit chilly around here but I thought I’d share a video from last summer that features one of my raised bed gardens at Camp Rawnora. I used old fence posts and fence boards to create the frame for the garden. The length of the fence boards determined the length of my garden. The only cutting I did was on the fence posts which I cut down to 14 inches. I dug a 6 inch deep hole for each of them and secured them in the ground before attaching the face boards. With recycled wood it is important to pre-drill holes and secure everything with wood screws. This aged wood had a tendency to split at the ends and pre-drilling will prevent that.
Underneath I lined the ground with cardboard and newspaper to kill off the grass and to prevent weeds from growing up into the bed. Eventually all of this material will breakdown and turn into future fertilizer. The beds were filled with composted manure which our horses happily produce. I topped the beds and the walkway around the bed with woodchips. This was useful for retaining moisture in the beds especially during the drought we had last summer.
All the plants that went into the raised bed were grown from organic seed started under grow lights and then transplanted. The variety of tobacco used was from heirloom seeds gifted to Camp Rawnora by a Native American. The tobacco leaves and seeds were collected for ceremonial usage. As you can see from the pictures, humming birds enjoy the bountiful yellow blooms of the tobacco plant.
Currently the bed has a thick layer of dead leaves on top of it which is covered in a layer of snow. Eventually the snow will melt and it will be time to replant the bed. This year I plan on using activated EM to prepare the soil and I hope to experiment with compost tea as well. I’ll be sure to post my progress.
Snakes alive and caterpillars too! With the heat of summer all the cold blooded critters are coming out. I recently had my share of snake medicine from the many slithering friends who have crossed my path. I’m a big fan of snakes, lizards, turtles… I dig all animals but I especially like reptiles. I have a feeling I was a marine iguana in another life. You know, swimming in the ocean, eating seaweed, blowing salt out of your nose. Anyway, here are some pictures of the wild life I’ve captured on camera and in my hand.
Yellow Rat Snake – A common snake in the South, non-venomous constrictor that eats small rodents. They’re very docile as you can see which makes them an ideal choice as a pet, similar to the red rat snake/corn snake. This fellow was crossing a dirt parking lot when I snapped these pictures. It just kept coming towards me with out a care. I had to come back and rescue it from a police officer that was trying to pick it up using a long pole. Not having any luck I told him to let me try. I just picked up the snake. It was so mellow that it let me snap a couple pictures before I put it down in the bushes. I found it surprising that the police officers had no idea what kind of snake it was or if it was poisonous. Just goes to show what seems like common knowledge most common people don’t know.
Black Racer – Common in the East and their range extends as far north as Wisconsin and Michigan. These guys are fast as the name implies. I didn’t bother trying to pick this one up though I have caught them by hand in the past. They will bite and they release a stinky musk from their anal gland. No fun at all, it takes days to wash the smell off.
Painted Turtle or Cooter – Super common. They live in ditches, ponds and lakes. Folks fishing with dead bait often think they’ve caught a cinder block but it’s usually a turtle. Cooters and Painted Turtles look very similar and they can be distinguished by the coloration on their face and shell. This guys shell was covered in algae so I’m not sure which kind it was.
Gopher Tortoise – These guys are super cool burrow digging vegetarians. One thing that is unique about them is that they dig a huge burrow unlike most other tortoises. The burrow not only houses the tortoise but it is home to dozens of other creatures… not at the same time of course. Snakes will often share a den with gopher tortoises and critters like opossums and armadillos will move into abandoned dens. They live in wooded areas and in coastal sand dunes. They also love eating prickly pear cactus fruits just like me. Gopher tortoises were consumed during the depression era. They are now a protected species in Florida.
Giant Swallow Tail Caterpillar – This guy caught me by surprise and though I only have pictures of one of them, there were 3 in this little citrus tree when I first saw them. They look like little snakes. I snapped some pictures and then did a quick google search for “snake caterpillar”. It took some time to find the perfect match and when I found a site that referenced it as an “orange dog” because of their love of citrus, I knew I had found the one. Man do they love citrus. The leaves of my little tree had been shredded from their feeding. Another thing I came across and had to test out is that if you poke them they’ll emit an odor which I found more familiar than unpleasant. I still can’t figure out where I know the smell from, it’s kinda like a bitter perfume. Also when you poke them they shoot out 2 bright red antennae. It’s super cool, kinda like a snakes tongue, but not really. Nature is amazing. Unfortunately after 2 days on the citrus tree the caterpillars all went MIA. I’m guessing they ran off to become butterflies.
Here’s a fun summer recipe that uses raw corn on the cob. It’s an homage to treat I used to get from Mexican food vendors on the street up in Chicago. It’s called elotes but I call it corn in a cup.
2 ears of corn – cut from cob and place in a bowl
1/2 C cashews – soaked
1/2 C sunflower seeds – soaked
2 T nutritional yeast
2 T water
1 t chili powder
1/4 C lemon juice
1/2 C olive oil
1 t tamari
1 t salt – salt to taste
Place all the above ingredients in the blend or food processor and blend smooth to make a cheese. Adjust flavor to suit taste. Add water if necessary to thin. Mix in with the corn. Sprinkle paprika on top and decorate with fresh cilantro.