That One Time We Ate Maple Syrup Over Snow And It Was Delicious.

Hey friends! I just realized it’s not Wednesday. Literally, as I was about to write “It’s Wednesday!” I realized it was Thursday. Excuse me while I place my palm against my face. While this week has clearly been busy for me, this weekend was super laid back and relaxing so let’s discuss what happened. There will be lots of photos coming your way.

DSC_2668-01My mother-in-law lives in the mountains and we decided it was time to get away from renovations and head on up there to meet up with my sister-in-law, her husband and my mother-in-law. In other words it was time to eat a bunch of food, make fires outside to cook on, and oh, there were four dogs. It was perfect.

DSC_2740-01One of my favorite parts of this weekend included tapping a few trees even though it’s the end of maple syrup season. We knew we wouldn’t get much and it would be a tiny boil down since we had about 5 hours of flow, when you minus out that sap doesn’t flow when it’s below freezing. We knew we would have just enough for some syrup over snow and pretty much that’s all we cared about.

DSC_2584-01We went on a hunt for sugar and some red maples on my mother-in-laws land, but stayed close to home so we didn’t have far to transport it. While we don’t have any snow left down here, there are still feet upon feet at her place. Truth be told, I was just excited to go snowshoeing. I’ve been on God’s great earth for almost thirty years, and I have always lived in the Northeast yet somehow I had never strapped on a pair of snowshoes. All it does it keep you from sinking into the snow since it disperses your weight but none-the-less I had a great time searching for trees, walking through the woods, and taking in the views with my husband and brother-in-law.

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DSC_2609-03After we finished tapping trees, it was time for waiting, cutting trees down, hanging out, cooking, baking, beer,, a hilarious homemade kazoo and singing around a kitchen table to hits of the 1990’s, and more relaxation.

DSC_2564-01DSC_2620-01Wait, you want to know more about the homemade kazoo? Or my husband rapping Warren G. and Snoop Dogg? I so wish I could show you but I respect the fact that Andy doesn’t share every single thing he does while I’m the over-sharer. So, out of respect for him I will tell you it was hilarious, loud, and we were in tears. Wax paper, a comb, Grooveshark and a responsible amount of adult beverages make for a very funny night. Then again, funny people make for funny nights and this is a group of funny people. So while you try to imagine that scenario, let me back up and delve into some photos of earlier in the afternoon.

What do you do when you’re smoking meat outside and it’s nice out?

DSC_2645-01You hang outside while looking good. Some people just have it. Don’t hate.

DSC_2622-01The dogs enjoyed finding fun places to lay down…and jump. You know your snow is high when this happens.

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DSC_2697-01So in other words, we’re classy.

Our dogs pretty much love each other but Rosie and Champ have a special affection for each other.

DSC_2673-01 DSC_2674-01 DSC_2677-01 DSC_2678-01Thankfully they completely zonk each other out as well.

DSC_2636-01 DSC_2656-01 DSC_2659-01 DSC_2666-01Rosie could barely keep her eyes open and was resting everywhere.

DSC_2750-01With a fun day of hanging out and hi-jinks the next day we had a nice breakfast, collected the sap and boiled it down. For most of the collections the guys were able to just grab the pails and bags no issue, except for one of the ones up the hill. Clearly this was the best way to bring it down. We were really going for the professional aspect of sapping on this super small, ridiculous, run of boiling.

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How professional were we? Look at this boiling rig.

DSC_2681-01I know it’s really hard seeing this level of class and wishing you could be part of it. With enough effort and classes, you totally can be.

DSC_2686-01Truthfully Andy did a good job using his Yankee ingenuity to put something together to boil this little bit of sap. It’s not anywhere near the evaporator and system used by my brother-in-law during his big (and much more serious) boiling he does at his house.

To boil down sap isn’t super hard at a very small basic level. Obviously, you can see the photo above. This isn’t rocket science people. Pour in the sap through a mesh strainer, skim it when it gets foamy, wait until it gets low and a nice amber to it and it drips of a spoon while still coating it and then strain again. If there’s fresh snow around, eat it on the snow. You won’t regret it but. If you do regret it then I need to seriously evaluate your judgement skills. Let me show you in photos.

DSC_2709-01 DSC_2716-01 DSC_2724-01 DSC_2747-01  DSC_2752-01 DSC_2755-01 DSC_2756-01 DSC_2758-01 DSC_2769-01 DSC_2783-01 DSC_2785-01 DSC_2789-01 DSC_2791-01I think my brother-in-law shows the deliciousness of this best.

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DSC_2808-01 So pretty much, yep. Do this.

DSC_2795-01 DSC_2797-01Also, be prepared to resist faces like this.

DSC_2814-01DSC_2812-01All in all we had an awesome weekend and came home with everything smelling like sweet smoke. Even my camera body still smells like smoke. It was exactly what we needed. Now, back to house renovations.

Which trim….which trim….

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xo,

Heather

Reclaiming Our Living Room

We’re in the mountains of Maine today reclaiming our sanity, which has given me some time to edit some photos and catch up on some posts. I have to tell you guys how relaxing this is. I’m sitting in a rocking chair, in front of a wood stove, in a stream of sun, with a mug of hot tea. To say this is nice is an understatement. So while we reclaim a sense of balance and relief at being away from renovations for a couple days, let’s talk about our reclaimed southern pine floors we put down in our living room.

Flooring (22)These floors are my dream floors. The beautiful variation, the saw marks—count me in. They are the type of floor you see on Houzz and keep as an inspiration piece. They are floors you look up price wise and, when you’re on a budget like ours, gasp and fall over sideways when you see the cost. They are also the floors which my husband managed to divert from the waste stream.

Because of how this floor is laid, when all is said and done there’s a decent amount of waste. When Andy saw this he realized there was enough to do the floor in our living room, floor the small space in front of the new stairs and maybe, just maybe, build a someday farmers table for our someday porch—and keep these extra pieces out of the dump. So of course, it came home.

It was his first wedding anniversary gift to me and to say I was delighted would be a gross understatement.

We had been keeping this flooring in our barn for months on end, so it was important to bring it into the house to acclimate before we laid it. It was a little more organized than this (the day we started laying it) but more or less there were piles of flooring everywhere. My shins are direct proof of these piles. You would have thought at some point I would have learned to step over or walk around the piles instead of directly into them. Lesson not learned.

Flooring (5)When it came to laying this flooring it definitely took time. Unlike regular flooring, with reclaimed flooring you have to match widths, sometimes you have to fix splines, and in general it can be a little frustrating to line up. To make it easier for us I decided we needed to pile all of the flooring by width so we could easily grab what we needed. The boards ranged from 6″ to 12″ so there was definitely a huge amount of variation. It was much more efficient versus our original layout kind of seen above and below. In other words it was not the most efficient method.

Flooring (13)To start laying the floor we needed to make a border around our concrete hearth. Andy took two of the shorter and narrower width pieces, put a 45 degree angle on each and laid them on either side of the hearth. They were held together in with biscuits and secured to the subfloor with construction adhesive and finish nails through the face (top) of the flooring. One of the advantages of a floor like this is that you either will never notice the finish nails, or they look like part of the original product.

Flooring (4)Laying the first course of flooring was pretty much like any other flooring—start in the center. To do this easily we found the center on each wall with a measuring tape, marked it, and use a chalk line to connect the two center marks.

The next step shows why this flooring takes longer than other types. With most flooring you can grab whatever works and lay it, as they are all the same width. With this type of flooring it was vitally important for us to lay every board for our rows out ahead of time for two reasons:

  • We needed to ensure we had enough of the same width to create the entire row.
  • We needed to ensure the great variations in the wood would look visually appealing when put together. A very clean red piece of wood could either look great, or horrible, next to a darker very marked up piece of wood. In floors like this they don’t need to perfectly match because in the end we wanted a varied look. There were a few times however we swapped pieces out because they just looked wonky.

Once test laid, we had to ensure the butt ends (where the two boards meet up end to end) would sit flush so we cut the ends off to make them square.

Once we had a chalk line on the floor we followed that line with our boards while making sure the flooring was centered, and not to the left or right of the line. To secure this type of flooring we glued it down and biscuit jointed on the the butt ends.

Flooring (3)After the floor is laid and we were sure it was centered, we braced it on one side. We did this with scraps screwed into the subfloor firmly against the non-tongue side (but not so tight it bowed the flooring). This is so when we installed one side we didn’t throw the flooring off kilter from the original straight row. Flooring (11)From here it was a matter of laying everything. Some of the boards weren’t perfect on the edges so they needed to be planed down a little, some needed to be stood on in order for them to slide in easier, and some of them worked perfectly. It was important not only to lay down our rows prior to securing it, but to also test fit the pieces too.

Flooring (6) Flooring (8)With the test fits complete, we banged each piece into place (using a scrap piece of wood, not hitting the actual flooring) and nailed it securely. Andy used his pneumatic flooring nailer, but there are plenty of just fine regular ones too—you just have to hit them harder.

Flooring (10)Once we finished a few courses we removed the blocks we initially secured against the first course and kept on going in the other direction.

Flooring (12)With the easier of the two sides done (to the left of the hearth from the direction in the photo above) it was time to tackle the right side. It wasn’t particularly harder, but it did require just a little more work.

Flooring (14)The first row we laid on this side was the most complex. We had to both secure it to the hearth, and attach it to the original course. To tie into the hearth side, we used the biscuit jointer to pull everything together. The issue was the original course had the groove where we needed a tongue. Why was this a problem? This meant only one thing—a spline.

A spline is a thin piece of wood inserted into the groove of flooring to turn it into a tongue. Since we needed our center board to have two tongues, a spline was the only way to do it. I didn’t get any great picture of a spline, but if you look in the photo above there is a thin piece of wood sitting on the concrete hearth—that’s a spline. They can be bought, but Andy made ours on the table saw with some scrap wood. To put in the spline we glued it into place and then finish nailed, and then set the nails, to secure it and to make sure the nails were flush so the next piece of flooring would actually fit.

After this part I didn’t get many more photos of day one. We were getting to the final courses laid on this side, we were hungry, and we were in the last push for the night.

The next day however, we got up early and started again. Andy’s friend stopped by with his black lab and while they chatted they laid the last course. His buddy is also in construction and builds furniture too so it was great to have him stop in to inject some energy, and help, into the final push.

Flooring (19)When all was said and done, and a day and a half of work later, we had a beautiful floor.

Flooring (20)There was much rejoicing and dancing.

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We’ve had this floor laid for about a week or so now and it grows on us more and more each day. There was something off though and we weren’t sure what it was until it hit us. The thing with our house is that we’re going to have a lot of different flooring. We’re keeping the oak in the original house, we’ll have beech upstairs as well as beech on the staircase and in the downstairs bedroom, and we have the beautiful reclaimed floors in our living room. When we stepped back we realized the reclaimed floor just wasn’t tying together. It looked great, but we needed it somewhere else so it looked like it was on purpose and not just an after thought. That’s when we realized we had enough to lay in front of the stairs and how well it would bring everything together.

While we are going to finish the staircase first, we laid a few boards and I’m happy to say it totally fixes the balance issue. With the wide living room and the small amount in front of the staircase it looks great together and looks purposeful.

Flooring (1)We’re very happy with the floors so far, and frankly, everything. The house is pulling together so nicely and we love it.

I’ll be back next week with an update of all the little things we’ve been doing including higher-quality photos of the lighting we installed, new lighting we’ve put in since, paint in the staircase and more.

With all that said, I’m checking out and am going to head out into the woods. We’re going to go tap some trees to try and get a little more maple sap before the season is over, cut some wood, and spend the day with family cooking over a fire outside and having fun in the snow.

xo,

Heather