What we learned about making maple syrup

making maple syrup at home on simplebites.net

Written by Danny.

Every year it seems like we get one step closer to being a modern version of the little house in the big woods. Our first spring here we constructed a compost pile and fire pit, and foraged for wild ramps from the woods.  The next year was chickens (semi-failed attempt). Last year it was raised beds, rain barrels and chickens (successfully).

This year, we tapped the maple trees, and it is the sweetest thing going. Although campfires and homemade marshmallows are hard to beat, I think that the kids are infinitely more excited about making maple syrup. Maybe a little too much so.

Let’s just say that I’m glad they had the sweet/delicious/sticky/awesome syrup AFTER they wielded the power drill and hammer.

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Our fall chicken harvest (Boo! Contains real life farm-to-table images)

On a cool, cloudy day last week, we harvested our six hens. They went from blessing us with six brown eggs a day to stocking our chest freezer with four quarts of nourishing chicken-vegetable soup and ten jars of beautiful, clear stock.

No, we don’t just keep hens as pets; yes, we use them to their full potential. This post details why and how we harvest our own birds and what works for us in a descriptive, not prescriptive way. This is not a comprehensive tutorial or chicken butchering 101, but a look at our simple cull, by request from readers and followers on Facebook and Instagram.

When I saw that this post would fall on October 31 in the editorial calendar, I thought, “What better day to share a photo essay of chicken butchering than on Halloween?” There certainly are plenty of gory posts are floating around with edible eyeballs, worms, and the like, although this is probably one of the few with actual entrails to be found.

That said, I think the images honor the chickens. And it’s not really that gross; it’s just the prequel to your classic chicken dinner. And it’s probably one of the nicer prequels, if you know what I mean: fresh air, fall leaves, scrubbed stock pots, and a bright orange apron.

Photos begin after the jump.

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Celebrating 34 years with a harvest dinner (photo & video recap)

I promised a full report from my recent harvest dinner and birthday celebration, so here’s a photo recap of sorts for you to peruse on this holiday Monday. Did you get to sleep in? I hope so.

We were 22 adults, 15 kids, 4 baby girls, and one cute spaniel, gathered on a recent Sunday afternoon in the back yard of our urban homestead. It wasn’t really about my birthday, I only used the event as an excuse to invite 40 people over and enjoy one last bash before summer passed us by.

It’s no secret that I’ve been grasping at summer, not wanting to let it slip away, so we hauled our dining room table out onto the freshly mown grass, added the picnic table, plus a table I use for photography, and prepared to entertain under the trees.

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Garden, chickens and more: an urban homesteading update


Written by Danny.

I‘ve just come off of 2 week vacation and have thoroughly enjoyed the time with my family – including the silly water boy above.  We feel like we are still taking baby steps towards our ideal urban homesteader lifestyle – but we’re doing it at our own pace and loving it.

I’ve chronicled some of our homesteading efforts here on Simple Bites before, but thought it would be good to update you on how we’re keeping up.  Or not.  So here goes. [Read more…]

Planning what to grow in your backyard vegetable garden

When we first purchased our own home, my first thought was that I finally had the chance to have a garden, a space all my own to do what I wanted. It took a year before the raised beds were in and ready to be planted in the spring – and plant them I did.

A bit too eager to get food from the ground, I overloaded my space and so by about midsummer, the zucchini had taken over, the potato plant was expansive, and the tomatoes were literally out of control. A good problem to have, for sure, but with all the overcrowding, it was hard to get in to harvest, and I often lost tomatoes and zucchinis that I missed under the tangle of vines and leaves.

I learned an important lesson that summer: Proper garden planning helps avoid harvest heartbreak.

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