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February 2019
As always writing our newsletter is a process that begins one day and ends at least a handful of days (or weeks) later, when I finally call it good and tap the send button. Each day I try to carve out a little time to work on writing down my thoughts and going-ons of the farm.

Today is February 26th, and it is 23 degrees outside this afternoon. The sun is out but muted behind a light cloud cover, and there is a dusting of snow on the ground. We tapped our maple trees on Thursday and Friday of last week, and the sap was dripping quickly all day Friday and into Saturday. Thankfully most of the pails and bags filled up enough to be weighted down against the strong winds of Sunday. Now sap sits frozen in the buckets waiting to be collected when the warmth returns. This cold weather will give us time to prepare the sugar house and gather the supplies for the coming season. 

Here is my first beginning of this newsletter written on February 19th:
Yesterday was just right in all the ways winter should be. Sunshine, crisp cold air, and snow covering the ground completely. I appreciate days like that so much because it seems they are becoming few and far in between. When the ponds are frozen and the snow is falling, we try to do everything we love about winter, all the reasons we look forward to winter, in a small window of time. If we hesitate, the snow is gone, rain is falling, and it may just be 50 degrees with humidity in the air. So when winter is true, and before we enter again into a slushy limbo, we do our best to embrace the joys of winter: cross country skiing, skating, making snowman and snow forts, snowshoeing, and snowball fights. In the same regard we prioritize farm work that is best done over frozen ground: moving round bales from the back hay fields where they were stored up to the cows winter paddock, and hauling firewood to and fro.

In many of the accounts from the earlier days of farming on this land, a sled was used as the main means of transportation all winter long, both in farm work and transportation. Can you imagine if instead of plowing the roads with each snow, we instead just hooked up our horses to skid implements instead of wheeled ones?

Here are some neat journal entries from the early Whitney farmers about sleighing, weather, and winter tasks:
January 1914: 
Sun. 4 good sleighing snow 6 in. deep very cold and stormy, Tues. 20 thawing all day Sleighing most all gone

January 1915: 
Fri. 1 cold and bitter a.m. Rainy p.m, Sat. 2 Snowy and fluttery a.m, Sun. 3 Zero in morning, Mon. 4 almost thawing, Tues. 5 Drew 2 cords wood. I husked some corn, Wed. 6 Foggy, rainy. thawing, Thurs. 7 built a manger in west part of sheep shed very windy, Fri. 8 Moderately cold and fair, Mon. 11 Ralph and pa bot 2 heifers 1 18 mos' old with calf. 1 16 mos' not bred. I husked corn a.m. Drew 2 cords wood p.m, Tues. 12 cleared path part way to tamaracks in Hoey's swamp drew 1 load of wood drew 1 ash and 1 walnut poles up from our woods fair moderate, Wed. 13 Ralph and pa went to A.A with 2 cords of wood. I filed 2 crosscut saws and husked some corn fairly cold

January 1916:
Sun. 2 Sleighing gone, Wed. 12 Rain & fog, Sun. 26 1 week of sleighing now gone. Fri. 31 Melting

March 1916:
Tues. 21 Snowing at 10 pm, Wed. 22 Thunder 2 am 1 foot of snow at 12 pm, Thurs. 23 Sleighs to auction. got stuck in snow on hill, Fri. 24 sleighs Dexter, Sat. 25 snowing, going fast

As we prepare for the coming sap season, my thoughts turn to my grandpa, Gilbert Whitney, who passed away on March 27th of last year. A few weeks earlier, on March 7th, we had celebrated his 89th birthday. He was with us when we tapped the trees and collected the first sap. All through the season he kept tabs on how much we’d collected that day, how much syrup we’d boiled down, the firewood supply, the sugar content, the weather, the progress of canning, the trees slowing down, the season coming to an end. In the 20 days between his birthday and the his passing day, he came to know that we were having a really good maple syrup season, one of the best. Over 100 gallons of syrup, from our ~250 taps. And he held in his hands the first ultrasounds pictures of this little being that was to become our daughter Able, now 4 months old, and smiled his kind, gentle blessing. 

Maple Syrup Open House 
If you'd like to join us this year for our annual open house and pancake breakfast, which will be held on March 16th and 17th, please sign up here:
https://whitneyfarmstead.squarespace.com/maple-syrup-open-house
We’d rather you sign-up and not be able to come, then not sign-up and decide last minute to come. To help with parking and lines, this year the open house will be on Saturday and Sunday, and you can either sign up to come at 12 pm, or 2 pm. The meal will be similar to last year: pancakes, sausage, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, oranges, maple syrup, coffee, tea. We use close to 100% organic ingredients, many of which are homegrown (maple syrup, sausage, eggs) or local and organic (flour, oatmeal, milk, butter). Suggested donation for the meal is $12-$15 per person. We will also have Maple Syrup and other farm goods available for purchase. Thank you for helping us make this a fun annual community event, and we hope to see you there!

Farmers Markets
Ann Arbor Kerrytown Market on Saturdays and Webster Farmers Market on 2nd and 4th Sundays 11:30-3 (https://www.websterfarmersmarket.org/) White Lotus Farm Cart starts in May. 

Summer Meat CSA
Signups for our summer meat CSA will be up soon: http://whitneyfarmstead.com/csa

Soon our days will be filled with collecting sap, carrying buckets, splitting firewood, stoking the fire, carefully monitoring and drawing off finished syrup, preparing for canning, eating plenty of pancakes, and of course teaching Able all the tricks of the trade : )
Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletters and we hope to see you soon,
Malaika, Matthew, and Able






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Whitney Farmstead · 5525 Jennings Rd · 4 · Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105 · USA

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