THE BACK PORCH BLOG
I'm one of the many volunteers who help out at Slate Run Farm. My whole family volunteers.
We've had quite a few adventures at the farm doing typical 1880's activities like making apple butter, gathering eggs, picking and canning beans, sewing, harvesting corn, working on the thresher, feeding and caring for livestock, and many others.
In this blog, I'll be sharinga bit ofwhat's been happening"down on the farm."
So pull up one of the old, weathered chairs, sit down and visit for a spell.
I was visiting the farm on May 17th when I took the pictures below.
It's dinner time and Farmer Mike has come to the pump to wash up. Look who gets there first!After Mike washes up, he heads to the house to eat. Guess who follows.
As Farmer Mike heads into the house, the lamb--as usual--is right on his heels. The ladies won't want a lamb in the house!
The staff and volunteers sit down to eat lunch and there's the little lamb right by Farmer Mike's side. A young visitoris delighted to keep the lamb company while the farmers eat.
Sheep Shearing with the hand-cranked clippers from the 1880s
Saturday was also the day of our annual Friends of Slate Run Farm (FSRF) volunteers's meeting.
The FSRF is a non-profit organization of farm volunteers who donate their time and energy to helping out at the farm. Farm volunteers come in all ages, shapes, sizes, abilities, interests, and backgrounds. All have a love for the farm and a genuineinterest in sharing the farm with the public.Volunteers perform many tasks around the farm from feeding animals and cleaning stalls, to carpentry work, sewing, gardening, historical research, machine repair, cooking, leading tour groups and many others. The group plants and harvests pumpkins every year and makes them available to the public. Donations from the annual pumpkin harvest provide funds that are used for special projects around the farm. FSRF also provides the funds to support this website which is volunteer run.
If you too, love the farm and are interested in becoming a volunteer, you can visit themetro parks website volunteer page and fill out an application. You can also pick up an application the next time you visit the farm. Just ask any of the farm staff or volunteers and they'll be happy to get you an application. Once you send in the application, you'll be contacted and provided information about upcoming orientations. A volunteer orientation is held regularly. You're welcome to attend the orientation to see if being a farm volunteer would be a good experience for you.
It's too cold to sit on the back porch today so I invite you to come on in and pull up a chair next to our old wood stove and sit for a spell.
Here in Ohio, we're in the middle of our third major snowstorm in the past 10 days. The picture on the right was taken after the first snow fall over a week ago. The second snow dumped about 8 to 10 inches and so far this third one has given us a little over a foot of snow.
Life goes on here at the farm despite the weather. Things just move at a little slower pace.
One good thing about all of this snow is that last week, for the first time in about 10 years, we were able to hook up the horse drawn sleigh and have the horses take a tour around the farm.
Right now everyone is getting ready for the annual Metro Parks Winter Hike coming up this Saturday, February 20th.This is a wonderful day when our farm staff work together with the staff at our sister park, Slate Run Metro Park, to provide hiking opportunities for the public. The hikes start in the Slate Run Metro Park at 10 am. Hikers can choose from 2, 4 and 5 mile hikes.
Farm staff provide a hot lunch for hikers at the farm after they finish the hikes. There's usually chicken noodle soup, cornbread with maple syrup or sorghum molasses, cookies and hot coffee. Most everything is prepared right on the farm.
Also coming up beginning 2/20, we will be offering maple syrup programs on Saturday and Sunday afternoons through the end of February (weather permitting). For more information, check out this month at the farm.
Hope you get the chance to stop by andvisit.
One of the farm ladies walks along a row of newly planted cabbage plants.
I set up a bench near the back porch in the sunshine and put out a stiff brush, acouple of jars of saddle soap, a small basin of water and some rags.
A basket of boots and shoes waiting to be cleaned
Within five minutes, I had several curious helpers. I showed the children how to brush off the dirt with thebrush, then wet the rag and rub it in a little saddle soap and then rub the soap all over the leather. After the footwear was clean, we put the boots and shoes in a row in the sun to dry. Once dry, we buffed the shoes with a clean rag.
In no time at all, we had cleaned three basketfuls of boots and shoes. Most of the visitors were fascinated by the process. Several adults even lent a hand.
I just wanted to remind folks that this spring we will have a chance to renew the Metro Parks levy. I'm not employed by the Metro Parks (nor is anyone in my family). I'm just a person and a taxpayer who loves Slate Run and the other wonderful Metro parks and will be voting to renew the levy. I believe that access to nature is important to our quality of life.
Here's some information regarding the upcoming levy. For more information, you can go to the official Metro Parks website at www.metroparks.net
Metro Parks current 0.65-mill 10-year levy expires at the end of 2009. Central Ohio
residents have enjoyed the benefits of the previous 10-year levy. This levy will allow
Metro Parks to continue to operate clean, well-maintained, safe parks that are open
daily throughout the year and are free to the public while continuing to acquire and manage
natural areas to protect wildlife and water resources.
Yes. During the current levy period, Metro Parks added five new parks, acquired more
than 7,500 acres of land, built 80 miles of trails, provided educational programming for
more than 50,000 school children and thousands of visitors each year, developed programs
for senior citizens and urban youth, enhanced protection of wildlife habitat especially
in the Darby Watershed, and increased yearly visitation by more than a million people.
Each year more than 6 million people enjoy a visit to a Metro Park.
The cost to the owner of a $100,000 home would be about $23 a year or about six cents a day.
The ballot issue is a proposed 10-year levy, so it would run until 2019.
The 0.75-mill levy will provide about $21.5 million a year.
Metro Parks will:
and opportunities that encourage physical and social health, relaxation and enjoyment
of the natural world.
Metro Parks will work to further improve wildlife habitat
and water quality within its parks by restoring
1,000 acres of wetlands while enhancing existing park forests and prairies.
urban youth, senior citizens and special populations
to accommodate regional growth trends
and the need to address the nature
deficit disorder among young people.
This will include construction of a nature center in
the Darby Watershed and increased programming with Central Ohio schools.
and secure land adjacent to existing parks.
Land will also be purchased and three new parks will be opened in response
to the anticipated growth of 500,000 residents in
Central Ohio over the next 25 years.
For more information about the levy, go to www.metroparks.net, or vote4metroparks.com
This will be Slate Run Farm's 28th year as a Living Historical Farm. Those of us who love the farm owe a great deal to those early volunteers and staff members who began with a vision of what a living 1880's historical farm could mean to future generations. This month we say farewell to Ritchie Teach, one of our original volunteers who was so important in planting the seeds and nourishing the young seedlings ofwhat would become Slate Run Farm as we know it today. I never met Ritchie, but I've heard wonderful stories about her from other staff and volunteers.
(from "The Slate", Jan/Feb 2009)
Ritchie Teach, an original Farm volunteer, passed away Jan. 24.
Ritchie was an upbeat and encouraging person, and was very
active for many years at the farm. One of her talents was rug
braiding. She led the volunteer project of braiding the first parlor
rug, which warmed and cushioned many a school childs parlor
experience. We send our condolences to her family.
We also say goodbye this month to Red, the ox, who was put down recently. Red had suffered for some time from arthritis and hip degeneration. When at last the medications could no longer give him relief from constant pain, we did not want him to suffer. Red was 12 years old--very old for a cow. He will be much missed by staff, volunteers and visitors. His teammate Tip, who was also born at the farm two weeks after Red, is still with us. As Tip is an animal who works with a partner, we are currently looking for a new home for him at another historical farm where he can once again be part of a team.
I had a rare free winter weekday today, so I decided to spend it at the farm. The weather was glorious for mid-February, a high in the 40's with a clear bright blue sky. There were only four of us working: two staff, another volunteer and me, and I was the only woman.
The men were busy cutting up two large pine trees which had toppled in the strong winds we'd had earlier this week. Fortunately, that seems to be the only wind damage.
I spent most of the day in the house making cornbread. Next Saturday, 2/21, is our annual Winter Hike and the farm women provide a home cooked hot lunch to the 500+ hikers who come through between 10 am and noon. We'll also make a soup (often turkey or chicken vegetable soup with noodles), cookies and provide drinks as well as homemade sorghum and maple syrup for those who like to top their cornbread.
Usually at this time of year, we'll only see a handful of visitors, but the combination of a beautiful day and cabin fever brought out around 30 folks today. Those who came through were an interesting mix of old timers and first time visitors.
Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall
February marks the one year anniversary of this web site and The Back Porch Blog.
It seems more like a few weeks than an entire year. Every season at the farm has its own rhythm; it's own joys and challenges and this blog has given me the opportunity to share some of it with you.
Winter is slowly drawing to a close. The past few months have been a quiet time with colder weather, fewer visitors and less time spent on outdoor chores. The farm workers have had some time to catch up on those projects which we couldn't get to during the busy summer and harvest months.
And now, as the days grow longer and brighter, one of my favorite events is about to begin. It's almost time for our winter hike and maple syrup days.
On Saturday, February 21st, the Slate Run Parks will host one of the annual Metro Parks Winter Hike. It's a wonderful chance to get out of the house, enjoy the woods, fields and farm, and to savor a hot lunch of soup, cornbread, cookies and drinks made and served by the ladies of the farm.
Here's an excerpt from this month's Slate with information on maple syrup.
HOW BIG DOES A TREE HAVE TO BE?
Trees need to be ten inches in diameter to put in one tap. Eighteen inches can have two taps. Twenty-eight inches can handle three taps and so on.
WHEN DOES THE SAP FLOW?
Warmer days of forty degrees and below freezing nights make the sap go up the tree in the day and back down at night resulting in a good sap flow. The length of syrup season varies with the weather.
HOW MUCH SAP DOES IT TAKE TO MAKE SYRUP?
About forty gallons of sap make a finished gallon of maple syrup. The sap straight from the tree tastes like water, with 2% sugar for a hint of sweetness. The sap is concentrated until it is about 66%sugar.
WHEN DOES SUGERING SEASON END?
The taps are removed when the trees start to bud and the sap is cloudy-yellow or dark in color. The best tasting sap is clear.
DOES TAPPING HURT THE TREE?
Drilling a hole opens the pathway for disease. Like skin on humans, the bark acts as a protective layer to the tree. When the tap is removed, the tree exerts extra energy to repair the tap hole. But overall tapping trees won't hurt the tree if done properly.
WHAT KIND OF TREE IS USED?
The sugar maple or black maple is the best tasting for syrup. Sap from other types of maples and trees, such as birch, can be boiled down and used. The sugar maple has the best taste and highest sugar content. Most maple syrup is produced in northeastern U. S and southeastern Canada, where the two preferred maple species grow.
HOW DOES IT GO FROM SAP TO SYRUP?
Heat evaporates the water in the sap and concentrates the sugar. It is a long, slow process. Sap is boiled until the sugar content is about 66%. Finished syrup boils at 7 degrees above the boiling point of water or 219 degrees. The syrup is filtered and bottled or canned when it reaches the correct temperature and density.
WHY DOES IT COST SO MUCH?
The sugaring season varies from two to eight weeks. Each tree needs to be retapped each year. The product is condensed to 1/30 of its original weight. Each tap hole gives about 10 to 12 gallons of sap which results in 1 quart of finished syrup per year.
It is regionally produced where the right types of maple grows.
If you have the opportunity, come on out. You can get some exercise, enjoy a nice lunch and learn about maple syruping and even taste some of nature's sweetness.