my heart belongs in the rural hillsides of michigan, where town isn't too far away but life moves at a slightly different pace. value is placed on the simple things that take time to bring to fruition. days of boiling maple sap down into the sweet nectar of syrup, caring for chickens to earn that meal made with a still-warm egg, taking a walk in the woods without having to travel to the woods. many people might consider my home in traverse city living a rural life, but even the traffic and bustle of our little town feels rather city-like at times. so i place inexplicable value on getting away every once in a while.
one day, we'll have our own home in the country - but for now, d and i find escape in housesitting for friends who live out of town or spending a bit of time backpacking. it is this time each year when we are able to sit without the sounds of cars passing or planes overhead - really without the sounds of anything but ourselves, the fire, and the animals!
i think it is so important for everyone to experience this type of escape regularly throughout their life, be it a week in a country house or a week backpacking totally removed from society. for it is in this escape from the world constructed around us that we're able to connect within ourselves. and to feel the power and wonder of nature around us, for we are a part of this world.
the springtime temperature swings from cold nights below freezing to sunny afternoons with the inklings of warmth bring maple syrup season to the country in michigan and other states where sugar maples abound. this temperature swing alerts the trees that spring is coming, and they begin pulling their slightly sweet sap up from the roots to the tips of each branch. this step begins their growth towards budding and leafing out for their summer of growth.
that movement of sap in the trees allows us humans to tap the trees and siphon off a bit of the sap for ourselves. nothing about this process hurts the trees, but it brings the sweet joy of maple syrup into our lives! for me, taking part in the cycles of the season as the natural world experiences them ties me to the land in a unique and special way. taps like the metal one below pull the sap from the trees drop by drop.
maple syrup really takes the cake as my favorite sweetener. not only is the flavor something to swoon over, the simple yet time consuming process of boiling sap over a raging fire for long hours ties me to this treat in a special way. here is the simple outdoor setup our friends jim & kelly have in their yard at a full boil.
for every gallon of finished maple syrup, forty gallons of sap has to be collected and boiled down. in this rustic yet efficient system, there is about 10 hours of boiling over the fire, and another few of finishing the syrup on the stove for that gallon of syrup. it is a labor of love making your own maple syrup, and once you've done it, you'll surely understand why folks want you to fork over such a hefty sum of money for it.
a few other little joys of our week spent in the country include:
life handing us 3lbs of amazing bacon and a little bunch of asparagus needing to be used... so, of course the logical next step is to wrap the asparagus in bacon. thank you instagram for this glorious idea! simple, beautiful, delicious! just wrap small bunches of asparagus in a slice of bacon each and bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your bacon and asparagus spears! i can't wait for springtime to make this a regular indulgence : )
taking the time to notice the little things, like the simple strands of steam wafting through the afternoon sunlight.