Category: GilChrist

Syrup, garlic, and a goodbye

Syrup, garlic, and a goodbye

In late February, the sap started running which means: syrup time! Our friends Dan and Margaret are conducting an experiment tapping black walnut trees on the Huss Project property that we all help tend. Most folks tap sugar maples for their high sugar content, but we recently learned that black walnuts make excellent syrup as well. It’s been nice to spend time around the fire with friends watching the sap boil and thicken while there’s still a bit of a chill in the air.

Swinging with Henry
Swinging!

We’ve continued to stay close to home during the pandemic, but we did venture out this month for a lovely outdoor, socially-distanced visit with Kirstin’s family. Her sister Alyssa came out with the kids all the way from Idaho to spend time with our grandpa as he gets up in years, and Kirstin enjoyed hanging out with nieces and nephews on a sunny afternoon.

Garlic at Huss
Garlic at Huss

More sun and warmer temps have meant that things are starting to get busier on the farm for Rob. The garlic we planted last fall is starting to pop up, and we’ll harvest the scapes (a sort of mini-garlic that grows out the top of the plant) in late spring, and the full bulbs mid-summer.

Hand salad
Hand salad!

One of Kirstin’s favorite spring rituals is the first “hand salad,” which is a bite-sized collection of some of the first tasty greens to come from the soil. This one contains lemony sorrel, oniony chives, and savory parsley—hum!

Minna
Minna at GilChrist

While so many things are coming back to life, we also experienced a very sad loss when the pony where Kirstin works died unexpectedly. Minna was a sweet old gal generally in very good health until one evening when her heart started shutting down. We’ll really miss her a lot, though no one will miss more than her goat pal, Puck.

Big tree!
Big tree

In happier news, we enjoyed the annual pancake breakfast at a local alternative high school that makes maple syrup from the trees in the forest next door to the school. We’ve lost count of how many years we’ve gone to this breakfast—it’s a lot!—but this year was the first time we visited the nearby county park, which has many HUGE old growth beech and tulip trees. A hike in the park will definitely become part of our annual pancake pilgrimage!

Letters, winter, and sourdough

Letters, winter, and sourdough

This winter, though stressful when it comes to national news, has actually been quite pleasant at home. One of the delights has been receiving letters from our three-year-old friend, Mira. With her mom’s help, she writes a letter a day, complete with drawings and stickers. We love it, and can’t wait to hang out with these friends again when the weather warms up!

So much snow!

We’ve actually had a real winter this year, with regular snow and a lovely snow storm this month to accompany a big cold snap. Between our home downtown and Kirstin’s work at the retreat center, we got lots of good exercise shoveling snow.

Zuzu still enjoying the wood stove.

We’ve also been getting good exercise hauling wood up the stairs to our second floor home for our new wood stove. We’re not sure if we’ve been more excited about this, or our cat Zuzu, who spends her day meticulously calibrating her body temp nearer and further from the stove. Hot apple cider on the stove after shoveling has been a real treat.

Mmmmmmm …. sourdough bread.

Another lovely winter treat has been a new sourdough recipe Kirstin found. The starter we use is from our friend Sylvia from years ago, and after trying quite a few different recipes, we think we’ve finally found one that makes a dependably delicious, easy, beautiful loaf of bread. Tuesday is quickly becoming soup-and-fresh-bread night, following Monday spaghetti night.

Retreat.

With the pandemic continuing, we’ve been staying close to home, but Kirstin did get the chance to go on retreat in one of the cabins at work for a few nights. It was nice to have some quiet time to read, sleep, and just think.

New sign for World Fare!

In the meantime, Rob finalized plans to get a new sign installed on our building for the store on the main floor. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s going to look great! It will be nice to have a refreshed look as the weather gets warmer and leans toward spring.

Work and personal retreats

Work and personal retreats

Each fall, we go on retreat for a weekend with our close friends who work with us at the Huss Project to look at the year past and plan for the future. Knowing we’d need to gather outside this year for COVID safety, we pushed up the date to the first weekend of October, which was our first weekend since June without a farmers market. Little did we know the temps would drop suddenly, leaving us camping out in 30-some degrees overnight! But we kept hot water on for tea, stoked the campfire, and managed just fine, with lots of good conversations. It was actually quite fun to sleep out in the woods on the property, which we’d never done before. We’re really looking forward to including our kiddo in these kinds of events and seeing them enjoy having so many honorary “aunts” and “uncles” in our community!

Campfire
Campfire with our community

Of course, the following weekend was warm and sunny, so we took advantage of the weather to spend the day at the beach. We brought snacks and books, took naps in the portable hammock, and skipped stones into the lake. Lots of families were out enjoying the beautiful day, and we stayed long enough to enjoy the gorgeous sunset.

Skipping rocks at Lake Michigan
Skipping rocks at Lake Michigan

Though the farmers market is done for the season and we’re starting to put the beds to sleep for the winter, there are still quite a few veggies coming on, so we’re still canning and freezing for the winter. Kirstin’s also been busy coordinating COVID-safe activities to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the retreat center where she works.

Preserving vegetables
Preserving peppers

At the end of all of this busyness, we rested and renewed our energy with a two-week retreat at the center in our favorite guest house, which sits at the edge of a small pond near the pasture where the resident pony and goat live. We took lots of long walks through the woods to the nearby monastery and enjoyed rowing around their small lake (see above). We even saw a mink on the pond by the house! All in all a much-needed time away from the year’s noise, especially as the coming election grows near. We’ve spent a lot of time at this house and can’t wait to enjoy quality time here with our child, exploring the woods and shorelines, putting together puzzles, and snuggling up by the fireplace with a good book.

Puck and Minna
Puck and Minna