On Sunday the boys looted the barn for odds and ends that could be cobbled together to resemble something like a sugaring operation. A pipe, some old but not yet so brittle as to break wire, a dozen or so half-gallon jars. Then they tromped off into the woods to tap trees. It seemed such an improbable thing, to Just Sugar as one would Just Sweep, that I didn’t put much faith in it. But in the days since, I’ve carefully trod out to the back woods, over and around icy holdouts and the softened cow shits of 55 degree days, with a pressure canner-cum-sap vessel clanking at my hip. It is comically awkward in its handling and size on the return trips, brimming with sap, but Gus is somehow old enough to support the weight of one side and we make do. Though the careful attention we pay to where our feet land on the trip out is all but abandoned as our standards for success fall simply to getting back home without spilling the haul.
On Monday evening I dipped a wee Peter Rabbit mug into the sap for a petite quench shared between mother and son. Gus is an ardent sharer by nature but he drained the mug in full, leaving me a bit stunned and thrilled, also in need of a more fitting ritual for enthusiastic sugarers. So a wee mug of sap for all when it runs because what is a good life worth without it?
On Tuesday, while I was was carefully aligning a one inch bottle opening to a sap shunt in a maple’s side, I watched Gus plunge his cupped hands under the surface of the Just Collected, his untethered hair floating on the surface as he brought a small pool to his mouth. It was primal and beautiful to watch, but unquestionably marred by the memory of having lovingly buried our hands into the scruff of every animal we tend only 5 minutes earlier on our evening rounds. Indignant at my surprise, he informed me that this personal rite of collection had been established yesterday, Monday, and that it was fine. Well how-dee-do.
On Wednesday, we made a pilgrimage from school to co-op for coffee (though as seems inevitable we found other cow’s-dry-didn’t-plant-enough-or-raise-pigs-this-year winter homestead essentials along the way: kefir, apples, bananas, salami, carrots, peanut butter, onions, cookies, chocolate, almond and cow milk) and settled for a quiet evening of smoothies and Stuart Little as read by mama.
On Wednesday evening, Gus left his bed and caught me with the aforementioned box of cookies, saying through a mouth thick with sleep he had gotten up to talk about something. We never sorted out what, and instead decided a trip to the bathroom with a fresh tuck-in was a respectable alternative. Hugs and kisses shared, I padded back down the stairs, absent no more than 30 seconds, to the dog having abandoned her warm and equally cushioned spot for my own. As good a time as any to put on a kettle and check water and snack for barn beasts. The golden locked and the feathered, the wool-ed and the hide-ed. The deeply loved and bed-ed. All marked as Well.
Orange + Cardamom Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Raisin Cookies
These cookies are an earnest act of resistance on the battlefield of February Blues. Toasty, warm winter flavors and just the right amount of sweet and whole wheat to make you certain a third cookie can't be that indulgent. If you're in Maine, hunt down some local oats and wheat- it's easy enough to do and will make your cookies all the more righteous. And if you find yourself nearly out of whole wheat flour but with some einkorn on hand as I did, splitting the flour load between the two is a first-rate solution.
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or flour of your choice)
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon cardamom
pinch of kosher salt
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange, about 1 tablespoon
Preheat oven to 350 and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar to cream. Beat until fluffy and sugar is fully incorporated.
While butter and sugar are creaming, combine all of your dry ingredients (from oats to salt in the above list). Stir to evenly incorporate. Set aside.
When butter and sugar are creamed, set mixer to low and add egg, scraping sides as necessary. When the egg is fully incorporated, add vanilla and orange zest. Mix to combine.
Add dry ingredients with mixer still set to low, mix until combined.
Using a tablespoon measurer, scoop cookie dough onto cookie sheets. Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until edges have browned slightly. Allow to cool on cooking sheet for 5 minutes. Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.
Enjoy! (With fresh milk or coffee- that's nonnegotiable.)