Breaking Urban Ground

is thrilled to announce our first issue of

Breaking Urban Ground magazine.

It is currently available on iPads everywhere in the Newsstand app. We have interviews from Paul Gautschi on his amazing Back to Eden garden. Larry Hall talks to us about the Rain Gutter Automatic Watering System he created. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds comes to you via the voice of Jere Gettle. A personality local to me, Gretchen Anderson answers some of our questions about starting backyard chickens. If chickens are not for you maybe our discussion with Vice President of Mann Lake Ltd may interest you. Jack Thomas gives us great advice on the topic of becoming a bee keeper. If you want to know anything about real world emergency preparedness then you will want to catch Steven Harris‘ interview. He tells us what every home can do to take a first (and easy) step toward counting on yourself in a power outage or if you lose a regular water supply. We even have a special article contributed to us from Pepper Miller. Her 3 part blog article “The Chicken Plan” is an example for you to see how one person put her wish to keep chickens into practice.

We are thrilled about the launch of the magazine but we are always looking forward to new issues. We are building June’s magazine right now and would love your participation. It can be as simple as a picture. You can send us pictures of your Breaking Urban Ground Projects. They can fall into these major categories.


Show us your chickens, bees, rabbits, worms(worm compost projects) goats and others.

Alternate power:

Battery storage, home wind generator, solar projects, rain storage. Any utility you provide for yourself.

Food Production:

Canning successes, canning failures, dehydrated foods, cheese making, syrup, yogurt. What food did you make?


Your urban garden, community gardens you participate in, Veggies you grew or are growing, unusual crops, your first plant. If it is growing for food we want to see pictures.

Household Stuff:

Planter projects, a trellis you made, detergent, candles, beeswax lip balm, a bat house. This is the “construction zone”.


This is more of an action than a “thing” so let’s see first aid kits, group pictures of your CPR certification class, your 72 hour kit. Send photos related to “being” ready for lives turbulent situations.


How do you maximize your space. Lets see creative ways to manage what you have. Shelves you built, basement root cellars, serious spice cabinets.

Don’t forget to tell us about the picture. A picture of canned carrots is nice but information on who made them and a little background is better.

With all of this be sure to include the kids. Breaking Urban Ground includes all people learning to provide for themselves as they have interest. The entire family can be included. My kids don’t like gardening but love to make cheese. If your kids like doing something send pictures of their projects too.

We are all about learning. Learning includes mess-ups and failures. Send pictures of these and some info on what you learned from the experience and what you will do differently next time.

Sending your photos to constitutes permission to use or not use the photos in future issue and articles and on the Breaking Urban Ground website and social media affiliations. Don’t send us pictures if they are not your own or you do not have authorization to distribute them.

Our first issue was so much fun to make. Lets make the next one better.

Joe Gore


Maple Syrup Season 2013 Wraps Up. Great Success.

This is the end of a successful sap flow and syrup making season in my front yard. I harvested 24 1/2 gallons of sap and reduced it to about 3 quarts of syrup. Real, sweet, sugary, smooth, flavorful maple syrup. It took 4 days and 2 nights to cook it down. I split the syrup and did 2 days and 1 night twice. And with lots of patience and some research and just a little dumb luck it turned out great.

19 gallons maple sap

19 of the 24 1/2 gallons I got from 1 tree.

My method for reducing it was to put an enamel canning pot on the large electric heating element of my Brinkman meat smoker in my garage, in the middle of the concrete floor with the overhead door cracked open about 4 inches.




The smoker element heats the whole bottom of the pot and does so at a top temp of 205 or so. It is especially handy because I didn’t have to worry about running out of fuel. I split the total sap into 2 parts just in case I botched it somehow I did not have a total loss. So as it steamed down all of day 1 I kept adding sap. As I went to bed around midnight I topped it off to within an inch of the rim and went to bed. My lovely wife wakes up early so when she got up around 6 in the morning she checked on it and topped it off again.


When everyone was up and the kids went off to school I kicked it into high gear by placing the liquid in the canning pot on a turkey frying propane cooker.


This is important to note: If you bring the sap to a boil then, for whatever reason, reduce the sap temp below 190 degrees F the finished product will have a haze that settles to the bottom. It is perfectly fine other than the appearance.

100_1084That said, I topped it off again and brought it all up to a pleasant boil. As I added in the remaining few containers of sap I did it slowly to maintain the boil. As it reduced to a point I could put it in a smaller pot I did that quickly (safety first) to keep as much heat as possible.


Now I started to monitor the temperature. Lets discuss that for a moment. It is said that water boils around 212 deg F depending on altitude and atmospheric conditions. It is also said that you technically have “syrup” when the sap will boil at 7 degrees above boiling. Roughly 219 F. So you can use the SWAG method (Scientific Wild Ass Guess) and just boil it until it will rise to 219 F. You can do better though by boiling water at this stage and getting an accurate reading on your suitable for the job thermometer and adding 7 degrees for your specific altitude and that days weather. I have done both and still my syrup came out thinner (after completely cooling) than I thought it should. Now back to the story.

I kept an eye on the temp and as it approached 214 F. I went inside and turned on my gas stove burner on as high as it would go. I went back to the garage and with oven mitts on I carefully carried the pot in and put it on the burner and got it boiling again. The time from stove to stove was about 15 seconds.


Now for the final work. I know that that day the digital thermometer I was using read a pot of boiling water at 208 F. I know that the syrup I made that was brought up to 219 (I went right past 215) was still thinner than what I thought it should be so this is what I did on my last batch. At this point I recommend the project gets your undivided attention. A helper is indispensable. I boiled vigorously until I got a reading of about 219 F then I put it on as low a heat as I could and keep it boiling. I brought it up to 221 F. At that point it was bubbling so much that the bubbles were slowly filling the pot. I then killed the flame and carefully poured the syrup into the canning jars I had prepared while doing this final boil. I put the lids on in accordance with normal canning procedures and let them be until the next morning. This is my result.


This is most of the 3 quarts I got from the 24 1/2 gallons of sap I started with.


The dark syrup is still hot. It is thicker. The light syrup has a chill haze in the bottom (all edible though) and is not thin but not yet a syrup consistency.

Honey, don’t WE have a Maple tree?

When the nights are still freezing but the days start to thaw, that is the time to harvest sap from your maple to make your own syrup. “I thought you had to have a Sugar Maple?” is usually the first thing people say when I tell them I am making my own syrup from the tree in my yard. This is a quote from Bradford Angier, noted wilderness survivalist and forager, in his book Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants. All the maples have sugar-rich sap, but it is the sugar maple, Acer saccharum, that is by far the most famous for this characteristic. Hmmmm? (That’s right, he said “all”).

So what are you waiting for? You are bound to get something and best of all, it will be yours. You don’t have to be an expert to do this. Just a little research and some cheap tubes, fittings and a clean pail are all you need to start collecting. It takes about 1 gallon of sap to make 1/2 pint of syrup so you need a place to store it until you cook it down. I use empty, cleaned and rinsed plastic milk jugs. When you cook it down it has to be done outdoors on a gas BBQ or camping stove or similar heat source. It produces too much steam for doing it in your home.

This is my setup in the yard on 01-29-13Maple tap pic

This lady covers a lot of helpful information for the beginner.

Cold smoking cheese in the winter just makes sense

We often don’t smoke meat in the colder months because it is too hard to get some smokers up to temp but if you want to smoke cheese without melting it that is exactly what you want.  In the video below, Steve Hall (Shotgun Red) makes smoked cheese and smoked cashews and shares some lessons learned. Give it a try and remember, play with your food.