Seed Starting Tips and Tricks

Our wooden potmaker turns newspapers into perfectly sized and shaped, 100% bildegradeable seedling pots you can plant right in the ground. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

Our wooden potmaker turns newspapers into perfectly sized and shaped, 100% bildegradeable seedling pots you can plant right in the ground. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

The snow lies deep in the back pasture. The wind whines sharply between the branches of the pine trees and the days remain painfully short. But still, something is happening. I can see it in the changed slant of sun’s rays at 4:00. The chicks I hatched last spring are laying pullet eggs and the year-old Buff Orpingtons are gifting us with huge, double yolkers. Wood piles are shrinking and there is tubing snaking through the maple bush waiting for the first run of sap that will be boiled into syrup.

This is a busy time of year for us, outdone only by harvest but a lot of this work is done in the dreaming. What should I plant and when and where? I will confess that I am always too early. My impatience for something crisp and green outweighs my good sense.
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I Was ‘Barn’ to Love You: Rustic Wedding Decor

Barn Wedding_17 RGB.jpg550x350An old-fashioned hardware as a source for wedding supplies? That seems as ironic as a wedding in a barn. Yet, “barn weddings” have become the rustic venue of choice for country and hipster couples alike as they re-envision this humble structure into a stunning new space for their big day.
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A Homemade Valentine: Cast Iron Skillet Peanut Brittle

peanut brittle done

I never really cared much for peanut brittle — that is, until an older gentleman introduced me to a recipe handed down to him long ago.  He said he enjoyed making it at deer camp each year, and brought a batch to share at our workplace too.  It was amazing!  Crispy and delicious, it melts in your mouth, with nothing sticking to your teeth.  Only 5 ingredients: peanuts, sugar, corn syrup, salt, and baking soda.  The real secret though, according to him, is using a cast iron skillet and a wooden spoon. Continue reading

Making Homemade Syrup: 10 Tips Before You Tap

Our glass honey and syrup dispenser saves you a sticky mess. At our store in Kidron and Lehmans.com.

Our glass honey and syrup dispenser saves you a sticky mess. At our store in Kidron and Lehmans.com.

By Scott Ervin

Editor’s Note: The following article is by Scott Ervin, husband of Glenda Lehman Ervin (Lehman’s VP of Marketing) and son-in-law of Jay Lehman (Lehman’s founder). An avid outdoorsman, Scott tried his hand at maple syrup making two years ago and learned many valuable lessons in the process.

There is an abundance of sources for information on how to tap trees and make maple syrup. How-to guides are readily available on line and in books. I picked up a great book at Lehman’s that was very helpful. I recommend that anyone interested in making maple syrup for the first time study this readily available information carefully before embarking on your quest for delicious homemade syrup.

backyard sugarin book

However, while the book and websites gave me enough info to get the job done, there were still a few things I had to learn the hard way. It is my hope that the following tips will help you to avoid the pit-falls that I stepped into during my rookie season.

1. Mark the trees you wish to tap in the summer, when the trees still have leaves. Trying to determine which trees are maples from the bark or from memory will almost certainly lead to tapping non-maples, which will produce a small fraction of the sap the maples will provide.

2. You want to tap the south face of the tree, however, be willing to vary from due south. Tapping beneath a large branch or above a large root will typically provide the best flow.

Simple to use, drill a 7/16" hole 1-1/2" to 1-3/4” into the tree at a slight upward angle, about as high as your waist, insert spout firmly in the hole and hang a bucket from the S-hook.

Simple to use, drill a 7/16″ hole 1-1/2″ to 1-3/4” into the tree at a slight upward angle, about as high as your waist, insert spout firmly in the hole and hang a bucket from the S-hook.

3. If you have a tap that is producing less sap than other taps, re-tap it right away. Don’t leave the slow producing tap, hoping that it will improve its flow; it won’t. Tap a new hole, no closer than 6” from other holes, then you are likely to improve your results.

4. I recommend using large buckets that sit on the ground and have a sealed lid for collecting the sap. I found that during peak flow times, smaller buckets filled faster than I had time to collect the sap, resulting in wasted sap. Also, when I didn’t use a sealed lid, curious or hungry critters knocked over the buckets and ants got in the buckets.

5. When using a bucket that sets on the ground you should connect a rubber hose from the spile to the bucket. Make sure to drill a hole in the top of the bucket that is not too large, allowing the hose to fit snugly; otherwise ants will get in through the hole.

Cook a meal, heat a lot of water, or do your canning without electricity, or boil your sap outdoors. portable LP Cookers can go anywhere.

6. I was amazed how long it takes to boil off the water. It was hard for me to find the time to boil it down before the sap had a chance to spoil. Luckily I piled snow on the north face of my house where it is out of the sun this time of year. I stored the sap in the snow bank until I had time to boil it down. I suppose you could use coolers with ice or a refrigerator if you have them available.

7. Have fuel on hand. As noted above, it takes a lot of time to boil off the water, probably more than you are anticipating. This in turn means it takes a lot of fuel. Whether you are using wood, propane, natural gas or other, make sure you have plenty on hand. I ran out of propane twice which delayed the process and the trees were producing faster than I could keep up.

8. This is an outdoor project. Boiling the sap creates a tremendous amount of steam. Far too much to boil indoors.

Want pure, delicious syrup but don't have the time to make your own? We've made it for you.

Want pure, delicious syrup but don’t have the time to make your own? No worries. We’ve made it for you.


If conditions are adequate, boiling outdoors is obviously preferred. I tried this but the wind kept the flames from heating the pot properly, the cold temperatures slowed the boil and of course it snowed or rained. I used a large propane camp stove. I tried boiling in the garage but the steam made everything in the garage dripping wet. I moved the set-up to a doorway of the garage, but the wind and rain still made it ineffective. I then draped a tarp across the door opening from the ground up to about three feet below the top of the opening and clamped the tarp to the door rails. The tarp kept the wind off the flames and the great majority of the steam rolled above the tarp and out of my garage.

9. Take time to filter your syrup. Another pitfall I encountered was underestimating the time it takes to filter the syrup. I started with canning jars and 4” x 4” cloth patches. This or coffee filters will work fine if you have a small amount, but if you have more, you’ll want to do something different. You need to increase the surface area of the cloth that the syrup can pass through. I switched to buckets and much larger cloth patches that I clamped to the bucket, that way I was able to speed up the process dramatically.

Set of 12 glass bottles for storing your finished maple syrup. Each holds 12 oz.

Set of 12 glass bottles for storing your finished maple syrup. Each holds 12 oz.

10. Make sure you get to enjoy all the fruits of your labor. Freeze what you won’t consume in about three months. Your syrup will only stay fresh in the refrigerator for about three months. Don’t do what I did and store it all in a refrigerator. Throwing out syrup that I made with my own hands brought tears to my eyes. Next year, move over popsicles! I’m going to enjoy fresh syrup all year long.

Made in small batches, this deliciously unique syrup is made by putting pure maple syrup into charred white oak bourbon barrels and aging it for several months. At Lehmans.com.

Made in small batches, this deliciously unique syrup is made by putting pure maple syrup into charred white oak bourbon barrels and aging it for several months. At Lehmans.com.

TIPS IN A NUTSHELL:

  •  Mark the trees you want to tap in the summer.
  •  Locate your taps for optimum flow.
  •  Don’t be afraid to relocate a dud tap.
  •  Use large enough buckets and lids that seal tight.
  •  Rubber hoses work great; make sure they fit snugly into the buckets.
  •  Boiling off the water takes a long time; protect your sap so it doesn’t spoil.
  •  Don’t underestimate the amount of fuel required to boil off the water.
  •  Don’t get drenched by the tremendous amount of steam created while boiling.
  •  You can speed-up the final step of filtering the syrup.
  • Keep it fresh all year long.
    Our sap bags are a great value, keep dirt out better than buckets and keep contaminants to a minimum. Plus, all it takes is a glance to see if they're full. At Lehmans.com.

    Our sap bags are a great value, keep dirt out better than buckets and keep contaminants to a minimum. Plus, all it takes is a glance to see if they’re full. At Lehmans.com.

    Shop ALL maple sugaring supplies and syrups >>

My Life as a Lehman

Having grown up with the name Lehman, I have lived the life of misspellings. Now that I go by two last names, as in Glenda Lehman Ervin, the chances for a typo have increased dramatically. So much so, in fact that I keep a file. Irvin, Erwin, Glenna, Linda, Brenda — you get the idea. And that is understandable. I should thank the (former) Lehman’s Brothers for at least popularizing the spelling of my maiden name.

We often look at our reports to see how folks are coming to our site. We’re not being nosy — just trying to discover the best ways for you to find us. I was interested to see all the derivatives of the spelling of our family name.

My brother Galen (CEO) and father Jay (founder) also have many misspelling stories. In our area, Lehman is a fairly common surname, so we always know when someone's not from here!

My brother Galen (CEO) and father Jay (founder) also have many misspelling stories. In our area, Lehman is a fairly common surname, so we always know when someone’s not from here!

A common, and certainly understandable, misnomer is Layman’s. After all, that’s phonetic. We also get Lemans, Leighmans, Lehmanns, Lahmans, and Leemans, well as Kidron Hardware Store, Amish Hardware Store, and Non-Electric Appliance Store. I am sure you aren’t missing the irony here — we use high tech to sell low tech so people are googling our non-electric merchandise.

Some of the other interesting search terms include wooden buckets, grain mills, clothesline parts, wood stoves and hand-crank ice cream makers. Only at Lehman’s Amish Non-Electric Kidron Hardware Store, right?

No Need to Knead: Dutch Oven Artisanal Bread

FreshLoaf1

There is so much beauty to be found in simplicity. As far as food and daily rituals go, there may be nothing quite so simple and satisfying as making a fresh loaf of bread. You mix flour, water, salt, and yeast in their proper proportions, let your dough rise at its own natural pace, work it with your hands once ready, and toss it into the oven. Continue reading

Farewell, Soup Month: 2 More Pots to Simmer!

empty soup bowl

Wait – National Soup Month isn’t over yet! Here are two more great recipes to try and enjoy. The first is a quick, richer twist on traditional chicken noodle soup, and the second, a hearty, vegan choice topped with sauteed onions. Both recipes are found in our Lehman’s Diamond Jubilee Cookbook. And even though soup month is about to be officially over, we’ll still be simmering pots of soup well into the springtime. Bon appetit. Continue reading

From Amish Country, With Love: Handmade Chocolates for Your Valentine

chocolate sea salt caramels

I won’t beat around the bush: when it comes to Valentine’s Day, it just has to be chocolate. Am I right? Even the most painstakingly chosen gift adorned in fancy trimmings isn’t nearly as sweet without some chocolate-y goodness to go with it. And we’re all in luck this year, because Lehman’s is offering some of the choicest chocolates made in Ohio’s Amish Country, delivered directly to your doorstep. It’s a sweet tooth’s dream. Let’s take a little tour, shall we? Continue reading

Start A Garden Journal: 4 Easy Steps

hod

Keeping a garden journal can be a very beneficial tool for reaching your garden’s full potential. But, even knowing where to begin can be overwhelming. I have found the easiest way to start your own garden journal is to take it one step at a time.

First, decide whether you want to keep a written journal or use a computer program. I use a written journal; it is part of my personal journal. For me, this makes it easier to know where it is, but yours may be a 3-ring binder or a separate diary. Continue reading