Just Big Enough
January 31, 2012, 9:18 pm
Filed under: January 2012
A sugar maple just big enough to tap

January 31, 2012

     I can remember finally being big enough to do things, like just tall enough to ride an amusement park ride. Or just big enough to reach the clutch on the tractor so that I could drive… things were much different when I was a boy 😮
     Who doesn’t remember being old enough to drive, your high school graduation, or legal drinking age? So, being just big enough is a milestone, even if you are a sugar maple tree. The one in the photo will be tapped for the first time this season. I don’t know how excited the tree is, but I am pleased!
     Our weather continues to be wacky. Today it was almost 60 degrees (F). The warm springlike days are just plain weird for this time of year for us, here on the north coast. It has made things easy though. Snowplowing has been a very easy job this year and I am getting more done on the sugarhouse than I ever imagined. Tonight, I painted that second coat of black on the syrup arch.
     January is now a memory and February is here. Wow, another month gone. Maple syrup season is less than three weeks away. I still have plenty to do, but think I will enlist the help of more family members…most of them are … just big enough 😮

The Indian Tree
January 30, 2012, 8:59 pm
Filed under: January 2012
Looking East into the Wetlands

January 30, 2012

     In the center of the photograph is a big white tree. It is a very old sycamore. Long before I was born, beavers must have chewed upon the tree. They damaged it down low causing a place for rot to take hold. The old tree stood on the bank of the creek where I surmise that a fire licked at its trunk and started the rotted place to burn out.
     This tree is probably close to one hundred and fifty years old. It has a diameter of almost four feet. She is well over ninety feet tall with massive branches that provide a large amount of shade. The bark is modeled white and easy to see even in the dark. The burned out hollow place is almost four feet wide and six feet high. It looks like a teepee.
     When my boys were small, I created a special story about the old tree. I suggested that perhaps indians had burnt the tree so as to provide a quick shelter on a cold night. Maybe even a young indian boy lived there for a whole season as he stepped into manhood. Perhaps it was just a stealthy place to hide when hunting deer or small game. I let their imagination run wild with wonder and not fear.
     I could have said a haunt lived there who ate the heads of little boys. I could have told them pirates hid treasure there and would shoot anyone brave enough to lurk around. I could have said terrible wild animals lived there that would tear their bodies apart…. But I wanted them to have good memories and feel safe anywhere on this farm.
     As my boys grew, we always called this tree “The Indian Tree”. It was like a beacon. Once in a while small boys would get turned around in the woods, but The Indian Tree would show them the way home. On rainy nights following a coon hound around the woods in dim light, The Indian Tree would give comfort and confidence to teenaged boys, who weren’t supposed to be afraid of the dark. This old tree grew with the boys each gaining something from the other.
     My boys learned to respect nature because of things like the Indian Tree. The old tree should live until nature calls her back to its bosom. I know my boys will not cut it down. In fact, my grandchildren know about the Indian Tree and share its many secrets. So the tree will send down seed every year, protected by the next generations of storytellers.
     When I walk the woods, I always pause a minute to look at the old sycamore. I am reminded of little boys who became men, playing in the shade of her massive crown. I am thankful for her white bark that showed my boys the way home more than once. I am grateful for the memories we share together.
     I hope this farm stands in our children’s lives like the old tree stands in the forest. Like a beacon showing the way home no matter what, no haunts, no pirates, no wild animals… just love and safety…. I hope that I am like the white bark, shining the light in their lives and pointing the way home………

Bringing it in
January 29, 2012, 8:47 pm
Filed under: January 2012
Woodshed still needing more

January 29, 2012

     Well, we worked on wood again, but there is still plenty of room left in the woodshed. This is a hair over seven bundles, but barely makes a dent in the woodshed. I plan to get some chunk wood added to the pile next. Mixing the two types should make a hot fire that will last for a little while.
    The chunk wood will be pieces three feet long and in the three to four-inch diameter range. The splitter will get a good workout as will the man 😮  I have the logs, now I just need to split the wood.
     Using my horses is a great thing. Using them in the mud is an even better thing. They don’t get stuck and they don’t tear up the ground. Only the wagon wheels make tracks … the hoofprints are more like holes, deep holes, but no waist deep ruts at least.
     Next weekend the wood cutting will reach a feverish pitch. I hope to have the amount we need all cut, stacked, split and hauled by the 7th of February. It is a goal that can be reached I believe… now I just need to convince a few helpers 😮
     I hope to work on my holding tank plumbing this week. I am no plumber, but have a pretty good understanding of what I need done. I also have a good idea what it should look like … now we shall see if the two can come together!
     I remember my grandpa’s woodshed filled to the brim with wood. I don’t remember ever helping with that job. He must have worked on it while I was in school. The house wood I do remember watching and helping, but not the sugarwood. I am thinking it was because of the buzzsaw he used.
     King and I walked the sap trails today. There is work there to do too. Some dead falls cover the paths and must be removed. Oh well, it too is wood… I guess I’ll be bringing it in……….

Still Grinning From Ear to Ear
January 28, 2012, 7:43 pm
Filed under: January 2012
Arch and pans ready for syrup

January 28, 2012

     It has been a whole day since getting the arch and pans ready for syrup and I am still grinning. In fact, I don’t think you could knock the smile off my face with a club. I bet there are a few people who would like to try though 😮
     I spent the first half of the day cutting and hauling more fire wood. I got soaked working on it, but I did make more progress. The woodshed is quite large so it will take a lot of wood to fill it. I keep working because syrup season is fast approaching. Now, we just have to hope the weather cooperates.
     It snowed like the dickens for most of the morning. The flakes were large and wet. They did finally start sticking accumulating about two and a half inches. It was windy and cold the second part of the day and is still cold as I write.
     The horses had a good day today and it was fun using them. I will go at it again tomorrow. I am not sure that I will work on wood, but I plan on driving the horses anyway. It’s my day of rest and using the horses, rests my mind.
     The white hole or circle you can see in the front of the arch is where a blower will go. The forced air helps the efficiency of the arch. I should be able to boil like crazy with it, of course I will use more wood, but the sap should evaporate at a good rate.
     I have to finish chores, but I came in for “Chapsitck”. My lips are chapped pretty bad, some would think it was from the weather, but I know …..  it’s from all the grinning 😮

Maple Sap Evaporator Is All Set Up !
January 27, 2012, 7:34 pm
Filed under: January 2012
Awesome Day!

January 27, 2012

     What an awesome day! It started early, but was well worth every minute. The evaporator pans are all set up. There are  a few things to finish up, but the hardest part of the job has been completed.
     I smashed my thumb installing the pan gasket, but even that blood blister is worth it. The pans and arch (recently painted) look very nice to me. It is like living a dream, because this day has been a long day coming. I am swelled up with pride, not because of what I have, but rather, what I have been blessed with.
     I am sure it is a very good day for my grandparents and parents as they looked down from above. I set a goal many years ago and today I have a reached it. This sugarhouse set up is better than I imagined for myself. I almost have to pinch myself to make sure it is real.
     Once again my friend Marvin was here helping complete the job. Next week we plan to boil water in a “test” boil. This ensure everything works as it should, before the syrup season is upon us. I do have quite a few more small projects to complete before then, but it is coming along nicely.
     On the roof of my sugarhouse is a cupola. It has doors that open from inside. The open doors help to draw the steam out of the building. The doors are configured sort of like dampers in a fireplace. We managed to set them all up today too 😮
     One of the jobs still needing completion is that of plumbing the holding tanks to the evaporator. At least now we can get real measurements and a material list. Sounds like another rainy day project. The reason I say that, is because on almost every nicer day… I will be cutting, splitting and stacking wood. I want a minimum of 5 cords stacked and ready before Valentine’s Day.
     Tomorrow the horses and I will be working on our firewood project. I am sure they are thrilled. I could tell as I did chores tonight. I even asked if any of them had complaints and they said not one word 😮
     The main thing I want to leave my reader with today is this; do not ever give up on your dreams. There will be set backs. There will be people who are nay-sayers. There will be times when the goal seems so far away, it is out of sight. Don’t give up!
     I remember forty-five years ago sitting in my grandpa’s sugarhouse. It was a warm steamy place. The smell was wonderful and the hot syrup taste is still sweet on my tongue. Those memories are vivid and some of my most favorite of all. Now, it is my turn to make such memories with my family. I can’t wait to share, especially with the ones who are farthest away … no matter what age.
     I think the expression of “Sweet Dreams” must have come from a sugarhouse. All I know is that I had a “sweet dream”. I have carried it much of my life … and today … that dream came true!

January 26, 2012, 9:50 pm
Filed under: January 2012
New life for the old arch

January 26, 2012

     I spent part of today wire brushing and cleaning on our old cast iron maple syrup arch. It was a noisy, dirty job. I next rubbed “stove black” into the old metal. I did paint part of her, but the worst part was all hand rubbed. Stove black is an old-time polish for wood stoves etc. It takes the heat, protects the stove … and looks real nice 😮
     I can see a few spots, now that it dried, that could use a second going over. I may try to make that happen, but I do realize this was mostly for pleasing the eye.  Even though I will get some protection from the elements, it was done mostly for looks.
     The rains came almost all day. The pens were all cleaned and bedded with new clean straw. I am sure the animals are enjoying their freshly made beds. Mud is the word of the day, but the 40 degree (f) temperatures allowed me to paint in January … so I will be quiet about all the mud.
     Today was certainly a good day for inside work…even rustbusting!

Singled Out
January 25, 2012, 7:24 am
Filed under: January 2012
Duke … Ready for work

January 25, 2012

     I don’t particularly like to be singled out. I can handle it, but it makes me a bit uncomfortable. They say its good to be out of your comfort zone now and then, but I don’t like it.
     Duke works for me single. It is mostly his fault. He wouldn’t walk straight in the traces of his harness when worked with his teammate. It was a small thing that bothered the heck out of me. I tried many things to fix it, but nothing worked.
     Since I couldn’t fix Duke’s problem, I decided to get rid of Duke. I searched and found a mate for my Knight horse and was set to send Duke “down the road”. I hitched Duke single to do a small job and found him to be awesome when worked alone.
     He travels straight and does anything that I ask. I am in the process of fixing up a sort of  farm pick-up that Duke will pull when I need a small job done. He works well in the woods skidding single logs in tight places. He just pleases me in several ways.
     I am not sure if Duke was just picking at me when he would be such an ass before, or if he just wanted some undivided attention. When we work together now, Duke gets all the attention. He gets praised, petted and made over. He is a hit when we get visitors and a ham for picture takers 😮
     Duke was beaten up once when he was a colt. A neighbor girl kept her horse here for a short time. One day the two of them got into a fight. Duke was tied up. The other horse kicked the dickens out of Duke. I was very unhappy to say the least.
     Duke had to be taken care of for a while. I bathed him twice a day for a couple of weeks. I dressed his wounds and at times thought he would not recover. He grew to like our bath and medical sessions. He became easy to handle and not much scares him. I am not sure if it was the tender care he got, or the thought of that horse kicking the crap out of him again. Whatever it was , he became a real gentleman.
     I am thinking that perhaps he knew what his fate might be, so he started acting better. I don’t know, I guess I am giving him too much credit. He is just a horse… right?  … No, he is my buddy. I hope to have him around for a long time. We misfits understand each other I guess. In any case, he doesn’t mind being singled out and I like him that way !


It’s Time
January 24, 2012, 4:00 pm
Filed under: January 2012
Freedom Rangers ready for the freezer

January 24, 2012

     The chickens in the photo are a new breed, developed for free range grazing. I use this little shed, built on an old boat trailer, to provide them with shelter and a place to roost.
     Usually they would be in the freezer by now, but this year has been warm and nice, so I am growing them a bit larger. It will be nice to have such a large bird for roasting. It is almost time to butcher them. I just need a day off with a clear schedule.
     Our laying flock is just starting to lay. There are a few roosters mixed in that bunch too. I will butcher those young roosters the same time I do the Freedom Ranger meat birds… one mess, no fuss.
     This is my first trial of the Freedom Ranger chickens. I butchered some at a younger age, but am keeping these for a sort of gourmet treat 😮  The meat and gravy from these young tender birds will be awesome. It does help to mention that the efforts of my wifes cooking skills come into play here too!
     Sugarhouse work, cutting firewood,chores, seed planning and butchering are all on my list of jobs. Last night I worked out the details of a new pig hut that I want to construct….ahhhh more work 😮
     The best thing is, that all my jobs fall into place. The wood is waiting, the sugarhouse is coming along, chores give me peace and the chickens keep eating and growing…like money in the bank. I will get the chickens butchered … It’s almost time.

Heifer Holiday
January 23, 2012, 4:19 pm
Filed under: January 2012
Cattle Comfort at it’s Best

January 23, 2012

     Today is the Chinese Lunar New Year..apparently the only ones who knew it was a holiday today, were the cows. The sun came out for a while mid-day and the heifers stretched out on the hay and soaked it up 😮
     This farm is all about comfort. It is a quiet, stress free place that allows my mind to rest. My body drains of worry. My soul fills with peace. I am content, satisfied and happy. The stresses of an off farm job are left far behind. My mind heals and allows me to shore up my feelings, enabling me to face the job that helps pay for the farm.
     I can see the day when I am making my living on this farm. The debt of real estate, equipment and infrastructure will be behind me. I have sacrificed part of my life, but believe the best part is yet to come! I soon will be enjoying the comforts of this farm every hour of every day, but until then, it will be my haven,,indeed my Heaven, here on Earth.
     The new Rural Heritage magazine came today in the mail. I write for that magazine. I have a couple of stories in this issue. The articles are about a few things I do to save money, while providing comfort to my animals. I hope the shared ideas will inspire someone else to do likewise.
     The temperature is warm again, in the fortys. The snow has mostly melted and rain is falling steady. I guess we will be back to mud for a day of two. This is a crazy winter, the likes of which, I have not ever seen.
     The animals are enjoying the peeks of sun that divide the rains. I guess I will join the heifers during their holiday and just roll with it. I can’t change it, so why not embrace it?

Another Springlike Day
January 22, 2012, 9:08 pm
Filed under: January 2012
Knight, Duke and Hoss enjoy some playtime

January 22, 2012

     Today was a beauty. It was crisp and cold until afternoon. The sun came out and warmed it into the upper thirtys. I was at my off farm job and missed the nice day for any farm work ,… But it was Sunday, so farm work would wait anyway.
     The horses enjoyed some play time while I did chores. The sugarhouse can be seen in the woods behind them. There is work there waiting just as almost any corner that I look at … Man it is so very good to have stuff to do 😮
     I am so excited to be getting things done and planning for more. It is a blessing to be healthy enough to work. It is fun this time of year to look back at last year and see just how much was accomplished. I am very satisfied.
     Sure, I have plans for more work, but that keeps me going, gives me hope and satisfaction. I can’t wait to work on some of my projects. Many of them will require help from family and friends…fair warning everybody 😮 Seriously, it is nice to work with those close to you. Meals are shared, conversation is enjoyed and memories are made…what is better than that?
     I will work on things while the skies are wet and dreary, but the next springlike day that rolls around… lookout everyone … I’ll be calling!