Encouragement for the young ones
February 24, 2013, 6:37 pm
Filed under: February 2013
Young Sugar Maples with their competition removed

Young Sugar Maples with their competition removed

February 24, 2013

The young sugar maples in the photo will now have the opportunity to grow unrestricted. We removed the competition for light and nutrients, by culling other trees. Those tress felled will be used for firewood, lumber and “sugarwood” (wood used to fire the maple syrup arch).

I have seen what young trees will do when given a chance to excell. I have seen it in young people too. All it takes is encouragement and the removal of stumbling blocks. The young will prevail. These trees in the picture may not be tapped by me, but I am paying it forward just the same.

I also plan to plant trees again this year. I might not even sit in their shade, but it pleases me to see them growing. People have passed through my life. I have mentored a few youngsters and I am very happy for the way they have created their own destiny. I hope that there were a few things that I said or did that helped them along the way.

My woods looks a bit rough in this area right now. Logs and brush litter the sidehill and valley below. It is a temporary inconvenience for a permanent improvement. I will clean up my mess and all will be better for it. The young will fill in the space and shade the trail very soon. In return for my efforts, they will yield sweet sap every year until their deaths…talk about a trade off 😮

Syrup season is on Ice
February 23, 2013, 7:31 pm
Filed under: February 2013 | Tags: ,
Bag full of frozen sap

Bag full of frozen sap

February 23, 2013

Our cold temperatures continue. The sun does shine every other day or so. It is nice to see the sun, but it is creating a problem for us. The south side of the maple trees get just warm enough to drip by late afternoon. The nights are cold, so the new sap freezes in the bag. This repeats almost daily and now our syrup season is on ice!

It looks like we may get warm enough on Monday or Tuesday to at least turn our frozen blocks into a slushy mixture. We are hoping to get exactly that. We will get everything empty again. In the meantime we can just watch and wait…. I’m not good at waiting 😮

I am keeping busy fixing things and working on my unending farm list of chores. We did finish the wind tunnel wall in the sugarhouse today. Tomorrow we will tap a few more trees then work on a new sap road through the woods.

I’m not having trouble finding things to do… It’s just that I am all excited about making maple syrup! I know the weather will change and we will be busier than all get out.. I guess I’ll just have to cool it … especially now that our season is on ice!

Oops…Sorry Honey
February 21, 2013, 10:25 am
Filed under: February 2013 | Tags: ,
The sideswipe

The sideswipe

February 21, 2013

I started wearing my hair pretty short about a year ago. I realized that a guy can only do a comb over so long 😮 It is just the way it is… I am going bald.

I am not a vain person. Baldness doesn’t bother me … getting old does, a little bit … but I can’t stop that either. I will not get hair plugs, hair extensions or a toupee. So the next best option for me, was to start wearing it short and embracing my extended face 😮

Last night, I sat down to get a haircut. Connie had the clippers all ready and made a big swipe up the side of my head. I heard her gasp, cover the spot where the clippers had just been with her hand and exclaim… “Oops, sorry honey!” She had forgotten to put the little plastic depth gauge on the clipper head.

We laughed a bit, especially when I said, use the shortest gauge we have and it will blend in. She was bent over with laughter trying to tell me that there was no such thing as “blending in.” There was NO hair.

I am sporting a much shorter hairdo than normal. The shortness also revealed a few other places where hair has taken a vacation and is not home! I doubt that it will return. Connie was the most bothered because her mistake occured in the winter … no big deal, I’ll just wear a different hat …. for quite awhile 😮

Stopping the Wind
February 20, 2013, 9:23 pm
Filed under: February 2013 | Tags: ,
Slowing down the wind tunnel

Slowing down the wind tunnel

Febuary 20, 2013

When I built my sugarhouse, I had a smaller outfit in mind than we currently have. Once we got our rig, I had to add on to the sugarhouse. We added a large woodshed to hold the 12 cords of wood needed for boiling.

Our original design, had a small porch for keeping the wood dry. The small porch was replaced by the woodshed. Now, when we fire the arch (add wood), we have to open the outside doors in order to get the wood.

Once we open the door, the wind whistles through there and takes the heat away. I often lose my boil from opening that door. The problem is especially bad when the wind is coming from the southwest.

Today, I awoke to a small blizzard. Schools were closed, snow was flying and what was on the ground was about eight inches. I decided that today would be a good day for constructing a second wall on the sugarhouse. This created a room ajacent to the woodshed and a sort of inner scantum to the sugarhouse…okay, it’s like a big hallway that blocks the wind 😮

The thermometer was in the teens. The wind made it seem much colder. It was a great day for a construction project. The coffee almost froze in the thermos and old men move like cold molassas, but we did get it almost completed. Only some trim and hanging the door remains for the project. We plan to finish that tomorrow.

It was sort of funny, when we nailed the last board up, the wind was at bay. I guess we should have put that one up first 😮

Brrrr.. Cold Again
February 19, 2013, 8:04 pm
Filed under: February 2013 | Tags: , , ,
Steaming Nostrils

Steaming Nostrils

February 19, 2013

After a warming trend over night and into the early morning … It’s cold outside again! I got all excited thinking we would be boiling sap, but the trees didn’t run much. What did come out is frozen. Looks like we will be waiting for the weekend warm up they say is coming.

I had great plans for today but they went out the window when the cold wave came bristling through. I like the cold, but I was not ready for today. I tried to shift gears and do other things, but my will was on the brisk wind…fleeting at best.

Coffee goes very well with cold days…especially when sipped at the kitchen table while looking outside 😮 I did get some important errands done. I, along with hundreds of other county residents, paid our real estate taxes. I know this because we were all in line together! The Treasurer’s girls did a great job and the line moved quickly…much to the delight of everyone.

I am enjoying some time off from work so hot or cold … they are great days! This roller coaster weather is just what we need for sap, but the daytime highs need to creep up just a bit more. Summing up tonight in just one word … Brrrr covers it pretty well.

Taking Care of Problems
February 18, 2013, 6:27 pm
Filed under: February 2013
Elm tree poised to fall on my fence

Elm tree poised to fall on my fence

February 18, 2013

Today we took care of the last, for now, problem trees around the farm. We removed three bad actors. One was a large Ash tree that died last year. Its limbs were starting to shed right on the fence.

Another was a big old soft Maple. The tree was rotted and dieing. It threatened to fall on my sugarhouse. The chipmunks loved this tree, but it was concerning to me. It too is safely on the ground.

The last problem child was a fairly large Elm. It grew out and over our fence. It was a strage thing to see, so I left it stand when we built the fence. It had also died. One of its top limbs was smashed into a nearby tree. I think the live tree was actually holding this old one up.

My tree climbing and chain saw cutting days are over. I still do okay when I can stand safely on the ground, but climbing in a tree like an animal is for the younger men 😮 Once my butt is higher than my head, my body doesn’t behave right. Parts of me shake, some freeze up and some threaten to go … if you know what I mean!

Lucky for me, I know and have worked with a young man who scales trees like a monkey. He is strong,light, and fearless. He has done tree work for several years now. He has vast knowledge in rope work and knot tieing. I have seen him lower himself to the ground upside down, then pull himself back up with ease.

I had him climb and cut my problem trees. I will clean them all up. Most will make firewood, but a few parts might be good enough to be sawed into boards for future projects. I will work on the tree clean up when the sap isn’t running. Today it is cold again. The weathermen were off a bit…but the shining sun was beautiful to see.

I am glad the problem trees are safely on the ground. It is one set of problems that are now behind me. Sometimes problems turn out very well…all of this wood will go a long way to filling the woodshed for next year. The fence is safe and I have something to do… Perfect!

Just Chilling!
February 17, 2013, 8:09 pm
Filed under: February 2013 | Tags: ,
King and I waiting on the weather to warm up

King and I waiting on the weather to warm up

February 17, 2013

It was cold here today. The high was 17 F. The sun was bright when it would peek out, but it was stingy with its warmth! A little heat up is on the way. Sap will run by tomorow afternoon 😮

We are all antsy to get the syrup season off and running. We have gotten just a little … “taste” of it. Soon we will be as busy as a one armed wallpaper hanger. I am looking forward to that!

I will be enjoying some time off from my off-farm job. There are lots of projects started around here that need my attention. I am very sure that I will not be bored , but until the work starts… I’ll just be chilling!

Steaming into the night
February 13, 2013, 10:24 pm
Filed under: February 2013 | Tags: ,
Monday night's boil

Monday night’s boil

February 13, 2013

Last Monday night I made the first boil of the season. The wind was whipping by the time I got fired up. It was hard to figure out which side of the cupola to open. I did finally get it right, but it was steamy for a while 😮

I didn’t make any syrup that night, but my pans did get sweet, so next time the syrup will come. It is very hectic in the sugarhouse. I have so many things to watch. I must keep an eye on all of the levels. There are several places to check and re-check. I need to not only watch the level in the pans, but the levels in the sap storage tanks as well.

I have to keep an eye on the increasing temperature of the syrup. I need to check The cooking sap with a hydrometer to see that the density is correct. I must keep an eye on the foam created by the boiling maple sap.I must feed the fire every seven minutes, first one side, then the other.

I probably look like a squrriel scampering from place to place. Ok , perhaps more like a bull in a china shop, but I’m moving, I’ll tell you that 😮 I must keep a close eye, because things could go bad quickly!

Once the sap level gets low and it’s time to stop for the night, it gets peaceful. The fire fades and the boiling stops. I sit in a chair for a while to make sure everything is okay. I draw off a pail of “almost” syrup to start the process the next time. The pail is covered and set up on the shelf to cool.

I next flood the pans with sap running an inch deeper than usual. This cushion will evaporate as the firebricks cool down. The fire gets pulled from the firebox, but the hot bricks will still produce heat for a while longer.

I sweep the floor and tidy up enjoying the quiet time. The smell of the cooking sap lingers in the room and in my nostrils. That sweet odor triggers memories from my grandparents sugarhouse decades ago. My mind goes back to that simpler time and I am reminded of my grandma and grandpa.

I remember an old car seat that graced the wall of their sugarhouse. A lantern hung in the corner and the small arch steamed away into the night. My grandparents would take turns cooking the sap, feeding the fire and catching short naps.

I find comfort in those memories. I expect this time of year will always be my most favorite. In fact I think I can call it “Sweet!”

Sap Gathering Sled
February 12, 2013, 9:40 pm
Filed under: February 2013
Simple, functional  ... perfect for me

Simple, functional … perfect for me

February 12, 2013

This sled and tank is what my horses pull when we gather the maple sap. The tank has a strainer where you dump the sap. It also has baffels that keep the liquid from splashing out too bad. The sled is a simple, well made four foot by eight foot wooden affair with a tongue.

The sled pulls easy even on ground without snow. The tanks holds about 200 gallons. It is just the right height to dump into .. especially for middle aged fat guys 😮

The pipe in the back lowers down for empting into the unloading pipe. The unloading gives the horses a rest, even though it empties pretty fast. The sled is durable and holds up well for the rigors of sap gathering. It slides over rough spots, mud and tree roots alike.

We do have a tank that is on wheels, but I don’t like to use it. It is high to dump into for starters, but the tires make ruts much faster than the sled ever does. Besides, I like using the horses in the woods. Their impact is less and better for the woodlot.

The Pans Are Sweet!
February 12, 2013, 12:51 am
Filed under: February 2013 | Tags: ,
First Boil 2013

First Boil 2013

February 11, 2013

We gathered about 700 gallons of maple sap today. We didn’t get any syrup, but we reduced enough so that the next boil, we will be in the maple syrup.

The good thing is, even though the run was small, we found out that everything works as it should. I re-affirmed that good dry seasoned wood will produce heat like crazy. I perfected firing the arch and re-educated myself in the ways of the sugarhouse.

We had a good crew of gatherers. The horses worked well and the one new guy was a season veteran by the time we were done bringing in the sap. I had to re-teach myself about the chimney cap, but after a trip up on the roof… I am re-trained 😮

It looks like we may get another little run late this week. My fingers are crossed that everything continues to go well. I think it is all the heavenly hands on my shoulders guiding me, that is making everything come together… But what ever it is I’ll take it!