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!

Saps a Running!
February 10, 2013, 4:21 pm
Filed under: February 2013 | Tags: ,
One drip at a time!

One drip at a time!

February 10, 2013

The sap is starting to run today. The weather is just right for maple syrup. The warming trend is supposed to go into tomorrow evening before it gets cold once again. I am hoping for our first run tomorrow.

We are almost ready. We just have to put the unloading pipe together and a few minor adjustments inside the sugarhouse. I have a timer that keeps me on track to put wood in the arch. It rings every 9 minutes. I reset the timer and load the hungry fire with wood.

The timer needs a better shelf to sit on, so I will take care of that in the morning. I have a bunch of “rearing to go” young guys at the ready. We will see how they hold up to the increased production.
I’m pretty sure they will be fine … oh, to be eighteen again 😮

We hauuled a load of wood this afternoon to give the horses a job. They did well even though we used the wagon and it pulled hard. The load was of good size and the ground is soft. The horses dug in and pulled with ease.

Here we go. I am excited to once again be in the sugarhouse. I can feel the approval from long gone family members. The steam will fill the room a bit, but what will surround me, will not be water vapor, but rather the love from the generations of syrup makers who have gone on before me.

Never Too Old To Learn!
February 8, 2013, 4:48 pm
Filed under: February 2013 | Tags: ,
Jake showing us his method

Jake showing us his method

February 8, 2013

Yesterday we finished tapping our maple trees for this season. We learned a lot from last year and even since last year. Jake took on the role of the guy who puts the bags on the spiles. I was the drill man while my cousin and my hired man drove the spiles carefully into the trees.

The hardest job, in my opinion, was that of putting the bags on the spiles. There is a nylon washer that goes on the spile. The washer keeps the bags held in place. The bags don’t fall off the spile because the washer holds them on, like a button on a shirt.

My big old fingers struggle sometimes with buttons. I didn’t fare too well putting the bags on either. Jake, however, devised or rather perfected, a system where he popped those bags on with ease. He kept up with the three of us, almost pushing the drill man (me). He put almost 900 bags on the spiles and only has two small blisters to show for it.

Yesterday, we had only a small number of trees to do. My oldest son and his family helped. Josh, my son, struggled with the bags much like I did. I tried to show him, but was not very successful. Then, along came Jake, he showed us all how to push the washer just right, roll the bag and “bam” the bag was on!

At the end of the day, Josh was getting along pretty good using Jake’s method. I, however, am still not good at it, but I’m a heck of a drill man 😮 I did try a bag or two now and then, just to make sure that I wasn’t good at it. It baffles me some, usually I am a quick learner, but in this case I would need to practice for quite a while to equal Jake.

It’s funny to me that folks can take old dogs and teach them new tricks. I guess its patience on the part of the trainer and a willingness to learn on the part of the dog. I am sure that those factors spell success. I know that I am not too old to learn, maybe just a bit resistant. I bet it all comes down to the proper treats! 😮

All Tapped Out
February 7, 2013, 5:19 pm
Filed under: February 2013 | Tags:
How Sweet It Is!

How Sweet It Is!

February 7, 2013

We finished tapping today. Our total this year is 935. Last year we did 480, so this is a jump. An increase we are all looking forward to…well at least I am 😮

My grandson and granddaughter came today with my son and daughter-in-law. We finished the last few trees we had to do. It took quite a while to finish those last trees. We answered lots of questions, chased mittens and hats and made a whole bunch of memories.

The children think it should taste like maple syrup right out of the tap. They waited for drops on their tongues. My grandson thought he could suck it out of the tree. He tried anyway, but soon learned patience or perhaps just got tired of waiting.

Now we wait for the weather. This weekend looks promising for a run on Monday. We are almost ready, so here we go!

Enjoying the cold and snow!
February 6, 2013, 7:56 pm
Filed under: February 2013 | Tags: ,
Hoss and Knight bring another load of wood out

Hoss and Knight bring another load of wood out

February 6, 2013

Today we started tapping the maple trees. We are looking for a nice run of sap over the weekend. All of us who worked today are beat! We will sleep the good sleep tonight 😮 Even my much younger counterparts are tired. We stopped today with 893 taps out.

Yesterday evening, we brought out a nice load of firewood. Whenever there isn’t much else to do, there is always firewood! The horses are working staying in shape for the workout that comes from sugaring. All of us feel it, but it is a wonderful time of year!

Tomorrow, a few more taps need to be put in. I think somewhere around 60 more, but a final count will be shared when we are finally done. All that remains are some sround the sugarhouse and a few corners of the fields. We still have one third of our woodlot not tapped. Maybe we will make that jump next year.

Jake thinks we should start using two teams of horses when we tap the whole woods. He is probably right, but I hope he is going to buy the fourth horse…three is enough for me 😮

All in all we are having a ball, enjoying the cold and snow. Tomorrow the grandkids come to help Pa-Pa. I think a lunch around a fire is in order too. Talk about a play date … I can’t wait!