Mudding and Sapping!
March 31, 2013, 11:22 pm
Filed under: March 2013
Jake and the crew, navigating the mud

Jake and the crew, navigating the mud


March 31, 2013

Holy cow what a week! Monday it was so cold we thought it was December. We worked all that day in the cold. Yesterday the snow was gone and mud was the order of the day. Jake, our gathering crew of friends and family and the horses, all had to navigate the mud.

I have been in the sugarhouse pretty much steady since last Wednesday. I even boild today, Easter Sunday, sharing the experience with family and friends. It has been a long, yet wonderful week. Syrup is still a nice color, no buds in sight and this is the longest season that I can ever remember!

Tomorrow looks to be another good day for the sap, then the cold will return. The cold front will extend the season a little longer. I am sure the mud will remain, but the moisture is good for the trees. The horses don’t get stuck and except for an occasional lost boot or shoe along with a muddy sock…all is well 😮


Prep Work
March 29, 2013, 7:47 am
Filed under: March 2013
Getting things ready to go

Getting things ready to go


March 29, 20013


There is a lot of things to do in between batches of syrup. The tanks have to be cleaned, buckets need washed, filters get changed and somewhere in there we get to rest a little bit. The maple sap runs are coming close together right now, as the season heads towards it’s end. The weather is perfect and those sap bags keep filling up.

Yesterday, I had a short break, but only because I boiled late into the evening the night before. I had to get a few supplies for the sugarhouse. When I returned home, a few farm chores needed tended. I went out to check the sap bags at about 6pm. I found them all 3/4 full , some even more! I didn’t expect that!

Today I got up very early. My chores are done and I am waiting on my helpers to arrive so we can gather the sap. I am still expecting a big day Saturday too. We will go as fast as we can, so that I can boil this afternoon. I will have to boil,  just to make room for Saturday’s sap 😮 what a good problem to have!

This has been a crazy syrup season. The usual roller coaster ride for temperatures is just much later than usual. We are scrambling, keeping one step ahead and make preparations along the way. Ours is a small venture, but it still takes up plenty of resources, time and energy…. not to mention all that firewood!


Here’s What’s Cooking!
March 28, 2013, 7:48 am
Filed under: March 2013
Awesome day of boiling!

Awesome day of boiling!


                                                    March 28, 2013


     Yesterday, after taking care of a few pressing jobs, I went to the sugarhouse and began boiling the maple sap. The sap we had collected the night before. That was a long afternoon of gathering, let me tell you. The trees finally ran like mad. We gathered over 1100 gallons of sap. I had to leave part of the last load in the horse drawn tank until I could boil some down to make room!

     I began boiling at twelve-thirty yeaterday afternoon. The last of the sap hit the evaporator at eight-thirty last night. I finally made it to the house at ten-thirty. It was one of our best days this season. Here it is, much later than a usual season and going as if it was late February rather than March. We even got a coating of “sugar snow” overnight.

     “Sugar snow” is what my grandpa called a dusting of snow that came during the maple syrup season. It aids in making the sled slide easier. It also supplies moisture to the dripping trees, adding a bonus in the mind of my grandpa. Hey, it was good enough for him, so count me on board too 😮

     The trees continued to drip into last evening. It looks like a good weekend coming up. So far, our wood is holding out. We have used about half of our stockpile. I am sure we are in the final weeks of the season. A season that is as whacky as our weather these days. In my memory, March 27th was the lastest day I have ever gathered sap. That was the last day of the season back then, ten years or so. Things look great here right now. The weather is perfect and the trees don’t think its late spring yet.

     Soon the days and the nights will be warm. The trees will send the sap to the buds on the ends of their branches. That will be the end of the season. So far, the weather has kept the sap near the ground, thanks to the freezing temperatures. Our small “tree saver” spiles are running good.  The bags are holding up pretty well, dispite all of our problems with them icing over this year.

     Today, the trees have stopped dripping for now, but later today, the weatherman says we will get the warm up. The next few days are shaping up for another giant run. I will get ready as much as I can. There are a few errands to run, equipment to clean and maple syrup to can. I need to fix a muddy road, but for now that solution eludes me… That’s what’s cooking around here 😮


Little Boys, Big Dreams
March 26, 2013, 10:09 am
Filed under: March 2013
Eyes on the future

Eyes on the future

March 26, 2013

This young man came to our farm a couple of weeks ago. He had a big day and enjoyed the farm.Once he became comfortable, he opened up and shared stories with us. He is a good worker, especially given his age and size. I know good workers and was impressed by the “fire” in this young fellow.

As he talked about his plans and dreams, mixed with tales of today, I found myself drifting on memories. It was not long ago, when my boys would share big plans with me. I also realized that I, myself, am still dreaming and planning for what I want to be when I grow up 😮

I am thinking it really is a journey, not a destination … this whole growing up thing. So far, I am mostly growing “old”, not so much growing “up”. I still goof off, tell corny jokes and dream of my next conquest … usually a building project!

As I listened to the little guy talk, I was reminded of a saying my mother used to say, “The bigger the boy … the bigger the toy!” Yesterday, we dug a ditch with a mini-excavator. Jake and I got a lot of work done, but boy did we have fun doing it! Even the cold didn’t slow our progress… Jake, of course, now wants one 😮 I told the guy we rented it from that I sure liked the machine, but didn’t like the payment … much easier to just rent his when one is needed!

I must say that there is nothing wrong with dreaming … as long as you put a plan in place and keep moving in that direction. It’s ok to switch directions, but make sure to make a new plan. I will say, there is much to be said for focusing on just one thing. I salute those who can. I will probably always be a dreamer, who gets things done, because I have a plan.

I dreamed I wanted to be a farmer. I ran into several roadblocks along the way, but just changed routes and kept heading towards my goal. I am surrounded by all the things I love along with an understanding wife, who sometimes shakes her head, but loves me anyway.

My advice is to follow your heart. Dream big, reach for the stars and don’t give up. This is the advice from an old little boy who dreams big.

John Deere cultivator gets a new life!
March 24, 2013, 3:54 pm
Filed under: March 2013 | Tags: ,
John Deere 2 horse, 2 row cultivator

John Deere 2 horse, 2 row cultivator

March 14, 2013

I know that it is a little early to be cultivating corn, but it’s not too early to dream about it. I bought this old cultivator a couple of years ago. I paid less than $200.00 for it. She is in good shape and ready to go to the field. I decided to have it refurbished and painted. It looks like new 😮

The snow on the ground makes a statement of it’s own, but the warm days of early summer will soon be the “order of the day”. I will be ready, I think. I need to adjust the sweeps and get everything adjusted in accordance to my planter, but other than that, this machine is ready to go!

I like the old things. This simple, yet effective, piece of machinery will keep the weeds out of my corn. I will have to use it of course, but it sure beats hoeing. I do have an old McCormick-Deering 2 horse, 1 row cultivator too. It is serviceable and works well too, but I just decreased my time factor, by being able to cultivate two rows at once!

The McCormick-Deering cultivator has a set of “disc hillers” that I use to hill potatoes, but also to roll dirt on the corn stalk roots the last time that I cultivate. The dirt helps the corn stand up on windy days. It also buries small weeds growing between the plants. It’s a bit of work, but beats spraying poision on my fields.

It’s cold again today. The maple sap is not running, but I am warmed by the thoughts of sunny days cultivating corn. This piece of machinery in my equipment shed makes me smile. We shall see how much I will be smiling later this year as I roll down the corn rows, steering with my feet and guiding the horses, while trying to swat flies and wipe sweat away from my eyes. 😮

Waiting on “Ma Nature”
March 23, 2013, 4:12 pm
Filed under: March 2013 | Tags: ,
Steam rises at Riceland Meadows

Steam rises at Riceland Meadows

March 23, 2013

Wow, what a difference a year makes! This time last year, we were done with maple syrup and starting to plow and prep the fields for planting. We got some oats in early and the growing season was off to a good start. Today the high might make 32, but we are more like winter than spring.

The sap is doing that thing where it drips on the trees in the sun, just enough to freeze up by nightfall, leaving a big ice cube where sap should be. We are waiting on Mother Nature, she is the one in control!

Snow covers the muddy ground about 6 inches deep. The sun is out and the little lambs think it’s a great day for playing out of doors. We did a bunch of chores, cleaned manure and even made plans for a clean up job in the basement … man I am getting desperate here 😮 I would much rather be in the sugarbush!

Leaning on a Buddy
March 22, 2013, 8:44 am
Filed under: March 2013 | Tags:
Ben and King taking a break

Ben and King taking a break

March 22, 2013

It is a wonderful thing to have friends that you can count upon. I am thankful for friends who hold me up. The understanding of someone close to you, is often enough to get you through a tough time … even if they don’t say a word.

I spoke to a friend of mine this morning. He has been dealing with some life chaging events for quite a while now. A weaker man would have crumbled, possibly given up. My pal, however, keeps finding the better things to think about. Sure, he has down days, but he puts those days aside and dwells on the good.

I hope that I am a friend he can lean on. I hope that I brighten his days when I write or call. I am amazed though, how much he lifts me up. He is an inspriation. His quiet strength is something to behold. He takes everything in stride, appreciates every new day and finds the good everywhere he looks. There are many leaasons in that line of thinking 😮

In the photo, King tries to sit on Ben’s lap. The boy is not so sure, but the dog knows who he can count on. Trust is a wonderful thing. I think sometimes it takes getting your heart broken, or having your trust violated, to make you understand just what a precious gift trust can be.

As much as I like folks whom I can lean on, I hope to be thought of as the kind of guy who people count, when they count their blessings. I want to be the gift to others, not the self absorbed guy who nobody wants to see coming. Some days I have to work on this pretty hard 😮

I guess my message is… be the friend..that you want others to be!

Horse work beats House work!
March 21, 2013, 9:20 pm
Filed under: March 2013 | Tags: , , ,
Knight and Hoss pulling the maple sap sled

Knight and Hoss pulling the maple sap sled

March 21, 2013

Winter has returned, the trees have stopped running and some ice is in the sap bags. It is a big change from Saturday a couple of weeks ago when this picture was taken! Knight and Hoss had to bear down a little to draw the sled through the woods that day. They didn’t mind, the work felt good to them.

Tonight, I boiled sap that was collected earlier this week. It had a layer of ice on top and made for a little excitement as I started up. One of my fill lines was partially frozen. We noticed it in time, but it made a good lesson for my son to see just how quickly things could go bad!

We have six to eight inches of snow on the ground. The ground is not frozen. Only mud is underneath. Sloppy spring weather will soon return. The wet and cold is making good syrup, but we need some warm days to get the sap flowing again. They will come, of that I am sure … probably all at once 😮

The time for spring work is also coming fast. The horses and I will be busier than a one armed man in a row boat race. I’m good with that though …”horse” work beats “house” any day of the year. I will quantify that statement with, “so I have been told” … my lifetime of house work days, could be counted on my fingers… probably on just one hand 😮

Stupid Groundhog!
March 18, 2013, 11:38 am
Filed under: March 2013 | Tags: , ,


March 18, 2013

I am not sure who decided which groundhog to watch, but I’m thinking the one they decided upon was mixed up! Our maple season has been much later than most years. Today, freezing rain is falling on four inches of sloppy snow. Tomorrow’s forecast says much colder and snow… Hey, it has been six weeks you stupid groundhog!

Chores take longer on a day like today. I have to shuffle my feet like an old codger…maybe I am an old codger 😮 Anyway, I have to be careful… I don’t want to fall and break my hip!

Today , I mourn the loss of our pastor. She was a wondeful woman and a true child of God. She married my boys, mentored to all of us and kept us in God’s fold. I will miss her dearly. I am sure our lives were blessed to just know her. Pastor Meredith Coleman may you rest in peace in the loving arms of God.

The sap ran yesterday and is starting to drip today. We will collect everything before the next cold snap sets in. The day is a bit nasty, but the job must be done. I guess that is the way sugaring is… just like hay..You have to make it when the sun shines! Stupid Groundhog!

Cute Times Two
March 14, 2013, 9:17 pm
Filed under: March 2013 | Tags:
Little black ewe and her lambs

Little black ewe and her lambs

March 14, 2013

We are caught up on the maple syrup right now. The sap is not running, but the weekend looks pretty good for it. Today , I caught up on farm chores, ran a few errands and visited a little while with my friend at the feed mill. I also got to spend some time checking up on the sheep flock and the new born lambs.

The black ewe in the picture has a set of identical twins. They are cute times two. Their mother has been a pain in my hindend for a whole season. She doesn’t like me. When I want to move the flock, she takes off the other direction and usually takes half the flock with her!

I have tried getting close to her to convince her that I am not the bad guy. But I think she sees me as the guy who dumps worm medicine down her throat or sticks her with a needle to vaccinate her on a yearly basis. I don’t want her to get tetnus or be bothered with internal parasites, so the “vet” work is necessary…. BUT not to her!

One of her lambs was by itself today sleeping. I was afraid that it was in some kind of trouble. I went into the pasture to check on the little fellow. It jumped up, started bleating like crazy and ran straight to me. His mother was not pleased. She hates me and would not come near me even to get her baby.

I finally convinced the little lamb to stay near a couple other sheep and to quit following me. Once I was a ways off, mom came running to get her baby. I am sure she was scolding it and telling it all about me. I will probably not hold either one of them until worming time …. but wait! The little one has to get castrated… that should cement their disdain for me 😮