Identity Crisis
March 30, 2014, 10:39 am
Filed under: March 2014 | Tags: , , ,
Washed and Labeled

Washed and Labled

March 30, 2014

Once our syrup has been canned, it comes into the house to be washed and labeled. Usually, we do this in small batches and it’s no big deal. This last week, has been full of other work, so the labeling got put off. My dear wife spent quite a bit of time on this job, that plugged our kitchen clear full!

The syrup containers get wiped down to ensure that any place where I slopped, is neat and clean. The next thing to go on is our maple syrup label, identifying our farm. It seems like no job at all untill your back is breaking from the tedious work.

I boiled a nice run yesterday and the sun is making the trees drip again today. It looks like a big day of boiling coming up on Tuesday. I am hoping for one more day after that, but the weather is looking like we are near the end. Once the trees warm and the sap travels up to the buds, we are done.

The syrup made once the tress have budded has a strong off flavor. It works well for animal feed or pipe tobacco but not so well on pancakes. In fact the stuff tastes like medicine to me! So, for us, it’s only the good stuff…thank you very much!

The syrup in the photo above has been divided into orders. Some of it has been delivered. Some of it waits for pick up, but all of it has moved from the kitchen counters…much to the delight of my dear wife 😮

Starting Up Again
March 28, 2014, 9:13 am
Filed under: March 2014 | Tags: , ,
Just starting to boil

Just starting to boil

March 28, 2014

After a very cold start to the week, the sap is running again. We will gather later and it looks like, quite a few times over the next several days. Some of this work is usually done in February, but not this year 😮 Winter just won’t let go.

The wood pile is holding out well. The longer pieces have worked out very well. They were easy to load, easy to stack and keep the arch fired nicely. I load the fire every ten minutes. This year it amounts to only four or five pieces of wood each time. Last year, with woodstove sized pieces, I had to put in twice as many.

The ten minute firing method keeps me hopping, but it keeps the sap boiling very intensely. We have to make the water evaporate to get to the yummy syrup hidden in the sweet mixture that flows from the maple trees. This longer, dry, split wood works awesome. Many thanks to the horses for pulling load after load through the mud, to fill the woodshed…and they didn’t say “neigh” once.

Some of Ohio’s Finest
March 23, 2014, 12:08 pm
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A Yummy small sampling!

A Yummy small sampling!

March 23, 2014

This is just a smaple of some of Ohio’s finest maple syrup. We bottle it in the sugarhouse on a canner just for that purpose. I like the containers that show off our great state. I am Ohio proud.

Last year, we sold over 100 gallons to a wholesaler in Vermont. My syrup crossed the border into that state and became “Vermont” maple syrup. It’s crazy how that works! The good thing is that some resturants who serve maple syrup, serve “Vermont”. I just tell myself that it is mine anyway 😮

We will boil this afternoon. Visitors are coming to see the operation and immerse themselves in a memory of mine. I am so very happy to share! The best thing is that my memory will become their’s… if that don’t make you Ohio Proud… what does?

Rolling Boil
March 21, 2014, 10:17 pm
Filed under: March 2014 | Tags: , ,
Steam floating on the wind

Steam floating on the wind

March 21, 2014

Sap was running again today. I was busy boiling the sap we gathered yesterday. It was a very nice day for it. We had lots of visitors, friends and maple tasters enjoy the day right along with us. 😮

The snow is all but gone. The ground was frozen this morning, but the afternoon sun made us all think that spring was in the air. I hope for a bit longer season, but we will take what we get. The syrup has been very nice so far…and the memories are incredible!

It’s a Wonderful Time
March 19, 2014, 4:18 pm
Filed under: March 2014 | Tags: , , ,
Here we go

Here we go

March 19, 2014

   We have boiled twice so far this season. It has been a crazy year so far. The only thing that is predictable…is that it will be unpredictable! The one constant is this; the sap runs like mad on the days that I have to work. Logistics this year have been hard to manage, but thanks to family and friends…it’s all working out.  😮

   The frost is coming out of the ground so fast that mud, is the new obstacle. It sticks to everything especially our boots. The woods mud is just sloppy, but the clay that I hauled in last summer from my son’s basement excavation has proven to be very sticky. I, of course, raised the unloading ramp with that clay…ugg it makes for bad footing for men. The horses almost laugh at us as we slide and sip all over the place.

   Maple syrup time is finally here. The season may be very short, but who knows. The experience, however, will last forever in my memories and the mud will last until July…dang near everywhere we step!

Boiled late
March 13, 2014, 3:32 pm
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2014 season begins!!

2014 season begins!!

March 13, 2014

   Last night, after battling a winter storm gathering sap, I boiled the first sap of 2014. This season has been crazy due to the weather. We are started much later than most years. The very cold weather wants to hang around. Yes, we need cold nights … but -4 F is a bit much 😮

   The horses worked in the rain as it changed to ice and then snow. I would have felt a little more sorry for them but we worked in it too. They got to go back into the barn for a good supper and a warm bed… I still had the big job of starting up for the season… I ate my supper at 9pm.

   I can’t help but love this season. It is the signal that spring is finally here. It reminds me of my childhood…long ago… and fond memories of my grandparents. As the steam filled the sugarhouse last night, I was surrounded by good feelings … I know that I am supposed to do this. I am very okay with that 😮

   The season looks like it is about to bust wide open. I hope I can work out all the logistics, stay ahead and meet only problems that I can solve. So far so good…it’s easy when you love what you do!

   I hope to grow this part of the farm business, but it takes lots of help, patience and the weather. Sometimes its hard to get all the stars to line up .. but when they do, it is a wonderful thing!!

   Last night, the wind howled and the snow flew. I had to give all the equipment a final wash and rinse. My fingers were almost frozen by the time I had finished that job. The sap filled the evaporator and I could finally light the wood fire. It was not long and the sap began to boil.

   I boiled for about three hours. I didn’t make even a pint of syrup, but the pans are now sweet, so the syrup will come at the next boil. The maple process requires lots of patience, as we boil away 40 gallons of water per gallon of syrup. The finished product is pure magic.. and the flavor is simply wonderful.

It’s Time!
March 10, 2014, 9:44 pm
Filed under: March 2014 | Tags: ,
It's better after it has been boiled down!

It’s better after it has been boiled down!

March 10, 2014

   It is finally time for us to tap the Maple trees. The sap is running. Today we managed to get about 300 done. Our big day will be tomorrow. We hope to do 900 more 😮  Some folks tapped before now, but very few have made any syrup. It proved to be okay to wait, even though my off-farm job interfered by one day… It is still all good.

   The snow is still deep in parts of the woods. The ground is even frozen quite hard in places. The east facing hillside has thawed enough to be a very slippery mud slide… I slid, but it was not graceful 😮

   We will miss a little sap this run, but will be all set for the next one. I hope to get enough to boil and begin the process. It would be nice to have at least 1000 gallons to start with and we should get that…after all… It’s Time!

Things don’t always go as Planned
March 5, 2014, 8:24 pm
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Pump handle and Prickers!

Pump handle and Prickers!

March 5, 2014

   In the photo, you can see a nemesis of northeast Ohio farmers called; Multa-Flora Rose. Once hailed as a great option for border fencing because it was “horse high  and hog tight!”. It was hailed, praised and in some cases crammed down farmer’s throats. Now, however, it is known to be an invasive pest…another big “oops”, by the government agencies.

   We should also pause to remember a chemical called DDT. A great pesticide, non-harmful…”oops”. It killed fish. The American Bald Eagle fed on the dead fish causing them to have very thin eggshells…and almost wiped the eagles out! … not to mention it is a carcinogen.

   Now, our “big-brother” is celebrating the use of GMO crops, and Bovine Growth Hormones in milk …. no problem they say… but seems to me like there may not be enough data yet. I will avoid it for now and just wait and see. I think there are more pricks in government than may be on that pump handle 😮

   I too have been wrong before. I made great plans. I executed those plans only to have the outcome fall way short of my expectations. A few bruises to my pride, but no dead eagles at least! I discovered things like; an electric fence makes a very bad target in a peeing contest… Lucky for me, my cousin won that contest…but we both learned a lesson.

   I recently re-discovered that having a barn full of pigs and no corn of our own..knocks the heck out of profits. In fact, I did a whole bunch of work these last few months …for the sheer joy of having something to do!

   The weather is still too cold to start the maple season. The weatherman is teasing us with a short warm up for this coming weekend. The trees are frozen solid, the snow still quite deep in the woods … I think if we tap at all for this weekend, it will be a small number, as I try to be patient. All of us maple syrup makers are uneasy, excited and scared to think we may not get a season at all ….. time will tell… things don’t always go as planned!