That Worried Look
March 30, 2015, 6:27 pm
Filed under: March 2015 | Tags: , ,
Is the season soon to end?

Is the season soon to end?

March 30,2015

Okay, so now it is warming up. The sap is running good today. It will drop below freezing tonight. This is perfect weather for making maple syrup. As I look at the extended forecast, I see a stretch of warmer, wet weather without a drop below freezing. If the weatherman is correct, that could be the end of our season…… Oh what am I saying…a correct weatherman? This year? I guess I am worried about nothing at all!  😮

The trees, I am sure, are just as ready for spring as we are. They will want to bud soon. A few warm wet days could make that happen, but right now the calendar says late March, but everything thing else says early March. I guess we will all see. I have not heard spring peeper frogs yet, so I am not too worried yet.

I am looking forward to seeing the grass start to green up, but I would like to make more syrup. This is when you realize that we are not in charge. So, I will take what we are given and who knows…we may still get a bumper crop! After all the real “Weatherman”  knows exactly when the season will end…. I will just do as he lets me and be thankful for what even that may be!

My Wife is a Scraper!
March 29, 2015, 10:34 am
Filed under: March 2015 | Tags: , , , , ,
Some of Connie's handiwork

Some of Connie’s handiwork

March 29, 2015

My wife is a little sweet thing. It’s hard to believe that she likes to scrap. Okay, she’s not a fighter. She’s a quilter! She made the quilt in the picture all from scraps that she had saved from other quilts she has made. I can say, being frugal sure paid off! It is a work of art.

This winter was so long and cold with ice everywhere, my wife spent much of it in the house. While some would read or work on puzzles in between all the domestic chores like cooking and laundry, Connie makes quilts. I am the benefactor of many of her creations. I understand where the material and thread comes from, what still amazes me is how much love she sews in!

She makes quilts for daughters and sons, grandchildren of all ages and for us to enjoy. She puts thought into every one that she makes. She has the person who will receive the quilt in mind while she sews. She approaches this job with great joy. She loves this craft and it pleases her to make the quilts. Her talent is obvious. She works the cloth with skilled hands and a grateful heart.

Connie also sends quilts to wounded veterans, premature babies and cancer recovery patients. Her heart is big enough that it even includes strangers of all ages. “There are no strangers, just friends we haven’t met”, is a saying that she holds dear. I am very proud of her accomplishments, but more importantly, I am thankful for her love for me and all of our family!  ………… And that’s no cover-up!


Dashing Through The Mud
March 28, 2015, 10:25 pm
Filed under: March 2015 | Tags: , , , , ,
Mad Dash for Sap

Mad Dash for Sap

March 28, 2015

Last evening we made a mad dash to gather all the sap before the cold weather set upon us. We got started about 3:30 pm. The wind was cold and snowflakes were starting to fly. The sap bags hanging on the trees w ere starting to skim over with a thin layer of ice on the sap. Many of the bags were full to the brim. I simply had to get them all gathered before they turned into frozen bags of ice.

I used a couple of young men whom came well recommended, but whom I had not met. They caught on quickly and did a great job. We slogged through the freezing mud from tree to tree. We had to clean the ice off the strainer pan every few buckets. The boys took it all in stride. They got soaked from the waist down as we worked. The temperature dropped, as we worked, into the teens. It was crisp to say the least!

At 8:15 we were finished. They boys helped me unhook from the sled and put the horses away. I was very grateful. My fingers were cold, but worse than that, the tug chains and almost every buckle and snap on the lower parts of the harnesses was frozen. The tug chains were even frozen to the doubletrees. I would have had a heck of a time by myself, perhaps even winding up in a tangled wreck.

When we finished we had gathered 1260 gallons of maple sap. We spent much of today boiling, making maple syrup. The sap continues to not be real sweet, so our yield is down and the ratio of sap to syrup is about double what we usually see….this batch came off at about 80:1  I am burning lots of wood, doing plenty of work and even though the results are not the best… I am smiling from ear to ear… I love this job…mud and all 😮

Attention to Detail
March 26, 2015, 7:41 pm
Filed under: March 2015 | Tags: , , ,
Checking things out

Checking things out

March 26, 2015

In all you do, pay attention to detail. It truly is the little things that matter. I worked with a guy who always said, “take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.” I finally figured out what he meant several years after we had worked together. In fact I even learned to “sweat the small stuff” because it’s the small stuff that matters most.

Let me explain a bit here; by small stuff I mean little things like saying I love you for no reason. Be kind to people, it costs you nothing…but the payback is without measure. Take time to watch a flower unfold, an egg hatch or a child grow. When you give of yourself you grow your heart and soul.

There is wisdom in the old sayings like; A stitch in time saves nine. It means fix the little thing before it becomes a big thing. So when your nagging brain asks you if you turned off the water that is filling the trough…go look! I waited way too long 😮

March 23, 2015, 5:41 pm
Filed under: March 2015 | Tags: , , ,
Cinch waits patiently for me

Cinch waits patiently for me

March 23, 2015

Today, I met with an old friend. We have talked on the phone and by email, but we had a real visit today. It was face time, in the flesh…no computer or cell phone needed 😮  We caught up on life as easy, as if we had visited last week. The conversation flowed freely in both directions. I had a wonderful time.

This man I met well over twenty years ago. He and I hit it off and have shared many common threads since then. We share many of the same views on farming methods, conservation, forestry and the human condition. My friend is now an octogenarian, but spry and sharp of mind. He is a delight to be around. He is a little ornery, often contrary with a sense of humor that tickles me to the core.

I am grateful for friendships such as this one. I hope that I am as much a friend to him as he is to me. If I had one wish for everyone that I meet, it would be for them to have at least one true friend. It makes life complete.

My dog Cinch, the Border Collie, is an awesome friend too. He doesn’t let me out of his sight. He is glad to see me even if I have only been gone two minutes. He greets me with a big smile, waits patiently for me always and would give his life for me. There is no question that he is my friend! I am thankful for his love for me. It’s dogs like him that make me realize that “dog” spelled backwards is … “God”

In A Fog
March 22, 2015, 10:32 am
Filed under: March 2015 | Tags: , , , , ,
Rolling Boil

Rolling Boil

March 22, 2015

We collected a good amount last night just before dark. The trees quit dripping because the temperature dropped. This is awesome weather for us maple producers. I am hoping this batch of sap is sweeter than it has been. So far, the sugar content is much less than the usual 2%. This means lots of boiling and not much to show for it.

When the steam rises and the sap boils, I get lost in a fog literally and figuratively. Sometimes the room fills with steam, opening the door a crack will help it clear. My mind however fills with memories and that fog takes quite a while to clear. I am filled with gladness as I pause to remember my grandparents and times in the sugarbush on their farm… In a word, I can only say, “Sweet!”

We will boil today and I will have a great afternoon. Family and friends are coming to see and experience the wonder that is contained in a sugarhouse. The season is short and intense. Making maple syrup is something that you love. It is almost a sickness. The work is hard and the prep work takes an entire year, but for those who love it, like me… It is pure fun and enjoyment…. My kids will verify that I am indeed in a fog.  😮

Triumph… or Try-Umph?
March 21, 2015, 10:30 am
Filed under: March 2015 | Tags: , , , , , ,
The end of the egg strain

The end of the egg strain

March 21, 2015

Yesterday, as I gathered the eggs there was this little bitty egg. I have seen them before and they always make me laugh. As a hen lays her eggs, she eventually runs out. She takes a break from laying, called “molt” She will lose and get new feathers, then start laying again. After the first and second molt, she will lay less eggs each time, until becoming non-productive. Sure she will lay a few eggs every year most of her life, but every year the number declines.

I picture a hen in the nest. She is all fluffed up. The bedding beneath her arranged to her satisfaction. Perhaps a little bead of chicken sweat dots her comb, as she gets down to the business of egg laying. She works at it, probably straining a little and all of the sudden …ta-da!!! an egg! She gets up, looks underneath to inspect and says, “BROCK!”  which translates to “Are you kidding me…all that work for this little drip?!”

Funny thing is, when they first start to lay, you may get some of these too. You and the her are so excited for the first egg. You picture the little hen as she gets the hang of egg laying…and both you and her are very proud. I think this is the Try-Umph …she tried, stuck to it and ta-da…an egg! Farming is a blast when you delight in the little things 😮

The Spring Equinox came last evening. My boys called it “Special Gravity Day” and we would stand eggs on their end. It was a science lesson. It was a neat trick and my boys liked it. I still stand them up just for fun and it’s still a neat trick! This year, even the little egg stood up proudly…now, that’s Triumph!



Funny, the maple syrup jug in the photo, freshly washed, is just showing off!

So You Want to be a Maple Syrup Maker
Start up

Start up

March 20, 2015

If it’s your plan to make maple syrup, the thing you will need the most of is… PATIENCE!

First you wait on the season to get here. Then you wait for the sap to start running. Then you wait for the bags to fill. Once they are full, you wait for help to empty them all. Then the boiling process starts. You wait for the sap to boil. You then wait for the pans to get concentrated. A process called “getting the pans sweet”. Then you watch the thermometer and hydrometer as you wait for the first syrup.

We finally made some today….and it was worth the wait! The trees are dripping pretty good this afternoon. We should have a good weekend as long as we can wait 😮

Wood You Believe We Finally Got Sap!
March 19, 2015, 8:31 pm
Filed under: March 2015 | Tags: , , , ,
wood shed showing our slow year

wood shed showing our slow year

March 19, 2015

Today we got a nice run of maple sap. We gathered over 600 gallons, finishing just before dark. The days ahead look good. Even though our season is later than usual, it is finally starting to kick into gear! The wood shed is starting to go down and will need filling by seasons end, but it’s holding out well for now.

The horses are a little soft from our extreme winter and lack of hard work. They are taking it in stride so far. I give them plenty of breaks and extra feed. I worry some about the first big maple sap run on a warm day. They still have their winter coats on. No shedding in sight. I suppose it will be like the sap, slow at first then “bam” off it comes.

Those warm hairy days of spring are coming. I eat plenty, spit out as much as possible and curry comb till my arms hurt. It’s worth it. The horses are grateful and bonding comes easy during that time. Now, I mostly just clean manure and mud from their coats, but soon all that dead hair will be falling out….yep spring!

Yanking The Fire
March 17, 2015, 10:30 pm
Filed under: March 2015 | Tags: , , , , ,
Letting her rip

Letting her rip

March 17, 2015

St Patrick’s day boil. We gathered this afternoon. We didn’t get as much sap as I thought we would. The temperature was warm yesterday, but no sunshine. The good news is that lots of snow melted! I think from here on out, the sap should run like mad.

Anyway, I fired up today with the small amount of sap that we had. I had a great boil going. Everything was working out well. I knew that I was about to run out of sap, so I slowed down. I quit adding wood to the firebox. I sat down for a bit and watched the steam rise to the roof. I started thinking that wow, I really had a head of steam up.

I climbed the ladder to check the level in the head tank. I reached into the tank to feel because the steam fogged my glasses too much to see. I rammed my fingers into the bottom of the tank, twice! First because I couldn’t see, the second time because I couldn’t believe it! The tank was empty!

I ran for the door of the sugarhouse, the steel shovel and my OS buckets. I started shoveling the burning wood out into the water puddles outside. I worked like a coal miner who owed a bundle to the company store. I had the fire pulled in record time. My OS buckets amount to 3 five gallon buckets of sap, kept for just this purpose. The OS stands for “Oh Sh*t” buckets…and believe me, first you say it…then you do it!

In just a few minutes the crisis had passed. The level of the hot sap was deep enough for the heat left in the firebrick. The fire removed from the firebox, the danger of burning everything up was gone. I sat down and watched the whole thing cool down. I sipped a cup of sap tea and petted my dog. My nerves were returned to normal, everything was well, thanks to yanking the fire 😮