RicelandMeadows


Time Marches On
February 27, 2017, 7:28 pm
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jake3

February 27, 2017

Our maple syrup season for 2017 is over. This photo, I snapped of my youngest son as he drove the horses back into the woods for another load of maple sap. It is a bittersweet photo for me. He is driving my horses every bit as well as I can. I asked him if he needed any help hitching up. He smiled and said, “Dad after you teaching me for 30 years… I got it.”

He was right. He had everything perfect. The horses can sense when someone is not confident when handling the lines. They were real sure that Jake was in charge. He is quiet with them and uses a soft hand, but they feel his inner strength as he drives them. His thoughts are telegraphed through the leather lines to the bits in their mouths. This gentle guidance along with an encouraging voice, makes for great teamwork of man and horses.

I held my little grandson’s hand as we watched dad go off down the sap road. I was proud and humbled at the same time. The little hand inside of mine made me think back that 30 years ago. I could see my son looking up, asking questions and learning things that I didn’t even know I was teaching. My heart was full to almost overflowing, then my grandson said, “I’m gonna drive your horses some day Pa-Pa” My heart overflowed a little bit as a tear spilled down my cheek.

My how fast time does fly!



Teamwork
February 24, 2017, 1:30 pm
Filed under: February 2017 | Tags: , , , , ,

sapgather2017

February 24, 2017

Our maple syrup season is over for this year. It came and went in a flash. We have not seen a spring like this, since the year 2000. I want to take just a minute to say thank you to all the folks who helped us make this short year a success.

We had set up folks, tank cleaners, horse drivers, sap gatherers, photographers, float monitors, cooks and visitors. You all know who you are. I just want to say thank you, to each and every one of you. The job of maple syrup making is a labor intensive effort, made much sweeter by your help and by teamwork!

We identified a few opportunities for next year. We solved a few problems. We discovered a few real fixes and we look forward to trying some new things in 2018. All of these things are a direct result of the prospective views from all of you! I will try to guide and direct…usually as I busy myself with some task from across the room, to make our visions come to be, but know in your hearts… I cannot do this without you and I appreciate your tolerance of my passion.

Lastly, to my dear wife who washes pounds of mud from my clothes, cuts filters and counts bottles, while cooking, cleaning and keeping me in every way, I say to you, I love you!

I look forward to 2018 and our time during maple season, but remember the hay will soon be drying in the hot summer sun!  :o)  Love you guys!



Bye Bye Syrup Season
February 23, 2017, 5:32 pm
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mailmaple

February 23, 2017

Sadly, it’s over. The maple trees have budded this afternoon. Our season is now closed. It is a very good thing that we kept our nose to the grindstone as they say, because we made the best of a very brief season! All of us are tired. Now, the clean up begins. We made some very nice syrup. Though we didn’t do as much as last year, we made enough to fill our orders and our pantry. This golden treat is a wonderful thing as well as the memories we made this year while making it.

The horses and I will now get started plowing and hauling wood, after we in-tap the trees of course!



Is it over?
February 23, 2017, 12:49 am
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ralphsyrup

February 22, 2017

Tonight, I finished boiling in the sugarhouse, after ten pm. I have been going almost non-stop since last Wednesday. We had to get ready, tap the trees set up unloading tanks, do a little extra cleaning, gather the the sap and start boiling. Every single thing over lapped the other! We started boiling very early Monday morning. The evaporator rested a total of 15 hours since then…only because I had to get some sleep, oh yeah and gather more sap!

The weather has gone nuts! It has been warm, no freezing in sight for another few days. I fear the trees will bud, then no matter how cold it gets, the syrup season is over. Today, the horses slogged through the mud in the warm temperatures. They sweated due to their heavy winter coats. We went slow to go easy on the horses and to prolong the season…well, that is why I went slow.

As always, it has been a family affair. All of our children giving some of their time and help to make this season all come together. My cousin has been with me almost every day, helping in many ways. Friends have stepped up and I have reached deep inside to keep going when my body said it was time to rest.

So, tonight, I write this blog, tired, happy, grateful and optimistic, but I am pretty sure our maple season is over. The next few days will tell the story. Tonight, I sat and watched the fire die down. I listened to the spring peepers and thought about climate change. The warmest February on record, is not good for syrup producers, grape growers or orchard growers. The buds will break, a freeze will come and the plants will suffer.

I don’t know if our syrup season is over, but I do know that climate change will effect every single one of us. It is a small world. Every single country needs to do their part…even the ones with developing economies. And China…well they should be ashamed of themselves.



Maple 2017
February 20, 2017, 12:00 am
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threesap

February 19, 2017

Whew, the sap is running and so am I. I got some very welcomed help over the last few days, as I readied for making maple syrup. Today, we managed to get everything in the sugarhouse ready, while my son and a whole bunch of friends gathered the dripping sap.

Many of the bags were full to the top. The mud was sticky and drying. The sled pulled hard, so we used three horses. They still have their winter coats on, so we went slow, not pushing too hard. In four hours time, they had gathered almost 1100 gallons of sap.

My sister and two of her friends came. They were an BIG help. We managed to do all the final clean up of tanks and equipment, as well as, the final set up. We finished just as the sap started coming in to the sugarhouse. Right in the nick of time! We hold the sap in a tank that my cousin and I set in the ice and snow last Thursday. Today, a few guys wore only short sleeves!

Our weather for the next few days has us concerned. The warm up is coming too fast. Time will tell how our season will go, but it has started. Tomorrow we will be boiling much of the day. Oh what a wonderful day it will be!



Draft Horse Tie Stall Manger

manger

February 18, 2017

My draft horse tie stalls are ten feet wide.I made my mangers like the one pictured above. I had several people ask me questions about their size and how they are made. The mangers have a bottom that is about 18 inches above the floor. The ten foot width is divided in half. Each horse has a compartment that is five feet long, thirty three inches wide and twenty six inches deep.

knightmanger

I installed a corner feeder in each section for the horse’s grain. The size of the manger easily holds a half of a 50# bale. The horses have plenty of room to “root” around in their hay, without pushing it out onto the floor to be wasted. The mangers pictured have been in use since the year 2000. The top board is a 2×8 inch piece of red oak. The top edge of which is forty four inches high, when measured from the floor to the top edge.

chainmanger

I drilled a hole in the 2×8 inch top board. I off set it just enough to have a little more wood on the top of the hole than the bottom part. The chain is long enough to allow the horse access to the bottom of the corner feeder. That length is long enough to allow the horse to lie down easily, but not so long so the horse can get tangled. I use a big heavy snap to connect at their halter. I moved the snap a link at a time until I found the desired link for the proper length. This should be somewhere between 18 to 24 inches, depending upon the size of the horse, looseness of his halter etc. I cut the extra links off the chain to keep them from becoming entangled in the snap once it is attached to the horse’s halter.

ringmanger

On the end of the chain that is inside the manger, I attached these big rings. The rings can’t pull through the hole. They are heavy so as the horse moves forward, the ring pulls the slack in the chain to the inside of the manger. It slides up and down easily keeping the chain taut while not pulling on the horse. The horses had no trouble adjusting to the chain and ring.

My double tie stalls keep my horses safe and clean. They are turned out or used each day, so don’t need the exercise a boxstall allows. They can lie down whenever they want and often do. I would not make a double stall any wider than ten feet, nor a single stall and wider than five feet, otherwise, the horse may try to roll in his stall. I stable my horses in the same manner that they are hitched, each horse shares a stall with its team mate.

It is possible to harness that horses in their double stall. They are roomy for the horses and makes caring for them easy. I have used tie stalls since 1986. The key is that the horses need to be used or exercised daily. The mangers are a key component to keeping them safe, fed and secure.



February A Time Of Waiting
February 1, 2017, 10:58 pm
Filed under: February 2017 | Tags: , , , , ,

101_0717

February 1, 2017

Today marks the first day of February 2017. Early February for me, is a time of waiting. Its time to see if the groundhog sees his shadow. Its almost maple syrup time so we work and wait. There isn’t much work for horses, so we work at easy jobs. I don’t mind waiting for the spring work to start, but I confess, waiting for syrup season is like waiting for Christmas.

It was a cold day in February when I got the sad news that my grandparents had been killed in an accident. It was too much for my ten year old brain to comprehend. I stood in our kitchen and started to shake, then in the arms of my mother, I cried until there were no more tears. My whole world was forever changed.

After the funeral when we went into grandpa and grandma’s house, along the wall of the basement were the neat rows of maple sap buckets. My grandpa was waiting for the season to start, by washing the buckets. I stood and looked at the pails along the wall and I realized that maple season, for me, would always be a dear memory.

Even as I write these few lines, I have a catch in my throat. It is wonderful to have someone love you so much that in the short space of my ten years, I would think of them always. I especially feel bittersweet at this time of year as I get the sugarhouse and all the equipment ready for maple syrup season. Perhaps this is why I love this season so much?

The horses and I will work and wait. We will get things ready, including ourselves, for the work ahead. I am sure that I will pause every now and then, so my mind can wander through my memory to a snowy woods almost fifty years ago. These are favorite memories of mine. Where steam, laughter and the smell of horses can be found, I will be there too…even many years after I am gone.