Leap Day?
February 29, 2012, 10:04 pm
Filed under: February 2012
King all stretched out

February 29, 2012

     I guess nobody told King it was leap day 😮 
     We worked in the sugarhouse again today. The sap ran well last night, but was all quiet by today’s end. We need some cold weather now, to get us jump started again.
     The wind is cranking up and the rain is falling hard as I write. Looks like March may be coming in like a lion. I am OK with that. A little more winter snow, ice and mud followed by a real old-fashioned spring would be wonderful. It has been too many years since we could have blossoms not ruined by frost or deep snow.. and I won’t even talk about all of our rain last year.
     The sap roads are muddy. The horses trod through them like it’s no big deal. I tried walking through one…believe me… it’s a big deal. My boot wanted to stick and my foot wanted to move, the argument almost brought down the house. Had it not been for my cat-like reflexes, I would have been treading water for sure.
     I did find out that even though today is Leap Day all over the world, a middle-aged fat guy can’t leap a four-foot mud path cleanly… Lets just leave it at that 😮

Taking It In Stride
February 28, 2012, 9:12 pm
Filed under: February 2012
Hoss and Knight pulling the sap sled

February 28, 2012

     Work continues for the maple syrup operation. Today we got another sled load of firewood. That takes our woodshed total to 5 cords, not counting what we have already burned up. I believe that will be enough for this season. Although if I need to cut more … that would be a good problem to have, because that would mean an extended season!
     Hoss and Knight are taking it all in stride. Each day we do some kind of work. The way the weather looks, we may even get to plow some in this early season. I am enjoying my farm time and like the horses, I am just taking it all in stride.
     Our local news is very sad these last couple of days. A young man went to school and shot several kids in a random act of violence. The school where it happened is fifty miles away or so, but the sad feelings do not know the boundary of time and distance. My heart goes out to all the folks involved. I pray that Christ’s love will comfort the grieving families of the dead children and the family of the young shooter as well. A terrible senseless tragedy, that has touched the lives of many, causes all of us, to pause and pray.
     News like that is hard to take in stride. It makes any sane person realize just how short life can be. It makes me want to hug my family at least one more time…just for good measure 😮
     Rain is in the forecast for tomorrow. We will gather sap and surely get wet doing it. I am sure many of us will be soaked almost to the skin. The horses will be steamy as they work, but will pay no attention to the wet weather. They will just keep working and …… take it all in stride!

Liquid Gold
February 27, 2012, 8:54 pm
Filed under: February 2012
Our first efforts

February 27, 2012

     Here are two sample bottles representing our first two runs of syrup. The sweet stuff looks beautiful and tastes wonderful 😮 I would even say YUMMY!
     We gathered today, but probably should have waited until tomorrow. This whole thing is a learning curve. We gathered 1/2 full bags and the trees were dripping good. I am sure that by tomorrow, we will have half full bags once again. It makes no sense to cover the entire woods for only half the amount. I will say though, that we are getting good at it!
     The horses seem to take it all in stride and are enjoying the light loads due to my mis-judgement. Oh well, it’s not a production thing for me anyway … yet! I am enjoying myself no matter what.
     We did get in several good loads of split wood. The chunks burn well with the slab wood and hold the coals very well. This heat in my arch finishes the syrup better than any way that I have fired thus far. This is a learning curve for me, but I am enjoying the lessons.
     The season is in full swing. I am praying that the good syrup weather continues for me and for the other producers as well. This liquid gold is part of many farm plans and a few guys’ entire enterprize. I am glad that for me, at this point, it is mostly fun… after the expenses are met …. now if I can just hit that target 😮

Going after more
February 27, 2012, 12:14 am
Filed under: February 2012
Jacob, Knight and Hoss going after more sap

February 26, 2012

     The maple syrup season continues. Today we boiled the last sap  we had for the week. I was supposed to take it easy..well, I did,,,boiling is fun for me 😮 I must admit that I like driving the horses more than cooking, but the boiling is relaxing.
     Inside the sugarhouse there is plenty to do, lots of things to watch and plenty to worry about if you let it. I simply zone out and take it all in stride. Sure I keep an eye on many things at once and an ear out too for trouble, but I enjoy the process of making maple syrup.
     There is plenty of stress in life. I don’t want to have it in my farming ventures. If it’s not fun, then I don’t want to do it. I don’t mind the hard work because that relaxes me too. I refuse to be driven by greed or motivated by money. I need to survive. I need to break even, but more importantly I need to live. Life is not good with a bunch of self-imposed stress in it … if you have some, get rid of it!
     When we gather sap there is only the sound of nature, laughter and the small noises that the horses make. The harness jingles, the hoofbeats in the water and the sound of sap being poured into the tank are therapeutic for me. The laughter that comes from men working, at a job they enjoy, is peaceful music to the ears.
     We have about 500 taps in our woods and now that things are all worked out, I wish we would have tapped more. That sentiment is also felt by my family. I am glad that we have worked out the kinks this year. I am also glad to have done it without too much undue stress. Next year we will go bigger, but not so big as to out grow our current situation.
     When it comes to happiness, I can only say that we are … Going after more!

Taking it easy
February 25, 2012, 9:37 am
Filed under: February 2012
King taking a break, 8 months old

February 25, 2012

     The sap isn’t running today. I small winter storm has us in its grip. It is a good day to take a break. I am going to take care of a bunch of little things while we wait on the weather and the sap.
     It is a good day for cutting and splitting wood. That job is a little hard, but no pressure like the rush that comes with getting the fresh sap to the sugarhouse, then getting it boiled. It has been a great season so far and it looks like another big run for next week.
     I have a couple of writing projects that are up against the deadline, so I must focus on them. I guess the cold snowy evening may be just perfect for some quiet time. Until then, King and I will just have fun on the farm as we ….. take a break 😮

All Steamed Up
February 24, 2012, 8:34 am
Filed under: February 2012
Sap is boiling good

February 24, 2012

     Yesterday we boiled most of the day. It was supposed to get warm and sunny, but the clouds prevailed. The sap did not run much, but I stayed busy boiling with sap gathered the day before.
     Our maple syrup season is in full swing. I am celebrating some time off from my off farm job, between that and making syrup, you can’t knock my smile off with a club 😮
     King follows me out to the sugarhouse, but I make him stay outside. I don’t think a dog in there is a good idea. Especially one his size as I make my way through the steam.
     I did figure out how to use my copula to vent the steam better. This whole thing is a learning process and I am doing just that! I pray the weather continues to yield cold night and warm days at least for a little while longer, I need to recover a little of my expenses.
     This is one project that can drain a wallet, so you had better not mind. It is very easy to see why the finished product, made from boiling over 40 gallons of sap to get one gallon of maple syrup, is a bit pricy. I don’t even count the work involved otherwise I might get …. all steamed up 😮

Horse drawn sap harvest
February 23, 2012, 7:12 am
Filed under: February 2012
Gathering sap the old-fashioned way

February 23, 2012

     Yesterday we gathered our third run of maple sap. Jake drove the horses for a while. He gets along well and is a good teamster. We come from a long line of draft horse people and maple sugar makers as well. There is no better mode of sap transport than draft animals.
     A tractor or 4-wheeler will get you through the woods and mud, of that I am sure. The only problem with those pieces of equipment is that they are not sustainable. They are also hard on the forest floor. The horses don’t get stuck. They don’t spin and they will even move themselves forward upon the sound of the teamster’s voice.
     I have fond memories of my grandpa working in his sugarbush gathering sap with his team. We would ride along and jump off to check the buckets. It was great fun. We were too little to do any real work, so it was more like a spring hayride than anything else.
     I have a day of boiling to complete. The weather has stopped the sap flow for today, but tomorrow looks like another good run coming. I look forward to the horse time that I get…to say nothing about bonding with family and friends :o)

Thanks Mom
February 20, 2012, 4:44 pm
Filed under: February 2012
Mom’s final resting place

February 20, 2012

     This is the spot my mother chose for her final resting place. It is, as you can see, near my sugarhouse. I even tap the trees near her. The unloading line is right where she can see the amount we gathered on any given day. I am very sure she would be pleased.
     My mother believed in me no matter what. I was a hero in her eyes and there was nothing that I could not do. I did push her buttons now and then, but she’d have me back in line in no time. She always told me to believe in myself and don’t give up.
     In my life so far, I have had a few set backs and even a couple rough times. I have been heart-broken, beat down and broke. I do believe that it was my mother’s constant believing in me that made me keep going no matter what…. Thanks mom 😮
     I still have days when things just make me want to explode, but I can hear my mother saying,  “quit bulling!”.  I reach inside myself somewhere and find that quiet place that cools me down… I usually have to walk off to the barn or woods, but in no time, I am relaxed and ready for more.
     As my mom’s life grew dim, I told her that one day I would have a nice little farm with a sugarhouse in a small valley. She patted the back of my hand and said, “I know you will.” I did not realize that once again, she could see the determination in my soul. She knew I would not quit, until I had succeeded.. Thanks mom once again for believing in my dreams 😮
     I can only hope that I touch the lives of people like my mother touched mine. I guess my mother would say that I already have … So, once again I will say … Thanks Mom.

Two days become one
February 19, 2012, 9:56 pm
Filed under: February 2012
“Unk” surveying the steam

February 19, 2012

     My uncle helps out quite a bit around here. He is a confidant, helper and friend. He was as pleased as me when the steam started to rise from the maple syrup pans. I am sure he celebrated this accomplishment as much as I did.
     Yesterday, after a long day at work, I fired up after supper to finish boiling our first run. I had some complicated problems that resulted in no syrup made last night, but , I learned a lot! One thing I took home from my lesson is to be better prepared in case things go bad.
     I avoided trouble, but just by a whisker. I was in the sugarhouse until almost 2 am. I had to be up for work by 4am… It was a very short night as two days became one!
     I will get to buckets to keep in the sugarhouse, filled with fresh cold sap. I will call them my “oh crap” buckets. If things get dicey again, at least I will have my “oh crap” dump in fast and save the day insurance at the ready 😮
     One other lesson… no matter how long your day gets… never sweep hot coals with a nylon broom. It stinks … literally and the broom gets short very quickly!

Sweetened the Pans!
February 17, 2012, 11:37 pm
Filed under: February 2012
First Boil

February 17, 2012

     We did it! We boiled our first sap in the new sugarhouse. We had plenty of minor setbacks, a few small leaks and we ran out of day, but by golly we had steam rising and sap boiling!
     It was a great day. One of our kids and their family helped all day. My uncle also was here and helped a bunch. My grandchildren had fun for a while, but when they had enough, it was a little noisy. No big deal , just a big day for youngsters.
     Sometimes the mud was deep, other times the brush would grab at your legs or sticks would trip you. The other fact is that my legs tire quicker now that we are middle-aged 😮  It was no wonder the little ones were tired out.
     We gathered just shy of 800 gallons of sap. We had to fill up the pans, then start boiling. There is a lot of water in the sap that must be boiled away. I stayed at it long enough to get the pans “sweet”. This means that tomorrow we will be making syrup.
     There is about 150 gallons of sap to still collect and another 400 gallons left to boil, so we should see a fair amount of pure maple syrup made by bedtime tomorrow night.
     This is a dream come true for me. I have to get ready for bed now. Its going to take a half an hour to get the smile off my face just so that I can shave. One thing is for sure…. it was one sweet day!