Sap Roads
March 31, 2012, 1:25 pm
Filed under: March 2012

New sap road, looking west

                                                   March 31, 2012 

     We cut a new sap road for the 2013 season. The new road was laid out with several environmental concerns considered. Some of our old roads run through the woods in random fashion. Many of those roads need improvement and some best management practices employed.

      Our old roads are rutted and run through wet places. Some of the wet places are getting worse as we continue to slog through them. In a few places culverts and drainage are in order. In other places we will abandon those roads and reforest those avenues.

      There is one bad stream crossing. I will also abandon that section and build a bridge further downstream. The construction is exciting and the results will be pleasing to the eye and much more responsible to the environment.

      The new roads follow a ridge line and stay out of wet areas. We will now have to cross the creek only at the bridge. The roads also get us closer to some trees and make gathering the maple sap easier. I was careful to leave desirable saplings while removing brush and undesirable trees when cutting for the roads. I am pleased with our progress so far.

      I once worked in a woods where the landowner had slowly made improvements to his woodland paths. We used many of the paths when we were harvesting the timber. The paths were well constructed and held up well under the horse traffic. I am hoping to accomplish the same things in our woods.

      I can see that an undertaking this big, is a life’s work. I am okay with it taking the rest of mine. I can see the opportunity to teach others the value in taking the time to make the roads well. I can share what I know about woodland stewardship with family and friends.

      Our roads will not only be for gathering maple sap, but also for timber harvest, hiking, strolling or perhaps even cross-country skiing. The possibilities are endless. I am sure the little ones will look for indians as they play in the forest. I will find my solitude there, along with inner peace.

      We have one more section to lay out. It will be in the last third of the woods and will be a long loop almost forming a circle. It will go through a stand of shagbark hickories, across a small woodland pasture and through a grove of maples. This diverse trail will take many hours to complete because of the different challenges along the way. I hope to have it completed by early autumn.

      It is a good time for trail building now. The leaves are not fully open on the brush and trees. You can see quite a ways through the woods. I mark the trail with bright orange tape. I walk the whole thing and straighten out the proposed road, by moving the ribbons as needed. Soon, I will not be able to find my ribbons and it will be time to stop this job until after the leaves fall.

      The road in the last section can be done this summer. The woods there is more open. Thanks in part to the goats and sheep, I can see everything to a height of about six feet. They have eaten the brushy undergrowth, making it easy to see the ribbons any time of year. This is why, I think I can complete that section of road by autumn.

      Our old sap roads will be cleaned up and a new plan plotted for them in between the upcoming spring field work. Once the summer heat drives us to the shade, I can work a little on the old roads. That work, done in the cool of the forest, satisfies and even refreshes me. I get to think about next years maple season and see the progress as we go.

      I am thankful for our woodland holdings and the bounty it provides. The harvested syrup, building material and firewood are second only to the memories made, and the peace that is found there.



March 30, 2012, 8:34 pm
Filed under: March 2012

Pioneer cart for the single horse

                                                    March 30, 2012

      I am thinking lots of people will forgo their vacation plans this year and find things to do near home. The price of gasoline continues to rise and the budgets won’t budge. I am enjoying a “staycation” of my own.

      I have been doing all sorts of things, but my most favorite, is using the draft horses. I have cleared a new sap road in the woods and cleaned up the sugarhouse for the season. I am currently engaged in picking last years corn and filling the woodshed with next years wood.

      I have been having a ball. I have used my single horse for a bunch of stuff and am considering using him for short trips into town. The bank drive through may be a problem, but who knows?! Duke is pretty steady and no one would blame me for trying to cut expenses… like fuel!

      I am hoping many people explore the local parks and beeches this year. There are so many interesting things all around us. We just need to slow down and look. I think spending a day fishing would be a good family event, not to mention just the hike along the creek looking for that perfect spot.

      We have many State parks here in Ohio. This year would be a good time to find one near you, make plans and start a whole new tradition. Just being around family and nature is a wonderful thing.

      When I was a young boy, money was a fleeting thing. I still have many memories to share that revolved around picnics and such. One of my most favorite, was going to a place “Where the road goes into the water.” An old part of State Route 88 collapsed into the reservoir. The road was rebuilt a little ways away, but the old road ran right into the water.

      One of my most cherished memories about a picnic held there a long time ago, is my grandma’s homemade peach pie. I can not only almost taste the pie, but I can just about hear her voice as she asks, “Who wants pie?”   Good Lord grandma … Everyone wants pie!

      As you consider making plans to do nothing for one reason or another, reconsider doing nothing together as a family. Have a ball and make a memory that will last a lifetime…. I thank God that we did.



Business Partners
March 28, 2012, 7:55 pm
Filed under: March 2012

Me and Duke

                                                   March 28, 2012

      I bet lots of men will be jealous of my business partner Duke. He is a silent partner for sure. He never complains. He never worries about profits or the stock market. The dress code is entirely up to me. He couldn’t care less about jeans on Friday.

      He is always glad to see me. He always lets me lead and be in charge. When things go bad, he stands quiet and never says, “I told you so.” He has not once asked to drive a company vehicle, but he is always ready to pull me around in one 😮

      When the work gets tough, Duke hunkers down and pushes harder. He doesn’t give up. He doesn’t get stuck. He is very happy with just an apple for a bonus.

      There are several of us on the team. Duke waits his turn, does his best and contributes with every part of his being. I am fond of this powerhouse. We used to get very displeased with each other, but then one day we had a breakthrough. I am not sure yet how that all transpired, but the turn-around has been amazing.

      I almost dissolved our partnership last year. I had grown tired of Duke’s commitment to always piss me off. I was going to send him down the road and never look back. He apparently figured out that he was on my last nerve, because it was as if someone turned a switch… Duke simply melted into a bidable, loveable horse that will turn himself inside out for me.

      I speak a lot nicer to him. I pet him more often that ever before. He runs to see me at the pasture gate. I am not sure if he is a brown- noser or if he truly likes me, but he is sure nice to be around. We are partners. We work together, each of us leaning on the other…just as it should be… in life, farming or business.



Riding Alone
March 25, 2012, 6:29 pm
Filed under: March 2012

Rocking with no sister in sight!

                                                   March 25, 2012

      John and his daddy came over the other day. John’s big sister stayed home because she was a little under the weather. Johnny climbed into the rocking horse and took off for parts unknown. He was having a ball and did not have to stop to share his trusty mount with anybody!

      Often the brother and sister duo, ride together. They giggle and laugh with wild abandon. I, on the other hand, am a nervous wreck waiting for small toes to be crushed. They have not got their little piggies yet, but I fear one day in might happen.

      When riding one at a time, the rider knows where his feet are. When they double up, anything could happen. I even think the old wooden horse is going to gallop out of the kitchen. John was planted in the seat. His feet were tucked away on the front board for that purpose. He held on with both hands and put the spurs to his mount. He had a grand time. He even almost lost his coonskin cap once.

      I would hate to have been a cowboy riding the range all alone. It would have been fun for a while, but then the loneliness would have set in. I guess you could talk to your horse, but a one-sided conversation is not much fun. I enjoy talking to folks way too much to be alone. I would venture to say that I border on talking too much … a gift from my dad 😮

      I can understand John’s delight about being away from his sister for a little while. I too had a sisters that I wanted to run away from sometimes. It’s funny how I couldn’t wait to get away, but then always look forward to getting back home again. We are all grown now,  with lives and families and all the world pulling us in different directions… but all we have to do is pick up the phone and we are home once again.

      I guess I march to the beat of a different drum. I may have been born a little too late for some folks. I prefer to think that I was born at the right time. I am connected to the old ways and have much experience to share. I am thankful for the opportunity to do just that. You probably won’t find me riding alone very often … instead, look for the small crowd gathered around a guy talking about draft horses, old equipment or farm animals… and there I’ll be 😮



It won’t be long
March 23, 2012, 8:29 pm
Filed under: March 2012

Home Canned Peaches

                                                     March 23, 2012

      I have been tied up by my off farm job and the work that piles up while I am giving my attention there. It’s not an excuse for my missing posts, it is the truth. Priorities can now shift and my soul will once again be fulfilled.

      We have had the most unusual weather that I have ever known these last few months. It is now in the 80’s during the day in these last days of March. This is a time when we are usually slopping through mud, putting up with the last of the snow and ice and longing for Spring.

      It seems that I am still longing for spring. We went from a warm late winter to … Summer! I am not ready nor are the farm animals. Our blood is too thick yet and some still have on their winter coats. It’s just plain hot.

      I fear that the cold will return and stay just long enough to kill the tender buds and blossoms that are appearing everywhere. Those blossoms are the future fruit crop of apples, pears, strawberries, grapes and my favorite… peach. This only names a few of the crops that could be in trouble if winter returns.

      The ground is drying out. Many people are planting peas and potatoes and a few other early crops. Alas, I am not ready. Perhaps next week will find me caught up on chores and a few items on my list. I have the garden plowed, but it lies fallow waiting for the harrow.

      I know it won’t be long until the planting season is here and in full swing. That will start our farm year, I guess, mine now has a new twist, finish the syrup season and be ready to jump into planting season. I love this life and it’s a good thing 😮



Three is not a crowd
March 18, 2012, 8:47 pm
Filed under: March 2012

Hoss, Duke and Knight

                                                    March 19, 2012

      The old saying that two’s company and three’s a crowd must have been invented by someone other than a draft horse person. I am about to start the job of finishing picking my corn. Three horses pulling a gravity wagon will be a good thing.

      The mud won’t be too deep or the load too heavy for my three pals. They will navigate the wet, boggy soil with ease. They stand while I pick , then move forward a little when I ask them. They beat a tractor at this job hands down.

      My tractor probably wouldn’t get stuck either. However, it would make deep ruts and every time I need to move it up a little bit, I have to climb up on the seat and move it. My old knees don’t take too well to all that on and off the tractor stuff.

      There isn’t too much corn left to pick. When that job is finished, we will start plowing. Spring is surely here and plowing is one job where ….. Three is not a crowd!



Notes In The Air
March 17, 2012, 6:59 pm
Filed under: March 2012

Singing with the radio

                                                    March 17, 2012

      After dinner one night, my daughter-in-law and granddaughter sat on the couch and sang with the radio. It was sweet music to me. The notes were hanging on the air like a perfume. It was pleasing to my ears and to my heart.

      A child’s voice is soft. A singing child is almost hard to hear… until confidence finally takes over.  Then, even the neighbors can hear! That night it was a soft melody that filled the room and warmed the walls.

      I remember my mother singing to us, Her voice was not the kind that sells albums, but it was sure fun to sing with her in the car or around a campfire. We would belt out “I’ve been working on the railroad” or “Watching the fishes do the hoochie-coochie dance”. 

     It didn’t matter that we would never be on stage. We sang for the sheer fun of it. We sang loud and we sang often. The miles on a trip would pass away as we sang “Found a peanut” or “99 bottles of beer on the wall”. I still let those old songs rip and have taught them to my children… Yes, my young grandchildren are the next to learn those old crazy songs.

      The fun thing about children is goofing off with them. It doesn’t matter if you are singing, reading or picking up acorns. The only thing that matters, is spending time with them.

      So, take a little time to sing, walk, skip or just act a little foolish. You can do it in the name of “playing with the kids’. They will remember those things for a very long time. In fact, long after you are gone, they will still be thinking of you and hanging notes in the air.



The Wedding Quilt
March 15, 2012, 6:54 pm
Filed under: March 2012

The wedding Quilt

                                                                 March 15, 2012

      As each one of our children marry, my wife makes them a quilt for their bed. We call them wedding quilts. Our youngest son married last fall. In the days that followed, my wife’s father passed away. The wedding quilt was put on hold, while she helped wrap up her parent’s affairs.

     Just a few days ago, my wife completed this beautiful quilt. It is just strips of cloth and thread to some people, but I can see the love that encompasses the whole thing. I know the kids will appreciate this wonderful gift.

     Sleeping under a quilt is a great place to slumber. I am thankful that we have them. I even have one my great grandma made me. It is an old patchwork one made from old clothes. It kept me warm on many nights. I know it was the love that held me each night like a hug…. long after my great grandma had passed from this life.

     As the saying goes,  it is not the gift, it is the thought behind it. I know my grandma, my mother and now my wife, made and gave things away. What they gave was a small piece of themselves…these gifts are treasure for sure.



Making Grandpa Proud
March 14, 2012, 11:10 pm
Filed under: March 2012

Samples in the sunshine

                                                    March 14, 2012

      We had seven runs of syrup this season. We take a sample from each run to see the quality of the syrup that we are making. You will see eight sample jars in the photo. That is because in the last syrup we made, we sampled it twice to make sure the quality had not strayed.

      I ama third generation sugarmaker. I learned only a few things from my grandpa, before he was killed at a young age. I cherish what I can remember, along with many memories he and grandma made for me. I am very sure he would be proud of what we were able to do in this, our first year.

      In a little three-sided sugarshack nestled in a forest of maples is where my grandpa made syrup. His horse King and Babe pulled the sap sled as he gathered the maple sap. My grandma worked right beside him on that job just like everything else they did. As tragic as it was, they were even killed on the same day. I think it was so neither had to spend one day apart…for that separation alone would have killed them.

      My horses pull our sap sled in the same manner as my grandpa’s did. I upgraded my sugarhouse not to show off or brag, but to honor my grandparents who passed this passion on to me. I am sure my grandpa would be proud.

      I am making memories with my family and our farm’s visitors. I tell the story of the maple process. I explain why I enjoy the simple ways. The old-fashioned way of hanging a bag or bucket on each tree. I even shun progress a little, to keep the romance in this process and to keep a memory alive for me.

      It is not production or even economics, that I strive to attain. It is rather, preservation. I want to preserve and old way of life. A way that gets buried deeper, every generation, as people move further away from the land. I want to instill the value of hard work and make a memory along the way.

      Perhaps some day, years from now, my great-great grandson, will gather up the horse’s lines and cluck softly as they move down the sap paths in the woodlot. He will later boil the sweet sap over a woodfired arch. The wood gathered to keep the woodlot clean and healthy. The woodfire, sustainable, because of the shedding branches from growing trees, dead trees or perhaps slabwood from a selective thinning of the woods.

      He will share thoughts dreams and memories with his family and friends. My spirit will be there floating on the steam as it goes out the sugarhouse copula, taking in everything I see and hear…. knowing that his dream was made possible. because my grandpa cared enough to share with me… and I cared enough to make my grandpa proud.



The Night Watchman
March 13, 2012, 11:10 pm
Filed under: March 2012

King keeps an eye out for us

                                                      March 13, 2012

      He keeps on growing and continues to learn his job. Tonight when we dragged ourselves up from the sugarhouse, he was watching two tired people. It was a long, productive day.

      Chores were done at 4:oo am. We started getting everything ready to finish up the last of the sap at daylight. This being our first year using this set-up, it took a little longer than planned. It was successful and everything went very well, but it sure was a  long day..we finished up at 10:30 pm.

      Now, we need to get the “Syrup for Sale” sign up 🙂 Then, after that, we need to start the whole clean up process… and I suspect another very long, dirty day… good thing this is my dream job!

      The energy of the pup is astounding. He seemed to have a busy day too. He, however, ran to the house, dove into his supper and wanted to play. I wanted soup..no chewing and a hot shower. He laid down and watched us fumble with our food while we moaned and groaned…this getting old is certainly a pain!