RicelandMeadows


Standing By
August 11, 2017, 7:34 pm
Filed under: August 2017 | Tags: , , , ,

kentile2017

August 11, 2017

Yesterday, my friend Ken, installed this short section of tile. I have been wanting to do this job for two years. It was on the schedule for this summer because the feedlot expansion project now makes drainage the utmost important. He did the work, I stood by and watched for awhile. This water will filter through a gravel layer, into a tile that connects with a field tile that ends up at our wetlands. The water is filtered by grasslands and slow moving water, before it can enter Mill Creek as it leaves our farm. The job turned out real good, just as I had hoped.

It seems this has been my summer…standing by watching others do my work. I look forward to being able to reciprocate soon. Just a few more weeks of healing and therapy should do the trick. My knee continues to improve, thanks to ice, a few great therapists and rest. I will say it is a process! It tests a man’s reslove and his wife’s patience!

Pastures are holding out very well. We rotated the stock to different pastures last night. My grandson and I opened and shut gates as others moved the cattle and sheep. Today’s heavy rain, gave everything a drink again. The horses watched us over the fence. They are ready to work too, but like me, for now, are standing by.



Looking Ahead
March 20, 2016, 2:40 pm
Filed under: March 2016 | Tags: , , ,

chris looking ahead

March 20, 2016

The 2016 maple season has come to an end. Friday, I boiled the last sap we had and chased it with fresh water. We made a few more gallons of syrup as the steam headed heavenward. My cousin stopped in to visit, smell the steam and check the finished syrup quality of course! It was a good year for us, even though the sap was not sweet. Our ratio of sap to syrup was 80:1 at times. I burnt lots of wood. I made some great syrup and I made a few more memories to hold me over until next year.

last boil 2016

The new head tank worked great. I do need to raise my hill outside to make gravity unloading a better option, but it was a successful year. I do have some opportunities to capitalize on by next year, but work does not scare me.

making the best of it

One of my old tanks and a new plastic sump pump, made it possible to unload the sap and get it to the fill line for the new head tank. I need more stone on the hill, but that is a job done much easier when better weather is upon us.

new sled

The new “long tailed” sled worked much better that I thought it would. It shattered all of my expectations. I used it with three horses and no tongue. It traverses the uneven terrain so smoothly that not a drop of sap was spilled. The long runners are much easier on the land. The horses pulled it easily and turning with the fifth wheel action of the “bob” front end made that job a breeze.

Yes, it was a great year filled with lots of good things. It leaves me looking ahead for next year. I have more plans and dreams as we continue to grow our maple operation, but just like the little wooden sign in our sugarhouse says…..”Dream, Believe, Achieve!”



Yum times Six

6xyum

March 11, 2016

We completed our sixth boil of the maple season yesterday evening. It has been a great year for us so far. The sap is not very sweet, so it takes a lot of it to make a gallon of syrup. This year’s syrup has been light and creamy tasting. The ratio is closer to 65:1 , than our usual 40:1, but it is still worth the effort to me.

The weatherman say we are in for a warm up. Lots of folks are giving up for the season. I am not one of them. I did chase the pans with water and will do a mid-season clean up tomorrow. The pans and all equipment will be drained, cleaned, rinsed and made ready for what I hope will be the next run. It’s only early March and the trees know. A few warm days will tease them just like us, but it’s not time to start gardening yet!

As I write, the thermometer just dipped below freezing. It may not be cold enough to make the sap run, but it should remind the trees not to set buds yet. Next week looks cold and seasonable. So, with fingers crossed and plenty of wood in the woodshed, I will wait and hope for more maple sap.

Just to help things turn cold, the horses and I will start plowing. That almost always makes for a good freeze. It’s like washing your car, no sooner you get started and the rain starts to fall. The warm days and cool evenings makes for pleasant plowing. The horses ease into spring work while shedding their winter coats. I get to work the horses while the greedy maple trees hold their sap.

Last June, when we got 19 days of rain and cool temperatures, the trees could not get enough sunshine to make sugar and send the nutrients to their roots. Now, when we want the sweet juice bound for the treetops, we are reminded of the rainy days of last year and trying to make hay.

The season will be what it is and I can speak all about how it went much better in a few weeks. For now I will enjoy the nice days and continue to do farm work being ever ready to jump back into the sugarbush. It has been awesome so far. I will be satisfied with our success, thankful for the memories and happy as a little boy as I breathe the sweet steam.



Bridging The Learning

Homsklkidsonbridge

March 2, 2016

Yesterday, we had a group of home schooled children come an visit our maple syrup operation. The kids had a great time running and playing in the woods and on the sap paths. They also learned a lot about all things maple. The field trip was organized by my daughter-in-law. She taught the group, gave out informational handouts and set up a tasting station.

The steam was really rolling as I boiled maple sap for over six hours. The syrup is light, clear and delicious. In the afternoon the trees started to drip, but clouds and cool soon stopped that effort. Today we are cold and snowy. All of us get a break. I will do a little clean up and make ready for the next warm day and the sap flow that comes with it.

It was fun for me to share with the visiting families. Moms, dads and kids alike all took some maple information home in their hands, as well as, in their minds. The steamy room, the sweet smelling syrup and the hot fire, all made memories….for us all.

My dog Cinch had a great day too. All of those kids to play with and all that mud to splash through! He and I are grateful for the down time today. It was a fun day for us all as we bridged the gap from city to country, neighbor to neighbor and young to old. The best part of all, was making friends out of strangers!

Homeschoolgroup



Horsing around

long tail 009

January 26, 2016

I spent most of today at my buddy Marvin’s farm. We were working on a new sap sled for me. It is a new style for us, but tried and true on several farms. It has a long tail. It is designed so as to take the big dips out of the woodland floor. Well, it doesn’t take the dips out, but rather floats over them without digging the dips deeper.

The long runners displace the weight of the sled and make for a smooth ride like a long wheel base on a truck or car. Us guys who gather sap from tree to tree throughout the woods, use the same paths over and over. Once a short sled goes down in a depression, it makes the hole deeper every time we go through it. It isn’t very long and what was a nice ride resembles a bucking bronco.

These deep holes fill with water and wash out even deeper as the sled drops into them. The long tailed sled, has a bob sled front end and a very long set of runners behind. The bob goes down slightly, but it takes awhile before the back runners come to the hole. The middle part of the long runner holds the load up and runs smoothly along the ground. No more gouging, digging or wrecking the forest floor. It also saves the wear and tear on an old man’s back!

So, I spent the day doing some carpentry work, learning about new things, sipping coffee and enjoying the sights and sounds of my friends Amish farm. It was a great day to have off. I am looking forward to using the sled in the upcoming maple syrup season. I wasn’t really horsing around…I was getting something done :o)

long tail 005

The sap tank sets on the platform. The man stands behind the handrail. The horses hitch to the front. Exciting times ahead, as I strive to continue to be a good steward to my land.



The Path Forward
October 26, 2015, 4:35 pm
Filed under: October 2015 | Tags: , , , , , ,
An Autumn sap road

An Autumn sap road

October 26, 2015

This well defined sap road has been used by us for twenty three years. The horses make very little impact on the land as they pull the sled through the maple woods. We use this path for hiking, walking and reflecting. Just strolling along alone helps thoughts and dreams come into focus, but it is a much better stroll when walking with friends or family. I walk here often and I enjoy every minute spent there.

Today, I walked among a group of young people. They are part of a school class, but each child is searching for their path forward. It would be nice on one hand for their choice to well defined and easy to see. On  the other hand, however, finding your way while bouncing about for a time, gives life experiences to draw from “down the road”. I didn’t know what I wanted to do…..well, actually I did, but lacked the support to make it happen.

Now, in the last third of my life, I get it! I know exactly what I am supposed to do. I will farm and write. I have been engaged in farming, or parts of it, for my whole life. I have been writing (professionally) for well over fifteen years. I am very happy doing both. That is the key to life… “Do what you love, love what you do! Work is easy when you enjoy it. In fact it doesn’t even seem like work.

Many folks will discourage you from doing what your heart tells you to do. They will say, “There’s no money in it.” I think for them, that may be the truth, but for you, say…hogwash! Find a way to make it happen. Pour your heart and soul into it. You will succeed. It is not always about the “money”. You can be rewarded richly in many ways. Yes, you have to keep yourself out of debt and the bills paid, but the enjoyment of loving what you do is priceless.

Think it through. Make a plan. Go for it….But I caution you, if it doesn’t work out on paper…it won’t work out in life. So, get back to thinking. Make those thoughts into plans. Once you have defined the path forward…go for it. Life is very short, spending even one day unhappy or vengeful only makes you lose a day of your life. It can even poison you causing you to miss out on many of life’s pleasures. Seek the way that makes your heart glad. Find the path to your soul. Remember, it’s okay to walk alone, but much better when shared with friends and family 😮



Repurposed Lumber
October 24, 2015, 10:01 pm
Filed under: October 2015 | Tags: , , ,
Stairway to Heaven...almost!

Stairway to Heaven…almost!

October 24, 2015

A few days ago, my buddy Marvin and I built these stairs. They will give us access to the new addition without banging our heads on the ceiling. The new storage tank will be easy to get to for cleaning or any other work. The stairs are sturdy, functional and well made. The best part for me is that only three short boards are new. All the rest of this lumber was repurposed from an old pool deck 😮

As I look at it now, all the work in the summer heat to get the wood, then pull all the nails, was worth every drop of sweat. I still have a few more pieces left over for the next farm project. This wood will stand up to the steam from the boiling process of making maple syrup. It will make a neat place for children to watch from a safe vantage point, out of harm’s way. The stairs are not steep. Nor do they have big steps for short legs…even Goldielocks would say they are “just right”.

It is the little things that keep a farm in the black. Being self reliant is good, but having great friends helps even more. One friend gave me his old pool deck. Another helped me to salvage the boards and still another helped me build the stairs. I have sweat equity invested, a little time, and a trade for my own labor on an upcoming project for my friend. The best part is only three boards had to be purchased for this project, less than fifteen dollars of out of pocket expense.

We can all agree that they do not make a stairway to Heaven…but it sure is a Heavenly project. Its not just the stairs, it’s the friendship that makes them so great. The fact that they cost almost nothing…is indeed priceless!