RicelandMeadows


Nice Day
March 13, 2016, 9:19 am
Filed under: March 2016 | Tags: , , ,

half bag

March 13, 2016

After a nice freeze, the sap ran again! The season continues and that for me, is a happy thing.

I spent much of yesterday cleaning and making ready for what is left of the season. The pans are sparkling. I am amazed at just how much work this “fun” of mine can be. I was soaked from the cleaning. Apparently I need more practice with a mop, broom , brushes, sponges and a water hose, especially that doggone hose!

It was worth the effort to clean everything. It will be like the start of the season. Our syrup has been nice and light so far this year. I want to give myself every advantage to keep it that way. It may not make a  difference, but at least I can say that I tried.

 



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.



Happy Tired

3onasled

March 9, 2016

This was my view for most of the day yesterday. This was taken after our first trip through the maple woods. By the end of the day all of us were covered in mud and sweat. We ended up with 2160 gallons of the maple sap that becomes pure Ohio maple syrup. I even had to boil for a few hours last night to get all the sap to our inside tank. I shutdown at midnight.

Connie and I were back in the sugarhouse by 9:00 this morning where we boiled and canned for another seven and a half hours. It was a great day filled with steam and visitors. We are tired but happy as we continue to make very nice light syrup. The horses got the day off, but watched us from the pasture. I think they even chuckled a time or two!

We will gather again tomorrow for what may be our last time. Mother nature has decided to send us some warm unseasonable weather. The warm is nice, but we need the freezing nights to make good syrup. We will work as if the season will continue, but will do a whole bunch of clean up just in case our season is at its end.

The trees are dripping yet this afternoon, but have slowed down considerably. Yesterday, most of the bags were full or almost full. The horses pulled eight 210 gallon loads of sap using the new sled. I used three horses because it is hot, heavy work. They still have their winter coats on to boot. They were ready to be done as we brought the last load to be unloaded. I was very proud of my partners. They pulled willingly. They listened and they knew exactly where to put the sled to be unloaded. Yep, happy tired, describes us all today.

Bagful

The horses brought in 1680 gallons. We gathered 30 more gallons from trees around the sugarhouse by hand and a friend brought 450 gallons for us to boil as well. It was a good time boiling with the doors open on the sugarhouse, but man do I need a drink of water! Keeping up with a roaring fire, feeding that fire every five minutes, while running the evaporator, makes for a busy day!



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 😮



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.  😮



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 😮



Sappy Day
March 12, 2015, 8:49 pm
Filed under: March 2015 | Tags: , , , , , ,
My son and his wife having a sweet day at the farm

My son and his wife having a sweet day at the farm

March 12, 2015

We spent much of the morning cleaning, straightening up and making ready to cook sap. I am very tired even with all the help. My daughter-in-law Becky helped me a bunch. In the afternoon, Josh and Becky helped me gather a few bags on some of the first tress we tapped that were out in the sun. The bags were not clear full but would be by mid-day tomorrow.

As we finished for the day and started to the house, I snapped this picture. It wasn’t too long ago when these two had their first date here on the farm. Josh took his bride to be, fishing for catfish. On their second date, he took her coon hunting…it’s been nothing but bliss since then 😮  So why not another sweet day on the farm?

Weather is on a roller coaster, just what we want for the sap to run. The trees however are simply staying clamed up. Just a few drips in the afternoon so far, but I fear when they start, it will be like someone opened a faucet! I sure hope we are ready for the outpouring of goodness!

I am busting my butt in the meantime, trying to think of everything that could need a spare. Making sure we have enough containers, filters and all the other stuff. I have tried a couple new things that didn’t work. I even tried to make a set of wheels to haul my old tired butt around, but so far its just a prototype…. so I keep dragging it like usual.

Oh well, soon we will be smelling the steam and living the dream. The season may be short, but it will be sweet, just like love that blossoms on a coon hunt!