RicelandMeadows


Maple Season 2019

maple20193

February 27, 2019

What a cold, ice filled, crazy season it has been so far! A nice run came in the midst of some very high winds. The high winds prompted the temperature dropping into the 20 degree F range. We scrambled to get everything gathered, but the high winds prevented us from entering the woods.

The next day, bags were frozen. We had to break the ice with a quick chop of our fists to the corner of the bag. Then we could dump the sap out. The ice was then crushed and dumped onto the ground. The temperature stayed cold, so any moving of maple sap meant ice and slippery conditions, frozen pipes and much frustration.

Finally, last night, after a day filled with a few more problems, we got things thawed and flowing. We lit the first fire of the season in the maple arch and boiled way into the night. At 2:30 am this morning, I closed the door to the sugarhouse, made my way to a warm home, hot shower and a warm bed.

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We filled the cold room with steam in no time. Even after several hours of boiling, we could still see our breath inside the sugarhouse. These are much colder conditions than normal.

maple20191

Even the floodlights had a rough time shining through the steam.

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The good news is that the boiling went well. The pans are sweet, having reduced the sweet, tree given, confection closer to the 66.5 brix needed to become maple syrup.

The weatherman, hopeful for spring, rushed us a bit, thinking that warmer weather was upon us. Alas, we got caught in the cold. A slight warm-up may be coming for late this week, but more very cold weather is to follow. The rise and fall of the spring thermometer indicates the sap flow as the trees prepare for spring. We will deal with the season as always, but will enjoy a return to “normal”, whatever that means!



The Stars Are Out Again!

Hosknisap2018

March 22, 2018

My horses are stars again! They just had the role in a video showcasing our farm’s maple syrup operation. The footage was shot by Rural Heritage magazine and will appear in the future on RFD-TV. The CD will also be available for purchase from Rural Heritage magazine. You can look for this and other episodes made here at the farm by going to their website Ruralheritage.com 

It was an amazing day. We gathered maple sap. We tapped a tree and we boiled the sap and made some syrup all while being filmed. The horses gave me a little “push back” at first , but soon settled into their routine and worked perfectly…. as expected.

Maple season has been hit and miss, but these last few days we have been very busy. We boiled for the 7th time yesterday. The next few days look pretty good too. We will be in a rush as the season will soon be at its end, but for now we will work hard, even into the night….working at times, when the stars are shining!

Special thanks to Susan Blocker for the amazing photo of Hoss and Knight pulling the sap sled!



Signs of Spring
March 12, 2018, 9:54 am
Filed under: March 2018 | Tags: , , , , ,

shedding2018

March 12, 2018

So far this year we have seen the sap run, robins, buzzards and red winged blackbirds. I have seen purple martin scout birds checking out the martin house, but for me a true sign of spring is the horses shedding their winter coats. Saturday, this yearly event started in full swing!

I spent quite a bit of time brushing their coats and thinning manes and tails. They almost shake their feet like a dog. The brush must feel real good as it helps to rid the itchy hairs. One of my horses is usually late to shed his coat, but this year he too, is losing the old hair in gobs.

We are hoping for at least one more good maple sap run. The weatherman says we may get it this coming weekend. The weathermen are often wrong, but the horses and other wildlife are predictable. I believe that spring is just about to bust wide open. The sap will have us running, while birds flock to the grasses peeking through the snow. Ill try to keep up spitting horse hair as I go!



Sugarhouse Steam

sugarsteam2018

March 9, 2018

What a roller coaster maple syrup season we have been having! We started off with a bang in mid-February. We had lots of sap as the temperatures rose to unseasonable highs. It lasted for a few days, but boy were we busy! We boiled until after midnight several nights.

March blew in like a lion and buried us in a wet heavy snow, that closed schools and made driving hazardous. Since then we have had one small run here at the farm where the bulk of our sugarbush is in a small valley next to the river. My son lives a few miles away on a ridge. His sugarbush is about 500 hard maples. Several of those trees are very large and situated in their yard and along the road. His trees seem to gush sap every time the sun shines! These trees have kept us in sap making for a good season so far.

Thanks in part to my son’s sugarbush and us gathering partial bags, we have boiled five times so far. We are making syrup and having a great time. The horses are liking the partial loads as they toughen up from a winter rest. It has been an unpredictable season so far, that has caught us off guard more than once.

Today, after another March snow storm that has blanketed us with about 8 inches of snow, the sap is not running and thankfully….neither am I



Woodshed Full :o)

conniewood

October 15, 2017

I engaged some man sized help from my neighbor boys and in just three hours, we finished filling the woodshed. This will boil the 2018 maple sap crop. A full woodshed, filled with drying wood, many months before it will be needed, is an awesome thing!

Using good dry seasoned wood increases the BTU’s when burned, producing a very hot fire. A very hot fire is just what is needed when boiling maple sap… or heating a home. Honestly, firewood should be cut a year ahead of when it will be burned for best results. I pile the logs all winter long for the next years wood. I slowly, yet steadily, start filling the woodshed as soon as the maple season ends.

This year, having had my knee replaced, made work take a bit longer but it did get done. As I look around the farm, with winter looming, I am satisfied that I will have everything done before the snow flies. It took lots of family and friends and I am thankful for each and every one of them!



Tank You, Tank You Very Much!
July 30, 2015, 9:23 pm
Filed under: July 2015 | Tags: , , , ,
1,100 Gallon Tank Ready for Install

1,100 Gallon Tank Ready for Install

July 30, 2015

Can you see my lip curling as you read the title? I am very happy to be bringing home my maple sap storage tank. It has been constructed three months ahead of schedule. I am very glad that we built the sugarhouse addition during the rainy days of June. Now, when the cold autumn winds are whipping across the farm, I can be snug in the sugarhouse plumbing up this awesome addition to our operation.

The tank was built by H&M Fabricating on Jug road in Burton, Ohio. These men build all sorts of maple equipment. They are very good at their craft. The use the equipment that they build. They understand the maple business from the tree to the bottle. Their welds are top shelf. Their products are tested before leaving the shop. I have known these men for years now and will recommend them highly.

It seems funny to be thinking about maple syrup season in mid-summer, but I think about it often. I am looking forward to the ease of cleaning this big tank. It will reduce many hours for me, compared to our old set up. I am very grateful to have saved the money for this key piece of equipment. It not only holds 1,100 gallons of sap, but it also will feed the evaporator in my gravity set up.

This reminds me of the recent speltz harvest. It too was gained by hard work, good weather and a blessing from Heaven.

Horse fuel!

Horse fuel!



Made in the Shade
June 21, 2015, 9:36 am
Filed under: June 2015 | Tags: , , ,
The new addition on the Sugarhouse

The new addition on the Sugarhouse

June 21, 2015

Yesterday, in the shade of some sugar maples, we started on the sugarhouse addition. This add on will house a large tank. The tank will have two jobs. It will hold over 1200 gallons of sap waiting to be boiled and it will be the tank that feeds the evaporator. Boiling maple sap is a continuous process, so having the incoming sap readily available is very important. The big tank will replace the old tanks in the foreground of this photo.

The boards on the new addition, down low, are a temporary thing to keep the sheep from taking up residence under the building. I don’t mind them there, it’s the manure they would leave behind that I want to avoid! The building went up fast, thanks in part to all the help from my friend Marvin and his sons. We had a good time in the shade of those trees, while working together 😮

We had enough time for the young boys to fish for bass in the farm pond. We drank coffee and cold drinks, shared a meal and lots of conversation. Piece by piece the building took shape. The roof and siding are all that remains to finish. A pair of doors on the west side will be built. The door will allow for easy installation of the big tank. A set of stairs will be built inside the sugarhouse for easy entry to the new space, then this project will be complete.

The best part of this whole project for me, will be the ability to stand next to the tank and clean it out easily. The drain will direct wash water outside. I have struggled for the last four years with my old system. I could get the job done, but man was it ever difficult! This new addition, built under the trees, by me and my friends will serve us well for the rest of my life.

"Buster" climbs the sidewall

“Buster” climbs the sidewall



Destruction begets Construction
June 18, 2015, 9:41 pm
Filed under: June 2015 | Tags: , , , ,
The old tanks are out

The old tanks are out

June 18, 2015

The rain won’t stop, so just like when life gives you lemons and you make lemonade, I am working on projects where the rain won’t matter. My new tank will be manufactured by the first of October. I want the sugarhouse addition to be completed before the tank is ready. I want to bring it home and slide it right into place. The addition will accommodate the tank with just a little room for storage.

The addition will resemble a mezzanine. A small porch like structure, built up in the air, allowing gravity to feed maple sap to my evaporator. The new addition and tank will make it much easier for cleaning. In any part of the food industry, clean up is the most important job. Making this job easier is a wonderful thing!

The construction project will take a few days, but having it completed before haying season fills my schedule from daylight to dark, is pleasing. I have enlisted the help of my friend Marvin. He and I share work. We trade labor for labor. It is a good system that costs us nothing and cements a longtime friendship. His concerns become my concerns and visa-versa. We share work, wisdom and fellowship as we work out projects and problems.

It is bittersweet to rip part of my sugarhouse apart. I like this little building and it has served me well. I see this new addition as a very important part of our operation. We need the storage space as our maple syrup operation grows. The move to a one tank system will make my sap boiling job much easier and less stressful. Currently, I to have to keep an eye on tank levels and transfer when needed. That has to be done in-between loading the firebox, drawing off syrup and keeping a watchful eye on the boiling liquid….trust me when I say this new project will ease my burden significantly.



The 2015 Season Ends
April 7, 2015, 10:07 pm
Filed under: April 2015 | Tags: , , , , ,
Its Syrup!

Its Syrup!

April 7, 2015

Today, I boiled the last of this season’s maple syrup. We had a rough last few days as I worked my off farm job and pushed to get the last of this years sap collected and boiled. I will now catch up on sleep and start the big job of clean up. The trees must be “untapped”. The spiles, and bags must be taken down. The spiles get cleaned and dried, then put away. The plastic bags get collected and taken to the recycle. The sugarhouse and all equipment gets cleaned and stored away until next year.

We had a good season. We made and canned some nice syrup. The greedy trees kept a lot of their sugar, so our yield is down, but I will still have enough for our farm’s customers. I will even sell a barrel of bulk syrup wholesale. All and all, the effort was worth it on every count. The best thing is, that I made memories and so did quite a few visitors to the sugarhouse.

The woodshed is showing the effects of all my boiling. The job of woodcutting is now at hand. I will get started on the giant oak tree again very soon. The maple season may be over, but farm work continues to keep me busy. Logs to skid will keep the horses in shape, as we wait to begin plowing. My clean up jobs, chores and woodcutting may be the order of the day for now, but spring planting season looms…..oh yea…and all that lawn mowing too  😮

Farewell...until next year.

Farewell…until next year.

Thanks to my sister Charlie for laughs and help, my family for help, understanding and goodies. Special thanks to Charlie McCormick for conversation and help. Thanks to my sap gatherers, Sheldon, Marcus, Tony, Lyric, Josh, Becky, Ken and Mae. Hats off to Knight and Hoss for pulling their hearts out and for showing my sister what large feet do to a big mud puddle  😮



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 😮