RicelandMeadows


Watching and Learning
March 5, 2019, 11:41 am
Filed under: March 2019 | Tags: , , , , ,

Samgate

March 5, 2019

Sam, our Border Collie pup, is learning very well. He is having to learn patience. Patience and Border Collies are not always friends! Often times, he wants to be patient, but just wiggles all over from anticipation. Here, he is learning to take the horses to the gate, but then sit watch and wait, until I close the gate. Oh yeah, and no chasing beyond the gate!

I have been hanging out at my Amish buddy’s repair shop. We have been working on another project of mine. That project is almost done too. I, just like Sam, have been having to be patient as the project nears completion. Also , just like Sam, I am almost wiggling with excitement. Photos and a post coming soon about this new project.

In my waiting and watching in the repair shop, I have learned a few new things. I am amazed at how the entire shop runs from a line shaft. This old method of powering machinery is a lost art among us “Yankee” folks, but is alive and well among my Amish friends. A motor turns a series of pulleys. The pulleys, once engaged, turn shafts that operate machinery like lathes, end mills, hacksaws and drill presses.

I watch with my head almost on a swivel, as belts change directions and are slowed or sped up by gear reduction. Small magnetic switches engage small clutches to turn a machine on or off. I am blessed, to not only be able to watch these machines work, but also to be able to ask questions about how they work. My friend will take a few minutes to explain things to me.

Much can be learned by watching, keeping quiet and just observing. I have to keep the “wiggling” down to a minimum as the excitement and questions want to gush forth. Just like Sam in the photo above, I keep my ears perked, my eyes open and patiently wait. Anyone who knows me, will understand just how tough that is for me šŸ™‚

Our weather is unseasonably cold. The cold and freezing temperatures have delayed the maple syrup season. I am using the time to complete items on my “bucket list”. The things getting checked off the list, make waiting easier. The recently completed dump wagon was one of these projects. The good thing is that I can learn something new while I wait.



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.

maple2019

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.

maple20192

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!



Another Maple Season Come and Gone
March 29, 2018, 11:07 am
Filed under: March 2018 | Tags: , , , , ,

endoftheseason2018

March 29, 2018

This new section of road saw many trips of horse drawn sled. On the day of the photo we had gotten almost two inches of rain. I am always impressed by the small amount of disturbance the horses do. Their impact on the land, even in muddy conditions is light.

I boiled maple sap for the last time this year yesterday. The syrup was still light and yummy looking. The taste was awesome too. I take a few sips to ensure the quality! Just a few drops to swirl on my tongue is enough to make a big maple smile.

Yesterday was bittersweet. The season ends so this job is done for another year. I enjoy this time of year like no other. Sometimes its cold, wet and miserable as we gather in the sleet or rain. Other times the sun shines warm on our faces as the snow covers the ground. The steamy room echos with voices of children, family and friends. I even hear the echo as I boil all alone. My memories rush forth from days long ago, as I watched my grandparents make this sweet treat I so dearly love.

The evaporator boiled the last of the season’s sap. I watched the puffy clouds make their way out the roof knowing that the work would be over for a year, but silent too will be the voices and laughter. You see, I make more than maple syrup here… I make memories and smiles, while ensuring an old way of making maple syrup is preserved for the next generations.

The clean up part of the job begins today and will continue for a week or so. Tanks, pans and piping all get washed, dried and stored away. The trees have all already been untapped. The spiles now get washed and dried. The job of filling the woodshed again will begin and take a few months to complete. All these things must be done, because the maple season 2019 will be here before we know it!

emptyshed2018

 



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 websiteĀ Ruralheritage.comĀ 

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!



Bye Bye Syrup Season
February 23, 2017, 5:32 pm
Filed under: February 2017 | Tags: , , ,

mailmaple

February 23, 2017

Sadly, it’s over. The maple trees have budded this afternoon. Our season is now closed. It is a very good thing that we kept our nose to the grindstone as they say, because we made the best of a very brief season! All of us are tired. Now, the clean up begins. We made some very nice syrup. Though we didn’t do as much as last year, we made enough to fill our orders and our pantry. This golden treat is a wonderful thing as well as the memories we made this year while making it.

The horses and I will now get started plowing andĀ hauling wood, after we in-tap the trees of course!



Is it over?
February 23, 2017, 12:49 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

ralphsyrup

February 22, 2017

Tonight, I finished boiling in the sugarhouse, after ten pm. I have been going almost non-stop since last Wednesday. We had to get ready, tap the trees set up unloading tanks, do a little extra cleaning, gather the the sap and start boiling. Every single thing over lapped the other! We started boiling very early Monday morning. The evaporator rested a total of 15 hours since then…only because I had to get some sleep, oh yeah and gather more sap!

The weather has gone nuts! It has been warm, no freezing in sight for another few days. I fear the trees will bud, then no matter how cold it gets, the syrup season is over. Today, the horses slogged through the mud in the warm temperatures. They sweated due to their heavy winter coats. We went slow to go easy on the horses and to prolong the season…well, that is why I went slow.

As always, it has been a family affair. All of our children giving some of their time and help to make this season all come together. My cousin has been with me almost every day, helping in many ways. Friends have stepped up and I have reached deep inside to keep going when my body said it was time to rest.

So, tonight, I write this blog, tired, happy, grateful and optimistic, but I am pretty sure our maple season is over. The next few days will tell the story. Tonight, I sat and watched the fire die down. I listened to the spring peepers and thought about climate change. The warmest February on record, is not good for syrup producers, grape growers or orchard growers. The buds will break, a freeze will come and the plants will suffer.

I don’t know if our syrup season is over, but I do know that climate change will effect every single one of us. It is a small world. Every single country needs to do their part…even the ones with developing economies. And China…well they should be ashamed of themselves.