RicelandMeadows


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 and 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.



Maple 2017
February 20, 2017, 12:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

threesap

February 19, 2017

Whew, the sap is running and so am I. I got some very welcomed help over the last few days, as I readied for making maple syrup. Today, we managed to get everything in the sugarhouse ready, while my son and a whole bunch of friends gathered the dripping sap.

Many of the bags were full to the top. The mud was sticky and drying. The sled pulled hard, so we used three horses. They still have their winter coats on, so we went slow, not pushing too hard. In four hours time, they had gathered almost 1100 gallons of sap.

My sister and two of her friends came. They were an BIG help. We managed to do all the final clean up of tanks and equipment, as well as, the final set up. We finished just as the sap started coming in to the sugarhouse. Right in the nick of time! We hold the sap in a tank that my cousin and I set in the ice and snow last Thursday. Today, a few guys wore only short sleeves!

Our weather for the next few days has us concerned. The warm up is coming too fast. Time will tell how our season will go, but it has started. Tomorrow we will be boiling much of the day. Oh what a wonderful day it will be!



February A Time Of Waiting
February 1, 2017, 10:58 pm
Filed under: February 2017 | Tags: , , , , ,

101_0717

February 1, 2017

Today marks the first day of February 2017. Early February for me, is a time of waiting. Its time to see if the groundhog sees his shadow. Its almost maple syrup time so we work and wait. There isn’t much work for horses, so we work at easy jobs. I don’t mind waiting for the spring work to start, but I confess, waiting for syrup season is like waiting for Christmas.

It was a cold day in February when I got the sad news that my grandparents had been killed in an accident. It was too much for my ten year old brain to comprehend. I stood in our kitchen and started to shake, then in the arms of my mother, I cried until there were no more tears. My whole world was forever changed.

After the funeral when we went into grandpa and grandma’s house, along the wall of the basement were the neat rows of maple sap buckets. My grandpa was waiting for the season to start, by washing the buckets. I stood and looked at the pails along the wall and I realized that maple season, for me, would always be a dear memory.

Even as I write these few lines, I have a catch in my throat. It is wonderful to have someone love you so much that in the short space of my ten years, I would think of them always. I especially feel bittersweet at this time of year as I get the sugarhouse and all the equipment ready for maple syrup season. Perhaps this is why I love this season so much?

The horses and I will work and wait. We will get things ready, including ourselves, for the work ahead. I am sure that I will pause every now and then, so my mind can wander through my memory to a snowy woods almost fifty years ago. These are favorite memories of mine. Where steam, laughter and the smell of horses can be found, I will be there too…even many years after I am gone.



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.



What’s a Guy To Do?
January 22, 2016, 3:28 pm
Filed under: January 2016, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

002

January 22, 2016

It’s cold and snowy outside. I have my chores done. I have been a bit cooped up these last few days. Yes, there is plenty to do, but I am enjoying being forced inside a little bit. I caught up on some reading. I got ahead on a few writing projects. I am keeping up with our family’s butchering projects and I am catching up on some rest.

I am about to start a shelf building project in the sugarhouse. I need them for a little more organization, since changing out the old storage tanks. The new tank has a spot of its own, but I lost a little bit of room for supplies. The new shelves should help with that problem. Cardboard boxes filled with new syrup containers take up a lot of room. I also like them in a clean, steam free, place. So, I hope my idea works out as well as I think it will.

I am gathering a list of supplies for the upcoming maple season. I need to run errands, but want to be sure that I remember everything. Filters, pre-filters, different sized containers, new spiles, sap bags and extra lids are items to start the list. A little ambition would help too, but right now I am enjoying the rest that comes with a big snow… What’s a guy to do? 🙂

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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  😮