RicelandMeadows


All Done for 2022 Maple Season

March 21, 2022

Last Thursday, we untapped our maple trees. The warm weather, with no freezing nights has brought an end to our maple syrup season. We pulled the taps from the trees, gathered up our bags for recycle and said thank you to the trees.

Today, I boiled water and started the big job of cleaning up the sticky pans and equipment. It is a job that is sweet, bittersweet! It means putting everything to bed until next year. This year’s season was only 19 days long for us. We did make some very nice syrup, but the season was about half what is normal. That is okay, we will be thankful for what we made.

Our son’s young team of Suffolk horses, Anna and Belle have learned quite a bit this season. They are looking forward to the next jobs of field preparation for the coming crops. It is a busy time, but we take time to listen to the “peepers” and watch for spring flowers. I love this life!



A Road Less Traveled

March 15, 2022

Our maple season is in full swing It came upon us fast. It has been a crazy year with extreme highs and lows. Usually that is just what we need, but the sun too has been a bit fleeting. Warm days with no sun, makes the trees stingy with their sap. Then several days of below freezing stops the flow as well. No matter what, we will be thankful for what we get.

The road in the picture above has been used to collect sap for over twenty years. We even dragged logs on this road during a small timber harvest two years ago. The light impact of our horses feet compared to the ruts of a tractor or other wheeled vehicle can easily be seen. Real horsepower in a woods, even at this most sensitive time of year, is a very positive thing.

The sap is running after a very cold weekend. I like this time of year. It is like waking up in the morning. First you open your eyes and stretch, perhaps roll over and just rest a bit. Then you rise up and start your day. I think mother nature is just waking up, nodding off a bit, but will soon rise up and it will be full blown spring! The warm days and plentiful rains will make the grass green, the trees bud and the soil warm.

But for now a little cold a little ice will rule the time. I agree that I am ready for spring, but a few more days of late winter and perfect sap running weather suits me just fine. I really do travel down a road less traveled.



March-ing Forward
March 6, 2022, 7:48 pm
Filed under: March 2022 | Tags: , , , ,

March 6, 2022

The maple season is upon us. Last week we got our pans sweet. This next run will start to yield 2022 maple syrup. It is a crazy, wonderful time of year. I love it.

We spent time today gathering the sap, going tree to tree and collecting from the clear bags. We had all sorts of friends and family helping. We used our youngest son’s horses today to pull the sap gathering sled. They are still youngsters, still in training, but they did an outstanding job.

Our girls watched Jake’s horses as we hooked to the sap sled. Watching are Amee, Abby, Grace and Bree.

Our stallion Hank will soon be on the sap sled too. He works best with our Abby. Since Abby got the day off, so did Hank. He will soon be working and taking it all in stride.

He is growing well. He turns three in April

Sometimes he looks at me as if to say, “What do you want?” I can’t wait for him to change that look to “come on , let’s go!” Soon he will be hauling sap, pulling a few logs and getting plenty of wagon time. The plow is ready and the days of spring are coming fast.

This is our filly Grace. Some of you will remember that she fell down an old hand dug well late last year. She lost about half of her mane in that accident. That was about five months ago. The hair is growing back in quite well and remarkably, it is coming back in her natural color. I was afraid that It might come in white, but nope. It healed very well along with her other bumps and scrapes. God is good!

So, we are marching forward in this month of March Stay tuned for updates and information regarding the farm, maple syrup, horses and our family adventures.



2022 Maple Season Underway
February 28, 2022, 2:35 pm
Filed under: February 2022 | Tags: , , ,

February 28, 2022

We tapped the trees last Saturday. Now we wait for the first run of sap. This has been a crazy spring so we expect a roller coaster of a season. We need the freeze and thaw weather to make the sap run, but we need it to do both! Lately we get very cold weather and no warm or a day or two of warm with no cold. Time will tell how our season turns out, but it looks good for this coming week.

Abby and Amee did an awesome job pulling the sled while we tapped. A four wheeler or tractor would not have worked too well for us this year. The four wheeler would have gotten stuck in the mud and ice or perhaps even in the deep snow. A tractor would have made some awful ruts in places. The horses were steady and traversed the sap roads with ease.

I did take a tie rope along and even tied it to small trees when we stopped. They stayed standing and never tightened the rope. Often I was a hundred yards away or more. They couldn’t see us at times, but they waited patiently for us to return and move them and the sled to a new area. I am very pleased with them and their work ethic. They are indeed my partners.

Now, we wait for the sap to run and fill the plastic bags. We will gather the sweet liquid and take it to the sugarhouse to be boiled. Everything is almost ready and what isn’t, soon will be. Our sweet reward for the hard work will soon flow…and very soon flow over some hot pancakes! Here we go! Thanks to my grandparents and parents for teaching and sharing this love for the maple woods!



2022 Maple Season Excitement
February 21, 2022, 2:31 pm
Filed under: February 2022 | Tags: , , , , ,

February 21, 2022

It is time to make maple syrup! We get excited every year for this season. There is one heck of a lot of work to do before the liquid gold is poured on pancakes, but this labor of love makes me smile every year. This year we frugally upgraded our maple sap gathering tank. Our old tank was galvanized and had begun to show the wear of many years of use. We bought the tank used ourselves and decided it was time to upgrade to stainless steel.

We looked into just buying a tank specialized just for this purpose. In fact last year at the close of our maple season, we ordered one. The manufacturer contacted me in late December to inform us that the rising cost of “everything” had caused them to have to more than double the cost of the tank. The new tank would have cost $3500.00 dollars! We cancelled our order. However, we still wanted to replace our old tank.

In the fencerow at a friends farm, I spied this old, small bulk tank. We made an agreement and I bought the tank for the cost of scrap. My buddy, who is a fabricator and welder, helped me rework the old tank. We welded the lids all in place. We cut a hole in the top panel to allow for this stainless steel drum. We drilled holes in the drum to act as a strainer and fill port for the tank. The barrel sits on four legs in the bottom of the tank making it removable.

The legs that the barrel sits on also hold a baffle on each side of the drum. This baffle is welded in the middle section of the tank and will hopefully prevent the slosh that comes with a big wave. The tank attaches to the sap sled/cart with a ratchet strap. A couple blocks give it more stability. It is possible that I will have to silicone caulk the top seams, but time will tell.

This project, the tank, the fabrication and welding cost me $250.00 and a dozen donuts. Sure, I have some time and some gasoline for automobile trips, but I am happy with this new rig. It accomplished our goal of switching to easy to clean and sanitize stainless steel on a farmer’s budget!

Our excitement continues as we set the maple syrup pans, clean everything in sight, tap the trees and complete other various tasks that must be done before we receive our sweet reward. Stay tuned, we will be sticky very soon!



Celebration Day
December 30, 2021, 10:58 am
Filed under: December 2021 | Tags: , , , ,

December 30, 2021

I enlisted a little help, but the woodshed is now full! I am ready to boil maple sap for the upcoming 2022 season. This is much later than I usually complete this job, but I will celebrate anyway. It was muddy when we got off the driveway, but Abby and Amee handled it all in stride.

We have more wood that has been split, so a good start on the wood for 2023 season. It is my plan to fill the woodshed at the completion of the 2022 maple season. Once the woodshed has been filled, I want to continue with the cutting and splitting. The goal is to get to the point where we will be almost 2 years ahead on the wood supply. I already have the next 2 years worth of logs piled in a sunny place making this goal easily attainable.

After a day of wet, cold, rain and snow, it feels good to bed down. I don’t care if you are two-legged or 4-legged a warm dry bed is a beautiful thing!

We here at the farm hope all of our readers had a wonderful Christmas. We are also wishing you a Happy New Year. We look forward to each day gifted to us. We make plans, prepare and execute work, but first we ask for our endeavors to be blessed. It is hard at times to wait for things to fall into place, but thankfully they usually do. If things don’t go well, it is best to pause, examine our plans and even our hearts. One thing that I know for sure… God will make a way where there is no way! We just need to focus on the destination and not the journey…. for the journey rests in God’s hands.



March Madness!
March 15, 2021, 8:26 pm
Filed under: March 2021 | Tags: , , , ,

March 15, 2021

We have been busy in the sugarhouse making maple syrup. It is a sweet time of year, but very busy too. The maple takes up many days, but the rest of the farm work must be done too. Our weather has been unseasonably dry for us. The temperature has been above average many days, but thankfully the nights have been cold, so the sap keeps running.

We also hosted the 2021 A-Tech senior class Horticulture students for a sap gathering farm field day last week. The horses were ambassadors who worked very hard. The kids all had a great time and I think they may have even learned a little.

We benefited from some willing workers as the class learned about forestry, small farming and all things maple!

So March Madness isn’t just found on basketball courts…it can be found in most any maple woods in spring. Here on this farm the “sap” runs… He also does animal chores, farm planning and other jobs around the farm!

Spring plowing will be underway soon, but first the maple madness continues…oh yeah…a baby horse should make the blog soon (about 30 days)…mama is starting to waddle a little when she walks.



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



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.



Crazy Busy and Recess!

pigrecess17

January 31, 2017

My piggies were playing outside. As I snapped this picture, one of them fell on his side and slid about ten feet. They love playing in the snow. This part of their daily recess. They get to play twice a day. They drink all they want, then bark, run and play. They race and chase like children playing tag. It is a “hoot” to watch. Things like this brighten my day, make me laugh and drive stress out of my body.

It has been a crazy, busy month. We have been going almost non-stop getting work done and things ready for the upcoming maple season. My off farm job has been demanding extra time too. We have repaired an electrical problem, added a needed light and outlet on a necessary project. I have been training the new filly, getting her ready to hitch with the boys. Her maiden voyage will occur this week.

Hoss, Knight and I are on the cover of the current issue of Rural Heritage magazine. I have a couple of articles inside as well. We were also featured in last week’s Farm and Dairy newspaper. I have a book signing this coming Thursday night from 5 to 7 pm at the Kingsville Library. We have another book signing on February 18th, at the White House Fruit Farm in Salem, Ohio from noon until closing.

We have corporate approval to do book signings at our local Tractor Supply Stores, more info coming soon. Rural Heritage will be coming this spring to film more farming episodes for RFD-TV, so as I said, It’s been crazy busy! I guess I need some recess time like the pigs!

Really, I am about to do just that. The maple season will be upon us very soon. It is my most favorite time of year. I managed to get almost the whole month of March off for vacation. I will be making maple syrup, plowing for next years crops and working in the woods too. These things are some of my favorite things. It simply doesn’t get much better than that!

Hey, Check us out at WWW.RuralHeritage.com Take a look!