Enjoying a Break
March 3, 2016, 6:50 pm
Filed under: March 2016 | Tags: , , , ,

Sugar Snow

March 3, 2016

After a little snow and cold over night, the sap has stopped running and we are enjoying a break. There is plenty of farm stuff to do, but the hustle, hurry and rush has settled down if only for a day or two. I like these days for planning. I do get a little extra stuff done, but sipping a hot beverage is a good thing to do on a day such as this.

I find a restful day clears my head. It allows me to coast a little and get inspired to write. My book continues to sell quite well. I am getting lots of nice compliments. I am pleased that so many folks are enjoying and reflecting upon their own memories, as they read about mine. Life is short. Knowing that I have touched a few people along my journey so far is humbling. I give the glory to God.

The horses and I will be hauling wood and manure in the coming days in between sap gathering. All of us need the work so as to be tuned up for spring. The soil preparation will begin soon. We will be plowing before I know it. The time changes soon and we will enjoy a later sunset. I guess it’s only fitting to take a break now… while we can.

Bridging The Learning


March 2, 2016

Yesterday, we had a group of home schooled children come an visit our maple syrup operation. The kids had a great time running and playing in the woods and on the sap paths. They also learned a lot about all things maple. The field trip was organized by my daughter-in-law. She taught the group, gave out informational handouts and set up a tasting station.

The steam was really rolling as I boiled maple sap for over six hours. The syrup is light, clear and delicious. In the afternoon the trees started to drip, but clouds and cool soon stopped that effort. Today we are cold and snowy. All of us get a break. I will do a little clean up and make ready for the next warm day and the sap flow that comes with it.

It was fun for me to share with the visiting families. Moms, dads and kids alike all took some maple information home in their hands, as well as, in their minds. The steamy room, the sweet smelling syrup and the hot fire, all made memories….for us all.

My dog Cinch had a great day too. All of those kids to play with and all that mud to splash through! He and I are grateful for the down time today. It was a fun day for us all as we bridged the gap from city to country, neighbor to neighbor and young to old. The best part of all, was making friends out of strangers!


Three is not a crowd
February 25, 2016, 11:10 am
Filed under: February 2016 | Tags: , , , ,


February 25, 2016

Yesterday, we got well over an inch of rain in the space of three or four hours. Water was everywhere and we had maple sap to gather. The day went well as three guys worked their butts off. At the end of the day, the sap was gathered and all boiled, yielding the sweet, golden reward that is, Ohio pure maple syrup!

Mother nature is giving us a break for a day or two. The temperature has dropped and the sap is staying down in the tree roots. I am not complaining at all. I look forward to the next run, but will enjoy the break.

This photo is from a couple of years ago. We were scrambling to gather firewood for boiling. I had never expected to get my sugarhouse and pans all set up, so wood until then, had been no concern. My neighbor had a large pile of slab wood from a recent timber harvest. He told me to take whatever I wanted. We would haul slab wood every day that we weren’t making syrup.

Not being prepared and always behind the eight ball, is not where I choose to be. I feel much better when things are all sorted out, wood is stacked and dry and a plan “B” is in place if needed. This year I am using plan “B” for unloading our sap. My hill is not high enough for the new storage tank, so gravity doesn’t work. Thank goodness for a pump and an extra tank. This method is far from perfect, but it is working very well.2016 first steam

This wood was cut, split and stacked last April. It burns very well, gives up lots of heat and gives this farmer a good feeling. We will use almost all of it by the seasons end. I am okay with that because I have plenty more all ready to be cut and stacked as soon as the maple season is done for this year. The horses and I will have it full again in no time!

Maple 2016

Jake n the boys

February 23, 2016

Finally, the maple season is upon us. After much scrambling with the new sugarhouse addition, the new head tank and getting used to our new sap hauling sled, we got underway. The trees ran good over the weekend and are dripping very nice as I write. This is one of my most favorite times of the year. I am busy as heck but finding time to immerse my self in all that is maple!

Our first day of gathering, I was able to get my son Jake to help. He is driving the horses to the sled in the photo above. Things went well and we collected about 1000 gallons of maple sap. We are also boiling some sap for a friend. He had a good run as well.

2016 first steam

The first steam rolls out of the roof as we get the sap boiling. The new head tank performed flawlessly. The dry chunk wood, split and stacked last April made a good hot fire. The room was soon filled by the sweet aroma of spring here at Riceland Meadows.


Our 4 by 14 evaporator was working hard thanks to the amount of sap and the dry wood. I choose to do things the old-fashioned way, in the manner of my parents and grandparents. I know there are many short cuts available to me in the maple syrup making process, but I prefer to gather sap from tree to tree with a team of horses. I choose to boil the 40:1 ratio in open pans over a hot wood fire without the benefit of reverse osmosis. I am an old soul and very proud of that fact.

first run 2016

To me……. It’s worth it!

A day for good Stewardship
One of our woodland sap roads

One of our woodland sap roads

May 4, 2015

Last year we fixed a couple of road sections in the woods. Today we fixed a few more. The trouble spots we worked on today were stream crossings. I was able to get a culvert pipe installed. The trouble spot has been a thorn in my side for twenty years. It felt very good to cross it off the list! I would have taken a picture, but it was close to dark when we finished and I was too tired to walk back there 🙂

Sap roads hold up pretty well because of using the horses for gathering the maple sap.I am going to build a road repairer from an old disc my friend Bill gave me. I have narrowed it down so it fits the roads better. I am adding a piece of railroad rail to drag behind the disc. My hope is that the disc will cut the ruts and the dragging rail with level them all off. I has to make a difference!

In maple syrup season, we are using the roads when the soil is unstable…in fact muddy is a better word. Once in a while we have snow, but more often it is mud. As we slog through a stream, we drag mud with us, but worse than that we make small ditches. The sled runners cut grooves in the dirt where water makes a fast exit to the stream. The silt soon fills the stream with soft mud. It is not good for the stream or any water down stream of it either. I is my goal to have all my problem areas fixed by this time next year…I only have two more places to go.

When water can trickle or even run onto a place littered with leaves before making it to the stream, the dirt settles out and only clean water enters the stream bed. By building bridges and installing culverts at stream crossings, I am improving water quality here on my farm and even more importantly, downstream from my farm!

The job of environmental steward is one I don’t take lightly. I want to be a good neighbor, it’s the right thing to do and I believe it is my responsibility. I also like the way it looks. I can see that it will be a life’s work. It is noble and it pleases me. I am teaching others as I go along and setting an example for my heirs to boot. If my heirs don’t get it…they will get the boot! I am a true believer in sustainability for a farm and for a woodland. Here at Riceland, it’s the way we do business.

Foggy Morning Breakdown
April 8, 2015, 10:56 am
Filed under: April 2015 | Tags: , , , , ,
The ladder to success

The ladder to success

April 8, 2015

Armed with 600 gallons of water, a couple of cases of white vinegar, some bleach and huge quantities of elbow grease, I am attacking the job of breaking down and cleaning up the sugarhouse and it’s equipment. A little bluegrass and Celtic bagpipe music playing on my headphones passes the time and keeps me company.

Before the 2016 maple syrup season begins, we plan to change our three sap tanks out. They have served us well for four seasons, but the time has come to upgrade. One large stainless steel tank will replace the three current ones. The large tank will take away some of my redundant work while boiling, as well as, make the job of clean up much easier! The job will require some building construction later this year. The wood will be acquired from white pine trees growing here on the farm.The horses and I will turn logs into lumber for the project.

The addition to the sugarhouse will be small in size, but will have a giant impact on my operation. It will make the sugarhouse more user friendly, safer and more efficient. I will create a mezzanine for the big tank. The roof will be tall enough to stand beside the tank for cleaning and inspection. The little addition will create some needed storage and free up some much needed space. For now, this whole project resides in my head, but stay tuned as I make another dream come true 😮

That Worried Look
March 30, 2015, 6:27 pm
Filed under: March 2015 | Tags: , ,
Is the season soon to end?

Is the season soon to end?

March 30,2015

Okay, so now it is warming up. The sap is running good today. It will drop below freezing tonight. This is perfect weather for making maple syrup. As I look at the extended forecast, I see a stretch of warmer, wet weather without a drop below freezing. If the weatherman is correct, that could be the end of our season…… Oh what am I saying…a correct weatherman? This year? I guess I am worried about nothing at all!  😮

The trees, I am sure, are just as ready for spring as we are. They will want to bud soon. A few warm wet days could make that happen, but right now the calendar says late March, but everything thing else says early March. I guess we will all see. I have not heard spring peeper frogs yet, so I am not too worried yet.

I am looking forward to seeing the grass start to green up, but I would like to make more syrup. This is when you realize that we are not in charge. So, I will take what we are given and who knows…we may still get a bumper crop! After all the real “Weatherman”  knows exactly when the season will end…. I will just do as he lets me and be thankful for what even that may be!

So You Want to be a Maple Syrup Maker
Start up

Start up

March 20, 2015

If it’s your plan to make maple syrup, the thing you will need the most of is… PATIENCE!

First you wait on the season to get here. Then you wait for the sap to start running. Then you wait for the bags to fill. Once they are full, you wait for help to empty them all. Then the boiling process starts. You wait for the sap to boil. You then wait for the pans to get concentrated. A process called “getting the pans sweet”. Then you watch the thermometer and hydrometer as you wait for the first syrup.

We finally made some today….and it was worth the wait! The trees are dripping pretty good this afternoon. We should have a good weekend as long as we can wait 😮

Watching the Weather
March 1, 2015, 1:29 pm
Filed under: March 2015 | Tags: , ,
Max looks for some warm weather

Max looks for some warm weather

March 1, 2015

We are once again being hit with a winter storm. It is warmer than it has been. Today it might even warm up to freezing! Anyway, no maple syrup weather in sight. Sure, there is one or two days next week that may even hit 40 degrees F, but the night temperatures will bottom out in the single digits. The snow is still deep and the trees are frozen solid…it will be a while 😮

So, March comes in like a lion, that can only be a good thing. The temperatures should warm as we head towards the lamb like month end. This is where patience pays off. I am not the best at waiting, but this time it only makes sense not to worry and fret! So I am working on my writings, waiting and watching for the warm weather … Just like everybody else!

Patiently Waiting
Cinch waits while I fill the water trough

Cinch waits while I fill the water trough

February 23, 2015

The temperature plummets as I write. It is -5 F outside, crisp and cool. Chores are done and all the animals are tucked into bed. The barnyard is quiet as the animals begin to slumber, the horses chewing is the only sound. We are all waiting on spring!

The next several days shows us staying below freezing. I too must wait on spring and the busy maple syrup season. There is plenty to do just keeping all my animal charges fed and bedded…not to mention keeping water thawed out 😮

I need to be more like the dogs. They are patient. They find all sorts of ways to rest. They stretch when they rise before thundering off to play in the snow. On cold days they snuggle down and sleep in the soft straw. They don’t spend one minute worrying about anything…especially doing more work!