RicelandMeadows


Our 2022 Foal is Here!

April 4, 2022

We welcome our farm’s newest addition, Riceland Meadows Miss Magee. I pronounce it like (Maggie) She was born on April 1 at 11:15 pm. Momma and baby are doing great. She came after a few short nights for me as she and her mom teased me with her arrival time. The sleepless nights were worth it!

In this photo, Magee is about 2 hours old. She is a strong little gal. We like her very much. It pleases us that we are helping to preserve this endangered breed of draft horse. Miss Magee will hopefully help us continue to farm with, breed and raise Suffolk Punch horses. What a blessing to have another little girl.

Magee’s mom and our Abby, helping in the maple woods last month. Mom is now on maternity leave. Her job is to take care of Magee. Magee’s mom is named Amee and she is a honey too!



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.



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
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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!



Christmas 2021

December 24, 2021

It is here, Christmas 2021. This month has been a whirlwind. All sorts of things were out of sorts. My wife got Covid. We spent two weeks away from folks and her under the weather for many days. Thankfully, all is well, but man did it shorten the “getting ready for Christmas” time. I am very thankful that we were healed. I lost two friends due to this illness in the last couple of weeks. My heart goes out to those families.

Our three “main” horses that power our farm, all got their shoes reset. This makes sure their feet are trimmed and they are ready for the coming icy drive and laneway. Hank is coming along good. He took his shoeing and feet trimming all in stride. He will turn 3 next April. He is growing well and fills up the shoeing stock pretty well already.

He continues to be a gentleman who works well with his mares. He is still a youngster, but will soon be a very valuable part of the inner workings of the farm.

We are working our way through the animal harvest, as we butcher and store the meat we have raised this past year. Beef, pork and chicken grace our shelves. We are thankful for those blessings. We even butchered our old laying hens. They gave us eggs for over a year and now will continue to keep us healthy with chicken soup made from their golden broth.

One of my last remaining jobs for 2021 is to finish filling the sugarhouse woodshed with wood for boiling. In most years, I am done by mid summer. This year however, due to all sorts of excuses, bad weather including lots of rain, I am nearing completion of the job. Hats off to a couple of friends who helped me this week to finish the splitting.

This will more than finish filling the shed. It will also give me a head start on next years wood. We use 12 to 15 cords of wood to make our maple syrup. Wood cutting, hauling and splitting takes a while. It is just part of our labor of love to make great Ohio maple syrup, but to me it is worth it!

Our horse-drawn dump cart works very well for this job. The horses and I will get the shed full and this job finished before we ring in the new year. They are all ready now for sure, sporting their new shoes!

Merry Christmas everyone from our farm to yours!



Its a Wrap! 2021 Maple Season is Done
March 27, 2021, 10:48 am
Filed under: March 2021 | Tags: , , , ,

March 27, 2021

Our maple season came to an end last Monday. We gathered the last of the sap and “untapped” the trees as we went. It took a little longer to gather the sap that way, but at the end of the day we were all done with both jobs. Last Tuesday, I boiled maple sap the entire day. I was feeding the fire, changing filters and drawing off syrup for almost 14 hours. Thank goodness my dear wife was there to help me! It was an unseasonably warm day in the mid-seventies. The inside of the sugarhouse was very warm. I, dressed in my long sleeved flannel shirt, heavy jeans, leather apron, leather gloves and a hat, clothes all needed to allow me to push the fire as hard as possible, made me one very hot man! I drank water like a steel mill worker and kept the fire burning hot and the steam rolling out of the syrup.

Our season lasted three weeks this year. We boiled just over 10,000 gallons of sap that yielded 167.5 gallons of maple syrup. Our ratio was 60:1, due mostly to the soft maples in our woodland maple mix. The syrup stayed light most of the year and has our distinctive “buttery” taste. We had friends and family help us with the process and quite a few visitors. It is a wonderful time of year for me, but I have to say, I am glad that it is over…until next year!

I had an idea this year to try and collect condensate water from the boiling steam. I made a sort of plate that sat above the boiling sap. I thought water would condense on the plate and I could collect it to use for a source of hot water in the sugarhouse. My idea did work, but it didn’t collect enough water to be a stand alone system. I took water back each day and filled a stainless steel tank. The condensate water added to this amount, that helped quite a bit. I will need to improve on this idea, because there is promise in my efforts.

The plate and stainless steel eave trough that leads to the holding tank. It will all work out one day…I mean hey! the Wright Brothers started at Kitty Hawk and look where we are now.



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.



Sap Weather Returns 2021
March 4, 2021, 11:37 am
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March 4, 2021

Today is the date that tells us what to do…March fourth! We are in maple season full swing. It is a favorite time of year for me. This picture was taken on March second. The air was crisp with an east breeze. The steam stayed a bit close to the ground, but made for a pretty picture. This was our first run of the year. It went well.

This photo shows the new sap rig in use. The horses pulled it easily even when loaded. It rolled along and travelled well on the muddy and bumpy sap roads.

We got the pans “sweet” as we boiled and condensed the sap. It takes awhile to get the sweet liquid to the density needed for syrup. Occasionally, we don’t even get any maple syrup from our first boil. We make a lot of steam and reduce the sap but run out of sap before it yields the yummy maple syrup. This year we had an ample supply of sap (1450 gallons) so we managed to make some syrup. From here on out, we will get syrup every time we boil.

This process is a lot of work. It is truly a labor of love. We make it the old-fashioned way. We gather the sap from tree to tree, using horses to pull the sap sled. We boil the sap over a wood fire, without the benefit of reverse osmosis. This takes longer, but allows for the flavor molecules to develop. I follow in the footsteps of my grandparents in this time honored vocation. I make syrup. I make memories and I get to relive my childhood just a bit. For me, this is a sweet deal!



Its Time!
February 28, 2021, 11:07 pm
Filed under: February 2021 | Tags: , , , , ,

February 28, 2021

It is maple time! After a couple of weeks of very cold temperatures and me having the worst cold that I have had in years, we are all tapped. The weather turned warm in an instant. We weren’t quite ready. We had a full week of playing catch up, but we got it done. The steam will be rising soon from the sugarhouse roof. It is a sweet time!

Not to be outdone by Mother Nature, the redwing blackbirds showed up. They come in big flocks signaling the coming of spring.

They were happily enjoying something in last years corn field. They make a lot of noise, but it is welcome noise.

They gathered in the treetops for a bit. They seemed to be making sure that everyone had made the trip north. As February comes to a close and we get off to a bit later syrup season than usual, the return of the warm season birds lets me know that warm weather is coming fast. It is my hope that we get a few good cold nights with the coming warm days to fill our sap bags.

Only God knows what is in store, but we are ready and we are thankful to get the season started. The redwings will just make the season a bit sweeter as we listen to their songs. Very soon the spring peepers will join the chorus, but for now they continue to sleep. Spring has sprung as the old saying goes. I say let “er” rip, but maybe I should say…let “er” drip!