RicelandMeadows


Great Day for Three

abby3

January 17, 2019

Yesterday, I hitched my young filly “Abby” in a three abreast hitch, for the first time. She has been learning very well. Her training has been going very well. This is just part of the training program. She will soon learn to work single too. She is doing well and I am very pleased.

She is the middle horse in the photo above. She is paying attention and learning from me and from her teammates. The nice thing about having Knight and Hoss to teach her, is they can become two very big anchors if needed. She must go where they go, when they go. When I want them to stop and stand, she must do that too. Sometimes, she thinks she’d rather do something else, but good teamwork prevents her from getting into trouble.

I worked earlier this week butchering a steer for my Amish buddy. We had a good day of socializing, and coffee drinking. The steer will be worked up into cuts and burger in the coming days. I traded work with my buddy’s son, for my pat of the butchering. He in turn helped me finish filling the sugarhouse woodshed, yesterday afternoon, just before dark. What a great day!

marvsteer

Our weather is about to turn very cold, close to 0 degrees F. It will be nice to have a good day, inside cutting the meat and visiting. There isn’t much work to that job when many hands help. Good food and conversation is enjoyed by all.

Maple syrup season is under a month away. Abby will help this year. Three on a sap sled is a bit overkill, but having plenty of horsepower is much like cutting meat…many hands make light work. The sled can pull hard at times, but with three horses, leaning into the work together, it’s no job at all.



Warm January
January 8, 2019, 11:02 am
Filed under: January 2019 | Tags: , , , ,

2019woodshedjan

January 8, 2019

As I write this entry, it is 52F degrees outside. Rain is falling and a winter thunderstorm grumbles and flashes out the window. Our winter has been more springlike than winter. We have had almost no snow and very little cold. Mud abounds making things difficult in the fields or forest.

I continue to work on cutting and stacking wood for the sugarhouse woodshed. It is mostly full. Just a few large pieces remain to be split. I have even started on next year’s wood, thanks to a good friend. The ash tree chunks in the foreground, were from dead trees near a lady’s barn. Now, they are no danger and will be utilized to make maple syrup.

Those ash trees were near a driveway, so we could cut and clean up without being knee deep in mud. I took the above photo last Sunday. The ground is almost drying out, but today, the rains are soaking it all again. We don’t have to shovel rain and I guess its moisture no matter how you look at it!

Cold snap coming for the week’s end. Maybe the ground will freeze and work can continue. In the meantime, I will stay plenty busy…as is a farmer’s life!



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 website¬†Ruralheritage.com¬†

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!



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



Maple Season 2018
February 25, 2018, 8:47 pm
Filed under: February 2018 | Tags: , , , , ,

maple2018

February 25, 2018

This year’s season started off in a BIG way! We tapped a week ago today. The ground was slightly frozen and a little snow covered the ground. It was like a picture from a New England farm scene. We laughed and worked and had the tapping job done in no time. The sap started to drip by late afternoon.

On the next day, Monday, we installed the unloading pipe for the new tank. It was raining steady. We waited as long as we dared, but finally had to work in the rain. We got soaked to the skin, but before dark, the pipe was set and the sugarhouse was mostly ready.

unload2018

The new tank receives the raw sap. The sap coming into the tank gets filtered as it fills the tank. The sap gets filtered again as it pumps inside to the big tank that feeds the stainless steel evaporator.

Now that the new tank is in place and working well, we will make a more permanent unloading pipe support structure. I guess that will be an upcoming project, because for now, this works very well….and there is no time for any other projects!

boiling2018

We started collecting sap late in the day Monday and finished after dark. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we gathered sap and boiled until after midnight. Those were some very long days. Friday and even into Saturday we boiled to empty all the fresh maple sap in the tanks. I went through a lot of wood. Thankfully, the sap had quit running by Thursday afternoon … so, for now we are caught up. Tomorrow I will do some additional cleaning to make ready for the next sap flow.

The maple season, just like making hay, is 100% dependent upon Mother nature. We need cold nights and warm days to make the maple trees drip sap. I am very glad that she gave me a rest today. I think the horses are too. We are now pretty much in the swing of this spring dance, called maple syrup season. The steps are not new. When the sap runs, the maple syrup producer does too!



Woodshed Full :o)

conniewood

October 15, 2017

I engaged some man sized help from my neighbor boys and in just three hours, we finished filling the woodshed. This will boil the 2018 maple sap crop. A full woodshed, filled with drying wood, many months before it will be needed, is an awesome thing!

Using good dry seasoned wood increases the BTU’s when burned, producing a very hot fire. A very hot fire is just what is needed when boiling maple sap… or heating a home. Honestly, firewood should be cut a year ahead of when it will be burned for best results. I pile the logs all winter long for the next years wood. I slowly, yet steadily, start filling the woodshed as soon as the maple season ends.

This year, having had my knee replaced, made work take a bit longer but it did get done. As I look around the farm, with winter looming, I am satisfied that I will have everything done before the snow flies. It took lots of family and friends and I am thankful for each and every one of them!