RicelandMeadows


Logs to Slumber
July 27, 2020, 7:06 am
Filed under: July 2020 | Tags: , , ,

split1

July 27, 2020

Most folks take logs and saw them into lumber. We split a bunch of logs on a very hot day last Saturday. That equated for me…slumber! We started early in the morning and finished at noon. I showered, ate and took a nap!

split2

The two photos show the total wood for our efforts. I will confess that I employed the use of a wood processor for a trial run. It still required much effort and hand work to keep the machine running. I thought it might be a good alternative to splitting with our woodsplitter one piece at a time.

The machine worked fairly well, but can only make 22″ pieces. That length is a bit short for the maple syrup arch, but I will adjust for this amount. I usually employ 4 or 5 boys and we just make a day of splitting. I believe this method is what we will stick with. Using men and boys makes for a much more fun day.  I actually think manpower, my woodsplitter and some planning, leads to more wood, the correct length split and stacked at the end of the day.

Sweat soaked our clothes and dripped from our heads. The machine droned on, often needing us to adjust a piece of wood and load another log. If the logs would have all been of the same dimension, free of knots and good length, the machine may have out performed good old-fashioned manpower. However, the short, mixed sized, tangled log and pole pile we had, made for a lot of “grunt” work. I discovered that “grunt” work is much more tiring in my 60’s than it was in my 20’s!

The good news is that we have enough wood split to boil all of next year’s maple sap. We even have a very good start on the wood we will need in 2022!  We still have to stack it all. The woodshed is 3/4 full, so even that job is well started. I can say the old adage is true…wood does warm you twice!  It will take me a while to get used to this whole new “slumber” thing, but what a great feeling to have this work behind us.



2020 Maple Season is History
March 21, 2020, 11:10 am
Filed under: March 2020 | Tags: , , , ,

boils2020

March 21, 2020

Our maple season came to a close last Tuesday. It was a short, yet wonderful season. We made plenty of nice syrup. We sold our darkest syrup (in the right of the picture) to some candy makers.

I love this time of year. The late winter cold mixed with the promise of spring stirs my soul. Perhaps it is my childhood memories of my parents and grandparents making maple syrup that stirs me? Whatever it is, it is born into me. I will do this sweet job as long as the good Lord allows.

lasthitchKH2020

This picture was taken on the last day that I gathered sap in 2020. It is a bittersweet photo, because it was also the last time that I hitched Knight and Hoss. They have moved to their new home. I spent the next day brushing and grooming them. We shared conversation and I shed a few tears, as I told my big boys goodbye.

Ateam

I used the new Suffolk mares to pull the sled while we untapped the trees. They drove well and will pick up where my boys left off.

untap2020

The taps and bags have all been removed. The evaporator pans have been disassembled for final cleaning. There is much to do to clean, store and organize until next year, but we are off to a great start. I should finish that job in a couple days.

I continue to work with the new Suffolk horses. I even allow myself some playtime for just riding around hooked to the forecart or wagon. It’s good for the new red horses and me to continue to get comfortable with each other.

hank3212020

Hank, our yearling stallion prospect, continues to grow and learn. He is a good little guy. His training continues daily. We work on manners and all sorts of ground skills. I also keep introducing him to “scary” things. I do it in a safe place for him. He takes it all in stride, knowing that I will keep him safe.

hankpressurewash

Here I am showing Hank that the pressure washer is nothing to fear. He took it all in, without any panic. He almost quit eating hay while I hosed him, but showed no fear or discomfort. This breed of horse has a very good mind. He is used to me introducing him to “boggymen”. Generally, he pays me no mind. Once in a while he shows me some white eye, but calms down quickly as I speak to him. I am enjoying these horses more than any I have ever owned.

There are some exciting and interesting times ahead for us here at Riceland Meadows. Stay tuned for our exploits and adventures!



New Phone Learning Curve
March 10, 2020, 11:57 am
Filed under: March 2020 | Tags: , , , ,

Ameeabbyweek7

March 10, 2020

Oh my gosh! I had to get a new phone. Then I had to unlearn and relearn everything that I thought I knew. The long story made much shorter is to say that I couldn’t figure out how to send photos to my blog! I hate to “date” myself, but sometimes I feel very old! My daughter-in-law helped me learn all sorts of things about my new phone. So, I’m Back!

Abby and Amee, our new Suffolk horses are doing very well. We are all adjusting to each other. They are doing very well, but haven’t done much all winter. Abby is due to foal in April, so they are getting the 2020 maple syrup season off. Knight and Hoss are powering the operation one last time. They head to their new home in a few days.

evap2020

The season is in full swing. We have made some very nice syrup. It is looking like the end is near for this year. These last few days have been very long as we boil late and get up early balancing farm chores and the maple operation. It is a busy, wonderful, sweet time of year…even with that new phone!



March..ing On

KAH2019

March 30, 2019

Our 2019 maple syrup season has come to a close. We had a cold start to the season and a warm end. It was almost hot (51 F) on the last day we gathered sap. I put our filly Abby in to help the geldings. The sled pulled hard on the dry ground, but three horses pulled it easily.

KAH20192

Abby did a wonderful job. This was her second time hitched in a 3-horse hitch, where we actually did some work. She was alert, attentive, calm and willing. The plastic sap bags, shiny and fluttering caused her no issue at all. The banging of sled, tank and bucket didn’t shake her at all. She knew that as long as the boys and I were there, everything would be okay. She preformed like a champ. Her training and my invested time with her paid off in a big way.

KAH20193

The season was much like this hitch, a tough job, made easy by friends and family. More than once I realized, just as Abby had, that everything would be okay as long as “they” were all there. So, thank you to everyone for the help, the company, the meals…some very late at night, as we harvested the season’s maple crop.

Evap#3

Now, the big job of clean up begins. It takes awhile, but well worth the effort. The woodshed will need re-filled, all tanks and such will get pressure washed and put away. Then in late winter, just before the next season, the clean up gets repeated as we get ready for the 2020 season.

Next however, will be the fun, satisfying job of spring plowing. Abby and the boys will get a work out, as we head towards summer and the work that farming brings. I love this farming life. I see God in the new born babies, the emerging crops and in the sweet, golden, reward that is maple syrup. I am thankful for the knowledge and where with all to make it happen. I am thankful for folks teaching and sharing with me like my grandparents and others who saw in me a light…I hope it shines for the world to see.

100_0312



A Wonderful Time of Year

KH&Jake2019

March 14, 2019

Here we go, a very cold, late winter is giving way to a warm spring! We are getting help from family and friends to keep up with the running maple sap. It is a great time of year and the rewards are SWEET!

Firstrun2019

The boiling is going well. It takes awhile because we do it the old-fashioned way. We don’t take out water by reverse osmosis, we collect in bags, not tubing stretched all over the woods, we boil over a wood fire…all these factors (in my opinion) enhance the final product with an extra flavor molecule…. In the way of my grandpa, I continue..I think it’s worth it.

firstrun20192

 



Maple Season 2019

maple20193

February 27, 2019

What a cold, ice filled, crazy season it has been so far! A nice run came in the midst of some very high winds. The high winds prompted the temperature dropping into the 20 degree F range. We scrambled to get everything gathered, but the high winds prevented us from entering the woods.

The next day, bags were frozen. We had to break the ice with a quick chop of our fists to the corner of the bag. Then we could dump the sap out. The ice was then crushed and dumped onto the ground. The temperature stayed cold, so any moving of maple sap meant ice and slippery conditions, frozen pipes and much frustration.

Finally, last night, after a day filled with a few more problems, we got things thawed and flowing. We lit the first fire of the season in the maple arch and boiled way into the night. At 2:30 am this morning, I closed the door to the sugarhouse, made my way to a warm home, hot shower and a warm bed.

maple2019

We filled the cold room with steam in no time. Even after several hours of boiling, we could still see our breath inside the sugarhouse. These are much colder conditions than normal.

maple20191

Even the floodlights had a rough time shining through the steam.

maple20192

The good news is that the boiling went well. The pans are sweet, having reduced the sweet, tree given, confection closer to the 66.5 brix needed to become maple syrup.

The weatherman, hopeful for spring, rushed us a bit, thinking that warmer weather was upon us. Alas, we got caught in the cold. A slight warm-up may be coming for late this week, but more very cold weather is to follow. The rise and fall of the spring thermometer indicates the sap flow as the trees prepare for spring. We will deal with the season as always, but will enjoy a return to “normal”, whatever that means!



February Warm Up
February 2, 2019, 4:25 pm
Filed under: February 2019 | Tags: , , ,

woodshedselfie2019

February 2, 2019

The groundhog didn’t see his shadow, so he predicts an early spring. It is warming up after some very cold days. One of the days last week our high was -4 degrees F. Today, here at the farm the sun is shining bright and the temperature is on the rise. Soon we will be tapping maple trees for syrup. Days like this make me very anxious.

Our woodshed is full and we are ready for the season to start. Experience has taught me that starting too early, using the old time methods we use, makes for a big headache. Our buckets and bags freeze quickly when the trees just drip a little. The containers are soon a frozen block of ice…then a big sap run comes along and we lose all that sap. Patience is our best friend. The guys with tubing can get away with starting a little early, but I’m sure that ice can be a big problem for them too.

Another thing that happens when you tap early, is that the tap holes dry out. You see the tap hole is a small wound in the tree. The tree sends sap to heal itself. The spile keeps the hole open, but mother nature is a wonderful thing and will heal the tree in spite of the spile. The hole dries out, no sap runs. So, as you race against time and weather, you battle mother nature too.

I will continue to prepare and try to relax. Once the time is right, we will pounce. It is a big job, but to me, worth the sweet rewards. The aroma of boiling maple sap will soon fill the air. The golden maple syrup will fill our jugs and the memories from days gone by will fill my mind and heart.



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