RicelandMeadows


Is it over?
February 23, 2017, 12:49 am
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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.



Maple 2017
February 20, 2017, 12:00 am
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threesap

February 19, 2017

Whew, the sap is running and so am I. I got some very welcomed help over the last few days, as I readied for making maple syrup. Today, we managed to get everything in the sugarhouse ready, while my son and a whole bunch of friends gathered the dripping sap.

Many of the bags were full to the top. The mud was sticky and drying. The sled pulled hard, so we used three horses. They still have their winter coats on, so we went slow, not pushing too hard. In four hours time, they had gathered almost 1100 gallons of sap.

My sister and two of her friends came. They were an BIG help. We managed to do all the final clean up of tanks and equipment, as well as, the final set up. We finished just as the sap started coming in to the sugarhouse. Right in the nick of time! We hold the sap in a tank that my cousin and I set in the ice and snow last Thursday. Today, a few guys wore only short sleeves!

Our weather for the next few days has us concerned. The warm up is coming too fast. Time will tell how our season will go, but it has started. Tomorrow we will be boiling much of the day. Oh what a wonderful day it will be!



Gone Fishin
August 10, 2016, 5:14 pm
Filed under: August 2016 | Tags: , , , ,

gonefishin

August 10, 2016

Our summer so far, with its lack of rain, has made it quite easy for me to be caught up with my work. Once we get some more moisture, the work will once again be plentiful, but in the meantime, I am finding a little time to goof off. The picture above was taken after the woodshed filling had been completed. The boys all went fishing, while several of us older guys sat in the shade and enjoyed a nice cool breeze.

I don’t sit very well. A long time ago, a man called me lazy. It stung me to the core. I vowed that I would not be thought of as lazy ever again. I carried hatred for that man for a very long time. Once in a while as I enjoy a cool drink in a shady spot, I call the man a son-of-a-bitch. He is long dead and my displeasure should have died with him. I even feel a little guilty for that mean streak that comes to light now and then. So, in the last year or two, I simply toast the man. I figure raising a glass in his honor, while I sit on my ass, would insult him more than anything. Somehow it pleases me.

I don’t fish because I put it in the lazy category as a boy. I don’t golf, or play any sport. I can only hunt when the work is all done. I do watch a little television after dark once the chores and the day is done. Perhaps that old man still has the upper hand? I don’t think so, but I am a pretty busy guy……One thing for sure… I am not lazy!

As we older guys sat in the cool shade visiting. My mind drifted to the fishing boys. They laughed and played. They even caught some fish, but I think it was me who had the best time of all. The work had been completed and though the boys caught some fish…. I caught up on some rest and a nice cool breeze….so mark me down as “Gone Fishin” 🙂



Full to the Brim
August 8, 2016, 10:10 pm
Filed under: August 2016 | Tags: , , , , , , ,

woodshed2016

August 8, 2016

The sugarhouse woodshed is finally full to overflowing. What a great problem to have. The woodshed is quite large. It measures sixteen by twenty feet. The eave height is just over seven feet. We pile the wood up even higher in the middle, as we stack between the rafters. This wood will be used to boil our maple sap next spring as we make maple syrup.

Saturday, my buddy and his five sons, my hired man, my grandson and myself spent just over half a day filling this woodshed. My logsplitter performed great! We had to put a new motor on it a couple months ago. We chose a 22 horsepower Honda. The splitter doesn’t even slow down as large pieces are turned into smaller ones. It is fun to watch.

We had a  great day. We worked, we laughed and we even fished for a few  hours. The day ended with us all laughing, telling stories and eating an ice cream cake from the Dairy Queen. The work was hard, but made easier by all the hands that helped. The young men made me feel old. I used to be the one lifting large pieces and throwing them around defying gravity, but Saturday, I watched as men forty years younger than myself met the challenge.

How can it be? My mind still thinks that I can do everything that I used to do, but my body protests, especially the next day! Where have the years gone? Oh well, I still get all the work done….it just takes me longer as I work smarter, not harder. Of course what works even better is having great friends and young men who look up to me. The sugarhouse woodshed is full. I am full … of gratitude for my friends and family. Thank you.



Nice Day
March 13, 2016, 9:19 am
Filed under: March 2016 | Tags: , , ,

half bag

March 13, 2016

After a nice freeze, the sap ran again! The season continues and that for me, is a happy thing.

I spent much of yesterday cleaning and making ready for what is left of the season. The pans are sparkling. I am amazed at just how much work this “fun” of mine can be. I was soaked from the cleaning. Apparently I need more practice with a mop, broom , brushes, sponges and a water hose, especially that doggone hose!

It was worth the effort to clean everything. It will be like the start of the season. Our syrup has been nice and light so far this year. I want to give myself every advantage to keep it that way. It may not make a  difference, but at least I can say that I tried.

 



Happy Tired

3onasled

March 9, 2016

This was my view for most of the day yesterday. This was taken after our first trip through the maple woods. By the end of the day all of us were covered in mud and sweat. We ended up with 2160 gallons of the maple sap that becomes pure Ohio maple syrup. I even had to boil for a few hours last night to get all the sap to our inside tank. I shutdown at midnight.

Connie and I were back in the sugarhouse by 9:00 this morning where we boiled and canned for another seven and a half hours. It was a great day filled with steam and visitors. We are tired but happy as we continue to make very nice light syrup. The horses got the day off, but watched us from the pasture. I think they even chuckled a time or two!

We will gather again tomorrow for what may be our last time. Mother nature has decided to send us some warm unseasonable weather. The warm is nice, but we need the freezing nights to make good syrup. We will work as if the season will continue, but will do a whole bunch of clean up just in case our season is at its end.

The trees are dripping yet this afternoon, but have slowed down considerably. Yesterday, most of the bags were full or almost full. The horses pulled eight 210 gallon loads of sap using the new sled. I used three horses because it is hot, heavy work. They still have their winter coats on to boot. They were ready to be done as we brought the last load to be unloaded. I was very proud of my partners. They pulled willingly. They listened and they knew exactly where to put the sled to be unloaded. Yep, happy tired, describes us all today.

Bagful

The horses brought in 1680 gallons. We gathered 30 more gallons from trees around the sugarhouse by hand and a friend brought 450 gallons for us to boil as well. It was a good time boiling with the doors open on the sugarhouse, but man do I need a drink of water! Keeping up with a roaring fire, feeding that fire every five minutes, while running the evaporator, makes for a busy day!



Bridging The Learning

Homsklkidsonbridge

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!

Homeschoolgroup