Sugarhouse Steam


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
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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.


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!


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!

Best Time of the Night
January 25, 2018, 7:56 pm
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January 25, 2018

I like the time of evening when the chores are all done. The animals all have clean dry beds and full mangers. I sweep the floor one last time, then I just pause to listen to the animals chew their supper. The cows are all starting to bed down and are quiet too. The kitties climb up to the hay mow to find a place to sleep. My dog waits patiently, to follow me to the house.

I walk slowly as I head towards the house. My supper is waiting, but I like to look at everything one more time. The sheep are where they are supposed to be. The lights have been turned off. The gentle thump of the pig feeder doors disturb the evening just enough for me to know that all is well in the pig barn too. Nothing but quiet comes from the hen house as I walk by. The ladies inside have all gone to roost for the night.

I look out across the fields and a contentment fills my heart. The day’s work is done. Soon spring will come. First with maple syrup season, followed promptly by spring field work. Baby lambs will be born as I am plowing for the crops. Then the long days of summer will fill our days, followed by harvest. For now, however, the work is mostly done. Just daily chores, a list of repairs to make and rest. All of us get to relax. My new knees appreciate these days of leisure.

As I reach for the doorknob to go in for the evening. I say a prayer of thanksgiving, for what we have been blessed with. It is for sure the best time of the night and all of us farm critters will enjoy our evening meal and a peaceful slumber.

Snow Buddies Business
January 16, 2018, 9:16 pm
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January 16, 2018

I let the horses and donkey out to play this afternoon. They are fun to watch as they run, jump and roll in the fresh snow. I guess they get bored on these cold snowy days just like we do. The boredom will soon pass. I am healing well and very soon will resume winter farm work. I will be careful. I will have help, but I will soon be working horses again and I can’t wait!

The donkey has bonded with the draft horses. He much prefers to be with them instead of the sheep. He still patrols the sheep pasture, but stays with the horses. He has his own “stall” which is just the spot where he eats his grain, but he goes there every time! He makes me chuckle. I like the little guy.

I actually wonder if he will follow us while we work. I think it will be much easier to take him along, than to have him lonely in the barn. It will be a hoot for sure but time will tell. If I would have known how sweet these critters can be… I would have had one a long time ago!

Bird’s Eye View
December 22, 2017, 12:03 pm
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December 22, 2017

Last October during a family harvest party, our grandson Jonathan brought his drone and took pictures of the farm. As I look at the pictures, I am very pleased. The harvest is complete. The compost has been spread on the fields where needed. The speltz crop is up and growing well. The pastures have all been clipped and stand ready for winter.

I am very thankful to family and friends who helped to get the farm ready for winter. My knee replacements are healing and doing well. It helps me mentally to know that things are well, jobs are complete and the promise of spring can be seen all over the farm.

The back of the farm too shows the work that has been done and the beauty that is this farm. A pile of lumber in the photo, is now a barn addition that houses the last of the equipment that once had to sit outside all winter long. Again, friends and family pitched in to make this all happen.

drone 2

As we close in on Christmas and the end of the year, I am very happy to share the gift of this farm with everyone. We are blessed, I, most certainly am! I pray that this farm and the example I set here, helps not only the people closest to me, but reaches out to others too. These photos are not meant to brag, but rather to say thank you to many and to show that anything is possible….Dream, Believe, Achieve!

It’s Kind Of Like This!
December 15, 2017, 6:35 pm
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December 15, 2017

Snow on the ground, snow piled up and more snow falling. I think winter is here. Christmas is just around the corner. My birthday for another year has come and gone. Work on the farm is greatly reduced, mostly made up of animal care. Those jobs are my most favorite.

I am still pretty much housebound due to knee replacement surgery, but walking in the barn at the end of the day, listening to my animals chew, is great therapy. These creatures who depend upon us, complete my life. The snow is falling, yet all the animals are well fed, warm and dry. This farmer has a warm grateful heart to all of the folks helping to make their comfort possible.

Soon, I will be back in usual form, pitchfork in hand. I will say, it will be a good trade for the cane I’ve been using. In any case, my recovery is made much easier, by breathing on my four-legged friends, on this dark and snowy night. Yep, it’s kind of a day like that!

Winter Hay Feeder


December 5, 2017

We have been trialing the newly built hay feeder. The cows like it well. We had to turn one gate around on the feedlot for animal movement, but the feeder is working out very well. The cattle stick their heads through to eat. They eat at different times, but even when most of the herd east together, even the most timid animal can get a spot at the table.

They do eat some from the ends where the green gates are located, but mostly just clean up what ever has spilled out. There has been very little waste feeding the cattle this way. I can click the “success” button on this project! The feeder is easy to fill using the skid steer. The animals use it very well. The percentage of wasted hay is minimal. Lastly, I only have to move hay once a week or less, so it is a great time saver too!

This feeder is permanent, but building one on skids would be a great option for many small farmers. You provide some protection for the hay, as well as, the animals. This could even provide shade from the hot summer sun, while feeding hay when pastures are declining. I recommend trying one on your small holdings in some form or another. The benefits far out weigh the costs.