RicelandMeadows


Porches and Additions

tankporch

October 9, 2017

In the hustle and bustle from out of state family visiting, my step-sons, son in law, grandson and I (in a supervisory role of course) built this addition onto the sugarhouse for this new storage tank. This tank will provide enough room for 4000 gallons of sap. It will allow me to gather the sap from our entire woods before boiling. Up until now, I had to boil to make enough room, to hold all of the tree’s bounty.

tankfoundationporch

We had to excavate a portion of the hillside to accommodate the new porch addition. This task was completed by our, new to us, excavator and our son Matt. It was much easier than using a shovel! Treated posts and lumber provided the foundation for the new structure.

rooftankfrolic

Leftover steel roofing from our new house roof, provided the roofing material for the new porch. The new tank has its own lid coming soon, but the roof will offer weather protection, as well as, keeping it somewhat safe from falling tree limbs and such. I am very grateful for the new building and the workmanship volunteered to make it happen. Maple syrup time 2018 is looking real good!

backbarnadd

While we labored at the sugarhouse, my friends Justin and Gary, worked their tails off building this addition to the back barn. This new structure will provide a place for  winter storage of the last remaining equipment currently sitting outside in the weather. It was a busy day for sure. I am one happy farmer, thanks once again to great friends and a wonderful family!



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



A Great Problem
March 1, 2016, 9:49 am
Filed under: March 2016 | Tags: , , , ,

101_1367

March 1, 2016

I have been very busy. My off farm job had kept me hopping last week along with all that goes with making maple syrup. Yesterday we gathered over one thousand gallons of maple sap. Today I will boil it all down. That job begins right after all the farm critters have been fed. I am very busy, but that is a great problem.

I expect visitors to the sugarhouse today. Sounds like several families will be coming. I get to explain the process to adults and children alike. It is hard to say if anyone will go home and try it in their backyard but you never know who your sharing may inspire. Perhaps a small boy will be amazed and one day become a sugar maker himself. Or maybe a little girl will be touched by my words and go on to make maple candy in a small shop in a large city. I don’t know, but I do know that it is my destiny to share what I know.

The weeks end looks cold. This is just what we need to keep the trees dripping. The cold also give me a couple days off from making maple syrup to catch up on other farm chores. I have taken some time off from work to spend in the woods and on the farm. I am excited to be here. This is my “land cruise”. I will do all sorts of things and be a busy as possible, but that is a  great problem!



Maple 2016

Jake n the boys

February 23, 2016

Finally, the maple season is upon us. After much scrambling with the new sugarhouse addition, the new head tank and getting used to our new sap hauling sled, we got underway. The trees ran good over the weekend and are dripping very nice as I write. This is one of my most favorite times of the year. I am busy as heck but finding time to immerse my self in all that is maple!

Our first day of gathering, I was able to get my son Jake to help. He is driving the horses to the sled in the photo above. Things went well and we collected about 1000 gallons of maple sap. We are also boiling some sap for a friend. He had a good run as well.

2016 first steam

The first steam rolls out of the roof as we get the sap boiling. The new head tank performed flawlessly. The dry chunk wood, split and stacked last April made a good hot fire. The room was soon filled by the sweet aroma of spring here at Riceland Meadows.

evaporator

Our 4 by 14 evaporator was working hard thanks to the amount of sap and the dry wood. I choose to do things the old-fashioned way, in the manner of my parents and grandparents. I know there are many short cuts available to me in the maple syrup making process, but I prefer to gather sap from tree to tree with a team of horses. I choose to boil the 40:1 ratio in open pans over a hot wood fire without the benefit of reverse osmosis. I am an old soul and very proud of that fact.

first run 2016

To me……. It’s worth it!



Repurposed Lumber
October 24, 2015, 10:01 pm
Filed under: October 2015 | Tags: , , ,
Stairway to Heaven...almost!

Stairway to Heaven…almost!

October 24, 2015

A few days ago, my buddy Marvin and I built these stairs. They will give us access to the new addition without banging our heads on the ceiling. The new storage tank will be easy to get to for cleaning or any other work. The stairs are sturdy, functional and well made. The best part for me is that only three short boards are new. All the rest of this lumber was repurposed from an old pool deck 😮

As I look at it now, all the work in the summer heat to get the wood, then pull all the nails, was worth every drop of sweat. I still have a few more pieces left over for the next farm project. This wood will stand up to the steam from the boiling process of making maple syrup. It will make a neat place for children to watch from a safe vantage point, out of harm’s way. The stairs are not steep. Nor do they have big steps for short legs…even Goldielocks would say they are “just right”.

It is the little things that keep a farm in the black. Being self reliant is good, but having great friends helps even more. One friend gave me his old pool deck. Another helped me to salvage the boards and still another helped me build the stairs. I have sweat equity invested, a little time, and a trade for my own labor on an upcoming project for my friend. The best part is only three boards had to be purchased for this project, less than fifteen dollars of out of pocket expense.

We can all agree that they do not make a stairway to Heaven…but it sure is a Heavenly project. Its not just the stairs, it’s the friendship that makes them so great. The fact that they cost almost nothing…is indeed priceless!



A Walk in the Park
October 14, 2015, 9:05 am
Filed under: October 2015 | Tags: , , , , , , ,
Hens enjoying  their new park

Hens enjoying their new park

October 14, 2015

Recently, we built a new enclosure for our laying hens. These pens are often called chicken parks. I want my hens to have outside room to roam but I want to keep them safe as well. This park is a perfect fit for both me and the hens. They will keep the grass and tall weeds in check around their chicken house and the back side of the wash house as well. Now, they just need to lay a couple hundred dozen eggs to pay for it 😮

Yesterday, I was closing gates and moving cattle. The goal is to put the sheep in the sugarhouse paddock again. The grass in that place is deep, green and lush. The lambs will fatten well on it. The mothers will put on a little extra weight just in time for breeding season. I think the grass is rich enough to “flush” the ewes. Flushing them refers to tricking them to think there is an abundance of feed so they will release more ovaries. They have the confidence that there will be plenty of feed to raise their new babies.

Some guys say that flushing ewes is an old wives tale. I know in nature, if deer have plenty to eat in the fall, the does have more twins in the coming spring. I also believe that flushing has worked for me the past fifteen years, so I am not going to quit doing what works. It’s not like I only wear a favorite jacket or socks during breeding season as my ewes head to the playoffs! This is about balanced nutrition. The ewes have access to all they want to eat and drink, along with minerals free choice. This is good husbandry. It’s the way I do business anyway. I think all those sets of twins next spring is the ewe’s way of saying, “Thank you!”.

As I was closing gates and moving the stock, I realized yet again just how much beauty was surrounding me. The leaves continue to get more colorful each day. The growing speltz are a bright green and the grass looks like a green carpet that stretches “wall-to-wall”, from fence row to woodline. In fact, it’s just like a walk in the park!

The sugarhouse nestled in her little valley

The sugarhouse nestled in her little valley



Tank You, Tank You Very Much!
July 30, 2015, 9:23 pm
Filed under: July 2015 | Tags: , , , ,
1,100 Gallon Tank Ready for Install

1,100 Gallon Tank Ready for Install

July 30, 2015

Can you see my lip curling as you read the title? I am very happy to be bringing home my maple sap storage tank. It has been constructed three months ahead of schedule. I am very glad that we built the sugarhouse addition during the rainy days of June. Now, when the cold autumn winds are whipping across the farm, I can be snug in the sugarhouse plumbing up this awesome addition to our operation.

The tank was built by H&M Fabricating on Jug road in Burton, Ohio. These men build all sorts of maple equipment. They are very good at their craft. The use the equipment that they build. They understand the maple business from the tree to the bottle. Their welds are top shelf. Their products are tested before leaving the shop. I have known these men for years now and will recommend them highly.

It seems funny to be thinking about maple syrup season in mid-summer, but I think about it often. I am looking forward to the ease of cleaning this big tank. It will reduce many hours for me, compared to our old set up. I am very grateful to have saved the money for this key piece of equipment. It not only holds 1,100 gallons of sap, but it also will feed the evaporator in my gravity set up.

This reminds me of the recent speltz harvest. It too was gained by hard work, good weather and a blessing from Heaven.

Horse fuel!

Horse fuel!