February 26, 2012 – The Sweetness of February Begins

It was a good Sunday.  I had been pretty much cooped up working indoors the last few weeks, so I was looking forward to a nice day outdoors.  Today was double-duty farm work.  It was time to boil down 15 gallons of maple sap and begin pruning the fruit trees.

mobile sugar shack

Here’s the world famous mobile sugar shack.  An old barrel stove on a metal wagon that can be moved around to account for the wind – and it was windy today – near wind advisory criteria.  This photo pretty much shows it all.  Cart with wood, buckets with sap, coffee cup, willing boy, stove and evaporator pan a bubbling, and maple tree with container in the background.

Today’s enterprise is uber-sustainable.  The wood is from the storm last summer, the plastic cartons that use the sap will be converted to tomato shelters in a few months, and the leftover logs that hadn’t burned all the way were snuffed out for some biochar.  To top it off, we produced more electricity than we used.

boy pruning tree

While we wait, it’s a good time to begin pruning the fruit trees.  Martin starts on this one that needs some attention.

boy sleeping in tree

But eventually, the kids tuckers out and finds a makeshift resting place in the branches of an apple tree.

February 20, 2011 – Let the Boil Begin!

The week in the 50′s and 60′s that melted all the snow, also started the maple sap running.

Here Martin checks out the new old stove, one that we borrowed from the good folks at Morning Sun Farm, who upgraded to an even bigger stove. This one works much faster than last year’s model.

Just look at that cloud of evaporation as the sap boils away.  In addition to tapping the trees, Martin has been excited about chopping wood – he puts the wood up on the chopping block and stacks it.  It’s been a good team this spring!

one year ago…”New Blog Host”

February 18, 2011 – Early Tap

Can you believe it’s February 16th and the sap is flowing?   Last year at this time, the snowdrifts were still to the tops of the fenceposts!

We’re trying a new collection method this season.  I bought a few of these collecting bags to try.  You just put in the tap and then hang the bag holder and tap on the tree.

Martin putting the bag in place.  As the season goes on, we’ll keep you up to date.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #196″

March 14, 2010 – Maple Syruping Season Begins

We’re a little behind getting our taps in.  The weather warmed up rather suddenly and with the heavy overcast, has stayed relatively warm.  Good sap run happens when nighttime temperatures drop below freezing, but we haven’t had that for a while, nor is it in the forecast, but it was time to get the taps in.

Here Martin is drilling the hole in the tree in the front yard – our best producer.

Later in the day, he monitors the “mobile sugar shack” -this old woodstove on a small wagon, so we can move it around as needed, depending on the wind and precipitation.  We don’t end up with very much syrup because our setup is so small and we don’t have a lot of maple trees, so this size stove and pan work well enough.  But the syrup sure tastes good!  It is one item not for sale from high hopes gardens!

one year ago…”Spring Exploration”

March 10, 2009 – Maple Syrup at Last!

OK, the results are in and the maple syrup gets five stars! It is amazingly good, and even has a bit of a buttery taste.

Here Martin shows off the pint of syrup (minus what was poured one morning’s worth of buckwheat pancakes) that boiled down from the first five gallons of sap! Getting your own sweets in northern climates is a bit of a challenge, but we can now add maple syrup to honey. We’re going to keep on keeping on, but now the weather has turned frightfully cold, so the sap will not run until it warms up again.

one year ago…”Chicken Feed”

March 9, 2009 – Boiling Sap

Well, today I started to boil the sap down.  After 8 hours of heating, five gallons of sap evaporated down to about a gallon and a half before I stopped for the day and put the sap in the fridge to wait for another day.

I’m not sure if it was the weather or the stove that prevented a boil – it was a foggy, very windy, cold day and the pan never did boil, although you could see the vapor escaping all day.

one year ago…”12 Feet!”

March 7, 2009 – Maple Sugaring Part II

We had a good run of sap the first day!

Martin kept up vigilant monitoring of the sap buckets during the day.

Finally, the first payoff – collecting the sap into larger buckets!  Martin spent about an hour collecting wood for the stove for the eventual boiling-off of the syrup – he is one dedicated sugarer.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #108″

March 6, 2009 – Maple Sugaring Part 1

Today was a wonderful day – in the 60′s sunny and a father-son task that was delightful to both of us! We borrowed some equipment from morning sun farm, so we were ready to go.  Martin had just read about sugaring in one of the Little House on the Prairie books he’s ready, so he was pumped!

Since this is the thrifty way, we’re using washed out milk jugs to collect the sap.  Here I’m drilling a hole that will slip over the tap.

I’m putting a small cut at about 10 o’clock.  That notch will help the jug slide over the notch in the tap.

Martin is drilling the hole about 2 inches deep into the tree.

Insert the tap.  Notice the round shape of the tap and the ridge on the top of the tap.  That ridge is what the extra cut at 10:00 in the jug was made to accommodate.

The spile pounder inserts in the tap and get pounded until the ridge on the top of the tap has enough distance between the end of the tap and the tree to slip the milk jug behind.

Martin puts the jug on matching the ridge on the jug with the notch cut in the jug at 10:00.

The jug is twisted to upright once the back plastic of the jug is between the tree and back of the notch.  I also put a bit of the sticky saran wrap on the top since I didn’t have the lid to keep rain and other things out. Now we wait!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #108″

March 1, 2009 – Old Wood Cookstove

I’ve been looking half-heartedly for a while for an outdoor wood cookstove and finally snagged one off Craigslist.

This picture shows it with the top off  (there are two cookplates) and the four foot chimney I added.  The urgency to get it now revolves around wanting to try to make a small batch of maple syrup from the trees on our farm.  I think it would be fun to go through the process to get some real maple syrup and it’s something all the kids could help with.

one year ago…”Costa Rican Beaches/Pacific Forests”