Thursday, March 17, 2016

It Was a Short Syrup Season

Sam pulled the taps this past weekend while I was away at trial.  We had run our last batch the previous Monday and then the temperatures soared into the 70's and the sap pretty much stopped running.  We got in 4 runs, and produced a total of just over 4 gallons on 38 taps.  I think next year we will set out more taps and therefore we can collect more sap while it runs and produce more.  We will have some syrup for sale, but not a lot.  The dogs enjoy hanging out while the sap boils down.  There is a lot for them to do up by the pond.  And of course for Grover there are never enough buggy rides.  

Here is where all our sap comes from.  There really are a lot more trees to tap, though not all the trees in this area are maples

In the fall of 2014 I marked a lot of trees.  They are much easier to identify when they have bright yellow leaves on them than when they are naked.  Those big M's kind of help, too.

The trees themselves are  well above the pond where the sugar shack is located.  We can get 9 buckets easily in the bed of the buggy but maneuvering on the hills in the mud, which is inevitable in March (unless it is icy) can be tricky.

Our syrup pan is a 2' X 3' divided pan we purchased a couple years ago.  It works quite well.

Sam retrofitted a stock pot as a pre-warmer with a built in filter that we just let run slowly into the evaporator pan and re-fill as needed.

My least favorite part of the whole set up is the fire box itself.  It needs some improvements and, while Sam did improve the door this year, it is still not easy to work with.  It needs a better closure system.  But it works.  

So now I just have all the buckets and taps to bleach and store away til next year.  That job will wait for a warm day because it just cannot be done inside.  

Meanwhile, my bees seem to be doing quite well.  I opened the hives a week or so ago to feed them and they were a bit testy with me.  I changed their sugar water solution to  1:1 where I had been giving them 2:1 all winter.  They emptied their jars in a very short period of time.  I hope for some nice weather this weekend so I can get in and see what really needs to be done.  One hive has only 2 boxes on it and so I need to give them some more room shortly as I expect the population of both hives to increase rapidly very soon.  I would really like to get a honey harvest in a couple of months.

Grover and I attended a trial this past weekend.  We were nowhere near as successful as we were in February.  We only got 1 Q out of 5 runs and that was in a class we just started and are at Novice level in.  It is before our other classes on Saturday and I am really entering it to give Grover a chance to run off some of his "crazy" before our standard and jumpers runs.  Saturday was the best of our 2 days:  Grover dropped a bar in standard, but otherwise ran really well and then in jumpers, we had a gorgeous run going all the way to the very last jump, which he decided to run around instead of jumping over.  It was a fun course, but there was only a 25% Q rate for our class.  I was really disappointed and have no idea why he ran around the jump.  Maybe because he is a goof.  Who knows?  Sunday, our standard run was a total disaster and in jumpers Grover didn't finish his weave poles.  There's always next month.
I knitted a cowl and started a pair of socks during syrup season.  Small things that are easy to cart up to the pond with me and don't take of a lot of thought, though the cowl has a lace pattern.  But not a difficult one.   My spinning is going well and I should be able to start plying the first 9 ounces or so next week.  

 Sam got the tiller out yesterday and tilled the garden and planted lettuce under the hoop frame.  I've been thinking of starting some tomatoes and peppers and herbs inside, but I haven't had a lot of time in the last week to do so.  It's just nice to think about all these springtime activities, even though we are still 4 days away from the equinox.  Still, those little spring peepers have been peeping and we have set our clocks ahead to Daylight Savings Time.  I love it!

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