Februrary Marches on and on…

February 25th, 2013

Yesterday was my birthday! Although plans fell through I did have a great day. I got out well before the sun’s arrival and sharpened both chain saws with the intent to cut down the two White Oaks that died in the drought last summer. This time of year if you want to get the truck up the hill best do it when things are frozen solid!  I got the wood splitter set up and ready too. In addition to Maple syrup production we are actually having a near normal cold February so I feel the need to keep up with the firewood.

Before I started we did a quick hike up the hill with Tucker and the warmth of the just rising sun inspired me to at least check the buckets before starting on firewood. We had a hard freeze and I guessed the maple sap out in the buckets was frozen solid so why bother. But the sap was only partially frozen and that’s a good thing. You see when Maple sap, in a bucket, starts to freeze the sugars are the last to solidify. So, unless the bucket is frozen solid the ice formed in only water – no sugar. That means less cooking! Well, not really that much less but every little bit helps.

So, yes, I shifted gears and collected the sap and started a boil. Getting that fire going is a big job and it takes a lot of wood. But once its boiling hot I can get busy with other things – like splitting wood! I did not cut down the White Oaks but there was a good big of Hickory that I brought down last weekend for splitting calling my name.

Steven and Karla did show up later and Linda made pizza. There was a coffee cake, a cake-cake, and other evil corn syrup infused candies that were all enjoyed. All the while I was running in and out checking on the fire, the wood and then lastly the final cook down on the LP burner.

The day’s take: A great and funny card Linda, Steven and Karla made for me. A nifty tea infuser thingie, a copy of Jenna Woginrich’s “Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life” and of course all the sweets a man could possibly ever want. I did end up with nine quarts of finished Maple Syrup and a massive double yoker to boot!

 


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2013 Maple syrup season marches on

February 10th, 2013

The 2013 Maple syrup season marches on. I always forget just how much work this is and how short the season is! I’m pooped… I’ve been running around emptying buckets, tending fires, cutting and splitting wood, hauling gallons of boiling syrup around! Now, this is living!

I’m up to 5 gallons finished and have a batch in the cooker ready to go. I may start it tomorrow. But no one can argue that it’s NOT worth it. There is just something about Maple syrup. Oh, yea. It’s natural sweetness and flavor are so unique.


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Heave – Thaw, Heave – Thaw

February 1st, 2013

It’s known as “The Mud Season.” The time of year when winter’s  frozen solid ground starts to thaw.

Heave - Thaw. Moisture in the ground is heaved up like Playdoh being pushed through a Playdoh Fun Factory

Heave – Thaw. Moisture in the ground is heaved up overnight like Playdoh being pushed through a Playdoh Fun Factory.

When spring’s first warm sunny days arrive the previously rock hard and swollen ground starts to sheen up. It looks like a food stylist has brushed a coating of glycerin over everything to give it that sparkling depth that makes everything look appetizing. Then as the warm days increase so does the thaw. The ground that had expanded with a mighty heave, now gives up its solidity. The catch is all that extra space, from the expansion of freezing, has to go somewhere. Actually, it doesn’t go anywhere. Little air pockets take the place of frozen state making the ground, well, squishy.

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Then it rains – it rains a lot. Then it freezes again. Then the whole process starts again. Yuck.

The ground is much like uncongealed Jello at this point. When you walk around your feet not only sink several inches your foot often slips one way or another. Especially if the places you frequent are not level.Level spots are in short supply around here.

This, of course, is the same weather that makes the maple sap flow. That means I’m all over the place carrying five gallon buckets full to the brim trying not to slip. I use a 55 gallon plastic food grade barrel strapped in the back of my truck as a port to which I carry the smaller bucket loads to. So, I drive around to various areas where the clusters of maple trees are. The truck tires sink many inches in too soft ground. I hate rutting up the place, but my buckets are all over and it would take hours to lug all that sap by hand. Besides, I stomp deep rutted paths as well by foot.

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The Mud Season requires only one type of footware. The Muck Boot. Not to sound like a sales pitch, but these are hands down, or should I say feet down?, the best farm footwear ever invented. This pair is three years old. It’s been patched several times with “Shoe Goo” (another great thing to have around). I do tend to wear Muck Boots all year or at least until the ground is hard and dry. But chiggers often come at that time so, yep, time for the Muck Boots again.

I do have a new pair in waiting but can’t bring myself to get them muddy!

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