syrup: round 2

Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 8 pm to midnight

Approximately 3.5 gallons of sap, first run boiling on modified barrel stove (top cut out for pan). For the record, the barrel stove already existed because Steve would say you can never have enough ways to burn stuff, but now it has been repurposed.

barrelstove1 barrelstove2boilingsapbatch2syrup(Took this last pic this am. Gotta love sunlight shining through syrup-filled jars!)

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first syrup

A few weeks ago after we tapped trees, I collected the first few gallons of sap. This wasn’t really enough to warrant the full blown outdoor burner setup, which wasn’t ready yet anyway (but is now – future post hopefully, if we get enough sap). Steve was gone for the weekend, so I decided to handle it on my own because I knew we wouldn’t be getting any more sap in the next couple weeks (upcoming forecast was below freezing for many days).

One thing I wasn’t anticipating was that the sap would be frozen on the top, so getting it out of the buckets was a little challenging. I ended up with part liquid sap and part bucket-size frozen disks, which I thawed in a tray on the wood stove.

warming

I ended up with about 3 gallons of sap which I then boiled down. In an ideal world, with sap from sugar maples, it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup! So, doing the math, my 384 oz. of sap would give me at best 9.6 oz. of syrup.

boiling

In the end I got a mere 2 oz., but it was a worthwhile (though very time consuming) practice round. It tastes sweet with a hint of vanilla, which I’ve read online is typical of the first batches of the season and also the lighter amber grades.

first_syrupI checked the buckets yesterday and there was only about another 1 to 2 gallons out there. At this rate, I am not sure we will get anywhere close to a usable quantity, but it is building appreciation for the people who make mass quantities. We bought 3 gallons of syrup last year (a year’s supply for us at a quart per month) from a friend’s parents who make syrup about 2 hours north of here. Our hope is to make that much ourselves (in a perfect year), which would be at least 120 gallons of sap.

It was kind of cool to learn that pretty much all maple syrup comes from the northeast United States and southeast Canada, since that is the only location with both the correct types of maples and the climate needed (temp cycling above and below freezing) for sap to be collected.

map_maplesyrup(http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/04/07/geography-in-the-news-maple-syrup-time/)

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blue bee hive

I hope our future bees like blue because that’s what color their new house is going to be. Apparently they don’t like red, which is the other color of exterior paint we have left over from the cornhole project.

painting_supers

10,000 bees are scheduled to arrive on May 2.

Steve’s been gradually putting the hive together with a little help from the rest of us.

The boxes are officially called supers and each holds 10 frames, with a foundation sheet upon which the honeycomb will be built.

frames

This hive will have 5 supers and can accommodate 50,000 bees.

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tapping maples

We’re hoping to make some maple syrup this year for the first time and tapped the first 5 trees today since it was above freezing. We could have done more, but my lack of bucket washing motivation is the gate. One of the trees started dripping right away.

tapped sap_collector

The sap only flows during a 4-6 week period, usually mid to late February through March, when temperatures cycle above freezing during the day and below freezing at night. We should get a few days this week and then might have to wait a bit longer before it warms up again. There are thoughts on tapping too soon or too late, but it’s hard to predict what the weather will be like and this is our rookie season, so we’ll see what happens…

drip

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winter reminder

Note to self: do not let the snow pile up on the deck.

shoveling_deck

The sad part is that this is round 2. Steve shoveled this much off the deck about 3 weeks ago.

doneFeeling a little less claustrophobic now looking out the door, but probably not for long. I should just stop looking at the weather forecasts.

This was March 13, 2013.mar13_2013

Seems impossible this year, yet the day is sure to come. Dear weather, I challenge you!

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jan 7, 2014

I could tell from a look out the front window early this morning that it was warmer than yesterday because there were a bunch of birds out at the feeder. After shoveling off the deck stairs down to the trail, I headed out to see how much snow was at the firepit.

For comparison, here’s a pic from Dec. 24, 2013. The view was a little more photogenic then!

dec24firepit

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wood crate

We’ve been burning lots of firewood thanks to winter firing both barrels at us and needed a better indoor storage place than the metal log rack we’d been using. Steve was able to get a large wooden shipping crate. It’s a little larger than I anticipated, but it’s been keeping the mess of wood shrapnel contained and holds a couple days worth of firewood.

crate1crate2We wanted it to have a rustic/weathered look and heard from a friend about “staining” wood with a mixture of vinegar and steel wool. We happened to have everything we needed on hand, so we gave it a go. After consulting a few youtube videos, it didn’t seem to be a precise science, so we filled an old 32 oz. yogurt container about 3/4 full of white vinegar and put a couple pieces of steel wool in to soak for a couple days. Then we just brushed it on with an old paint brush.

crate3crate4It took a few minutes to react, but it turned out pretty well. The color almost matches the floor and we’ll likely use this method to “stain” the trim around the floor and windows when we get to that stage.

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merry christmas

2013_christmas

and Sadie, too! (pic taken nov. 10, 2013)

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, Happy New Year! Wishing everyone joy, peace, love & hope as we end this year and start the next.

It was nice to have a bit of a break from the cold and snow the past couple years, but it appears that winter is now making up for lost time. The leaf piles were quickly replaced by snow piles as the snow started falling before Thanksgiving and hasn’t quit since.

winterbeechleaves1

This December marked the 3rd anniversary of our move, but I sometimes catch myself still feeling like “the new people.” Then I realize that I actually want something, some part of my life to always be new. I want to experience new things and be grateful for fresh starts to each new day.

At Christmas and throughout the year, I’m thankful that God still works in amazing and unexpected ways.

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firewood

(subtitle: how we spend a good chunk of our time :) )

split_woodI posted this picture on Facebook the other day with the caption “lost forest workout facility” because stacking wood is my exercise and something that I usually do several hours per week, along with several trips down our long driveway per day and walking around with the dog. I got to thinking about the amount of wood we (mostly Steve) have hauled, cut, split, and stacked in the last couple years and it is a lot!

After the first year of cleaning up only dead trees on our property we had a surplus built up and decided to start selling it. In the process, I’ve learned more about firewood than I ever thought I would know. I should have this BTU chart memorized after referring to it so many times.

A couple years ago, I had no idea that a cord of wood is 4′ x 4′ x 8′ and that a face cord is a third of that or about 16″ x 4′ x 8′ (so we try to make each stack or “rick” approximately that size). This fall, before that first photo was taken, we sold 21 face cord to various people (all the surplus we had and could have sold more if we’d had it). Last fall, we sold about half that and gave away a bunch more to those who needed it. This is not counting the stuff we keep to burn ourselves or other miscellaneous non-hardwoods that have been cut up.

We’d love to be able to sell small bundles at a park, campground, little gas station, etc. Ideally we’d have a road side stand somewhere, but since we don’t live in a visible or high traffic area, we would have to make some connections.

Often the wood is already quite dry depending how long the tree was dead, especially if it was still standing, but we have been storing it for 6-12 months in our barn after splitting and stacking it before we sell it. So the stuff we are working on now we will sell next fall.

Sometimes the whole family helps, though Steve does all of the cutting and splitting and I primarily do the stacking. Steve made a pay scale for each part of the job (cutting, loading/hauling, splitting, stacking), so if the kids help with loading a wagon/trailer in the woods or stacking, they get paid. We also deliver for a fee (up to 2 face cord – limit for our trailer), so the kids like to help with that part since loading/unloading the trailer is fairly easy and they often get tips from nice customers.

Someone who heats only with wood could go through 4+ cord per winter, so selling 7 cord isn’t a huge amount in the grand scheme of things, but it feels like a lot to me, having seen and felt it go through our own hands. Besides cleaning up our woods, this work keeps perfectly good wood from going to waste, has been a way to meet and help some cool people (could tell many stories), and helps pay for the toys equipment.

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thanksgiving

Thanksgiving felt more like Christmas this year, at least in terms of weather. When I woke up, this was the unexpected, but beautiful, view from the deck:

thanksgiving_snowFluffy, white stuff fell all day, 7″ in all.

snow_pumpkinsI have no pics of food (Steve said it was the best turkey ever. Yay me!) or people, only the dog!

sadie_loves_snow

On Friday, we went to the mall, but not to shop.

bell_ringingCale rocked this little red bell:

little_red_bell

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