Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Last fall, we found a homemade hobby maple syrup evaporator for sale just down the street from us.  It was a great craigslist find and the seller even delivered it for us.  Excitement aside, there are a few issues with this setup.  First, the built in thermometer is at an improper height to be functional, which is not a big deal except that we don't have another that is long enough to reach into the sap with the dial out of the steam.  The steam that comes off a good boil is impossible to see through, so a temperature reading is very important to make sure the sap is not about to burn.  Then the welded baffles that serve to increase heating surface area do not meet up well with the curved pan, creating a space that is impossible to clean (old toothbrush and much cussing).  Finally, the flue pipe could use some added length.  I managed to melt the edge of my polycarbonate roofing on our first boil...whoops.

However, it is just the right size for 20-30 taps and was a very modest investment.  We don't have enough trees to justify several thousand dollars of start-up cost, especially if we decide that it's no longer enjoyable.  So far, it has been a big treat from the open-fire boil we employed last year with one of my cooking pots that is still blackened.

We had five gallons of sap to try out this evaporator on the second weekend of February.  Last year, we hadn't placed any taps until the end of the month.  The weather has been unpredictable to say the least.  Recently, the temps have either been too cold during the daytime or above freezing overnight.  Sap won't run without a good freeze a night and near 40 degrees during the day.  Collecting sap is a breeze without the usual three feet of snow, so we have placed more taps than we originally planned.   It's great exercise with a toddler on my back.  Maybe that will burn off the calories consumed in maple syrup covered pancakes every Saturday from now on.  
Milking room converted to sugar shed.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Potential Energy

I feel like I'm teetering on the top rung of a ladder, reaching for more fruit while risking a fall that could crush everything I've picked so far.  My hope is that this potential energy will remain unrealized with the added support of my husband, daughters and neighbors.  Someone is holding the ladder down below so that I can abandon two arms for the harvest.

The spring crazies are here without much winter reprieve.  I won't belabor talk of the winter that was not.  Instead, I'm making preparations for a very EARLY and busy spring.   We have a continuation of projects past and new endeavors to report, in brief. 

We'll be raising two Berkshire/Tamworth piglets this summer, in collaboration with our neighbors.  They will have whey from our small cheesemaking operation, homegrown organic vegetables, and acorns from our mature oaks.  They will be slaughtered on our farm and then butchered at a local farm.  We wanted to do the cut-up ourselves, but without a cold-room I fear the outside temperature in October would not permit a proper hang.  

Maple sap started to run a week ago, so we will try out our new/used hobby-sized evaporator this weekend.  We have placed about 26 taps and hope to produce enough maple syrup for ourselves (and one neighbor) so that we can avoid cane sugar altogether this year.
We've started leeks and onion seeds in the basement.  Brassica are next up, followed by tomatoes/peppers in March. 

Our 2012 goat kids are due in less than three weeks, so the girls have had their hooves trimmed, CD&T vaccinations, selenium-E supplement, and a copper bolus administered.  We added black oil sunflower seeds to their usual fixin's a week ago.  They also enjoy kelp, free-choice loose minerals, baking soda, an increasing grain ration, 1st and 2nd cut hay, AND we will be adding yeast extract next week.  I'm pretty sure they eat better than I do, at this point.  But then I'm not pregnant again, thankfully.

We're also expanding our usual poultry (layers and meaties) to include guinea hens because from what I've read, the ticks will be worse than ever this season.  Last year, I had to pick them off of my daughters with all too much regularity.

Our garden is expanding to the neighbor's as well, so we are adding many new crops, including some for our four-legged friends.  Storage crops are getting a real boost with the extra space.  I'm so excited and terrified at the prospect of it all.

Cheers, for a spectacular spring!