It was nice to have a break on Wednesday with no sap due to the cold weather. It gave us a chance to empty our sap holding tanks and evaporator, do a bit of cleaning and make some minor repairs. The sap started running again today about noon and will probably run all night as there is no frost in the forecast. The syrup this week has been mostly Dark Amber corresponding to the old grade of Medium. So we now have Golden, Light Amber, Dark Amber as well as a small quantity of Dark from last year’s production available for sale.Tomorrow we will be setting aside syrup to fill back orders and for Golden and Amber syrup.
This weekend the Kettle Boys and Shanty Men will be operating and welcoming visitors with stories and toys and taste of fresh syrup. We will be taking special precautions because of the virus and since it is an open area environment the risk of infection is minimal.
As usual we are open from 10 t0 5 daily.
The warm weather and bright sunshine stimulated a good sap run on Sunday, Sunday night and today. However, sap flow has now dropped off and we need a good frost to recharge the trees. Tonight there will be a super full moon meaning the moon is closer to the earth than usual and maybe this will bring a change in the weather. I always seem to be talking about the weather but our production is dependent on the right weather conditions so that syrup makers sort of live from forecast to forecast.
We are still making Golden and Light Amber syrup. We think the next cycle will bring the darker syrups.Quality so far is excellent with good fresh syrup flavour.
We are now open daily from 10 to 5.
Every year we are surprised when the sap runs. Today, in spite of snow flurries and cool weather, the sap is running well. We are not complaining just surprised.
Yesterday I posted that we were making Golden and Light syrup. I should have said Light Amber. Even syrup makers stumble a bit between the old and new grading systems. Light Amber is more or less equivalent to the old classification of Light. Dark Amber is equivalent to Medium on the old system. We sort out Amber syrup into these two categories as we find the Amber classification covers too wide a spectrum.
Spring is definitely in the air. The birds seem to be more active at the feeder and a chickadee was singing its spring song, fee-bee,for the first time today. The maple trees seem very eager to produce sap so they too are getting ready for a new growing season.
We will be open tomorrow and Sunday at 10 am to provide a taste of fresh made maple syrup.
In spite of the rather dull and chilly day the sap ran well. We processed about 5000 gallons of sap and made a nice batch of light to golden syrup. The sap sweetness picked up to 2.8% which improved the ratio of sap to syrup from 40 to 1 yesterday to 30 to 1 today. The weather is expected to turn cold through Saturday so we do not expect much fresh sap until Sunday.
Our camp will be open this weekend from 10 am to 5 pm each day and the Shanty Men plan to keep some sap so they will be operating for show and tell. The Kettle Boys will not be here until next weekend. We will have taffy on the snow and fresh syrup to taste. The trails are snowy but should be frozen on Saturday and good for walking.
We collected enough sap from Tuesday morning to noon today to process our first small batch of syrup. The sap had a sugar content of 2% which is good for early season sap in our sugar bush. There were the usual problems with starting up including one pump that did not work but overall a successful start. Frost is in the forecast tonight and above freezing tomorrow so there may be more sap. The weather always likes to tease us a bit at this time of year with fits and starts before we have a sustained sap run.
Some of the sap will have come from our new plantation and marks another milestone for our farm.
Yesterday was a significant milestone at Fortune Farms. Some of the trees we transplanted in 1991 and 1992 to an unused hayfield are now 25 cm in diameter and large enough to tap. We held a First Tapping Ceremony to commemorate this event. It was combined with the official First Tapping for the province and was attended by the President and other representatives of the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association, four generations of the Fortune Family, friends and neighbours. About 30 trees are large enough to tap and when all the trees are up to size it will about 400 taps to our operation.
Here are pictures of Brian Bainborough President of OMSPA making the first tap and Ray Fortune with Jamie Fortune in the background making the second tap.
The sun shone for this event and it is shining again today. The trees are coated with snow from the recent wet snowfall and it is a beautiful tableau like a Christmas card. Next week warm weather so the sap should run.The pumps have been tested, the Reverse Osmosis is assembled and the evaporator has been started. So we are ready to go.
Spring is in the air today and with the fine weather this week we were able to finish tapping. The sap is running a bit but not enough to collect and make syrup. The next step is to turn on the vacuum pumps, check for and repair any leaks in the pipeline system and test the sap transfer pumps.There is still lots of work to do before that taste of fresh made maple syrup. Snow and cold weather are in the forecast for later this week so it will be March before we make our first syrup.
Everyone asks if it will be a good season. That’s a very difficult question. What happens is almost fully dependent on favourable weather. So we would be guessing if we predicted the season. By April 15 we will have a definitive answer. It helps if everyone thinks positively so we are counting on you to do your part.
In my last blog I mentioned that we will be tapping our maple plantation for the first time. This is a picture of the plantation as it looks today.The trees are evenly spaced in straight lines which makes it convenient for tapping but not quite as picturesque as a naturally grown sugar bush. With the large crowns on these trees we expect the sap may have more sugar content than trees in our main sugar bush.
After a wet and dreary January its great to look forward to spring and the taste of fresh maple syrup. We will start tapping around the 17th of February and should be finished by the 25th. According to Wiarton Willy it should be an early spring so we need to be ready.
The big change this year is that for the first time we will be tapping some of the trees in our maple plantation that were planted in 1991. Trees should be 25cm in diameter for tapping and we have measured about 30 that meet this criteria with several more that will be ready in a year or two. There are about 450 trees in the plantation and eventually when all are tapped they will make a nice addition to our sugar bush.
In those dreary days in January there was nothing to do but write some rhymes about making maple syrup. This is a poem about making maple syrup using the more modern equipment.
The snow was gently falling
as we headed to the bush.
It’s warmer in the forecast
so it’s tapping with a rush.
Now tapping is a chore,
each tree must have its tap
connected to its pipeline
to collect the flowing sap.
Snowshoes are mighty handy
when deep snow is on the ground,
but not so good in bushes
when you have to turn around.
There is a lot of equipment
that has to work just right,
when things don’t go as planned
means working half the night.
Finally it’s over!
The trees are all tapped in.
The equipment all is humming
and we’re ready to begin.
To make our syrup the modern way
we flick a switch or two
and watch the golden nectar
come flowing out to you.
The taste of fresh made syrup,
that flavour can’t be beat,
s’worth all the fuss and bother
to get that special treat.
When all the syrup’s in the can
we’ve still got much to do.
There’s all the washing up
and cleaning through and through.
We’ve toiled away for hours
and our energy is spent.
We’ve had a bumper season,
but I’m awfully glad it’s “went”.
It’s time to close up the camp for another year. We will be open Sunday, April 28 then after that by chance or by appointment. With the rain and snow showers today it felt like maple syrup season all over again. Sunshine and warmer weather are in the forecast so maybe spring will finally arrive. To mark the end of the blog for this season here is a closing poem.
Another year has come and gone
A bumper one for sure
I’m very glad that it is done
It was all we could endure.
Sometimes the sap ran all day
Sometimes it ran all night
Sometimes it ran and ran
When we didn’t think it might.
So we boiled and boiled all day
We boiled again at night
Sometimes we still were boiling
When came the first daylight.
We packed the syrup in bottles
We packed the syrup in drums
We counted all our produce
And did our yearly sums.
We’ve syrup enough for orders
For candy and for tarts
And lots to offer clients
Or ship to foreign parts.
We thank you for your patronage
We hope you’ll come next year
When once again we’re open
Cause we’re planning to be here.
Click to enlarge image
We are now busy washing all our equipment for storage until next year. Also we need to back-flush the pipelines and tubing. The spiles are removed from the tree and the taphole immediately begins to heal and will sealed with new wood as the tree grows.Its a big job washing 6 miles of pipelines and 20 miles of tubing. It’s always a rush getting done before the black fly season.
The wild leeks are now poking through the leaf litter as well as the dog tooth violets.The leatherwood shrub will be one of the first to burst into flower. It has a small yellow flower that only lasts for two days. It’s called leather wood because the branches are of flexible and can be tied in knots without breaking. The bark was stripped by the natives and woven into strong rope. Also soon to appear will be the hepaticas and the small mayflowers.
Here is an interesting picture of a tree trunk being pecked to pieces by pileated woodpeckers. Obviously we’ll have to do some line repair when they cut through the trunk.
The camp will be open daily all this week and through the weekend. We will be closing the camp except by appointment starting April 29.