Fall has arrived and with it lots of rain which will be good for our maple trees. Fortunately,the gypsy moth does not like maple tree foliage and so our sugar bush was spared severe damage which was very intense on other tree species in this area.
With the warm weather and lots of sunshine this summer the trees should have produced lots of starch which will turn to sugar and hopefully result in extra sweet sap next spring.
The trees are just starting to turn colour with the soft maples showing quite a bit of red foliage. It’s a nice time to take a stroll through our sugar bush and our trails will be open this Saturday and Sunday and also next weekend for the Fall in Love with Maple sugar bush visitation event across Ontario.
Our camp will also be open with appropriate Covid protocols and we still have Amber and Dark syrup for sale.
Open10 – 4pm for two weekends:
Sat, 25 Sept & Sun, 26 Sept Sat, 2 Oct & Sun, 3 Oct
Your sweet tooth doesn’t have to wait until spring!
Fall in Love with Maple at Ontario sugarbushes from September 25 – October 3, 2021.
Fortune Farms will be open on the both weekends during this time.
The maple season is winding down. However, there will be several degrees of frost on Saturday night so we may have a final run of sap on Easter Sunday.
Then the weather turns warm, the tree buds will begin to swell, and that will mark the end of the season. This past week, with the warm weather, the syrup continued to darken so we now have an ample supply of Dark and Very Dark syrup.
The migrant birds continue to arrive at the farm. The resident Phoebe is back and nest building. A friend was able to take a very good picture of our resident bluebird and along with his mate they are also busy nest building. It’s amazing how these birds find their way back each year.
Our camp is open this weekend from 9 to 4 each day. The new lockdown rules in Ontario do not affect our operation as we are a food establishment. There is a limit on the number allowed access to the camp at one time.
It’s remarkable what a bit of frost will do. Last night the temperature dipped to minus 2 and reset the trees. Today the sap gushed and our tanks are full and we will be boiling late into the night.
Earlier this week in the warm weather, with no frost, the sap flow decreased to half or less than the normal amount. The fact that the sap ran was in part due to the vacuum system on the pipe lines. Bucket systems did not do so well.
Tomorrow may bring some showers and mild weather. We will be working hard to catch up to today’s large run of sap, plus the sap that comes tonight and tomorrow.
Next week looks promising, with frost some nights and warm days. It is shaping up to be a good year for syrup production, but we can’t be sure until it’s over.
Our camp will be open tomorrow, Sunday, March 28th, from 9am to 4 pm for syrup pickup. The trails are clear of snow and good for walking. Dogs are welcome on a leash.
A male robin and a male bluebird arrived this week to claim their territory and the red shouldered hawks are around but hard to spot. Social distancing and masks are mandatory when walking around the property. We look forward to seeing you.
We are all enjoying this spell of warm weather and spring has arrived. However it is not so good for the maple season. The sap has been running each day but the flow is decreasing and we need a change in weather with frost to reset the trees and draw fresh sap up from the roots. Warm spells in March are not uncommon but this is of longer duration than we can recall. There is cooler weather in the forecast so we hope the season will continue. The good news is that the syrup we have made to date is of good quality ranging from Golden to Amber.
The snow in the woods is rapidly disappearing and the trails are almost bare and easy walking. The red shouldered hawks have returned to both our sugar bushes and often scream at us as if we are in their territory. The hawks have returned each year around the 20th of March for along as we can remember. They will be selecting a nesting site and going through their courtship ritual. They need a large area of mature woodlot and a sugar bush is an ideal location.
Our camp is open from 10 to 4 daily for syrup pickup. Should a lockdown occur we will continue with curb service. The trails are open but our usual demonstrations and taffy on the snow are not available this year. Let’s hope we can get back to normal next year.
The return of cold weather has stopped the sap running and we are enjoying a short break. Warm weather returns tomorrow and the longer range forecast looks very promising for a large sap run. Hopefully the sap sweetness will increase as the trees and roots thaw out.
Last week on Thursday night there was a very strong wind storm which blew down a couple of dead trees as well as branches. Of course these trees and branches always fall on pipelines and must be removed. A chain saw is one of the necessary tools for the syrup producer. The picture shows the work required to remove one of these trees.
The syrup we have made so far is all of Amber grade with good flavour. If the sap sweetness improves we expect to make light Amber or Golden syrup as sweeter sap requires less processing time.
Our provisions for coping with Covid 19 are working. Our camp is open but the number of people at one time is limited. The trails are still a bit snow covered but passable and may be mostly bare by next weekend. No Kettle Boys or Shanty Men this year, which is a major disappointment.
Warm days and cool nights makes for perfect sap weather and the sap is running. After a few minor glitches all the equipment is performing well and we have collected enough sap for our first production run of the season.
The picture shows the first syrup running into the filter tank on Thursday morning. The next step is to do a final filtering on our filter press prior to packing.
The sap sweetness is less than 2% sugar. As a result the sap to syrup ratio is about 50 to 1 rather than the more normal 40 to 1. This makes a big difference in the amount of fuel required to produce syrup.
With the reverse osmosis machine we can compensate by concentrating longer. The low sugar content of first run sap is typical as the tree roots and much of the tree trunk are still frozen. The sap we are collecting has been stored on the outer rings of the tree trunk. The sweetness will improve as fresh sap is drawn up from the roots.
That first taste of fresh syrup this morning made all the tapping effort and equipment start up well worth while. Now for some fresh baked bread and fresh maple syrup for a real delicious dessert at dinner this evening.
We are finished tapping and are waiting for the first run of sap.The temperature later this week looks very favourable so we should make the first syrup of the 2021 season.
Startup is always very busy as there will be leaks to fix well as the pumps, the reverse osmosis machine and of course the evaporator to start. It will all be worth it with the first taste of fresh syrup.
On March 6 we held a family tapping event in our maple plantation with the Fortune Family bubble of people. Included were Ruth and Ray Fortune, Sherry and Jamie Fortune and Blair Walker with great grandchildren Alice and Angus. Angus, aged three, tapped in the spile for the first time.
We also held this event in remembrance of Don Dodds who passed away recently. Don was an excellent syrup maker and a maple equipment vendor and was a big help to maple producers, especially to those people just starting out.
Our camp is now open daily 10am to 4pm.
Our new shopping cart is available and you can prebook your order.
The number of people in the camp at one time will be limited.
Face masks will be mandatory and we expect visitors to follow social distancing around the camp and on the trails.
The trails are open but snowy and are packed down with the snowmobile.
The Kettle Boys and Shanty Men will not be open this year. We very much regret the restrictions placed upon us by Covid-19. However, if the rules are followed, your visit to the sugar bush should be safe and enjoyable. We look forward to seeing you, at a safe distance.
Finally some moderating weather and we can start tapping. The snow is very soft which makes moving through the sugar bush very tiring. Snowshoes help but if the snow gets sticky it tends to pack on the snowshoes and adds to their weight.
We tap in teams of two people: one person to position the drop line and drill the hole, the second person to insert the spile and connect the drop line. The operation can be done by one person but the operator is continually changing tools from drill to mallet. Also the lead person, the driller, is breaking trail which is tiring and the two people can change places from time to time and ease the strain.
On a good day two people can insert about 800 taps, more if there is a crust on the snow to speed up the walking. The distance covered will be 2 to 3 miles.
Ordering Maple Syrup
It’s time to place orders for this year’s crop of fresh syrup. This year we have added a shopping cart page to our web site. We hope this helps your shopping experience.
A Poem by Ray
Tapping is a lot of work, each tree must have its tap, connected up with pipes and tubes, to collect the flowing sap.
Snowshoes are mighty handy, when snow's two feet on the ground, but they're not so good in bushes, or you have to turn around.
At last the trees are all tapped in, and we are set to go, we hope the sap will run and fill, our tanks to overflow.
Welcome to our blog for 2021.We are pleased to announce that we will be operating again this year. We are very thankful to our many customers who have used our curb pick up, delivery and shipping services to purchase our products. Last year we made a bumper crop of maple syrup and aside from our usual inventory it is all sold. Covid 19 has in part been the reason for this as people are cooking at home and using more than their usual supply of maple syrup. We would be quite happy to go back to normal and be rid of this virus. Maple syrup and maple products are such a treat that they help to compensate for being shut in and so restricted in our normal activities.
It is too early to say if our camp will be open for visitors. We will of course maintain our curb pick up and other services and we may be able to open the trails.
The Kettle Boys and Shanty Men plan to operate but it is unlikely that they will be able to entertain visitors. Masks and social distancing will still be in force during the March-April season.
Our photographer friend, Jim Robertson, took some pictures in the sugar bush last week. The snow cap on the log gives a good idea of the snow accumulation to date.
Our largest, very tall maple tree is still dormant waiting for warm weather to wake up and once again provide a bounteous flow of sap.
Do you need syrup now?
We still have Amber, Dark and some Golden maple syrup in stock. We are still six to eight weeks away from fresh syrup so if you are running low we can provide a fresh supply to tide you over. Please contact us if you’d like to order some.