The maple season is fast approaching. This is family weekend Feb 17 to Feb 19 and the Kettle Boys will be setting up at Winterlude at Confederation Park. They will have their usual assortment of toys and a warm fire under their boiling kettle.
A good place to visit for pancakes and fresh maple syrup is Temple’s Sugar Bush at Ferguson Falls. They are opening for the season on March 1.
The Lanark and District Maple Syrup Producers Association Tapping Out ceremony is being held this year on March 3 at the Horton Homestead Farm near Lansdowne. This will be an official tree tapping to signify the beginning of the season, fun and games and food.
Tapping will begin at our farm next week and we should be ready for that first run of sap by Feb 28.
Twenty years ago this week we were just startinjg the massive clean up and repair work required after the ice storm. Our trees were severly damaged and assessed with 60% crown damage. The 200 and 300 year old trees were hit the hardest and have been very slow to recover. Several have died but are being replaced by younger trees that were waiting for their chance to grow. Surprisingly our maple plantation with 25 year old trees escaped almost unharmed.
At the edge of the sugar bush the fringe of saplings had frozen into a solid ice wall. We had to cut doorways with the chain saw to gain access to the bush. The pipelines and tubing installed ready for the next season were all buried under a 2 to 3 inch crust of ice. Once again we used out chain saws to cut through the crust along the pipe lines. We installed new tubing as the old tubing was too badly damaged to repair. With our regular crew, volunteers and two days help by the army we were able to completely restore the system in time for the spring syrup season. We lost about 500 of our 4000 taps due to broken trees and reduced tapping density to help the trees recover. The good news is that the bush has recovered and with the new trees that can now be tapped we have regained our 500 taps.
Tree damage is still very visible on the older trees. The next time you visit a sugar bush look for damage and think of the trauma among the maple producers as they saw their precious trees in such severe distress
Preparations are underway for the 2018 season. Fallen trees have been cleared from the lines and repairs completed before the snow arrived. There will still be some pipeline repairs at the start of the season as branches are always falling on the lines. This years supply of bottles and labels and other supplies are on hand so we are ready for the first drop of sap.
The big question this year will be if the forest tent caterpillar returns. We had a severe outbreak in 2016 and we sprayed with Bt in the spring of 2017 which was very affective in controlling but not eliminatring this pest.There is a widespread outbreak of this caterpillar across Canada and in the US. It is naturally controlled by other insects that lay eggs in the caterpillars but it takes a while for these populations to build up in quantity. The trees can survive two or three years of infestation but it uses up the sugar reserves in the tree and reduces the sugar content in the sap. It can kill the trees if the infestation is prolonged and accompanied by a drought. We are checking for egg masses to see if we need to spray again and so far have not found any significant quantity of eggs.
All our usual activities are planned again this year along with our usual range of maple products
The camp is now closed during the week except by appointment Call 613 256 5216 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a pickup time for syrup orders. The camp will be open this weekend April 22 and April 23 from 10am t0 5pm. Also, we are frequently working at the camp doing cleanup so there is a chance to find us there if you are driving in this area.
A number of birds have returned to the farm. The red shouldered hawk and bluebirds are back. Both birds are elusive until actually sitting on their nest. Song sparrows, chipping sparrows and a winter wren have all been heard singing along the fence rows. The hepaticas, the first spring wild flower, have not yet appeared.The spring peepers are singing in our ponds and tree ducks have been checking our nesting boxes.
We are busy pulling spiles and backwashing the pipelines. The pipelines stay up year round but they must washed and sanitized for in situ storage. It takes at least a week with two and sometimes three people working to cover our 7000 taps.Then we can take a much needed break.
With the warm weather the season has come to a close. Our production this year was above average and with excellent quality,so we are very pleased.We welcomed many regular customers to our operation and were pleased to greet many newcomers as well.
The camp is open this week and will be open on Easter Weekend from 10.00 to 5.00 each day. We have lots of syrup available and we are working to produce a fresh supply of maple candy,maple tarts,maple butter and maple mustard.
The Kettle Boys and Shanty Men have closed for this year. Our trails are open and easy walking now that the snow is mostly gone.
Our back orders are filled and those not already picked up are waiting on the shelf.
A beautiful sunny spring morning. We wait all year for this kind of weather when working in the sugar bush so enjoyable. We expect a good sap run today as there was frost here last night. All our activities will be in full swing today. Our camp will be open from 10.00 t0 5.00 pm.
We now have lots of syrup on hand and our back orders are
filled and ready for pickup.There is a new batch of maple tarts on the shelf this morning just waiting for your enjoyment.
Finally some warmer weather is headed our way which should help dry up the puddles and melt some of the snow in the sugar bush. It also signals the coming end of the maple syrup production for this year. However, the sap was running a bit today due to the low pressure and should run tomorrow as we expect frost tonight.
Our camp opens at 10.00 am and we have lots of help to assist with syrup pickup and taffy on the snow. The Kettle boys will be here with all their toys.
We never know when the sap may run It ran last night in the cold rain and our tanks were full this morning. We think it was due to a decrease in the atmospheric pressure which meant that the pressure inside the tree was greater than the outside pressure. It also helps that our trees are under vacuum. Usually it takes a freeze thaw cycle to reset the trees. Frost is in the forecast for Friday night with sunshine Saturday so we should have another good run of sap on the weekend.
The Kettle Boys and Shanty Men are planning to be here on the weekend.We are working hard in the main camp to be sure we have a good quantity of maple butter, maple candy and maple tarts on hand.We now have all grades of maple syrup available.There is still some snow in the sugar bush. The trails are open but they may be a bit wet.
After two beautiful days on Sunday and Monday we are now in a prolonged period of rain.Sap has been running well and we have a backlog to process today.Yesterday we made dark syrup for the first time and expect that to continue if we get more sap.
Next weekend’s weather looks promising and we hope to be able to fill most of our backorders for dark syrup. So it would be a good opportunity for pickup if you have syrup on order.
The Kettle Boys and Shanty Men are planning to be here again next weekend to entertain our visitors. The red shouldered hawks are back,so a walk on our trails might reward you with a sighting of these beautiful birds.
It would be nice if the weatherman could make a reliable forecast.We were supposed to have sunshine on Saturday and Sunday but now there is the possibility of snowshowers on Saturday.Regardless of the weather we will be celebrating Maple Weekend.On Sunday, as a special feature, our local sheep farmer will have some young lambs here for petting by the children.The Kettle Boys have some new toys so lots of fun in store for our visitors.We are open from 10.00 to 5.00pm every day.
We have been steadily producing syrup this past week so it is shaping up as a good year. However, with the continued cool weather we have yet to produce any dark syrup. Hopefully,this may change on Sunday or next week when the weather is supposed to warm up.