Lots of sunshine today and our visitors enjoyed a walk around and some taffy on the snow. Tomorrow will be about the same and we will have the lambs here to entertain the children. The Kettle Boys and Shanty Men have used up most of the wood for their fires and as they have made all the syrup they can use tomorrow will be their last day of operation for this year.
There was no sap today so the time was spent checking for possible wind damage in the sugar bush after the very strong winds earlier this week. One tree had fallen on pipe lines, which always makes a mess, and some repairs were necessary.
It’s not all work at our sugar bush. On weekends we have 12 to 16 people doing various tasks from making syrup to entertaining visitors. At lunch time the crew gets a chance for a welcome break and to enjoy delicious meals made by Eva Couturier. Today we had lasagne with homemade buns or garlic bread followed by pineapple upside down cake or white cake with pecan icing. With lots to talk about on all our activities and the interesting visitors who come to our operation we have a pleasant time before we dash off for our afternoon duties.
Tomorrow is the last day of Maple Weekend when sugar makers put on an extra effort to entertain their visitors. It’s a good time to visit a sugar bush and I am sure you will receive a warm welcome.
We will be open as usual from 10 t0 5.
It looks like a sunny but cool Maple Weekend. The Kettle Boys will be operating as usual and the Shanty Men will also operate if there is enough sap. It is unlikely we will be boiling on the big evaporator
Because of the continuing cold weather we still have lots of snow for taffy on the snow. We have several batches of syrup from light to dark for a tasting opportunity as well as an array of other maple products. Some parts of our trails are still snow covered but there is no problem going a walk in the sugar bush. On Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting, we will have a treasure hunt for small children. On Sunday, once again weather permitting, a local farmer will bring some small lambs for a petting opportunity. We will have a warm up fire at our picnic tables for anyone wishing to bring their lunch.
Maple Weekend is an opportunity for visiting more than one sugar bush. Look for the road side signs which identify those operators open for visitors or refer to the Maple Weekend web site for directions.
Yesterday and today we made Dark syrup, formerly called Amber. It has a good flavour which should please those people who prefer the stronger flavour of the darker syrup.. The sap continues to run well and we are having an excellent season. All the equipment is also running well but the people are getting a little tired as we have been going almost non stop for six weeks. With snow in the forecast later this week spring will be delayed for some time.
My son Jamie spotted the new nest of the red shouldered hawk and we hear the hawk calling frequently. These hawks are quite secretive and their nest is well away from our main trail. Other birds are showing up but we have yet to see a bluebird.
We are making plans for Maple Weekend on Saturday and Sunday and will post more details later this week.
We are still catching up after a very large run of sap on Saturday and more yesterday. Saturday was a perfect sap day with frost the night before and sunshine all day. At its peak the sap was running at the rate of about 1 litre per hour at each tap hole. So our 7000 taps were producing about 7000 litres of sap an hour. We can process sap syrup at 4000 litres per hour and can store about 8000 litres so we did not lose any sap but it was a close call. It looks like the season will continue for two weeks based on the weather forecast of cold weather and possible snow on Friday.
Next weekend is Maple Weekend and we are hoping the weather warms up a bit. We will of course be open as usual from 10 to 5 daily.
The rainy weather and the lower atmospheric pressure has helped keep the sap running for two days. Last night the sap ran slowly but steadily and our tanks were full this morning.It will take a night of frost to reset the trees for a big sap run.The season has been going for five weeks and it looks like another two weeks based on the long range weather forecast. So far the syrup has all been light in colour. We need some warmer weather for the darker syrup.
Between sap runs we have taken some time to measure our biggest trees. Our largest tree is a white pine 108 feet tall (33 m) and 43 inches (110 cm) in diameter. This is a big tree and comparable to trees found in old growth areas of Algonquin Park. However, it is a dwarf compared to the original forest with white pines 150 feet tall (45 m) and 67 inches (170 cm) in diameter.The twin pines along our walking trail are 105 feet tall (32 m) and 38 nches (98 cm) in diameter. Our largest maple is 93 feet tall (28 m) and 42 inches (107 cm) in diameter. We are very fortunate to have these large trees and we are doing our best to preserve them. Without doing a bore hole measurement we estimate these trees to be 300 years old which takes us back to the 1700 hundreds. We wish these trees could talk and share with us all the events that have taken place in and around our farm.
We are getting ready for Easter Weekend. The Kettle Boys and Shanty Men will be operating as usual and looking forward to sharing their stories with you. The trails are still snowy and good boots are needed for a hike in the woods.There is still snow available for taffy on the snow and lots of fresh syrup to taste. We are open from 10:00 to 5:00 daily.
Today with the bright sunshine and warmer temperature the sap started to run about 11.00am. Late this afternoon the atmospheric pressure began to drop and the sap flow increased and it will continue to run until it freezes tonight about 9.00pm. This is typical syrup making weather so we are looking forward to a productive week. Rain is in the forecast for Tuesday night which is also good news as the atmospheric pressure with drop even lower and some extra moisture will help thaw the roots which will release more sap.
Today we heard the red shouldered hawk so they have arrived again right on schedule. We are very pleased to have this very useful bird nesting in our woods. So far no robins or bluebirds but they have been sighted in the area and we may have missed them.
Its a bit early to confirm our plans for the weekend but at the moment we expect all our facilities will be in operation.We will be open all Easter weekend from 10:00 to 5:00 daily.
Its 4 pm, the sun is shining with little wind so the temperature has risen to 7 degrees, well above the forecast. The sap is running and there will be enough to supply the Kettle Boys , the Shanty Men and some for the big evaporator. Everything will be in operation tomorrow.
In my last blog I wrote about pipeline damage. We have just completed a patrol of the system and found some loose spiles due to frost action but no new animal chews or woodpecker holes. For two years we used a new type of spile which has a small plastic ball which acts as a check valve permitting sap to flow out but preventing sap from flowing back into the tree. When the tree cools down at night the gas in the tree contracts producing a negative pressure inside the tree. Sap in the pipeline will have been exposed to air and contains bacteria which starts the tap hole closure process.The check valve blocks this sap from entering the tap hole extending the life of the tap hole and helping to produce more sap. We were not convinced they were worth the extra cost. Also, something attracted woodpeckers to attack these spiles. Evidently the little ball in the spile makes a rattling sound similar to a wood boring grub, the natural food of the woodpecker. So the woodpecker made a hole in the hard plastic of the spile to find the grub. They damaged many of the spiles before giving up. The damaged spiles had to be replaced which required a lot of extra work.We can’t blame the woodpeckers but they seem to be slow learners.
This is the time of year the red shouldered hawks return but so far no sightings. Possibly if you walk our trails you may see this bird or hear them calling. The trails are snowy but useable and a walk is a good way to build up an appetite for some taffy on the snow. We are open 10 to 5 daily.
Finally the weather is springlike and the real maple season will begin. Making syrup in February is not normal but it seems that with global warming we will have to adjust.
After a break of several days due to the cold weather, as we have just experienced, we will have to do a pipeline patrol for leaks. Pipelines are a very effective means of collecting sap but they do require continual maintenance. We have damage from fallen trees and limbs particularly after an ice storm. There is often damage by wildlife including of course squirrels and chipmunks but also some unusual ones as well. Bears when they come out hibernation are very hungry and often bite the pipelines as they travel through the sugar bush. Their bite marks are very large and distinctive. Not so large but equally damaging are holes made by woodpeckers. We don’t know why they attack pipelines but occasionally we find holes in a localized area of the woods. Other producers have reported similar problems. We have some chews by deer, usually where a small tube crosses a deer trail. Also chews by porcupines as they climb up and down maple trees. For the first time this year we were able to identify a bite by a coyote. Its track was obvious in fresh snow and it bit three tubes as it traveled through the woods.There may be bites by other animals we have yet to identify but this is enough to keep us busy. Where serious damage occurs primarily from squirrels producers have tried coating the tubes with pepper or other unpleasant tasting material on even wrapping the tubes with fine wire.Fortunately animal damage is usually sporadic and we can cope with regular maintenance.
The weekend looks promising with cool weather but lots of sunshine. We will be open as usual and all our activities will be active. There is no charge for a visit to our operation and our trails and a taste of fresh maple syrup and taffy is readily available. We are open from 10:00 to 5:00 daily.
As predicted we will have two seasons again this year, one early season and a second later season when it warms up after this prolonged cold spell. Extreme cold of 20 below causes us lots of problems as all our lines are frozen. To compound the problem a visitor left the door open to one of our remote tank houses and the pump and tanks there also froze. Our pump houses are heated but not enough to cope with an open door. An observant visitor reported a pump running at a pump house, which was very helpful, as there was an ice blockage which needed to be cleared. Other visitors have reported vacuum leaks on the pipe lines needing our attention. We much appreciate visitors taking a personal interest in our operation.
The weekend weather looks promising which would be very welcome as we have yet to experience a real spring like break in the weather. On Sunday March 25 pancakes and maple syrup are being served at Union Hall on Wolf Grove Road 2 km east of our farm and a more elaborate maple buffet is available at Temple’s Restaurant at Ferguson Falls 12 km from our farm. We will of course have our usual weekend activities under way.
The sun finally shone last Thursday warming the tree tops so we had a good run of sap. Yesterday was spent boiling the sap. We saved enough for the Kettle Boys and they will be operating today and Sunday. Not enough sap for the Shanty Men so they will not operate. The trails are hard packed and easy walking so it’s a good chance for a stroll through the sugar bush. We will have a warm up fire along the trail.
The fresh snow is perfect for taffy on the snow and we have a new batch of maple tarts to tempt your taste buds. We will be open as usual from 10:00 t0 5:00 daily.