Spring Weekend in the Forecast

Depending on which weather forecast one believes, we could have sunny breaks,some rain,some snow showers but warmer temperatures. So its typical spring weather and the sap should run a bit. All our activities will be in full swing regardless of the weather. The Kettle Boys are setting up on Friday so they will be ready to go early Saturday morning.
We made syrup for the third time this season on Tuesday of this week, but it is now frozen up again. We don’t recall a season when we have had such large changes in temperature for such a prolonged spell.It is a challenge to keep everything working at 20 below.It looks as if the trend will change next week with sustained periods warmer weather.The quantity and to some extent the quality of maple syrup we produce is very dependent on the weather.So maple syrup producers, this one in particular, are almost continually in touch with the Weather Channel.

Another Run of Sap

The sap ran a bit on Sunday and but not enough to fill our evaporator. It continued today and is still running tonight as the temperature is above freezing and the atmospheric pressure is dropping. The sap will run tonight until the tree freezes or as long as the pressure inside the tree exceeds the atmospheric pressure.The sap and gases inside the tree expand and contract with changes in temperature. This causes a pumping action which makes the sap flow even though the tree is dormant. There is a wall display at our camp that explains the sap process in more detail.

Next weekend looks promising with warmer weather. The Kettle Boys will be here and all our activities will be in full swing.

The Family Comes Home

In an earlier blog I mentioned that three granddaughters would be visiting this weekend. Actually five granddaughters are visiting along with boyfriends or husbands as well as our daughter and husband. So it is a real family gathering at Fortune Farms.

The sap ran a bit today from trees in the sunshine. It may be warmer tomorrow so we may have bigger run of sap. There is enough for the Shanty Men to operate and they will be boiling tomorrow. The trails are snowy but walkable with good boots or snowshoes.

Some visitors today asked about the tree on the Sugar Bush trail that is identified as the Fortune Giant. This is a huge tree about 3 feet in diameter and 70 feet tall. It is probably over 300 years old. As far as we can tell this farm was never logged aggressively so there are several trees of different species in the 300 year plus category and many in the 200 plus category. We have been told that the large pine trees at another location were specifically saved as specimen trees by all the previous owners of the property. We are very fortunate to have such a mature sugar bush with a diversity of species and are continuing to preserve this heritage.

A Warmer Weekend in the Forecast

We may get a break in the cold weather on the weekend as it starts to warm up on Saturday and warmer on Sunday. As it is unlikely that we will have sap to boil until late Sunday the Kettle Boys have delayed there appearance until March 25. However, the camp is open from 10 to 5, the trails are snowy but accessible and we will have lots of taffy on the snow. We have been using the break, due to the cold and snowy weather, to make other products. So we have a good supply on hand of maple butter, maple mustard, maple candy and maple tarts as well as Golden (extra light) and Amber (light) syrup. No Dark syrup yet.


A Perfect Winter Weekend

Clear and cold for two days. Not much like maple syrup season. We were surprised at the number of people who came to the camp, in spite of the cold weather, for a taste of fresh maple syrup. Our camp will be open all week and granddaughter Sarah, taking a break from school teaching, will be on duty.This coming weekend we expect  granddaughter Melanie and granddaughter Celeste to also be on hand. Just like old times at Fortune Farms when our granddaughters were younger.

The Kettle Boys will be setting up shop on  Friday getting ready for the weekend activities.The Shanty Men will also be in operation and if the weather forecast holds we should have another run of sap. So maybe spring is finally on its way.

Syrup Now Available this Weekend

The weatherman was right. The jet stream has moved south bringing us extreme cold weather from the arctic.It looks like another week of cold weather.

We had a brief warm spell this week and were able to make some more syrup. We now have a full range of Golden and Amber syrup, or under the old grading system Extra Light, Light and the top end of  Medium. The new and old grades overlap a bit and you can see the way this works at the camp. The syrup all has an excellent flavour characteristic of its grade. We don’t expect to make any more syrup until after March 17.

Due to the cold weather the Kettle Boys and Shanty Men have delayed their opening until March 18.The camp will be open this Saturday and Sunday. We will have taffy on the snow and the trails will be open.The camp will open daily  starting next week and continue for the duration of the season.

Too Cold for Sap Flow

After two days of very cold weather our sugar bush is frozen solid. The crust on the snow is very hard and walking in the woods is very easy. A warm spell is forecast for this coming week so we may get another run of sap.It will take several hours of above zero temperature for the sap to flow as the trees are frozen solid.

In an earlier blog I mentioned the miles of pipes and tubing in our sugar bush. After some feed back I now realize that not everyone is  familiar with the unit miles. So for those people, we have 48 kilometres of tubes and 9 kilometres of pipes.These numbers are even more impressive.

New Maple Syrup Grading System

This year will mark the use of a new grading system for maple syrup.  After more than 10 years of negotiation the grades for maple syrup are now standardized in Canada and the United States. Gone will be the familiar Extra Light, Light, Medium and Amber as used in Ontario. In their place are new names with flavour descriptors to help consumers choose between the different syrups. There are some minor differences from the old to the new rankings based on light transmission but on a simplified basis, Extra Light becomes Golden with a Delicate Taste, Light becomes Amber with a RichTaste., Medium becomes Dark with a Robust Taste and Amber becomes Very Dark with a Strong Taste. There may be some confusion until we all, including the syrup makers, become familiar with these new names. We will accept orders under either name and make sure you obtain the syrup of your preference. No matter what the name, maple syrup is still that delicious product for pancakes and cooking.


Winter Returns

We have been very busy the last two days making syrup. The sap ran steadily all day Tuesday, Tuesday night and Wednesday and we made over a 1000 litres of golden and amber syrup or as previously named extra light and light syrup. We may have another run of sap next week so the season is off to a good start.

It will be too cold this weekend for the Kettle Boys and Shanty Men. However, the  camp will be open from 10 am to 4 pm Saturday and Sunday for pickup of fresh early run syrup, maple butter and other products. The trails are  deep in snow and snowshoes are necessary for a hike in the woods. Taffy on the snow will be available as usual at the camp.

We have 7, 000 taps in total in our two sugar bushes. It requires 30 miles of tubing and 6 miles of piping to connect all trees. The tubes and lines require a lot of maintenance, as the system needs to be leak tight. Pipelines save a great deal of labour and wear and tear on the trails compared to a traditional bucket system but are not without their set of problems After several days of intensive effort our system is in good shape and the woodpeckers seems to have given up attacking our pipelines or moved to other locations.

Another Taste of Spring

When the sun finally broke through the clouds at noon today the sap began to run and filled our main storage tank. We now have enough to boil and with another run tomorrow will make our first syrup of the season.

We were able to turn on our Clayton bush after fixing several leaks in the vacuum line. We were also checking for leaks in our home bush and discovered one section of the bush with many small woodpecker holes in the pipes and tubing. The woodpeckers seem to find something inside the pipe that suites their taste buds. This happens in the off season and is not noticed until we turn on the vacuum.Other producers have reported the same damage from time to time. Not many squirrel chews this year but one section with a bear bite. All these leaks must be repaired if we want to maintain a vacuum on the system to help the sap flow.

Winter returns later in the week and may not warm up again until mid March. So it isn’t quite spring yet. We have yet to decide when to open the camp for visitors.