Maybe Spring is Here

For the first time today the leaf buds are visible on many of the shrubs and trees. With a couple of warm days the leaves should appear and spring will have finally arrived. Last Friday I did some trimming on a maple tree and the sap was still running. Not too surprising  because of the frosty nights.The usual assortment of birds including the bluebirds are nesting around the house and sugar camp. The most enjoyable is a song sparrow that sings its melodious song in the morning as the sun is rising.

We are very pleased that our customers are using our pick up service to obtain their annual supply of syrup.We have made some deliveries in Ottawa and will continue to do so as long as there is sufficient demand.This week we will be open on the weekend Midweek we will set syrup outside the camp if it is preordered, prepaid and pick up time prescheduled. The best way to communicate is by email to info@fortunefarms.ca.We have Golden, Amber and Dark maple syrup, maple butter, maple sugar, maple mustard and maple vinegar available.

 

 

Washing the Lines Finally Complete

In spite of cold and rainy weather we have finished washing all the lines and the bush is buttoned up until next spring. There is always the job of regular maintenance and the risk of serious damage from a high winds or an ice storm.So we are never idle.

I mentioned that the wild flowers are starting to appear in the woods.They haven’t progressed very far  since last week.The picture is of the blossom on a leatherwood bush.They are not very large about 1/2 an inch or so and last only a day or two. The picture was taken by Jim Robertson  a family friend from Ottawa and very accomplished photographer. He had to time his visit just right to get this exquisite shot. Leatherwood is a small bush that grows under the closed canopy of a mature maple woodlot. It prefers a moist, protected site and may grow to seven feet in height.

Our camp is open daily from 12 to 1 for syrup pick up. Best to phone the camp at 613 256 5216 to check before making the trip.

Leatherwood blossom

Finally a Beautiful Warm Day

The cool weather over the past few days has slowed our progress in the sugar bush. With several degrees of frost the lines freeze as there is always some water remaining after draining and we have to wait each day until it thaws. We have 4000 taps washed and put to bed until next spring. Which leaves 3000 to go. One person can do about 100 taps an hour so it will take about 30 hours.  With three people working we should finish in a couple of days if the weather cooperates.

It’s really a great time of year to work in the bush. The hepaticas, the first spring flower to appear, are ready to blossom on the first warm day. The buds and blossoms on the leatherwood bushes are ready to burst. Leatherwood is so named because the bark is very pliable and can be woven into very strong flexible ropes. Next to appear will be the spring beauty and the dog toothed violet. The trilliums are just beginning to poke through the leaves. Best of all there are no mosquitoes or black flies.

We are open to day and tomorrow 10 to 3 for syrup pick up. Call the camp at 613 256 5216 to arrange you visit.

 

Update

Since my last blog we have been busy washing up at the camp and getting started on back-flushing the lines. The rainy cool weather is not the best for working in the woods so things are progressing slowly. Next step after flushing the lines is to pull the spiles and insert a small quantity of isopropyl food grade alcohol in each dropline to act as a sanitizer. Any remaining alcohol in the lines is flushed out next spring with the first run of sap. This sap is discarded. This system, which has now been in use in sugar bushes for about seven years, is fully approved by Health Canada and gives excellent results.

Meanwhile at the camp we have been delivering syrup on a pick up basis for pre-orders. Payment by credit card or e-transfer. We are able to maintain social distancing and the system seems to be working.

We have had to shorten hours due to shortage of help but we plan to be open daily 12 to 1pm for pick up. Please email your order so it can be packed ahead of time. Phone the camp at 613-256-5216 to confirm pick up arrangements.

We have all grades of syrup except Very Dark available. We also have maple butter, maple sugar, and maple vinegar.

No maple candies, maple fudge or tarts.

We much appreciate the very strong support being provided by our customers. This is a frustrating time for syrup producers as it has been a vintage year for maple syrup. Hopefully things will return to a more normal situation this summer and fall.

The Washing up Begins

Today we started the long process of washing our equipment, dismantling and storing the RO machine and back-flushing the lines. It’s the same amount of work regardless of the production. Fortunately we had another bumper crop, similar to 2019, so the cleaning up doesn’t seem quite so onerous.

The pick up of syrup outside the camp is working well. We plan to stay open  for nowon a  day to day basis but only from 12 to 1. It would be much appreciated if you would send an email confirming your order and when you plan to come. That way we can have your order ready for pickup.

Should the virus situation worsen we may have to close until the danger passes.

The Season is Over

Yesterday we finished processing the sap that ran on Friday and we are caught up. There was no fresh sap yesterday so we have declared an end to a long and very productive season. We will do our final tally and report later.

We were very pleased to see our resident male bluebird return to the bird box. We are not sure if he has a partner yet. A robin and a song sparrow are sining loudly and claiming territory as well. Very heart warming to see and hear the return of these birds.

We are open today for pickup outside the camp and pay by card or e transfer.

 

Season Winding Down

Although some sap was collected today the volume was much reduced from earlier in the season . The Monday night through Tuesday big run was a fitting end to what has been a bumper season. Very warm weather is forecast for the rest of the week which will melt the remaining patches of snow and may stimulate the tree buds to swell. At this point the sap begins to change and the syrup made from this sap has an unpleasant taste known in the industry as “buddy syrup”. Sometimes a late snowstorm and cold weather will reset the trees and  one last run of good sap is collected. About 40 years ago a local syrup producer and farmer recalled how one year early April was warm and dry and they were so busy planting crops that they did not remove their buckets. A snowstorm occurred and they were surprised to collect the biggest run of sap all season. Other local producers had collected their buckets and missed this windfall. He was still chuckling when he told me this story. We have not, over the years, experienced anything that dramatic.

Today’s syrup was Very Dark with the characteristic Strong flavour and we have enough to fill our back orders. There may be more this week  which will give us a small reserve .We stop producing at the first hint of “buddy syrup”.And then the washing up begins.

We are still open for pick up outside the camp.

 

A Very Productive Day

The sap tanks were full  this morning as the sap ran most of the night. With today’s sap we processed about 36,000 litres of sap and made about 900 litres of syrup. A long but very satisfying day. The best part is that we made very flavourful Dark syrup which we’ve been waiting for.This will help us get caught up on back orders.

The season is not over yet as there is still some snow in the sugar bush and a good frost tonight. Should be another good day tomorrow.

Call the camp at 613 256 5216 to arrange for pickup outside the camp.

Testing Some Folklore

Since my most recent blog on Thursday the 26th, the sap has continued to flow. Friday was one of those perfect days for sap with frost the night before and plus 7 degrees and lots of sunshine  during the day. Friday night there was a good frost but Saturday was slow to warm up above freezing. However, a low pressure system arrived  late Saturday  and with no frost  the sap ran all night. Today we once again we were in full production..

With the frost on Friday we had a chance to test the idea of partially letting the sap freeze and throwing out the ice as a means of concentrating the sugar in the sap. There are records in the literature of the native people using this technique extensively. On our test pan of sap  ice formed on the surface to a depth of 2 cm or about 20% of the overall depth. We discarded the ice and  then measured the sap sweetness. The raw sap had a sugar content of 2.4% and the sweetened sap after ice removal 3.1% for a 29% improvement. We then froze some sap in our freezer to  50% ice and the sweetness increased to 4.0% or a 58% improvement .In other words nature is acting as a natural way of concentrating sap to save fuel and boiling time, much like our reverse osmosis system. However, there is a law of diminishing returns.The ice from the thin sheet sheet when melted and tested had no detectable sugar content but the ice from the 50% test had about 1% sugar content. As the ice gets thicker some of the sugar is trapped in the ice and if discarded would reduce the quantity of syrup produced. By running more tests the relationships between sweetness, ice formation,. fuel cost and syrup produced could be established. Without doing all that work,  it is safe to say that  throwing away a thin coating of ice on a tank or bucket would be beneficial.

Syrup pick up outside the camp is working well with approved social distancing. This will continue for the time being.

The Sap Keeps Running

The weather, while not ideal for sap production, is favourable and the sap keeps flowing. It is turning our to be a bumper crop but there is some uncertainty in the industry about the market. We continue to stockpile in the hope that Coved-19 will run its course and things will get back to normal.So far the syrup has all been of the lighter grades with very good flavour. Some sunshine and warmer weather should bring on darker syrup.

The  pick up of syrup outside the camp is working well and safe distancing can be maintained.  If  you are planning to do this call ahead to 613 256 5216 so your oder will be ready.

One of our clients called my attention to  an interesting article in the North Grenville Times about the earliest recorded information about maple syrup. Evidently there are records of the native people offering early explorers “a sweet and very pleasant liquor”. There is no mention of maple sugar as experiments have shown that it would have been almost impossible to raise the boiling sap to sugar temperatures in birch bark or clay vessels. It must have been a spring drink as there would have been no way to store the syrup without it going moldy. Later on when iron pots came into use there are reports of the production of large quantities of maple sugar, which can be stored. That still leaves the question in my mind as to how the natives cut enough wood to make all this sugar. Anyone who has made even a small quantity of maple syrup or  sugar on an open kettle cam attest to the amount of wood required.