Some snowflakes in the air this morning but not too cold and as reported the Kettle Boys and Shanty Men are here and hard at work. We may have enough sap to boil later today.
With the continuing cool weather our syrup is still Amber in colour and one yesterday batch was Golden. No Dark syrup until we get warmer weather.This week was our annual inspection by CFIA, the federal agency for maple syrup regulation. We have been approved since we applied 1990 and once again we passed inspection. It is quite extensive covering the facility and all our practices as well as the syrup.
On Sunday, March 30 a pancake breakfast is being served at Union Hall located on Wolf Grove Road about a 1 km east of our farm. A good opportunity to enjoy some country hospitality before or after a walk around the farm.
We are open now until 5:00 pm and will be open tomorrow from 9:00 to 5:00.
The season is progressing in fits and starts with no long runs of sap. Every week we think things will improve but its warm one day and cold the next. The good news is that the syrup we have made ranges from light to dark amber and is of excellent quality.
When the big evaporator is running and up to speed we make syrup at about 2 litres of syrup a minute.The picture shows syrup streaming out of the evaporator unto the first filter. Syrup when first boiled contains crystals of what we call sugar sand. It is mostly calcium and some other elements which are natural constituents of tree sap. If it is not removed the syrup would be very gritty and unpleasant. We use a pre-filter as shown to remove most of the sugar sand and a pressure filter to polish the syrup so that it is crystal clear. We often wonder how the native people were able to filter their syrup. Perhaps it wasn’t a priority for them.
The Kettle Boys will be boiling this week on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Shanty Men will be boiling on Saturday and Sunday. The trails are still snowy but passable.
We don’t serve pancakes or food other then maple tarts and candy. There is an excellent buffet meal with pancakes and maple syrup at Temple’s Sugar Bush and Restaurant at Ferguson Falls on weekends. Its about 12 kms from our farm.
We will be open as usual 10 to 5.
A good sap day yesterday but cold again today and maybe tomorrow before warm weather returns. The good news is that everything is running well and the syrup we have produced so far is of excellent quality.
Sap flow from the trees is dependent on two factors-the temperature and the atmospheric pressure. The temperature needs to be above freezing to warm the trees and if there are any dips in the pipe lines to thaw the lines. Sunshine on the tree tops helps to build up the pressure inside the tree to start sap flow.
The maple tree and some other tree species have open cell structures filled with liquid and carbon dioxide gas. It is the expansion and contraction of this gas with changing temperature that pumps the sap up and down the tree in the spring.The sap will run as long as the pressure inside the tree is greater than the atmospheric pressure. We often get the best sap runs when a low pressure system arrives ahead of a storm.
Snowshoes are still needed for travel in the bush off the trails. However, the snow around the tree trunks is melting allowing moisture and warm air to reach the tree roots. This allows fresh sap to be drawn up from the roots which increases the sap flow and sap sweetness.
This is brief explanation of the key factors in sap flow.However, we continue to be surprised by the vagaries of sap flow so there are still aspects we don’t fully understand.
The red shouldered hawks appeared yesterday right on schedule.They have been returning around this date for as long as we can remember. One year in late april we were thrilled to see their courtship flight.
Bright sunshine this morning and a pleasant day for a walk around the sugar bush,
Lots of sunshine this morning and warming up quickly. It should be quite pleasant later this morning. We are open as usual and the Kettle Boys and Shanty Men will be busy boiling. The trails are snowy but should be firm enough to walk on today.
Here is a picture of the original Kettle Boys – Shorty,Slim and Tubby. They who have been entreating visitors to Fortune Farms for twenty years. They look forward to once again to greeting their many visitors providing a taste of their Kettle Boy syrup and maple fudge.
Several people have called about bringing dogs. Dogs are welcome as long as they are on a leash and well behaved.They are not allowed in buildings.
Our hours are 10 to 5.
If you were outside last night the light from the sugar moon was exceeding bright. Evidently the moon is closer than usual to the earth. With no clouds the temperature dropped below freezing and the sap stopped running. However we collected enough sap today to produce another small batch of syrup. With snow and rain in the forecast food Friday we may not collect much more sap until Saturday which is now expected to be sunny and above freezing. Both Saturday and Sunday now look like good days to visit the sugar bush.
The jet stream still has a bulge to the South and we continue to be subjected to near winter conditions.There is some indication that the jet stream is moving further north. Lets hope so as I think we all have had enough of winter.
Our camp will be open on the weekend and during the week as well.
A beautiful sunny warm day and the sap began to run late morning and is still running this evening. If there is no frost the sap may run all night, particularly if the atmospheric pressure drops a bit.The sugar content in the sap has increased to 2.6% which makes a big difference in our rate of syrup production. So I think we can say the season has finally started.
The Kettle Boys will be setting up tomorrow getting ready to operate their kettles this weekend. The Shanty Men have already boiled a bit and will also be operating this weekend.Saturday ay be a bit cool but Sunday looks like a perfect day for a visit to the sugar bush.
Another day with only a small quantity of sap.
We continue to work in the woods doing pipeline maintenance. We are checking our trees for egg masses of the forest tent caterpillar. We have been infested for three years and have been keeping them under control by using an organic spray that only affects caterpillars. We collected one egg mass and set in a warm place to hatch. About 200 caterpillars appeared so it only takes 4 or 5 egg masses on a small tree to produce enough caterpillars to completely denude the foliage. Trees can withstand two to three years or of heavy defoliation but it weakens the tree and lowers the sugar content in the sap.We will have to spray some parts of our sugar bush for another year. Just to reiterate this organic spray does not affect honey bees or other insects.
The picture shows what an egg mass looks like with some of the recently hatched caterpillars. They actually grow quickly to more than an inch in length and are voracious feeders.
Warm weather in the forecast for tomorrow so we are hoping for a large sap flow.
The cold weather has returned due to a large bulge in the jet stream south of Canada. This cool weather will continue until the jet stream resumes it normal path over the Great Lakes. This may occur later this week and It looks very promising for good sap flow starting on Wednesday.
You may have noticed the bright moonlight last night. The full moon is on Wednesday this week. This cycle of the moon is known as the sugar moon and is usually the time of the best maple syrup weather. Year after year this seems to hold true regardless of when the full moon occurs so there must be some truth in this old folk tale.We hope so.
Nice and sunny but cool today. We will be open as usual at 10:00 am this morning.
Evidently it did not freeze last night until 3 or 4 am so the sap ran most of the night. We have a full tank of sap which was a welcome surprise when we opened the camp this morning. We will be boiling on the big evaporator today.
We had enough sap to produce a small quantity of syrup. The taste of the fresh syrup is something we look forward to each year and it was particularly good at breakfast this morning. However, its cold again this morning and we don’t expect any more sap until Tuesday at the earliest.
We are now open for the day until 5:00 pm. The Shanty Men will be boiling today but the Kettle boys will not be here until next weekend. We have taffy on the snow and fresh syrup to taste but the trails are only passable with snowshoes.