March 24, 2013
The date on the calendar may say its spring time, but we are already getting prepared for next winter. Our first year making maple syrup taught us that the evaporator is an insatiable beast when it comes to its favorite fuel. Wood. The furnace consumes the wood logs in the same manner a dog scarfs a chunk of steak and then looks for more.
We hope to get about ten cords of wood stored and set aside for the evaporator. Our house is heated by a wood stove too, so we will need to cut another three to four cords for it.
There is a stand of trees in our east pasture that we have wanted to clear out, so that is where we have begun our wood harvest. Sonny fell one tree yesterday and then another today. We cut the trunks up into rounds and have temporarily stacked them on the wood racks. Later we will use the log splitter to split them and then replace them in the racks to dry over the summer. They should be ready to use by next winter.
Wood rounds waiting to be split.
The weather is still cool and perfect for wood cutting. Better to get the majority of it done now before the temps rise. Its no fun cutting wood when its sweltering and the last thing you want to think about is fire. Thats homestead life. You are always preparing for the season ahead.
January 21, 2013
Maple syrup may be the top event going on here at Pot Hole Farm, but its not the only one. We still have daily chores to attend to that include gathering firewood, taking care of the guineas, chickens, turkeys and cats and dogs. Because we have had few days of sunshine the generator needs to be fed as well and that means going down to the Country Store to fill up gas cans. Gray cloudy days do not make enough energy for the solar panels to charge the batteries.
January is also the month we start to plan for spring projects and one of those projects is the garden. Today we took a trip over to John and Carols where a nice pile of composting donkey manure was waiting behind the barn. John used the bucket of his dependable 1970’s Ford tractor to dump four large scoops of manure into the bed of our old farm truck.
We were almost home when it began to snow. Large fluffy flakes floated on the wind and landed on the frozen ground. We used pitch forks to spread the manure over about a third of the garden while snow flakes swirled around us creating a scene fit for a snow globe. The manure was black and rich with pink earthworms playing hide and seek in the clumps. It will lay atop the garden for the rest of winter where it will continue to decompose and feed the soil. We still need to get three or four more loads to finish covering the garden.
The snow is continuing to come down and the temperature is dropping. Time to curl up with a cup of coffee and a seed catalog.
November 4, 2012
Sonny has been working hard to get the sugar shack completed before the maple season starts in February and March. I do believe he eats, sleeps and dreams about maple syrup. That is a good thing for all of you because it means he is passionate about maple syrup and will do his best to produce the best maple syrup in West Virginia.
Yesterday we crossed a big milestone. The evaporator and tanks are all in place so we did a little test run of the system. Sonny filled the large holding tank with water and we watched as it flowed down the pvc pipe into the evaporator. He worked up a system to where we will not have to use buckets to pour the sap into the evaporator. Instead he will pump the sap from a tank in the back of the RTV into another holding tank that sits higher than the evaporator. He can then control the amount of sap that is put into the evaporator by the use of shut off valves. Confused? Maybe a few pics will help.
(notice the sap holding tank above the evaporator)
The day was cool and perfect for starting a fire in the wood stove or wood furnace as Sonny calls it, that will heat the sap and boil off the water. We could smell the newness of the wood furnace and evaporator as the metal warmed up. Soon the water began to bubble, creating steam that rolled up from the evaporator like an ethereal smoke. It made its escape to the outside through open vents along the sides and top of the sugar shack. To look at the outside of the building one might think we had a moonshine still working in there.
Firing up the Firebox
We still have a few things to tweak to finish up, but this dry run was a success. Today Sonny is out running lines to the new trees we marked. I will have more on that tomorrow.
I really hope to give you all a play by play of the maple syrup production so you can be a part of the process and when you pour that sweet amber syrup over your pancakes and watch in anticipation as it drizzles down the sides, you will know exactly where it came from and what had to be done to get it.
October 16, 2012
Last Monday the Sap Evaporator was finally delivered from Leader. I went through Anderson’s Maple Syrup for my order and advice. I purchased the American model because that one fit the amount of taps that I hope to eventually get to.
So far we have only done a fit check and dry assemble. Now we have to rent a wet saw to cut about a dozen fire bricks for the tunnel. Once that is completed the drop flue pan and the syrup pan can be put in place and a simulated sap cook will begin with water.
November 7, 2011
We spent most of Saturday getting Firewood stocked up for the winter. Over the summer we had cut up about 4 cords but have been waiting for cooler weather before we went into full split mode.
Last week Linda and I went over to Johns to pick up my log splitter. It had been hauled up the mountain last February when we ran short on wood and needed an emergency load. No worries, it was tarped up and well protected. We headed up the steep path on the backside of John and Carol’s property… that is until we came upon that oak tree that had fell across the trail. Lucky for us we had the chain saw with us and we made quick work of it and continued to the ridge-top.
More bad news, after un-tarping the splitter the first thing I saw was that it had a flat tire. I managed to lift the axel up enough for Linda to wedge a log under it and pulled the rim off. We hauled it back down and worked on it. After about an hour we just couldn’t get the tire to seal on the rim. We uses a ratchet strap, dish soap but must not have been holding our tongue just right. The next day I picked up a tube and wrapped up that task. Last Saturday, Harold and I got the splitter back home.
Linda and Clarissa even helped us out. Harold and I cut up a couple trees that went down in a farmers field near our place and the girls loaded the Kubota RTV. We spent the rest of the afternoon splitting and stacking. We have put up about 4 cords so far and have about 2 more to split Later we required a few aspirin for the pain.