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Tuesday, March 30, 2010
I have not done a post for a few days because I'v been very busy working from sunup to sundown. One of the farmers at the market told me this advice. "The secret to success is to only work half days, but remember there are 24 hours in a day"( a joke) :0) but its kinda true though! I have been working 9 hour days at the neighbors sugar bush so this only leaves a few hours for me to get things done here at the farm. I'm not complaining I really like the busy spring time and all it's blessings! One thing I'v got a start on is making this year's compost piles, and giving last years piles a last tern.
To day while gathering our sap I saw these growing at the foot of one of the maple trees. I thought it would make a nice picture. Can anyone guess what this plant is? It grows by the millions in the forests around here and is an edible. Also I took a picture of our small flock of sheep grazing in the Pasture. I will post the answer to the mystery plant on Saturday.
The sheep laying down are purebred Shetland the ones grazing are a mixture of Suffolk,Corriedale,polypay,Scottish black face,and Border leicester.
Here are more pictures from the neighbor's sugar bush. I worked there yesterday re-taping the trees and helping with the boiling down of the sap. the sap is running good now and one of the water troughs ran over and created a small stream of sap!
To day I went to work in the neighbors sugar bush. With the warm wether we had last week the tap holes dried up especially on the south slopes.So I had to re drill and put the spiles on the north side of the maple trees. Marilla Hills Maple Syrup is owned by the Howes brothers,Rich and Roll. Roll was in a car crash this winter, and Rich had back surgery. So me and others have been helping them out this season with their maple syrup business.
This is their sap evaporator it is wood fired
This is inside one of the two pump houses that house the pump and separators. The pumps pump sap over the hills and into the holding tanks at the sugar house. The separator keeps the sap out of the vacuum line. The vacuum is generated by the same vacuum pump they use in commercial dairies to milk the cows. This helps the sap flow better through the miles of sap lines that criss-cross up and down the hills of the sugar bush.
One of the thing I had to do was go inside the bulk tank to hose it out!
This is the out side of the tank it is an old milk truck tank.
Sap being pumped into a water trough down at the pump house. Usually we hook this line to the main line that goes to the the bulk tank. Since the lines are black the sap heats up and starts to ferment on a warm day. So we had it hooked up so it would go in to the water tank and then pump the sap in to a tank on the back of Roll's truck.
This is the R O(revers osmosis) device, it takes some of the water out of the sap before it is boiled down into syrup
This is the concentrated sap that comes out of the R O
From there the sap goes to the evaporator. You can't see much of what is going under all that stainless steal. All the steam is put to good use be for for it goes out the stack. It preheats the sap and any steam that condenses be comes hot water and is used to keep the finished syrup hot while filtering. The pans in front are called finishing pans and there is an electronic probe that can be set at the right temperature. When it is right it automatically draws off some syrup and into a pot on the right side in the picture.
The sugar house with steam coming out the stacks
I went to the top of the hill to have lunch and took this picture. It is looking down on our farm. The snow covered peak in the dissidence is Caberfae peaks ski resort it is 1545 feet above sea level with a 485 foot vertical drop. I've never skied here but have went to another ski hill near by called Crystal mountain.
When I got home I did the animal chores and watered the plants in the hot bed.
To day is the vernal equinox or the first day of spring. It got cold last night(19 degrees) so the sap is running good. something very funny happened today while we were eating breakfast. One of our neighbors who has sheep came and started looking in his livestock trailer he had stored here for the winter. I went out to see what he needed, he said he was looking for his tail docker and thought it might be in the trailer. He had 4 lams born recently and needed to dock their tails. So than I told him he could use our tool. But then I could not find it! so we are now both in the same fix! I hop I can locate our tail docker before we need it, I probably put it in a special spot so it would not get lost!
I saw a sure sign of spring today a Mourning Cloak Butterfly!
The wether has cooled of a bit today and there is snow in the forecast. I hope it does not last long, six months of winter is enough for me! This is ok for the maple syrup making though. I just finished off 3 gallons of syrup and have three more barrels of sap to boil down. Not much out of the ordinary happened today though I did run into a little trouble with our chainsaw it would not stay running and sounded like it was getting to much air. I found that there was a leak in the the fuel line, so I cut the damaged part out puled up some slack on the line and hooked it back up to the carburetor. It is running good now and Is down the road helping ( as I write) cut up next years fire wood.
The crocuses are in bloom and I saw a blue bird so so I think spring is on its way
Oh by the way the answers to #1 and #2 are in the comments on the march 16th post.
Today I butchered five ducks and one large four footed animal. The ducks were brought to me yesterday from a man who lives near by. I had never met him before he just puled up the drive and asked if I butchered ducks, I said yes I do. He had a friend with him and he said I had butchered a caribou for his buddy. So I guess I have become the local butcher. This past winter I have butchered 22 deer,5 lambs, 9 hogs and 11 ducks. I did not do much advertising just one sign down at the main road that I put up during the deer hunting season that reads DEER PROCESSING $50.00. Processing animals for meat is something I enjoy doing and it is neat to see how God provides this work for me.
Today while boiling sap I made this for my sister. It is rosin for her violin bow.
Today was very warm and sunny so my honey bees were having a great time doing what bees do. A hive is like a little city. There is different aged groups for each job. There is a ruler,there are police There are cleaners/undertakers, food gatherers, nurses, and bums(there are no bums this time of year they killed them all last year before the winter!).
The light brown circle in the center are young bees that will hatch soon, this is known as capped brood.
I had five hives going into winter these are the two that survived the winter. This is sad. We need the bees they pollenate much of the plants we grow. Why are the bees dying in such great numbers in recent years? This is my take on the issue. 22 years ago a new bee pest came to the U.S.A known as the Verroa mite. This caused a lot of bee loses back then too, instead of breeding for mite resistant bees they quickly came up with a pesticide. This ''worked'' for a time but then the mite became resistant, so it was time to cook up another chemical! This bad way of keeping bees still sadly continues these days some use off label drugs and pesticides some are trying to do better and use less harmful miteicides that are legal to use in bee hives. What some beekeepers don't know is that the pesticides stayed in comb this makes the bees sick. Also there are only a few major queen bee breeders and all the stock is related so this makes for a narrow gene pool.Ad agricultural pesticides to all this and it dose not look good. But there is still hope.
Here is a picture of that hope. Look close at the lower center do you see a bee with a greenish dot on her. This is the queen bee, she is very genetically diverse. Her mother came from the U.P. of Michigan she and her hive had to go three winters without chemicals before it was considered for a breeder hive.
Last night it turned cold and frosty it got down to 25 so the sap came back down the maple trees. Me and my youngest brother went out to the sugar bush and collected 100 gl. of sap. One of the things I did while the sap was boiling was wash eggs. Our 2 pregnant sows got out while we were washing the eggs, and we had to stop what we were all doing and herd them into their new outside pen. Then I hooked the electric fence up and turned it on. Then I want back to egg washing. The out of the ordinary highlight of the day was more road kill! We are going to eat it! It was picked up minutes after it was dead so don't get grossed out. I know this because it was still dying when going into town and on the way back it was still there. There are two things that I would like my readers to try to guess #1 is what kind of animal is the road kill? #2 look at the picture of the eggs and try to guess how many dozen chicken eggs there are, how many duck, and how many goose eggs? You can't see all the duck&goose eggs so I will tell you a hint. There are less then a dozen duck eggs, and less then ten goose eggs. The answers will be posted on friday so try to guess!
Today was bright and sunny, temperature was 60. After breakfast I got a fire going in our clay oven. And while I kept the fire going I did some yard clean up. After the fire was going good I let the sheep and goats out for a run. Then I watered the seeds in the hot bed with fish/seaweed fertilizer. I planted the seeds on the 12th and today I noticed the lettuce and radishes are all ready peeping up! Then it was time to prepare the oven for baking the bread dough that the rest of the family had prepared. The baking of the 21 loaves went well(3 batches of 7). The oven is still hot so Grace is making a batch of cookies.
The wether today is mild and windy. Most of the snow is gone there might be some still on the north slopes and back in the woods. Normally I would be boiling maple sap,but it is to warm for the sap to flow. It needs to get down below 32 at night and up in the 40's in the day to get a good run. I have only made six gallons of maple syrup so far, so I hope we get some cold wether soon. In a ''good'' year I can make close to 60 gallons.I put good in quotes because it dose not seem right to call a year good or bad. Maybe it will stay warm and the grass will start growing. This could give us an extra month of grazing. God works every thing out for good.
Today I went with 4 members of my family to the Grand Traverse indoor market. This was my first time this year. The market is housed in the basement of the old state mental hospital that was bought by a group of investors and is still a work in progress. It is like a little city in the city hence the name for this complex THE VILAGE AT THE GRAND TRAVERSE COMMONS. It's nice to see these old buildings recycled and put to good use instead of being demolished.I brought farm fresh eggs (chicken, duck, and goose),open pollenated vegetable seeds that I saved last fall.And also two Ross rounds of 2009 honey comb(leftover from the last market I went to). Mama brought wool and other related goods. There was a good size crowd and we did quite good on sales. Also of note was the roadkill. I saw the first skunk just north of Buckley on M37. Then at the red school road crossing I saw a muskrat we "had " to stop for this one! I got out found that it was fresh, so I put it in the back of the pickup. Now the the rule up here is that if you see a roadkill you had better stop get it if you want it or the next person might get it! Enoch saw another skunk near Chum's corner this would have to wait till the way back! On the way back we located a few more skunks they were not fresh so we went on to the one Enoch saw earlier this one was good and fresh so I got out and got it. And then we went home to skin them. Enoch did the skunk and I did the muskrat. This is my first blog post and I am getting tired of writing so enough for now.