So the spring thaw has begun and the snow is sluggishly changing to mud as the chipmunks scatter and dart around the homestead with a fervor that seems even more substantial than last years abundance. I am foreseeing some gardening challenges in the upcoming season with two solid acorn years and a recent unveiling of garlic cloves scattered about the rockwalls. Really, I thought garlic was a rodent deterrent? Just yesterday I witnessed a few crows chasing off a hawk in the blue sky above, but the promise of early morning owl calls and abundant fox tracks by the shed gave me some hope that nature will put herself in balance in due time.
The first real physical work with the exception of the occasional winter shoveling is bucking up blow downs to fuel the maple sap boiling. Our land always has plenty to choose from. The more seasons of this I get under my belt the more deliberate and conscious I have become about factors that help the process. Such factors are using gravity and chilly mornings to my advantage. Having a fairly steep ridge along the northwest side of our property I've found it helpful to start along the top or the ridge and roll the chops down. Someday I may get a heavy duty sled to help this process but haven't wanted to spend the money just yet. I will also say waiting for a chilly morning and then moving the bucked up wood up the side hill around to the fire pit is a must. If that side hill starts thawing then its quite the sideshow of slipping sliding and worrying about a wheelbarrow load of wood rolling back on top of yourself. Lessons learned in prior years, some you will never ever forget. I also have become better with chainsaw maintenance and think after a few years learning the ropes with my entry level echo 16" bar that Im ready for a 20"+ saw.
Another facet of maple season that I feel I am handling better along with wood selection is placement of the grate along with learning the rhythm of keeping the fire burning at an optimum temp while steadily supplying wood to maintain the rolling boil... I remember years past taking 10-15 hours to boil 20-30gallons of sap. This year I tore through 25 gallons in just about 6 hours. In all we have done two boils of just about 45 gallon of sap thus far with a yield of just under 100oz of syrup. Yesterday was a big drip day though as I collected just under 10 gallons after dinner so I forsee at least one more 20+ gallon boil this week before I wash out the buckets and call it a season and concentrate more on the garden and landscaping projects.
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