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Maple Syruping Season – Mid-Season Update

New snow

I am guessing we are at mid-season, and hopeful that it will run through the end of March.  Having said mid-season, we still have only chalked up 4 growing degree days (GDD) since Jan 01; that’s at the South Haven station, 16 miles to our northwest, and on the shores of Lake Michigan. Read more

Maple Syruping Season – Starting, Ending, or Both?

I have been asked that question a lot lately, sometimes in more general terms, and I have asked it of myself as frequently!  Unfortunately I have had nothing resembling an answer.  Then yesterday, my early homesteader education continued, as the concept of “Growing degree days,” Gdd or GDD for short, came to my attention.  As it turns out, there is some science that can be brought to bear on the subject of when trees will bud out, and that so-called “budbreak” signals the end of the maple sugaring season. Read more

I’m a List Guy

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Yes, I am even one of those that will put something I have already done on the list just so I can check it off!  So last night I woke in the wee hours, and could not get my mind to shut off.  And today is tapping day of course, and I have procrastinated, of course, so now I am up against it, of course.  What’s new, that is the story of my life more or less!  To shut my mind off, I make a list of what is on my mind; this took about an hour fifteen, then I was able to get back to sleep.  See the image of my list below, or find the pdf, with clickable links,  HERE.  Now I need to power through the list, wish me luck! Read more

2016 Maple Syrup Season Lessons Learned

This season was disappointing in some ways, and a grand success in others.  On the disappointing end of the spectrum, is the low yield this year.  This low yield was due to a confluence of factors, some within our control, and some not.

  1. We got into the woods late, we tapped late, as our process was not yet ready for sap.  We started tapping, and collected the first sap, on the 28th of February, all 100 taps were not in until March 3rd.
  2. The weather did not cooperate very well.  We had a couple of decent snows, but it warmed up so quickly that the snow melted in a couple of days.  In prior years we had used snow to keep our sap cool until we could get it processed; no such luck this year.  The result of insufficient cold storage was that some sap never made it to the evaporator.
  3. By March 13th I was evaporating the last of the sap, and there was no sap flow favorable weather in the 10-day forecast.

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Lessons from A Beginner in the Field

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Or the woods, as the case may be.  It was an interesting sit between two big beech trees yesterday.  First, well before light still, I heard a branch come crashing down, I think it landed less than 10 feet behind me and a bit to my left. (Later investigation showed it to be less than 6 feet, the branch 4 inches in diameter.)  I instinctively moved, quickly, to the right around the trunk of the tree my back was against.  Scary.  Widow-maker.  Lesson Learned:  In your scouting for a location from which to hunt, check for widow-makers, be that a ground or tree stand location.  The chances of being hit are small, the consequences large.
I was sitting with my back against the tree to the left
Then, after first light, I heard what sounded like baseballs dropping through the canopy, dropping through the leaves and branches, and hitting the ground with heavy, distinctive thuds.  “That would hurt,” I said to myself!  I actually thought seriously about getting one of those hard hat shells that goes under a baseball cap, and Geri mentioned the same when I told her the story later.  I thought this was interesting because I did not hear any of it before sunrise, then, I heard maybe 10 or 20 fall over the course of 30 minutes or so, then nothing.  It had rained an inch the day before and into early hours, and an inch and a half the day before that.  There was a lot of water in the canopy, and under the trees it seemed like it was still raining as I sat.  At the time I believed that they might be black walnuts, that was all I could think of that made any sense, and I saw a relatively dark trunk (compared to the dominant sugar maples and beeches) maybe 20-25 yards in front of me; they are called black walnut trees for a reason.  I also looked this over during my “later investigation,” and sho’ nuf, there was a big black walnut tree and walnuts littering the forest floor.  Lesson Learned: Do not set your dumb ass under mature black walnut trees in the fall!

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