Maple Syrup Season 3

We are in the middle of our 3rd season now.  With a lull in the weather and pretty slippery conditions outside I thought I’d write a little update.

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Slippery surfaces and below zero temperatures.

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Our family dog Molson couldn’t get much closer to the fire if he tried.

A couple of weeks ago the forecast had me worried that it would be a very short season indeed, however such predictions have thankfully proven untrue.Karen McCrimmon and I

I was given the great opportunity to feature my maple syrup at the Kinburn Easter Pancake Breakfast on March 19.  On top of that I held my own pancake breakfast for friends of mine on site.  What successes these events were!  In Kinburn I received compliments on the delicious flavor of the syrup and an appreciation in keeping with the traditional bucket collection of the practice.  Karen McCrimmon, our local MP stopped by as well, whom I had my picture taken with by a local reporter for the West Carleton Review.

We had a very good run of sap earlier in the week.  In fact, we hit capacity in terms of holding tank storage one day.  As a result, AJ and I had a full day of boiling.  Normally we start boiling in the late afternoon, after the temperature has warmed up for the sap to flow, and we’ve collected enough by the late afternoon to warrant it.  Not Wednesday though.  Wednesday we started boiling early in the day, kept the roaring fire hot with dry wood and managed to boil off over 500L of sap in our continuous flow evaporator.  We drew off 3 times which, for those of you who are wondering is A LOT!  Since we wanted to process as much sap as possible before it froze in the holding tank the next day, we set the drawn off syrup aside to be finished the next day and kept stoking the fire.  The syrup that we drew off was practically done, very little need for time in the finishing unit.  That batch was 27.5L; the clarity of that batch, and all the batches so far is excellent too.  I’ll update more later.  Right now it’s time to get back to work.

 

 

 

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Kinburn Community Christmas Craft Sale

Here we are getting unpacked for selling maple syrup and maple products at the Kinburn Christmas Craft sale.

Here we are getting unpacked for selling maple syrup and maple products at the Kinburn Christmas Craft sale.

This past weekend marked my second market experience, this one where I grew up in Kinburn, Ontario. And what a fun experience it was, and successful too!  I sold maple syrup and other value-added products like maple fudge, maple butter and maple cones.  Held in the Kinburn Community Center the craft sale brought back memories of my childhood and my Dad teaching me how to make maple syrup, going on school field trips to sugar bushes, and joining a maple syrup 4h group and much more.  And the Kinburn Community Center holds some special memories for me too: I can remember going to family dances as a child in the very room I sold maple syrup in, taking tai kwon do classes, and so much more.  And I reconnected with a number of people I had not seen in years!  I felt like I was at the right place at the right time this weekend.  Thank-you to the organizers for ‘fitting me in’!

Constance Bay Community Market

Here I am standing at my booth in the Constance Bay Community Market on a crisp Thanksgiving weekend.

It was a crisp, Thanksgiving morning I made my debut appearance at the Constance Bay Community Market.

I took the final step towards fulfilling my slogan From my trees to your table this Thanksgiving weekend by becoming a maple syrup vendor for the first time at the Constance Bay Community Market.  What a delightful experience it was!  I enjoyed talking to people about making maple syrup and enjoyed hearing others’ connections to this rich Canadian tradition; some used to make it themselves years ago; others know a friend of a friend who taps his/her own trees.  The connections were plentiful.  Having grown up in West Carleton, I was happy to partake in this community gathering and encounter such connections so close to home.  Next I’ll be attending the Kinburn Christmas Craft Show in November.  I will strive to add more products to my repertoire by then, including maple jelly and maple fudge!

For those who want more maple syrup, please leave a comment below.

Beekeeping: A New Hobby

My newest venture is beekeeping!  Even though my adventure into the world of beekeeping will commence next year when the bees arrive in the mail, my preparations for their arrival have already begun. As with any other hobby or study of mine my first steps are to immerse myself in literature on the topic. I am up to my eyeballs in beekeeping books; I have scads of research on seasonal nectar sources. And the sketches have started. A doodle in a margin here, a quick drawing on a pad of paper there.  Anytime my mind wanders I start doodling.  Plus, I have a book on order that is considered by many to be the source for all beekeeping knowledge.  “Hive and the Honeybee” by Lorenzo Langstroth himself, the man who revolutionized beekeeping with his hive design.  I am going to start my bee-yard with one or two pre-assembled hives, then using those as models try to construct my own.  I attained instructions on how to build Langstroth hives and I’ll start on construction of those this fall.

While meandering the woods my mind is also at work devising where to put my bee yard; access to water, nectar, and shelter from the wind are musts.  Just the other day I came across a big bear paw print in the mud along a path.  The fact that we have a bear living in our woods I must consider in my beekeeping plans as well.  While the idea of Winnie the Pooh stealing honey from my hives is humorous, real bears do not exhibit Pooh’s docile manner.  They will rip my hives apart to get at the honey and nectar inside.  In order to protect against the destructiveness of bears and other vermin I’ll need to get vermin boards and an electric fence to surround my hives.  I’m excited to start harvesting honey yet I think it’s a good thing that I am starting my preparations a year early.  There certainly is a lot to learn and think about.

Maple Syrup Season 2

I’ve been getting all of my ducks in a row these past few weeks.  Since we tapped the trees 2 weeks ago, I have been stacking wood, cleaning tools, organizing equipment…and waiting for the sap to flow.  And waiting some more.  Since that week of sunny days with above average highs, the temperatures have dropped again (and I dare say plummeted last night to -15° Celsius with a wind-chill of -25°Celcius). Needless to say I’m antsy; I want to have a boiling day!  I’ve been keeping myself occupied by  double-checking that all of our equipment is in order, and doing beekeeping research (a story for another day).  In particular we’ve been fine-tuning our sap-transportation process.  Since the RTV has mini-caterpillar tracks on it meant for getting around in the bush now, it’s inefficient to be driving it back and forth to the house to empty the 50 gallon collecting tank out.  I purchased a bigger tank (over twice the size at 125 gal) this winter that we will situate in the truck bed instead.  So we will be dumping the buckets into the RTV tank, pumping sap from the RTV tank to the one in the truck, driving the truck to the sugar shack and then pumping the sap from the truck tank to the holding tank outside the sugar shack.    We mulled over the best way to do this given the equipment that we already own and settled on purchasing an additional pump to leave in the second collecting tank for the season.  Getting the proper sized fittings and tubing and quick connects has been a trial.  At Canadian Tire and then at Home Depot we went in search for the correctly sized brass fittings – no dice.  They had male 1/2 inch converter for garden hose, and a female 3/4 inch for vinyl tubing.  Plastic and pvc but not brass.  I reined in my compulsion to pull my hair out in frustration.  The only purchase that resulted from that excursion was garden seeds for pretty flowers.  We finally accepted that the most reasonable and economical solution is to duplicate the system that we already have instead of buying additional converters to fit the extra tube that we have lying around.  Meaning, we simply need to buy more tubing with the right inner diameter.  Big sigh.

Ducks!  Attennnnntion!  And waddle!

Maple Syrup Season: Round 2

Sugarshack Dutch Doors

Wistful thoughts of mine include hanging my shingle beside this door and selling maple syrup straight from the sugar shack.

With my second maple syrup season approaching quickly, thoughts of the sugar bush have been consuming my mind: sustainable woodlot practices, food preparation, equipment preparation…  The list goes on.  I’ve been tinkering with the idea of selling some of my maple syrup.  In designing the sugar shack we included a set of Dutch doors on one side of the entry way.  For me these doors bring to mind visions of old bakeries and other food producing kitchens where consumers could approach a kitchen and purchase food within minutes of it coming out of the oven.  I value the notion of goods going straight from producer to consumer.   Now, our operation is too remote (and muddy) to expect people to come knocking on our door looking for syrup, beyond a couple sales to friends at a pancake breakfast I plan on hosting but it’s still fun to include the Dutch doors design element into our sugar shack.  Since we are located close to Carp, selling at the Carp Farmer’s Market is the next best thing to selling straight from the sugar shack.

Here is my label design in all of it's glory.

Here is my label design in all of it’s glory.

 

For fun I designed a logo to put on my bottles.  The design is a simple drawing; pencil, very flat style.  Basic yet distinct.  I chose these elements to convey the traditional, back to basics nature of our methods; and the unique flavors of pure maple syrup.  (What’s more is unlike some commercial brands my syrup is made from 100% maple syrup and doesn’t contain a plethora of ingredients that you can’t pronounce!)  Since I’ve got the design figured out, my next step is to find some label paper that I can print on and set up a printer template.  I’m thinking that I want an arched top, however that may cut off a lot of my drawing.  Maybe I should add some more tree limbs to the top….  Back to the drawing board!!

 

Maple Butter Creation

AJ wasn't keen on being recruited to make maple butter even before his arms hurt!

AJ wasn’t keen on being recruited to make maple butter even before his arms hurt!

Who knew making maple butter was so much work!  I really wanted to make maple butter yet I don’t own a maple butter machine, so I made up my mind I’d do it by hand.  Of course by ‘I’, I mean ‘we’ and AJ was recruited to help me.  The recipe instructed, “churn maple syrup for 12-15 minutes with a maple butter machine.  Lacking a maple butter machine, we used a wooden spoon instead, plopped down on the floor in front of the TV and took turns stirring.  We’re not nearly as efficient churners as a maple butter machine; 45 minutes later we had maple butter.  Our arms were defeated, yet I was invigorated.  I can’t say the same for AJ!