Friday, March 25, 2011

A Few Cool Days...

The sap was running on Sunday when I last wrote, and it continued straight through the night, all day Monday, and right through Monday night as well! Since then, the temperatures have dipped back below freezing and as such we've been put on hold temporarily. It's nice to have a chance to catch up with bottling the syrup that we've made so far -- we've got lots of very nice #1 Medium Maple Syrup for sale now, as well as a small quantity of first-run light syrup still available. The forecast for the weekend shows nice bright sunshine, but cool temperatures. If the predicted highs are correct, we do not anticipate that we will be collecting sap this weekend, but it does sound like beautiful weather to be outside. We hope to see lots of visitors again this weekend. If you are planning on coming by, bundle up! With temperatures on the cold side, it gets chilly in the Sugar House.

Speaking of which, we were sent some more great photos from happy visitors:

Checking out the sap in the tank.

Listening closely while Ken explains how syrup is made

Cute kids!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Busy Weekend: The End of the March Break
& Spring Officially Arrives

Well, it's official! As of 7:21pm this evening, the vernal equinox has arrived! The equinox marks the balancing point of the sun on the Equator, meaning that our days are now close to a well-balanced twelve hours of daylight vs. darkness. Given that this special day rides on the coattails of the lunar perigee last night, it certainly seems likely that some kind of special spring magic is in the air...

We had a wonderful busy weekend with lots of visitors out to the farm. A special thanks to the Dilworth family, Michael, Stephanie, Aidan, Lauren, and Jack for sharing these great photos with us!

The weather remains unsettled currently, and is keeping us on our toes. The report overnight tonight is right on the verge with a predicted low of one degree. It sounds like the weatherman is just as baffled as we are, calling for a possible 10cm of wet snow or some freezing rain or maybe just plain wet rain! We boiled a batch of syrup off this afternoon and the sap has continued to run. It looks like Dad will have to boil again around midnight tonight and then get up once or twice through the night to check the tanks. He tells me he had a good sleep last night so he should have no problem staying awake tonight. At this rate, it won't be long before those sugarmaker dark circles start to make an appearance... But, we won't bite the hand that feeds us, we're always happy to see the sap!

How Maple Butter Is Made

To make our delicious McCutcheon's Maple Butter, we begin by boiling our Maple Syrup down even thicker so that it is reduced by an additional 50%. This thick toffee-like syrup is then chilled in a pan over ice water for a number of hours. We must be very careful when transferring and lifing the pan as any sudden bumps or knocks can cause unwanted crystal to form.

Then, the chilled and concentrated syrup is churned constantly and slowly for at least an hour until very fine crystals form and it reaches the desired buttery consistency. Timing and temperature are crucial.

Maple Butter is made entirely from the sap of Sugar Maple trees and must be kept refrigerated, even before opening, to maintain it's lovely, creamy consistency.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Unsettled Spring Weather Brings On The Sap

We had an unexpected spring storm last night, with thunder and lightening in the early evening and then very high wind and rain through the middle of the night. The temperature stayed mild, and as a result, Dad was up into the wee hours of the morning making sure that the sap tank did not overflow. He said that it ran very well from midnight until 4am, and he boiled down the sap that he collected overnight first thing this morning. We will have to get out into the woods soon to check for branches that may have come down during the storm, and to make sure that all of the lines remain in good repair.

The sap has been running steadily over the past four days and we have made about a quarter of an average crop so far. Yesterday was the best day of the season to date as we made close to 100 gallons of syrup (that's 4000 gallons of sap collected!). We would consider that to be a good production day on average, however, we have definitely had larger runs, sometimes collecting 7000-8000 gallons of sap in one day! We have had some big temperature swings this week, but we're still waiting for the "perfect" sap day. -5°C to +5°C with crisp sunshine would be ideal.

If you are in the mood to do some more maple reading, check out this blog by Bruce Sherman. You'll find some great pictures that he took at our farm yesterday, as well as some thoughtful blog commentary from a true maple enthusiast. If you look closely, you'll also find a great painting that Bruce did of our farmhouse. Enjoy!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Open For Visitors!

Tomorrow, Tuesday March 15th, will mark our official opening for the 2011 Maple Syrup season! We collected a small amount of sap on the weekend, and have boiled down and bottled our very first batch. We will now be open daily from 1:00pm - 5:00pm until the end of the season. Please come by for a visit. Tomorrow sounds like a beautiful day to go for a walk in the sugarbush, have some sugar-on-snow, and purchase your own bottle of extra-special first run syrup. Happy March Break, everyone. Hope to see you soon!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Warmer Days Ahead

The weather forecast has been gradually improving, and the sap is just starting to run. As soon as we have fresh Maple Syrup for sale we will be open in the afternoons from 1:00pm - 5:00pm. As long as the predicted weather pattern holds, we anticipate opening for the season by the middle of this week. Please check back soon to confirm our opening date. You can also call (705) 835-5780 to hear our recorded greeting which is updated daily.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Late Start

We were foiled by Mother Nature again this week, and the warmer days that we had hoped for did not turn up. We have yet to make any fresh syrup this season, but we're well-prepared and optimistic as we continue to wait for spring to arrive. This is a later start to the season than it has been for the past few years, but according to our records we have had seasons that began as late as March 23rd! The farm will remain closed until the sap begins to flow, so please check back near the end of the week for another update.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Up and Down

After a mad scramble to get ready, the weather changed quite drastically and we had a steady week of cold weather. We had thought we might get some sap this Friday and Saturday with the predicted rain and mild weather, but in the end it did not get warm enough to run. This morning it looks like we're back to winter with four inches of fresh snow!

Looking at the forecast yesterday, it appeared that it was going to stay cold this week also -- a bit nerve-racking to face losing a week of potential syrup-making in March. Today however, the report has changed entirely, and it now shows beautiful sap weather all week beginning on Tuesday. If the weather reporters only knew how much they toyed with our emotions, haha!

The roller coaster ride continues...