Category Archives: Maple Syrup

2017 Maple Syrup Season Is Over

The following picture was sent to me as an email. The sender apparently found it on Facebook. Since I’m not on Facebook I thought I would share it here.


Our maple syrup season ended Saturday, March 25th . This is the second year we have made our own maple syrup, and I will share some of the things that we learned this year.

We started the syrup season by tapping the silver maple trees on our farm  on February 13th.  The weather over the four weeks that followed was very erratic as was the sap flow. Some days were warm and sunny and the sap seemed to flow good, then the temperatures would drop back down below freezing and the sap would stop. Some of the trees stopped flowing early on, so we moved taps to trees that had better sap flow. We lost track of the amount of sap that we harvested and the amount of syrup we made. I guess next year we should keep a daily log.

A few things we learned about the silver maples are that they seem to have a sugar content equal to or better than the sugar maples. When we cooked the sap down into syrup it took about 10 gallons or 40 quarts of sap to make 1 quart of syrup. Silver maples make a dark syrup with a robust flavor. Silver maples bud out earlier than sugar maples so their sap flow season ends earlier.

We pulled all of the buckets before the wild wind storm that came through on March 8th. At this time the sap flow on the silver maples was to a minimum and the trees were beginning to bud.

The weekend following the storm we had freezing (winter) temperatures, but once the weather began to warm again my husband noticed that the sugar maples in the woods behind our house were not yet budding. With permission from the community manager he set 20 taps in the sugar maples.

From March 13 until March 25th he collect the sap from the sugar maples. The weather was still erratic with some days having great sap flow while others yielded little. As with the silver maples we cooked sap on days when we had collected 10 or more gallons of syrup. On March 25th, when my husband collected the last of the sap, the trees were flowing slowly but had not completely stopped and the sap had not turned cloudy. We were, however, done.  My best guestimate is that we cooked 3 1/2 gallons of syrup all together which at the ratio of 40 to 1 means we collected about 140 gallons of sap.

The syrup made from sugar maples was much lighter in both color and flavor than that of the silver maple. Both are very good.

Our biggest challenge in making syrup is finishing and filtering. Real maple syrup is usually very runny but we like our syrup a little thicker, so we first started cooking it down to a quite thick consistency. When we did this the we were unable to filter the final product, as the syrup was too thick to run through a filter. We discovered that there was no need to filter this because apparently any sand, or niter, had cooked into the syrup. We had no sand settle to the bottom of the jars. The other thing that happens is that the syrup has a tendency to turn to sugar. We didn’t consider it ruined because it still goes good on pancakes, French toast or waffles.

When we began cooking the syrup so that it was not so thick filtering it was still a challenge. We first tried pouring the syrup through a store bought filter. Even though it was still hot enough the syrup just sat on top of the filter. We next tried filtering it through felt. This worked well to remove a lot of the sand, but we still ended up with some sand in the bottom of the jar. After reading some websites I learned that before using the store bought filter it is best to pour hot or boiling water through it. So we tried this and the syrup ran through. Much of the sand was removed but we still ended up with a small amount of sand on the bottom of the jar. The sand is really nothing to worry about as it is largely comprised of calcium salts and malic acid, neither which are harmful when consumed. The act of removing the sand is purely for aesthetic purposes and a must for commercial producers.

It may seem like a lot of time and effort for so little syrup, but we consider this time well spent. Fortunately the season does not conflict with planting, growing or harvest seasons, and it is a great activity to get us out of the house in the late winter/early spring.






The Sap Is Flowing and The Hens Are Laying

Over the weekend, as we looked ahead at the 10 day weather forecast and saw that 8 out of 10 days were predicted to have high temperatures above freezing, we decided it was time to tap maple trees. Here is the link to my past from last year about tapping maple trees.

So yesterday, (Monday, February 13) we set a total of 18 taps (and buckets) in 8 maple trees at our farm. It seems early to be tapping the trees, but the sap began flowing as soon as the taps were in place. I guess, like many things farming related, weather conditions mean more than the date on the calendar. We also set up a fire pit where the sap will be boiled down.


Today, after lunch, we went to the farm to collect the sap. When all 18 buckets were emptied we had collected 10 gallons of sap. Our plan is to collect the sap for the next couple of days before we begin boiling it down. Our intention is to leave the taps in place, and continue to collect sap and make syrup, as long as the sap runs clear. When the sap turns cloudy maple syrup season is finished.


Throughout the month of December the chickens’ egg production gradually slowed, and through the month of January we only collected one or two eggs per day. Last week we began getting 5 or 6 eggs daily and now we are up to 8 or 9. As the days grow longer, and the chickens enjoy more sunny days, egg production will continue to increase. This makes feeding the hens all winter worth while.


The bees were out today when the afternoon temperature climbed to around 50 degrees. I don’t think there was anything for them to forage, but at least they could take a cleansing flight. Later this week when temps get back into the 50’s we will check their food supplies and feed them if necessary. We do have honey and wax reserved for them so we do not have to feed them sugar water. We did lose one hive earlier this winter. We could not determine the reason for the loss, as the hive was not full of dead bees. At this point it seems as if the three remaining hives are okay, and we plan to start two new hives in May. We will also capture swarms to if the opportunity arises.

Regardless of the date on the calendar, or the groundhog’s prediction, all signs on the farm are pointing to an early spring.

Spearmint Soap, Moving Day and Maple Syrup

Spearmint Soap

I’m still excited about my spearmint soap, but after taking it out of the molds I realized that maybe I should have done a little research before making this recipe. I’m beginning to think that my middle name should have been “Experiment”, because I seem to do a lot of that.  Although the soap is not fatally flawed, and only the appearance of the soap will suffer, I did make one mistake that can and will be corrected in future batches.

Spearmint Soap

This picture shows some brown spots that developed on the soap. While I was certain the spots were caused by the spearmint, I was a bit perplexed about why the brown spots only occurred in some areas and why some of the spearmint retained its green color. I decided to do a google search to find out what others have experienced when adding spearmint to handcrafted soap. The first site I found, described this effect as bleeding. I found out that bleeding is when the color from an embedded object leaches of into the surrounding area. I found out that many herbs can have this effect, and to varying degrees, but spearmint is one of the worst.

The next website that I came across actually told me how to prevent this from happening. It said that the cause is the actual color coming out of the leaves when it is submerged in the wetness of the soap, and if you make a tea with the herbs first, the color will leach out into the water (tea). Then the leaves can be added to the soap. That answered my question. When I made my soap I added the spearmint leaves that I had used to make the tea with, but since I wasn’t sure I had enough, I decided to add some dry leaves as well. I have concluded that the dry leaves that I added are the ones that bled into the soap, while the leaves from the tea remained green. Since this is simply an aesthetic problem, Dom and I are looking forward to using these bars of soap.

The good news is I can detect a slight minty smell to this soap.

Moving Day

2 Weeks Old

The chicks seemed to be getting quite curious about the world outside of their brooder. Every time we would walk up to the brooder they would crane their necks looking  up at us. Since the weather has warmed significantly for the near term forecast, we decided Tuesday was moving day.


My husband brought the hutch out of the back shed and assembled it while I was busy in the kitchen. “Movin’ On Up” the theme song from the Jefferson’s kept running through my head. I would change the words to “Movin’ on out, to the deck” but the tune repeated itself over and over in my mind. I probably could have stopped this by turning on the radio, but it was a nice day, I was in a good mood, and it really wasn’t bothering me, in fact I thought it was kind of funny. It turned really funny when I was helping my husband carry the brooder out the deck, and he started singing “Movin’ on up…” Like minds.


The heat lamp was moved into their new home. As were their food and water dishes.


They seemed very curious about everything, but settled in nicely.


Their play house was also moved with them.

My camera battery died before I got to take a picture of the roost my husband installed for them.  (Roosters aren’t the only ones who like to roost) I also did not get a picture of the canvass that drapes the hutch to protect them from the elements. It is just a large piece of canvass that we lay over the top of the hutch, it drapes down the sides and front. When the chicks need the warmth we wrap the hutch with the canvass just like wrapping a Christmas present, and we secure the canvass with clips.

The “Babies” seem very content in their new (but temporary) home, Scout can now see them at eye level, and don’t be surprised if, on the evenings when the weather is nice, I tell you that we sat on the deck and watched “Chicken TV”.

Maple Syrup


Sunday and Monday were our last day for collecting sap. Since the sap was still running clear we may have pulled the spiles a little early, it may have been only a few hours or maybe a few days prior to the time the sap would become cloudy. The nighttime temperatures will not be below freezing at least for the next week and the buds on the Silver Maple trees are getting ready to pop open.

Our big consideration was the extreme amounts of time and energy that were needed to turn the sap into syrup, and decided that we had done enough. Since February 20th, when we first tapped the trees, until now, my husband spent 5 full days (9-12 hours each) out at the farm cooking sap, getting the fire going then continually adding wood to the fire to keep the sap boiling, stirring and watching the steam roll off, as the water boiled out, then adding more sap to the pot. At the end of the day he would bring the sap home and we would spend another 1 1/2 to 2 hours cooking the sap into syrup.

I don’t have exact numbers on our total yield for the season. My best guess is between 5 and 6 quarts of syrup.

My husband and I agree that it was a great experience and having homemade, self-harvested maple syrup is greatly rewarding. Some of our thoughts about this experience are that it was not a steady year for maple syrup, in our area, since the extreme weather changes over the  last couple of weeks prompted the sap to stop and start flowing several times. We found out that our Silver Maple trees at the farm had greater sap flow than the Sugar Maples that we tapped. In fact, last week when the silver maples were flowing well and the sugar maples were not flowing, my husband moved all of the taps to the Silver Maples. We found out that The Silver Maples make a wonderful syrup. We observed that the color of the syrup seemed to get lighter over the course of the season, with our first batch being the darkest and each batch slightly lighter in color. Thankfully it is a short season for making maple syrup and not a year round job.

A Bonus Picture



This squirrel enjoyed the day in the tree. Apparently too nervous about our (and the boys) presence to venture down.