Wow, what a month it has been. Back in March we started our maple sugarin’ for the year, and what a year we had! As previously mentioned, we tapped three trees this year, and in about two and a half weeks we collected around 80 gallons of sap. Due to the fact that we smoked out a few of our neighbors last year, we moved our boiling operation to my in-laws place (they have a little bit of acreage!) The first weekend we went out there with thirty gallons of sap and finished with about a gallon of syrup. The next weekend we started with fifty gallons and ended up with another gallon and a half. That second weekend of boiling was a real test of dedication. The Maple Hog (aka – the syrup evaporator) was pushed to its limits and so were we. We started the fire at about nine in the morning and didn’t get to sleep until about mid night. I know that doesn’t sound real late, but I am used to going to bed around nine on most nights, so that got to be a long day. After the success of this year, we are hoping to expand our operation going into the future. We have talked about tapping anywhere from ten to fifteen trees and also building another in ground evaporator. At this level it would no longer be just a hobby, but also a small bussiness venture. I will keep you updated on the details as they get sweeter!
Up next is my trip down to the Seed Saver’s Exchange farm located just outside of Decorah, Iowa. I drove down there last weekend and attended a workshop on whip and tongue apple tree grafting. Dan Bussey, who taught the workshop, is an expert tree grafter who has an orchard in Wisconsin that contains close to three hundred varities of heirloom apples. Without going into great detail on the actual grafting process, just let me say it is incredibily easy and I will never be buying another apple tree again. For those of you who do want to go into more detail on whip and tongue grafting, a reader and e-mail correspondant of mine, Steven who writes the blog Turkey Song, has a great article with lots of pictures that will show you everything you need to know about grafting (Also check out his Frankentree – It is Awesome)!! Try it, it is lots of fun!! In the future I hope to start producing clonal rootstock and a few other experiments with apple trees (and grafting) and their genetics – stay tuned!!
Last but not least is the new addition to our family. We have six new mouths to feed and DAMN are they cute! We finally got chickens. This last Tuesday we picked up our order of six baby chicks – 2 Australorps, 2 Buff Orpingtons, and 2 Rhode Island Reds. This is a step I have been wanting to take on our urban homestead for a long time and we finally went through with it. We eat a lot of eggs, so come mid summer our birds will help us out with that. Composting is also going to change for us; no more throwing the garden weeds and scraps into the the compost bin, they will now be food for the birds!! There will be plenty of posts coming up in the future about our new residents, their coop, and the chicken tractor. I hope everyone is having a fabulous spring – good luck with the gardens and planting!! Cheers!