In addition to the old-fashioned method of hanging steel buckets, Howell Farm also collects sap from its sugar maples using a system of plastic tubing.
The sap is boiling. About 40 gallons are needed to make 1 gallon of finished syrup.
It’s finally maple syruping season. The first sap of the year—70 gallons—is now flowing into the 400-gallon holding tank in the sugar shack, where it will eventually be boiled down into maple syrup. Those 70 gallons of sap will yield about 2 gallons of finished syrup.
It’s still freezing outside, so Farmer Jim had to make an extra effort to get the sap into liquid form—he heated it over an outside fire. This was necessary to make sure there’s some sap available for boiling during this weekend’s public maple syruping program.
Another 80 gallons of syrup sits frozen in an outside collecting tank.
Farmer Jim says the syruping season is starting late this year because of the cold weather, but he still expects it to be a good one. He thinks the sap will really start flowing in about a week.
The ice harvest has been an annual event at Howell Farm for many years, but very rarely does the ice harvest itself. That's what happened this Monday after lots of rain led to flooding that looks like it forced an ice jam up onto dry land. Blocks of 4-inch thick ice can be found a couple hundred feet away from Moore's Creek.
Farmers Jim and Matt are already hard at work preparing for the coming maple sugaring season. Jim says it usually takes him a full day to set up the evaporator, and another full day to sterilize and clean it.
The big excitement this year is a new 400-gallon bulk milk tank that will be used to store sap before it gets boiled in the evaporator. Farmer Jim and Matt are still figuring out the plumbing. Among other custom touches, one is the installation of a light bulb that will stay on all the time to eliminate any freezing near the pump.
A Round-Up of the Weekly Farmers’ Meeting:
-All the horses are doing fine.
-Two cats escaped from the nearby prison.
-When Santa visits on Saturday, the forecast is calling for rain all day.
-It’s time to cut the Christmas tree from the field near the Intern House.
-Two-thirds of the corn crop has now been picked. The rest needs to be picked soon.
-Someone needs to check the brakes on one of the horse-drawn wagons.
-The farm is looking to buy a new no-till grain drill, for areas of the farm where tractors are used in addition to horses.
As the end of the year approaches, there’s less to talk about in terms of crops, although the rye is just starting to come up. But prepartions for maple sugaring are already gearing up.
While waiting for a jingle-belled wagon ride, Farmer Pete offered farm visitors two different opportunities to stay warm. The first was to stand by the fire. The second was to grab a basket and pick field corn.
|THE FURROW: The online newsletter of Howell Living History Farm||