Tag Archive | cold

Sugar Time at Caldwell Farms

You know spring is really on it’s way when the Caldwell family fires up the sugar house and loads the maple trees with sap buckets.  Eddie and I tapped our maple trees last week with the awesome help of our son, Shawn.  It was a spur of a moment decision because of the unpredictable weather situation.  We tapped fourteen trees with 1-5 buckets depending on the size and condition of the tree.

Sugar maple tree with tap

Sugar maple tree with tap

This is one of the sugar maples in our front yard that provides us with plenty of maple sap in the spring and glorious shade in the hot summers.

This is one of the sugar maples in our front yard that provides us with plenty of maple sap in the spring and glorious shade in the hot summers.  This tree held five buckets this spring.

We gather the sap every two hours so by the time we had all of the taps drilled, plugged and a bucket hung on them it was time for Shawn to start making the rounds to each of the trees.  The sap was running like a heavily dripping faucet and soon the buckets were running over.  We had a total of 52 buckets hung and we hauled it in milk cans from the trees back to the 210 gallon storage tank.  The tank was filled well past the holding mark giving us about 225 total gallons of sap in 2 1/2 days.  On Tuesday afternoon we pulled the taps and buckets, cleaned them and put them away for another year.

These are some of the tools we use to start the process of making maple syrup.

These are some of the tools we use to start the process of making maple syrup.

Stock water tank holds 210 gallon at the top ridge of the tank.

Stock water tank holds 210 gallon at the top ridge of the tank.

At this point we stored the tank full of sap in our garage where it would stay below 40* until we were ready to make the syrup and would be okay for 10-12 days as long as it stayed cold.  We now waited for weather that was cool, dry and not too windy to fire up the sugar house.

On Friday, Eddie hauled in the firewood to use for the fire.  It had to be dry and a sturdy wood that would stay really hot.  We had a stockpile of old locust post that came from replaced fencing on the farm so he brought in two loads and placed them on top of three other posts laid out on the ground to keep the wood dry in the event it rained again before we started the fire.

Friday night we made the decision to make the syrup while we had at least one good day.  I emailed the kids and we set the syrup vat on the fire pit. The syrup vat is a stainless steel vat with four sections.

Cooking tank has four sections. The first two on the right have a opening so that the sap runs from one side to the other. The next section is the first thickening section and the narrow section on the far left is the last section before straining off. The pain has grown dark over the last few years and each year our syrup gets a little darker and sweeter.

Cooking tank has four sections. The first two on the right have a opening so that the sap runs from one side to the other. The next section is the first thickening section and the narrow section on the far left is the last section before straining off. The pain has grown dark over the last few years and each year our syrup gets a little darker and sweeter.

We put the vat on the firepit around 9:00 p.m. Friday night and we thought we had everything ready. The sawed up fence posts were in the pit along with kindling and we don’t put the sap in until right before lighting the fire.  (Don’t want no varmints sucking up the water or worse walking through it.  The lights for working in the dark first thing in the morning were set up and ready.  The hose was hooked up to the tank, buckets in place, and all we had to do was try to get a good nights sleep because it was going to be a long day.

The next morning Eddie got up at 5:00 a.m. and got the vat filled with sap, started the fire and when I got out of bed at 6:00 I could see the steam coming out from under the sugarhouse roof.  It had been cooking good for about half an hour and Eddie was going to add more sap and the waterhose from the storage tank to the vat was froze.  We were really doing some hustling trying to unthaw it.  First he tried a small propane torch but that didn’t work and would have melted the hose.  Then we tried running hot water from the house to the hose and that didn’t work.  Finally we ran straight hot water into the hose, whipped it against the ground to beat up the slush and ice in the hose and finally after thirty minutes and almost scorching the syrup in the pans it broke free.  At this point we filled the vat sections quickly again but this time we kept the hose off the ground by placing it on several milkcans from the garage to the sugar house.

The sugar house sits down over the hill from the garage about 50 feet and it was warmer down there than it was up the hill at the garage.

The sugar house sits down over the hill from the garage about 50 feet and it was warmer down there than it was up the hill at the garage.

After this things went pretty quickly and I left him to go to Covington at 9:00 to visit my younger brother.  This was a short trip because he wouldn’t get out of bed and didn’t want to talk.  I got back home a lot sooner than I expected and our daughter, Heather, had joined her Dad around 10:30 and things were going pretty good.  Only about 75 gallons of sap had gone through the vats during my absense but I had about two gallons of syrup to strain and process.  It was beautiful and so sweet.  You have to remember though that when we collect that sap from the trees it looks and tastes like clear water.

First pot off the firepit and it's ready to strain once more, heat to boiling and put in the sterilized jars to seal.

First pot off the firepit and it’s ready to strain once more, heat to boiling and put in the sterilized jars to seal.

Cheesecloth for straining the syrup. I use about four layers of cloth when I strain the syrup and it's strained twice once it's cooked. We also use a bucket with a straining net to pour it in the storage tank.

Cheesecloth for straining the syrup. I use about four layers of cloth when I strain the syrup and it’s strained twice once it’s cooked. We also use a bucket with a straining net to strain from the tapping buckets and pour it in the storage tank.

Regular and wide mouth jar lids

Regular and wide mouth jar lids

Sterlized pint jars

Sterlized pint jars

We had a very successful day ending up with 53 pint jars and 6 quarts.  We’ll sell the pints for $8 and the quarts for $12.

Pints and quarts of heavenly fresh maple syrup.

Pints and quarts of heavenly fresh maple syrup.

Caldwell Farm labels include the date made and the ingredients.  We do not add any preservatives or other sugars.

Caldwell Farm labels include the date made and the ingredients. We do not add any preservatives or other sugars.

Here’s some of the pictures shared throughout the day.

Frosty morning started at 29* at 6:00 a.m.

Frosty morning started at 29* at 6:00 a.m.

At times the steam in the cool air made it impossible to see what was going on in the vat.

At times the steam in the cool air made it impossible to see what was going on in the vat.

Boiling maple sap to scrumptious maple syrup.

Boiling maple sap to scrumptious maple syrup.

Our daughter Heather after a steamy day of fun!

Our daughter Heather after a steamy day of fun!

Mr. Caldwell considers himself the "sugar monster" at the end of the day.

Mr. Caldwell considers himself the “sugar monster” at the end of the day.

Jared and Crystal joined in the afternoon. This was Crystals first trip to the farm and she also got to feed the baby calf, Miracle.

Jared and Crystal joined in the afternoon. This was Crystals first trip to the farm and she also got to feed the baby calf, Miracle.

Jared hanging out in the sugar house.

Jared hanging out in the sugar house.

End result!

End result!

Sassy guarding the woodpile from mice and voles.

Sassy guarding the woodpile from mice and voles.

Undescribable smell in the air!

Undescribable smell in the air!

Vats are full and boiling.

Vats are full and boiling.

Boiling sap almost maple syrup.

Boiling sap almost maple syrup.

He's stays busy during the entire process.

He’s stays busy during the entire process.

Sugar Monster fueling the fire.

Sugar Monster fueling the fire.

Crystal and Jared enjoying the day.

Crystal and Jared enjoying the day.

Jared and Eddie catching up on everything and planning their spring gobbler season.

Jared and Eddie catching up on everything and planning their spring gobbler season.

Red hot coals from old locust posts keep things hot and sap boiling from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm.

Red hot coals from old locust posts keep things hot and sap boiling from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm.

The steam makes the whole area smell like maple syrup.

The steam makes the whole area smell like maple syrup.

Firepit in sugar house

Firepit in sugar house

Our granddaughter, Victoria, and her new beau joined at the end of the evening just in time for french toast and sausages.  Fun and hard work was had by all!

 

January 2016 Big Snow

It’s been a while since folks in our area have seen a storm like we had this week. I’ve got some time lapsed snow storm pictures to show everyone including Robin Reed our wonderful meteorologist.

January 21st - day before the snow started.

January 21st – day before the snow started.

January 22 - Snow started falling sometime before 6:30 a.m. It started heavy and then by mid afternoon it quit.

January 22 – Snow started falling sometime before 6:30 a.m. It started heavy and then by mid afternoon it quit.

January 23rd - We got about 6-7 inches the day before and woke up to this on the 23rd. The wind is howling and the wind chills were in the single digits most of the day and night.

January 23rd – We got about 6-7 inches the day before and woke up to this on the 23rd. The wind is howling and the wind chills were in the single digits most of the day and night.

Today this wind is very limited, the snow has quit falling the and the beautiful fun is shining.

Today this wind is very limited, the snow has quit falling the and the beautiful fun is shining.

All of the outside animals are doing fine but cold.  Eddie is trying to feed the round bales but they won’t roll out because the snow is so dry so he’s feeding the cows 6-7 bales instead of the normal 2-3.  The snow drifts are up over the cows bellies but the blessing is there are no babies due until March and April.

Prissy and George are doing well and taking care of Miracle.  They tend to lay on the side of the haybale away from the wind.  If not for the older orphans Miracle would have a time getting through the snow because it’s over her belly!

Here’s some more scenes of the last three days from the front porch and the kitchen window:

Visibility outside is almost non-existent with the wind blowing the snow but this guy found the bird/squirrel feeder.

Visibility outside is almost non-existent with the wind blowing the snow but this guy found the bird/squirrel feeder.

The feeder is full of scratch feed and peanuts.

The feeder is full of scratch feed and peanuts.

January 24 2016 (1)

January 23 2016 (9)

January 22 2016 (18)

January 22 2016 (14)

January 24 2016 (2)

I'll have to wait for the snowblower to come through the yard because the yard is drifted over my knees.

I’ll have to wait for the snowblower to come through the yard because the yard is drifted over my knees.

Look at that beautiful blue sky!!

Look at that beautiful blue sky!!

Beauty of nature at its best!

Beauty of nature at its best!

Can’t wait to get to the henhouse and check on the girls, Rooster and Fred!  Roscoe may even come out of hibernation with this beautiful sun shining and the temperature has already risen to 30 degrees.  I’ve been watching the orphan calves this morning and Miracle tends to stay between Prissy and George for their body heat.

Stay warm everyone and pray this will be the ONLY storm we have this winter even though it’s only January!!

Did I Say It Was Cold on January 13th?

Well, it’s really cold today and I’m staying in the house except for emergencies. Check it out:

I hope the winter isn't entirely like this!

I hope the winter isn’t entirely like this!

It’s 9* outside with the wind gusting between 5 and 13 mph leaving us with a wind chill of -2.  It was -3 with the windchill when we got up at 7:30.

We woke up to snow yesterday morning which didn’t amount to much but it still makes it colder.

Ground covered with snow on January 17th.

Ground covered with snow on January 17th.

The wind is still blowing and Eddie fed everything early today and made sure they could get to water.

Wind gusting changes things on our weather station.

Wind gusting changes things on our weather station.

Stay in and stay warm!  Spring is just around the corner (I hope!).

Cold weather warning preparation

According to the weather forecasters, colder weather is heading our way (but we’ll see what Mother Nature has to say about that).  We’ve put fresh hay in the coon dog houses, put plastic covered mesh over the summer windows of the hen-house, padded Roscoe’s new digs (he has moved to the upper part of the smokehouse).

Roscoe's old bed in his new house in the grainery attached to the smokehouse.

Roscoe’s old bed in his new house in the grainery attached to the smokehouse.

He has so much room to run now and when I go out there he follows me through the rafters poking his head in between the lumber up there.

He has so much room to run now and when I go out there he follows me through the rafters poking his head in between the lumber up there.

Hi mom!!

Hi mom!!

He is so much fun to watch.

He is so much fun to watch.

We started putting dry wood on the front porch again to keep us warm.

East end of porch is full.

East end of porch is full.

Front edge will be filled from the wood house.

Front edge will be filled from the wood house.

West end will be filled in the next two days.

West end will be filled in the next two days.

I also brought in some canned green beans, tomatoes, october beans, potatoes, delicata squash and cabbage from the cellar.  I also buttoned down the storm windows to keep the wind out. Hoping it won’t get real bad if I’m prepared ahead of time.  I’m not sure if that really happens or not but I’ll try anything.  I don’t like the sixty and seventy degree days in November and December and definitely not January.  Eddie found a cherry tree on the mountain in bloom and the maple sap is running.  We had about three weeks of really cold temps and the sap went down and now it thinks it spring and time to run again.  This messed up our maple sugar processing last year and afraid it may have again.  I’m more worried about the honey bees and their survival in this crazy weather.

Hope you all stay warm on this last day of December 2015 and keep those prayers coming for all of those unfortunate people out west dealing with flooding and snow storms.  Be thankful for what you have and truly appreciate all that God has blessed us with!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

 

Season changes and colder weather

The porch is covered with dried firewood.

The porch is covered with dried firewood.

The yard is covered with leaves.

The yard is covered with leaves.

The perennials are black, wilted and almost gone.

The perennials are black, wilted and almost gone.

The trees are getting bare.

The trees are getting bare.

Autumn or Winter 10172015 (6)

                Fall colors on the farm before the first freeze.

Fall colors are red one minute.

Fall colors are red and golden one day.

Apple trees are bare with a few red apples left hanging.

Apple trees are leaf bare with a few red apples left hanging.

The flower beds are empty.

The flower beds are empty.

The trumpet vine covering the gazebo is no longer green.

The trumpet vine covering the gazebo is no longer green.

Little mountain is brown instead of red and golden.

Little mountain is brown instead of red and golden.

I love early fall but after the first freeze everything changes.  We’re actually shocked that the pasture and hayfields are still as green as they are and the yard.  Old man winter is touching us in many way but thankfully not as hard as last year when it started bitterly cold in late October and didn’t let up.

Bundle up and get out and walk in the woods while you still can!!

Spring rains

Storms brewing!

Storms brewing!

Skies menacing!

Skies menacing!

 

They came and went and now the cold will return.  The skies are awesome to watch from the hill behind the house right before a storm brings in the cold spring rain!  It left us with 2.5 inches of rain so far in May.  Those beautiful green pastures are welcome sight to us and the cows.

What’s bloomin’ now

It is so blasted cold and blustery today.  It snowed for about 20 minutes this morning and then it got hazy and black looking and now the sun is shining.  The weather is crazy!!  I noticed yesterday that the allium, iris and sedum have peeped through the ground and some daffodils and Easter lilies but it’s calling for more winter sleet/snow by Tuesday again.  I so want spring!!!

Allium and iris

Allium and iris

Sedum peeking out from the leaves

Sedum peeking out from the leaves

More sedum

More sedum

Sedum likes the cold, I think.

Sedum likes the cold, I think.

Inside my house though, things are blooming so pretty and very out of season.

This is some type of begonia that is over six feet tall with very delicate blooms.

This is some type of begonia that is over six feet tall with very delicate blooms.

Amaryillus blooms in the spring instead of Christmas.

Amaryllis blooms in the spring instead of Christmas.

These two Christmas cactus bloomed last summer, two weeks before Christmas and started blooming again two weeks ago.

These two Christmas cactus bloomed last summer, two weeks before Christmas and started blooming again two weeks ago.

This is some sort of jade and normally blooms in early to late summer and it started blooming last week.

This is some sort of jade and normally blooms in early to late summer and it started blooming last week.

I have two shamrocks, one purple and one green, in our guest room and they're both blooming.  The purple one has pink blooms and the green one has white blooms.

I have two shamrocks, one purple and one green, in our guest room and they’re both blooming. The purple one has pink blooms and the green one has white blooms.

DSCN4804It might be nasty and cold outside but I do have a little spring season in the house.  It helps keep away the winter blahs!!

New Year of Maple Syrup

 

Sugar maple tree with a beautiful blue sky background.

Sugar maple tree with a beautiful blue sky background.

 

We could not have picked a better time to start tapping the maple trees.  Saturday morning after feeding the cattle and cleaning up from breakfast we got started.  It was clear, sunny and still a chill in the air.  First we gathered the bucket and cleaned them and then we cleaned the 210 gallon water tank.

All the gallon buckets have been washed and ready to hook up to the taps.

All the gallon buckets have been washed and ready to hook up to the taps.

Nice and clean gallon buckets.

Nice and clean gallon buckets.

 

Shiny and clean tank.

Shiny and clean tank.

It holds 210 gallons and it was specifically purchased just for sugar maple processing!!

It holds 210 gallons and it was specifically purchased just for sugar maple processing!!

A regular garden/water hose will attach to the fauce when we're ready to fill the pans.

A regular garden/water hose will attach to the fauce when we’re ready to fill the pans.

 

From here we gathered the portable drill, wood bits, hammer and taps and headed for the maple trees in the yard.  From there we tapped the trees behind the garage and then went to the mansion and tapped the tree that we know has been in the family since the 1800’s.  She is still producing and we tapped with six buckets on her and from there went to our daughter’s house on the farm and tapped two trees at her house.  In total we nine trees in all and as tonight at 7:00 p.m. the tank is full.  We’ll hold it in the tank in the garage until Friday morning.  It will stay ice cold in the garage.

 

26 taps sterizied and ready to put in the trees.  Eddie likes using the plumbing tees best because they stay in the tap hole better.

26 taps sterizied and ready to put in the trees. Eddie likes using the plumbing tees best because they stay in the tap hole better.

Metal taps were used in the tree at the mansion and at our daughter's house.

Metal taps were used in the tree at the mansion and at our daughter’s house.

Drillling the first hole about a 1/2 inch in diameter and about  1 inch deep.

Drillling the first hole about a 1/2 inch in diameter and about 1 inch deep.

These trees are not being damaged.  The one inch hole heals within a few weeks and as I said before the tree at the mansion is in a photo we have of the family back in the mid-1800’s and it’s still living.

Tapping the tee in the tree good and tight so it won't leak around the hole.

Tapping the tee in the tree good and tight so it won’t leak around the hole.

Up close view of the hole drilled into the tree.

Up close view of the hole drilled into the tree.

Tap, tap, tap!

Tap, tap, tap!

Three buckets on this tree in the yard and the taps are dripping away.

Three buckets on this tree in the yard and the taps are dripping away.  This tree is at our daughter’s house.

 

Around 1:30 Saturday our son joined us and he was kept busy emptying the buckets into the tank and was glad to have the ATV for collecting.  He won’t be still long enough for Mom to take his picture.  But sometimes we have to do what we can and here’s a picture helping at the sugar house in years past.

Our son, Shawn, manning the pans in the past.

Our son, Shawn, manning the pans in the past.

From the tree to the straining bucket.

From the tree to the straining bucket.

By Saturday night we had 100 gallons in the tank and the high temperature at the farm on Saturday was 49*.  Sunday morning we got up to 27* temps, the buckets were running over with ice and the sap had even pushed out of the top of the tee.

Beautiful Sunday morning.

Beautiful Sunday morning.

Icy buckets and frozen hands.

Icy buckets and frozen hands.

Bucket of ice from the cans which we thawed and poured into the tank.

Bucket of ice from the cans which we thawed and poured into the tank.

Ice frozen all down the tree.

Ice frozen all down the tree.

Ice coming out all over the tee.

Ice coming out all over the tee.

Sap running over onto the ground!  The honeybees enjoyed it once it warmed up.

Sap running over onto the ground! The honeybees enjoyed it once it warmed up.

On Sunday we got another 75 gallons and the sap has slowed a little.  The temperatures got up to 52* and at 9:30 p.m. it was still 49*.  For the sap to run really good the temps MUST get below freezing at night.

Today hubby filled up the tank and the trees have slowed down immensely but the tank is full of 210 gallons of pure sugar maple sap.  The cooking will begin on Friday and finish up on Saturday around noon if all goes well.

Here’s a few of today’s photos:

Last bucket to empty for the day (Monday).

Last bucket to empty for the day (Monday).

 

Hard to see the water line on the tank.

Hard to see the water line on the tank.

Stainless steel bucket with lip and strainer.  Every bucket on the tree is emptied into this bucket and then strained into the tank.

Stainless steel bucket with lip and strainer. Every bucket on the tree is emptied into this bucket and then strained into the tank.

Straining into the big tank.

Straining into the big tank.

Better view of the full tank!

Better view of the full tank!

Hopefully more pictures of the process when completed on Saturday!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

August/September Preparation for a bad winter

I can’t believe it’s the end of July!  This year has flown by!!  It’s time to start aggressively storing food for the winter, gathering wood, and winterizing all the animal sheds and the house.  I’ll save the house for last since the next two months will probably turn out to be our hottest months.  The farm equipment should be finished for the year except for a couple tractors.  Hubby always cleans them up and checks everything out for worn parts and replacement parts.  I clean up the garden and yard equipment but still a little early for that.  The major thing now is the garden.  I will have more green beans to can this coming week and weekend, more squash to freeze, onions to store and more cabbage to do something with.  The tomatoes and peppers are near ready yet and the summer “duratio” did away with most of the fruit.  Luckily I stored lots last year.

Hubby worked on filling the wood house again today and the split stack is out of the rain.  We still have a large load to split and more down from the storm to cut & split for the following winter.

All of the hay is stacked and ready for winter and hubby is in the process of cleaning up the hay equipment.  The roofs have been taken care of and I have to put new interior tar paper in the chicken house.  All of the major fence repairs have been made and the pastures are being sheared now.