Tag Archives: maple trees

The 200+ Tree

Our biggest sap producer in the back yard of the mansion.

Our biggest sap producer in the back yard of the mansion.

It’s getting close to time to make maple syrup again and Mother Nature split our best sap producer in half back in late summer.  The tree is over 200 years old and we have pictures of my husband’s family having a picture made at it when his great, great grandparents had passed away.  All of the children were standing/sitting in front of the tree when the picture was taken and the tree was only about 10-12 inches around.

This is a picture of my husbands great aunts and uncles taken at the mansion and the young maple can be seen in the background.

This is a picture of my husbands great aunts and uncles taken at the mansion and the young maple can be seen in the background.

Now, three to four people holding hands around it can still barely reach around the base of what’s left of it.  I’m hoping it may sprout new growth this spring and only time will tell.  We got several truckloads of firewood from it and the rotted was carried to the woods to go back into the earth.  This loss will make a big difference in our sap production but we do have several of the same size on the farm that we have not tapped before and will during our next production season.  We probably won’t have a maple syrup weekend this year due to the crazy season we’re having this winter/spring.  Here’s some pictures of the downed tree and the damage it did to fence and gates but thankfully fell to the north instead of on the mansion (family home of our ancestors).

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That storm in July broke another of our heritage apple trees which seems to happen with every storm.  wind-damage-at-mansion-072016-3  We had another storm last night but thankfully no damage was found but for one huge pine tree in our back fields.  Cattle and fences were spared this time.

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!

 

Gardening in the shade

View of the house from the front yard

View of the house from the front yard

 

As you can see from the picture our house is surrounded by the beautiful maple trees which provide lots of shade in the summertime and maple syrup in the spring.  We love the trees but it has been a real challenge finding plants that grow well in the yard and grass that survives the shade and our cold winter.  The left side of the house gets the morning sun and grows well and most of my roses are on that side and in the front.  The left side however is the challenge.  Hubby built this hanging table for me last year for Mother’s Day and I keep it covered with lots of my indoor plants in the summertime and bird feeders in the winter.

Swinging table covered with cacti, begonia, and more.

Swinging table covered with cacti, begonia, and more.

I have found a few flowering perennials that like the shade but none better than hostas, begonias, impatiens and bleeding hearts.

Impatiens love the shade.

Impatiens love the shade.

Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding Hearts

This corner of my yard gets hardly any sun due to the shade trees and this winter my planning will be filling it with shade lovers.

West corner of the front yard.  Not very pretty.

West corner of the front yard. Not very pretty.

Daylilies and tiger lilies do well but the blooms don’t last long enough.  I’m currently looking through all of my seed/plant catalogs in search of the all summer shade garden to dress it up with the dinner bell as my focal point.  I think astilbes, bleeding hearts, hostas, lamium, lilyturf, and monkshood will compliment each other and layering them from the dinner bell post to the front by height will look nice.  Primrose, Lenten rose, coral bells, bergenia and false spirea are some good prospects, as well.  I need to amend the soil with some good compost and garden soil and maybe a little chicken manure they should all get a good start.

The plants in front of the stones are herbs and they just did not get enough sun.  If any survive, they’ll go in a raised bed near the grape arbor beside the garden and be covered with chicken wire to keep the lovely ladies out of it.

I’m thinking spring!!! How about you???

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!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring is in the air and it’s almost sugar time!!

It is almost sugar time.  Hubby announced this afternoon that if the weather cooperates we’ll tap the trees week after next.  I wanted to share with you some pictures we took at the Highland Maple Festival a couple years ago.  This event is a two weekend all about maple syrup fun time.  The pictures I’m going to share are from one the operations we visited that work on a much, much larger scale than we do.  Here we go and hope you enjoy the ride:

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We drove for miles and miles that day and found one family that makes the syrup, taps the trees, and made it fun for the guests viewing the process but the rest of the journey was looking at miles and miles of plastic tubing running through the woods and into big tanks.  Trucks emptying those tanks and taking it to a main processing building where it was cooked off in a big evaporating tank heated by propane.  It was all so commercial and kind of took the fun out of the entire process.  I think we’ll stick with our little sugar house and making enough to keep our friends and family happy while making enough money from it to pay for hubby’s time making it work.  Hope to see you in a couple weeks at the sugar house licking our lips!!!