Apr 292013

I am happy to announce that the 2013 Sugarbush was a complete success!

Not only was it a success, it was a banner year for sap collection with over 100 gallons collected from our taps.  We set out 18 this year on new trees, and 14 of them ran like gangbusters.  Not sure what the deal was with the other four…

This last weekend we boiled down 50 gallons in one day, and let me tell you we are beat, tired and sore.

When I tell people that making maple syrup is more of a waiting game, it is a partial truth.


Lots of wood has to be chopped, and unfortunately Rick gets stuck with that detail.  In an ironic sort of way, most of the wood we used came from an old maple that we used to tap that perished last year.


Before we can even get started boiling, there has to be a good base fire going to get the pan nice and hot.  This is always a test of patience (which I personally have an issue with, but I’m working on it) and will eat up the first hour of the day.


But while that is going there is always other prep that has to be done, like hauling all the sap to the boil area…


And getting it strained for the first time.


When we have the first 25 gallons in the pans, the waiting game really gets going.


Which entails checking the fire every half hour to make sure it’s going hot enough to boil the sap down.  My thighs got a huge workout from all the squatting.

Buckets 2

Since the weather is turning warmer (YAY!! ) it signaled the end of sap collection and all the buckets and taps had to be removed from the trees.  All that snow we received a week ago was now melting creating a mud pit that we had to walk through to get them all.

What a mess!

But it was well worth the long hours and muscle aches and general exhaustion when we did the math and discovered that our final tally for the season was just shy of 3 gallons.  Actually, it was 2 gallons, 3 quarts and half a pint.

I like the “just shy of 3 gallons” total.  Just rolls of the tongue a little easier.


Apr 202013

If it was the beginning of April, yesterdays weather wouldn’t have irked me so much.


But we are past the halfway mark of the month and I’m starting to question Mother Nature’s sense of humor, because obviously this is some kind of sick joke being played on us.

Despite this unfortunate setback to the promise of Spring flowers and garden prepping, we are spending the day boiling another 20 gallons of sap under sunny skies and balmy temperatures in the 40s.

Maybe this isn’t so much a joke but a mood swing.

Edit:  Make that 25 gallons of sap (there was stuff in the tree buckets yet).


Apr 152013

March was a roller coaster of weather, and April hasn’t been a whole lot different.

Unlike last year when it was overly warm and sugarbush came and went so quickly that we didn’t even have time to tap our trees, this year has teased us with warm/cold/bitter weather that even the birds are confused (we’ve have crows and ravens eating our suet… NEVER happened before! ).

Nearly four weeks after we tapped our trees, we are finally starting to see the sap flow.

It’s not a rushing torrent, but the buckets are sounding with the “tap… tap… tap” chorus that gets us all excited.


And no matter what the calendar may say, this is the real sign of Spring in the Northwoods.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature was paying a cruel joke on us yesterday when we decided to start boiling.


What started out as a very light snowfall quickly gave way to a no-holds-barred dumping.  Thank goodness we had the covers over the buckets or else all the sap in them would have been worthless.


And thanks to the quick thinking and ingenuity of Rick, a quick shelter was raised over the boiling area to protect the 25 gallons that we had collected.

But the weather didn’t stop after we had a few inches of snow on the ground.  Oh, no… when that eased up a torrent of sleet began to pound on us, gradually turning into a steady downpour of big, fat rain drops.  It was the most miserable Sugarbush we had ever had.

Now all of this could have made for a very grumpy Sandy and Rick, but we didn’t let it dampen (pun intended) our spirits.


Because once you get started on a project like this, there is no stopping and you trudge forward with soaked clothes and shoes to keep that sap boiling.


And when it’s all said and done the reward is totally worth it.


Mar 042013

The Northwoods of Wisconsin can be very temperamental.  Kinda like a woman.  Or even a Man.  The seasons have moods all their own, and depending on what kind of a year it’s having, you just never know the wrath that it will throw at you.

Take Winter for example.  Like its 180 degree counterpart Summer, there are many temperature variations that you go through in the few months that it is around to make it either seem like eternity or not long enough, depending on your perspective and tolerance.

Winter in our part of the state/country/little piece of heaven generally starts in November.  While that month technically is still considered in the realm of Fall, once the temperatures reach a certain degree heading south on the thermometer we throw the calendar out the window and judge the season by the weather.

November can be considered “chilly” around these parts.  The temps will hover around the 40’s in the daytime and we’ll keep the ol’ woodburner going about 80 percent of the time in a normal year (which there really isn’t any “normal” about it).

December greets us with slightly cooler temps of 20-30 degrees during the day and the nights will start dipping into the teens.  The snow will start to accumulate and the winds will start biting your backside.  About this time we think “Oh, this is beautiful weather!  We’ll have a white Christmas!!

This is the start of the delusional state that affects us in order to prime our brains for the months ahead.

January brings… numb.  The snow is here and with it comes the start of 4-6 weeks of frigid temperatures and ass-biting winds.  Oh, and the sun goes on holiday and leaves it’s cousin Grey Skys O’Doom to take over.  Delusion has taken control of our bodies and we are nothing but zombies that bundle up in 4 layers of parkas and thermal underwear in order to step outside the house to venture… anywhere.

This is also the month that you will not see anyone smile unless they are fortunate enough to have smuggled some happy pills from their last trip to anywhere warm.

Warm, or course, is some place that has temperatures above 40 degrees.

Then of course February makes it’s arrival.  This month can drive a person absolutely insane.  First it flirts with the promise of an early Spring from that damn gopher in Pennsylvania only to slap us in the face.  Sure, we may have some days that spike into the 40’s but then all hopes are dashed when we are dumped on with 2 feet of snow and bone-chilling temperatures.

And the wind is colder than the Arctic Circle.  On a good day.

Let’s usher in March, shall we?  March is a bitch.  She will lead you into believing that Spring is here, but then change her mind and pimp herself out to Old Man Winter when she starts having hot flashes.

Which brings us to where we are right now, smack dab in the middle of a seasonal hormonal imbalance.  The temperatures are in the 30s during the day which feels like a frickin’ heat wave and the night’s in the teens.


Which means it’s time to start tapping trees for Sugarbush so we can stand out in the frozen tundra for 15 hours boiling sap and not feeling our feet and hands to make maple syrup.

I’ll be standing by the fire trying to stay warm.

And dreaming about a tropical beach somewhere.



Feb 112013

Apparently we had a snowstorm here in the Northwoods yesterday.  And “Orko” was his name.


Seriously?  Well, I guess it does explain the lack of “oomph” that the storm produced.

Snow Dude

I think my tree dude is a better representation.

He doesn’t have any magical powers and he can’t levitate, but I can always count on him being around to watch over the place.


Even though we didn’t get as much snow as the talking heads on TV were all excited about, it still makes the woods look pretty.


If your definition of pretty is shades of black, white and grey.

And if it is, come on up to our neck of the woods, we got an abundance of it right now!