Sunday, April 15, 2012

9-15 April, 2012 - Birch Syrup, More Snow and Trucks Mired in the Mud

I posted a couple of pictures on last week's blog showing the taps I made for harvesting Birch sap to make syrup.  It's been a learning experience!

I've been using quart jars for my "buckets" on all of the trees except one.  I used an old plastic juice bottle for this one and I like it best.  I tapped the tree then tied a section of baling twine around the top of the bottle for a hanger.  I cut a hole in the back of the bottle and slid the tap into the hole.  The nice thing is that it keeps the debris out of the bottle.  We're going to be saving these up next year so I can make greater use of them next spring.

We wondered if cold weather would stop the sap from flowing but it doesn't have much effect. The ice builds up around the inside of the jar and over the top but the sap keeps flowing.  Those are birch sap ice cycles hanging from the jar.

This is Scott on one of my early morning rounds.  He got up early that morning and wanted to go with me so we bundled him up and I took him along.  It was the morning the jars had ice in them.  I took this picture around 6:33 AM.  The temperature was about 25 degrees.  He's not usually up at this hour.

When I bring the buckets of sap in I strain them through our canning funnel using a coffee strainer.  I fill the jars with clean sap then either dump them into the kettles or into a clean bucket for storage.

Most of the debris is pieces of birch bark or leaf fragments.

This is what it looks like when you put a fresh batch into the kettle.  We added another larger kettle to the stove top.  We keep a low fire going non-stop in the wood stove trying to keep the sap just barely simmering and evaporating.

You keep adding sap as it boils down and the mixture keeps getting darker until if becomes a beautiful mahogany brown.  This batch needed to go a little longer but we couldn't wait.  It smells and tastes wonderful!  It takes probably at least fifty to sixty gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup.

We're storing the extra sap in buckets in the root cellar.

We took the bicycles for a ride during the week and explored a new road.  We couldn't get where we wanted to go because the road was too soft and waterlogged so we took a side road across a section of National Forest.  That's Susan and Scott by the railroad crossing.

This is looking north from where Susan and Scott were in the previous photo (which I took from the hill on the right side).

We found out that it made a loop through the National Forest and came out behind the Fortine golf course.

I welded up the sides on the trailer.  I'd made them where we could take them off but we've been using it awhile now and never took the sides off so I made them permanent.  Before they rattled like crazy on our road.  Now it's a lot quieter.

We went to Kalispell yesterday and Scott was playing with my hat trying to keep the sun out of his eyes.

Scott meets our oldest daughter's horses or horse and a half horse as I classify them.

Scott was up early again and is helping me check the storm reports on my computer.  I'm from Kansas and they had several tornadoes roll through last night.  None where my mother or sister live though.

I've been wishing all week that the syrup season arrived during a colder part of the year because running the stove keeps the cabin too hot and I got my wish.  It snowed about three inches last night and this morning. 

This is one of my sap bottles this morning.
This is what the yard looked like.  We got about three inches total.
I'm writing an article on vehicle recovery and needed to take some photos so ... against my better judgment and in the pursuit of cash I intentionally drove my truck into the mud.  Unfortunately I got it a little more stuck than I'd planned on!  The axle is dragging in the mud on the right front wheel.  The tires kept sinking in the clay and even when I was winching it out the tires rolled the mud behind the wheel instead of rolling out of the trench.
One of the tools I'm illustrating is using a Hi Lift jack as a winch.  They work great for this but you're limited to moving the vehicle only about three feet before you have to re-set everything.  My jack's release pin stuck and when I went to relieve the pressure to re-position the jack the head flew down the shaft and blew the foot off the bottom.  I had enough pictures of it already so I went to the come-along to finish up.  I have an 8,000 lb. Warn winch but the article is about using manual (low priced!) equipment.
Odie is surveying the trench I cut.  The shiny place on the ground just beyond her and on the other side of the trench is where the front axle dragged on the ground.  I drove into the situation earlier in the day but as the sun warmed the ground it made it soft and the tires just kept sinking deeper.  I broke one of my chains but I got some good photos (and a lot of exercise!) out of it.  It's the first time in my life I got stuck on purpose!  Hopefully it's the last time as well.

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