Saturday, March 7, 2009

Soooooooooo Cute.

Hey, Tiger!
Hank - 4 months (late 2/2009)

Gimme Some Sugar!

Spring is knocking. You can feel it. The days grow warmer, even as the nights retreat in to the memory of winter's frigid grasp. This warm/cold cycle can mean only one thing - sugaring season! For me, sugaring season means tapping the 2 very large maple trees in our back yard.

My neighbor kindly borrowed me his handy dandy cordless drill, fitted with a 1/2" bit. I gathered up all the items needed to get my journey to maple syrup started, and hit the back yard. First, I chose fairly clear areas on the bole of the tree, about 3' up. Then, began drilling on an even plane, and once past the bark layers angled the drill upwards slightly. Assembled the bit, and using a heavy plastic mallet, drove the bits in to the 1-1/2" deep holes. There! Ready for action, almost.

If I were to leave the tap open like this, all the precious sap would drain on to the ground around the tree, and likely result in very, very, very hyper squirrles. Imagine a dripping faucet, but instead of water, the leak is of weak soda. Now imagine your (or your friend's) children drinking this... all day long. Insanity. That's what squirrels do in the Spring, and it is pretty humorous to watch them tweak out. Neither here nor there, I'm not going to give those rat bastards a chance to pilfer the sweetness that will be transformed in to the best maple syrup I've ever had!

So, on go the bags.

The sap isn't flowing right now, but I'm not worried. Last year it took almost 2 weeks before the sap started, but when it did, I was harvesting 5+ gallons a day off 2 taps and yielded around 60 gallons. This year I have 4 taps and am hoping for 100 gallons or more. As I have silver maples, it takes a bit more volume to yield syrup than, say, a sugar maple. From last year's production, it looks to be about 50 gallons sap to 1 gallon finished product... but, my recall may be a bit skewed, it has been a year already. I believe the typical sugar maple yield is 30:1.

Shortly I expect to come home after work to sap gorged bladders. Awesome! In about a month or so I will be setting up the sugar shack in my garage. Last year it took aaallll day to boil down my yield. This year, if I get as much as I want, it's going to take the entire weekend. I may have to make a party of it and get some helpers. I may try my hand at maple candies, or maple sugar. Lots of options! Last year I made some maple cream and it was awesome.

It's pretty labor intensive, but the education you receive is priceless. Although I have a degree in Forestry, tapping and harvesting has taught me things about my trees and the environment that I could never get from a book. And, not that I had any shortage of it before I started doing this, I have a greater respect for the processes of the natural world. It is a rewarding endeavor, and I'm excited for this year's offering!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Never Trust a Leo Bastard

If you see the words "I will write on my blog more often!", know that I am lying. My intentions are honarable, but my follow through is pitiful. So, then - please do not think I am lazy (ok, I am), or don't love you (I do!), I am just, uh, just... meh (it's a word, you know).

I have always had an aversion to writing for others to read. It's the tiny perfectionist troll that lives deep in side me, just off to the left of my pancreas. It often kicks me in the spleen, keeping me up at night. It's quite bothersome.

Anyhow. All sorts of stuff going on. My friend Brian is getting married next week - BHO and I are heading to Las Vegas for that. It will be the first time in 21 years that I will spend more than 12 hours there - I lived there for a few months, way back in the day. The Saturday of our stay, I get to hang out with one of my old roommates that I haven't seen since I lived there! How awesome is that!

And in other old friend news: a few weeks ago I hung out with my childhood BFF, Anneke! I haven't seen her since we were about 9! Her brother, Jon, and sister, Chandre, were also there - it was sooooo cool. I hope to hang out with her again, soon.

Had a couple parties at the house: Lord of the Rings Marathon! and Hot Tub 2009! LOTR was great, lots of folks showed up and we all had an exellent time. Hot Tub went off well, too. Weather warmed up considerably for the 2 days we had the tub in our garage, and there was plenty of food and beer and companionship of friends to be had! BHo and I will reflect upon the Hot Tub success, and with our co-host Dave Micko, look in to the possibility of hosting another next year. The movie marathon is a for sure for next year, and the series of choice: ORIGINAL Star Wars trilogy!

May brings Maibock! 'Nuff said.

June brings the wedding of my BFF Steve, in Fairbanks, Alaska. I am SO there! And uncontainably excited about the trip. It's going to be expensive, but what the heck, he's my buddy, and he is sooo in love. His fiancee, Violet, is sweet as can be, and terribly in love with Steve. Although I have not met her in person, I can see it in her posts on Facebook (yeah - Facebook... ubiquitous, isn't it?). Neither here nor there - my friend has found his life partner and they are right there, and I am beaming with pride and excitement for his (and Vi's) happiness!

But, between here, there, and everywhere, there will be much work. My primary job is out of control with need for overtime, and I am still at REI (awesome!) - lots of hours. Although it limits my down time, that is a good thing in this time of economic crisis. And, considering my mechanic just told me my truck now needs repairs with costs that exceed what I paid for it. Not awesome. And the house needs lots of work, but what homeowner doesn't know that headache!

So. There you go. Not real earth shattering issues. Nothing crazy or terribly funny to report. I have had some weird dreams, but can't remember enough to relay - ooh, except my dream that Gerard Butler (a la "300", mmmm... King Leonidas!) was my paramour, and it was AWESOME. I promise I will write on my blog more often! DISCLAIMER: See first paragraph of today's blog!

Peace and chicken grease.