Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Working the Sugar Bush (and a little birding)

Posted by Kirk Mona
March 25th was a good morning for telephone wire bird watching. On the two miles or so of County Rd. 7 (Square Lake Trail) that I travel in the morning, I spotted my first red-winged blackbird of the year as well as a mourning dove and an American Kestrel. Then, while sitting at my desk around 9:00 in the morning, I heard sandhill cranes out my window. I first heard sandhills on March 20th but hadn't seen them yet. I ran out to the deck and saw a pair of sandhill cranes heading west over the bog.
As red-shouldered hawks flew overhead and I could still hear sandhills, it was time to check the maple syrup progress. Sharp eyed observers will note that the photo above is NOT from this year as there is no snow on the ground. The sap saks look the same every year though. We had a good sap run finally on the 25th and 26th. At the end of the work day on the 25th we had about 60 gallons of sap ready to boil. Our storage container only holds 32 gallons so we had to store the rest in 6 gallon buckets. Today, the 26th, I could hear the sandhill cranes in the air as I lit the stove at 8:00 am. We started to boil our sap and we got through a lot but not all of it by the end of the day. Here I am adding sap from a 6 gallon bucket in the afternoon. We boil out in the open on a custom wood burning stove. We collected an additional 25 gallons of sap during the day and we had 15 left gallons left at the end of the day that we hadn't even gotten onto the stove. When we start tomorrow we'll have 40 gallons of sap (15+25) ready to boil plus whatever runs this evening!

The theoretical ratio of sap to syrup for red maples (which is what we use) is 40 to 1. If this holds true we'll get about two gallons of syrup from these two days alone. That doesn't sound like a lot when you consider we collected 85 gallons of sap but when you buy syrup in the store you often buy 16 oz bottles. There are eight sixteen ounce bottles in a gallon so we'll have 16 bottles of syrup from just two days worth of sap run. Not too shabby.

~Kirk

2008 running Bird Tally

36 Red-winged Blackbird
37 Sandhill Crane

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