This past week has been a busy one and it just flew by. The temperatures have been steadily rising and we've been putting in full days trying to get our sugar shack ready for sugar time. We are pretty much worn out, but in some ways, I love being this tired. I love it in the evening when your body is so worn out from working outside all day that you just collapse into bed and fall into a deep dream filled sleep.
We managed to get the walls up this week and for now, we just tarped the sides and roof to keep the wind and rain off of us, because we've run out of time. The sap run this year is early and likely won't be a long one, the long range forecast is not calling for the temperature to go below zero at night, which isn't good. For a good sap run you need below zero temps at night and above in the day.
On Tuesday and Wednesday we got the walls up and also managed to get the evaporator moved.... it weighs about 1,000 pounds, so we were not sure how smoothly it would be to move it from the house to the sugar shack, which is about 500 feet from the house.
Earlier in the week, the warm weather melted a lot of our snow quite quickly, and the pond started breaking up. On Thursday, a couple of Canadian geese tried to land in it - thankfully they figured out before they hit the ice that it was still frozen!
The deer have been wandering through but they are starting to wander off now that the weather is improving. We had a strange buck wander through the yard last night, he didn't stop to look around or anything, just passed straight through. He was sick - he was missing most of the hair around his neck and chest and his skin was scabby. We looked through the binoculars to get a better look, from a distance it looked like maybe it was an injury but closer inspection showed it wasn't an injury but rather a skin condition of some kind. It's the first time we've ever seen anything like that in the white tail population around here. I'm not sure if it was parasites, or what, but it wasn't good.
I brought Jackson into the goat yard the other day to see if he would like to make friends with Izzie the Jersey. Jackson is a stallion and he's pretty tough - he likes everyone to know he's the boss. He's never been good with any of the other animals except for the house dogs. He's very good with us and pretty much acts like a dog for the most part, you don't even need a lead when you take him out of his pen for a walk or to the house, he just follows along and comes when he's called.
Much to my complete shock he was friendly not only with the goats, but also with Max & Flav. In the past he's done nothing but try to kick the dogs when he's been near them. Not now. He was great with everyone, even Izzie, but she didn't like him and wouldn't even let him get near her.
We tapped Friday afternoon. We've put out 65 taps so far - last year we did 80 but we ended up with more sap than we could process... however because the run is slower this year than last (so far) we might have to put the rest of our buckets out so we can get all the sap possible. Last year for at least two weeks we had overflowing buckets every single day. Our evaporator can only process 40 gallons of sap a day, so we were getting pretty backed up.
Friday evening it snowed like crazy. We were kind of disappointed because the snow had pretty much melted and then here it was coming down and covering everything up again.
Yesterday morning our buckets were covered with snow, and the sap inside the buckets was frozen. The sap didn't run because it was too cold all day. We worked on the shack getting the framing up for the tarps.
buckets with snow
The goats have been spending time as a group in the barnyard now that I've taken them off the pastures since the snow is mostly gone. This is the first time my group dynamics have allowed for the sheep and goats to get along so well, there was a time when the goats beat the sheep up every chance they got, but now everyone gets along famously.
We got as much done as we could yesterday afternoon to get ready to hang the tarps on the sugar shack today.
Today the tarps went up.
The guys collected sap tonight while I was doing the barn chores and we managed to get close to 80 gallons of sap - which shocked all of us. We were thinking we'd be lucky to get 40 today. When we came in at 7:30 PM, the sap was still running. It's still above freezing currently.
It takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. We were hoping for at least five gallons of syrup, so hopefully we'll get a few good runs. I can taste the maple syrup pie already!
Tomorrow we'll boil for the first time this year. We are really looking forward to it - we've waited all winter for sugar time and it's hard to believe it's finally here. Spring is in the air, there are tiny bugs flying around outside and moths (which is not good, it usually signals the end of sugar time) and the Red Winged blackbirds have returned.
You can hear birds singing outside that we haven't heard all winter, and the roads and barnyard are turning to mud. I don't enjoy mud time, but I know it will pass and dry up. I thought Bulrush was hurt today, he was limping in the barnyard. Then I saw what happened... he stepped in some mud and was so upset it was on his hoof he wouldn't walk on it. He's the biggest goat I have and also the biggest baby. Maybe we should design rubber boots for goats? Could be the new craze. Move over Wellies!
We've stuffed ourselves with pineapple fried rice, and Kevin is getting the wood stove going. We haven't had a fire in the house all day, and could manage without one tonight but we all need a nice fire to take the chill away.
After a cup of tea and hopefully a couple pages of my book, it will be time for sleep. I think I might just dream of maple trees tonight.