Friday, March 8, 2013

Maple Syrup Experiment

Maple syrup is one of those things that seem like a big lofty idea.  Of course you need all those fancy taps and buckets and a boiler and the sugar shack.  So, huge overhead for something that takes 40 gallons (or more) to make a gallon of syrup, right?  Well, that's probably how you are supposed to do it.  You are probably supposed to have a maple grove too.

I'm bad at listening.  I thought it'd be fun to tap the 4 maples around our house and just see what happened.  I figured I might be 4 gallons of sap, which would be about a cup of syrup.  A one time adventure where we can have homemade maple syrup with our homemade pancakes.  

I love a good surprise too.  We are getting about 2-3 gallons of sap out of those 3 of the 4 trees that are actually the right kind of maple.  (good experiments have a margin of error, apparently one of our trees was the wrong kind).  I've been boiling down most of it on the stove in my kitchen in my big stainless steel canner.  Boy, that thing was a great investment!  Most of it, I'm boiling on the stove, then overnight I put it in my oval crock pot to slowly evaporate off  overnight so I don't have to babysit the pot and we still make progress.  Also the slower evaporation lets my house dehumidify some, because when  you are boiling off gallons of water it really creates a lot of humidity.  

This has been a fun experiment.  The first 4 gallons we boiled down and we got just under a pint of maple syrup/sugar/whatever.  I think we over boiled it.  It was still great on pancakes.  I've still got sap coming and it's boiling now.  The first batch came out kind of light, this one I think will be darker and hopefully I'll get the consistency right.  Any way you look at it, I think it's been a great experiment so far.   Our 9 acre lot has a lot of "untapped" resources, including lots of maple trees so we've decided to head out there if we haven't sold the place and mark the maples for tapping next spring.  There are a lot of maples out there, hopefully a good number of right ones at the right diameter to make it worth our trouble.  

The kit I ordered was on Amazon.  I'm not an Amazon affiliate so I get nothing out of this link.  It's just the cheapest set up I've found.  We used empty milk jugs and hair ponytail holders to hold them up.  This is really easy stuff.  There's a good chance we'll order better quality components for next year's tapping, but these plastic ones worked great.  This seems to me like one of those things that would be a good learning lesson for know, this is where maple syrup comes from.  I'm always looking for ways to teach my son new things, but he's not even 4 yet so who knows how much of what I do now will stick.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Gained a goat.

I bought a dry yearling doe.  She's gorgeous (at least to me)!  I don't show goats so I don't know everything I should look for but she's very level on top and her face is very feminine.  Her dam has a lovely udder and she shares a great grandfather with my buck so they are distantly related.  She appeared to get bred the second day after she arrived with Sonny, so here's hoping come late July we have cute babies!  Oh and milk....lovely goat milk!

Meet Zada :)
In bringing home the lovely Zada, my buck Sonny is a changed goat.  He was extremely well bonded with my wethered goat, York, now he shoos York away.  He's so protective of Zada.  That's HIS girl.  I've never seen anything like it, but I would suspect in wild goat herds, males are driven out of the herd once they are of reproductive age.  York, obviously won't ever reproduce but Sonny doesn't know that.  Sonny is truly infatuated with Zada.  He follows her, protects her from York, lets her eat first.  It's cute.  He also picked up a whole new language.  I've heard him blubber before while he's in rut, but this is much more structured.  You can almost figure out what he's trying to convey.

Well, that's pretty much what's new.  I'm putting goose eggs in an incubator tomorrow that a friend was kind enough to lend to me.  The dog kept stealing the eggs so if I want goslings this year, it looks like this is how it's going to be.