We spent yesterday at the Vermont Maple Conference in Bellows Falls. (NH had one last year. There may or may not be one this year. Sugarers are not the world’s most web savvy crew.) This wasn’t like the Farm community meetings in Keene, full of young earnest people, or even NOFA, which seems to be run by 70s back to the landers, although it is successfully bringing in its second generation. Nope, these folks are boomer aged all right, but real Yankees. I’d say the average person there was on a third generation farm. (Yes, that means we were balanced by someone whose people moved in before the revolution.)
This was both encouraging and discouraging. Yes, you can still make a living farming in Vermont, in paid for buildings, on paid for land where you know every tree. Guess I’ll have the day job for a while.
Anyway, we got three big take-home items yesterday: Lisa learned some good stuff to do with B and commercial grade syrup. We both heard that many folks tap red maples as well as sugar maples. And the Vemont extension’s tapping recommendations are down again: Start tapping at ten inches DBH not nine, and no more than two taps per tree, no matter how big the tree. Besides the health of the tree, they had some numbers from Quebec showing that, at least with vacuum, there was virtually no benefit to a third tap.
I’m still a tad skeptical about tapping red maple. First, I inadvertently tapped some silver maple last year. (I can spot red maple, _now_ I can spot silver maple.) They were all on buckets, so I could tell that they produced virtually no sap at all. They were down the driveway where even the sugar maples only did a couple of gallons per tap, but the difference was still spectacular. And what they did produce was not particularly sweet. The other is that all the references I’ve ever seen say that red maple sap runs 1% sugar vs 2-2.5% for sugar maple. This means boiling 100 gallons of sap rather than 40 to get a gallon of syrup. If we had a sugar house and a covered wood pile, I’d be more willing to take the risk, but we have neither.
What I’d like to do is take a refractometer into the woods when the sap is running and check some trees. I suspect they’re real hard to borrow while the sap is running, and I’m not springing $400 for a new digital one, so it may be a while.
Aaron and Kel have decided that they would rather farm in Oregon than New Hampshire, so they pulled out last week. They have a bit of a nest egg, and Aaron will be getting a day job as well to help them save up money for land. We wish them luck. Lisa is hearing from many people interested in replacing them, but we’re concerned about cash flow for most of them. All we can offer is room (including utilities) and food from the farm, which is not yet full board. That leaves a nontrivial nut to cover.
We finally used up the last of the donated bread yesterday so our piggies are getting pellets again. We’ve got enough fruits and veggies frozen to give them only half pellets for another week, then we’ll be down to on meal every other day from the Community Kitchen.
We’re running out of wood for the bedroom stove. That will make Lisa very unhappy. Nonetheless, today I want to get at least one sheep breeding group going. If there’s still daylight after that, I’ll cut some wood.
We’ve decided that Gellert and the two sheepie boys will be going to Peltos after all. Despite the successful experiment with Coffee, we just have too much undone right now to slaughter them, and we need them gone. We won’t be paying for sausage this time: We’ll take ground pork and Lisa will make the sausage. We need to address the smokables as well. We’d like a more thorough smoking job, and Lisa is not a big ham fan anyway. Our Alton Brown smoker would likely do the bacon, but we still need to figure out what to do with the hams.
We just got plowed. Time for an early lunch and back outside.