Maple Weekend Report; Part 1

Last weekend, maple producers across the state of NY, including Sapsquatch, opened their sugarhouses to the public for two days of education, family fun and maple syrup.  We were very busy from Thursday on at our Enfield sugarhouse and had a steady stream of visitors. Even bitter cold on Sunday couldn’t keep the dedicated maple lovers away!

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The weekend really began for me on Thursday with tours from Ithaca Waldorf followed by two groups from BOCES ESL (English as a second language) classes who have come IMG_0150now for 4 years. They were very excited and almost cleaned out my supply of syrup. Finally, my regular afterschool program from Enfield was joined by a second section of pre-teens. Kids from my regular program provided a tour and wood chopping demonstration for the newcomers and you could tell they were very proud of their place here at Sapsquatch.

I was very happy to have a great team working with me this year. My mother Jane Russell of Around the Corner Catering http://www.aroundthecornercatering.com/provided complimentary pancakes and Sapsquatch maple sausage, maple sap brewed coffee from Keuka Coffee Roasters  , and hot cocoa to guests who came to sample this IMG_0231years fresh maple syrup. My daughter Gaia who will be turning 12 in a few short weeks was our sales person, provided syrup samples and helped out with various other projects as throughout the weekend. We were also very lucky to have a large selection of goat milk soaps for sale from neighbor Susan Verberg of Farm Mountain Soaps http://farmountainfarm.blogspot.com/ including sugarshack soap with maple sand from our 2012 year. My aunt Noreen Whitney of Nordic Farms  http://www.nordicfarmjams.com/ sent along some maple walnut jams and mom rounded out our display with Grandma Fox’s pancake mix.

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Saturday night I was joined by a small but jolly contingent of partygoers.  They were treated sweet steam and a warm fire while sipping hot sap beverages and swapping tales.  I whipped up one of my wood-fired pizzas in the fire box for a snack.  I was happy to host a crowd of foodies including Heather Sanford of the Piggery Butcher Shop http://www.thepiggery.net/pigblog/ for the first time. She has been very supportive over the years and provides shelf space at the butcher shop for Sapsquatch products.  Our landlords and my uncle/aunt, Steven and Stephanie Holzbaur drove a crowd of folks down in the MuleSteven down the icy and muddy trail.  Steven is co-creator and manager of the Finger Lakes Fresh Food Hub http://www.fingerlakesfresh.com/in Groton and his wife Stephanie is owner of Serendipity Catering http://serendipitycatering.biz/ . Mecklenberg neighbors Heather Christ Hallagan and husband Jake came back for a second visit of the day; Heather is an events planner from Gather https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gather/221528071219172 . 5th year Saspquatch alumn, Thomas Eisman from Six Circles Farm http://www.sixcirclesfarm.com/ was there as always and he kept us company and talked fruit until after midnight.

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I pulled an all-nighter with the help of long-time Sapsquatcher Travis and over the course of the weekend, we produced almost 20 gallons of fresh syrup. While the weather report looks good for everyone who has been complaining about this winter, it looks like maple season could be wrapping up early next week, so if you were thinking about paying a visit, this weekend’s maple festivities may be your last chance for 2014. Even though the season has been short, it has been sweet, and I predict we will make up for lost time this week and produce a total seasons yield just below or on par with last season’s first 100 gallon year. Hope to see you during the last two days of NY Maple weekend on Mark 29-30 when you can expect food, fun and temps in the high 40’s.

Posted in 2014, CSA, education, events, family, food, maple syrup, Maple Weekend, Sapsquatch, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maple Weekend

Maple season is getting off to a late start this year just in time for the celebration of New York State’s Maple Weekends. The statewide festival is sponsored by the New York State Maple Producers Association and is now in its 15th year. Association and independent producers will be opening their sugarhouses and sugar bushes to the public for two weekends of education, family fun and of course, pancakes.

sapsquatch 2014 march final 1Sapsquatch Maple has been hosting on-farm events during Maple Weekend for 6 of the 7 years of operation. On March 22-23 and 29-30 from 10-5pm all four days, Sapsquatch will again open up the sugarhouse for sugaring tours, production demonstration, food, hiking and sledding. Tours will be led by youth from Enfield’s after school program who have been visiting, working and learning at the Sapsquatch Sugarbush every Thursday since late January.

Sugarmaker and founder, Josh Dolan will be running the evaporator and providing an overview of maple production and on-site operations. Josh’s mom and area caterer Jane Russell will be cooking up pancakes and maple sausage. Guests will be able to sample syrup produced this year. The sugarhouse is located on Mecklenburg Rd. (Rt. 79) west of Ithaca at 2247 just over ½ mile on the left past the blinking light, or on the right just after the intersection of Rothermitch and Podunk Rds if you are coming from the Watkins Glen area.

Sapsquatch has been offering CSA shares for the last 3 years, and sales are booming this year. This has enabled this small-scale wood fired boiling operation to grow and succeed in an industry dominated by large-scale highly technological producers. The community supported sugaring model is beneficial to the farm and has provided important start-up capital at the beginning of the season and countless hours of volunteer labor on the farm. Work traders get valuable hands-on experience and get to see where there food comes from.

Community support has enabled Sapsquatch to provide hands-on education to community groups, after school programs, adult English-as-a-second language students and play host to high school students from Brooklyn. Sugarmaker Josh envisions a rapidly growing local industry, networks of local producers sharing resources and the future development of cooperative sugaring businesses and cooperatively run sugarhouse. He views the educational aspect of the farm as a crucial part of developing the industry in the area and training the next generation of young sugarmakers.

To find out more about events at Sapsquatch
Call (607) 280-8498
Email sapsquatch7@gmail.com
http://www.sapsquatchsyrup.wordpress.com

Other area producers who will be open to the public include:

Arnot Teaching & Research Forest
Cathy Coats
611 County Route 13
Van Etten, NY 14889-9506

Phone: (607) 589-6076 / (607) 589-6095 
Email: cac69@cornell.edu 
Website: http://www.dnr.cornell.edu/arnot

Sweetrees Maple Products
Dan & Ruth Beasley
761 Glen Road
Berkshire, NY 13736

Phone: (315) 699-3855 / (607) 972-6699 
Email: info@sweetreesmaple.com 
Website: http://www.sweetreesmaple.com

Find our more information at http://www.mapleweekend.com

Posted in 2014, CSA, education, events, family, food, Ithaca, maple production, maple season, maple syrup, Maple Weekend, programs, Sapsquatch, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Maple Season is Here (sorta): Upcoming events with Sapsquatch

Maple season is here (sorta) and there’s lots to do!IMG_9954

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Here are some upcoming events with Sapsquatch:

Saturday, March 8, Boynton Middle School 12-3pm
Meet Josh from Sapsquatch at the annual CSA Fair along with 25 other local producers. CSA’s have been selling like hotcakes this year, so come and put your name on the waiting list for this years share. You can also email sapsquatch7@gmail.com

Thursday, March 13th, 6-8pm, Cornell Cooperative Extension, 615 Willow Ave, $5
Slideshow and talked followed by syrup tasting. Learn about some of the latest developments in the industry, history and lore, and a blow-by-blow account of the Great Maple Heist.

Saturday and Sunday, March 22-23 & 29-30, Maple Weekend at Sapsquatch, 2247 Mecklenberg Rd. (Rt. 79 West of Ithaca)
Visit the sugarshack, feed the fire, tap a tree, eat pancakes, walk in the woods, brave the luge run, howl at the moon ! 24-7 Festivities as long as the sap is running. Call if you get lost 607-280-8498

Posted in 2014, CSA, education, events, family, Great Maple Heist, Ithaca, maple production, maple season, maple syrup, Maple Weekend | 1 Comment

Maple syrup in the media

There are always a lot of stories in the media this time of year as the pre-maple season excitement builds, but as the industry grows by leaps and bounds, it seems that this year there has been more media attention than usual. I wanted to give readers a run-down of the top stories I’ve been following this winter in the hopes that you will get maple fever to.

One story that has been unfolding over the last two years is referred to as the Great Maple Heist, the robbery of over 10000 barrels of syrup in 2011-2012 from the Federation of Quebec Maple Producers Strategic Reserve. The subject of an upcoming film by Sony Pictures, the Heist sent shock waves throughout the industry and generated a ton of articles giving sugarmakers and average Joes alike a glimpse into the innards of Canada’s signature industry. Here is an illustrated account of the Heist which appeared in Modern Farmer in mid-January; http://modernfarmer.com/2014/01/illustrated-account-great-maple-syrup-heist/
And for you aspiring felons, here’s the blow by blow; http://danspapers.com/2013/01/the-heist-twenty-million-gallons-of-maple-syrup-are-stolen-from-a-warehouse/
When it comes to big news like this, you can’t really compete with coverage from the Daily Show; http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-february-28-2013/the-canadian-maple-syrup-syndicate

Another story which will have a big influence over the entire US maple industry is the Vermont’s adoption of a new grading system which has eliminated the grade B designation. When the old system was created, it was difficult to produce a dark syrup of high quality and so grade B was a lesser product. Nowadays, with many new technological developments in the mix, Grade B is just as good as Fancy but the name gives the impression of an inferiour quality. The new designations eliminate Fancy and B. http://www.maplesource.com/markets/industrial-market/maple-syrup/maple-syrup-grades.php
Not everyone thinks this new system is a great idea; http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303519404579351010783559806

Technological developments are one of the driving forces behind the current maple boom. From reverse osmosis to tap hole sanitation technology, these developments are increasing yields and efficiency. One recent discovery that has stirred debate within the industry is extraction of maple sap from very young trees. While this could allow maple production on a much smaller footprint, reduce the amount of time to start tapping new trees and open the door for more planted maple farms, critics say this will move the industry toward monoculture and away from sustainable forestry practices. http://modernfarmer.com/2014/01/maple-syrup-revolution/

There have been several interesting radio stories on the maple industry lately including a feature interview with Cornell’s Mike Farrell on North Country Public Radio; http://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/story/23857/20140124/why-maple-syrup-matters-from-tree-to-tap-to-market
He is the author of a recent book, The Sugarmaker’s Companion, which is being acclaimed as the most up-to-date and useful text for hobbiests and commercial producers alike; http://www.chelseagreen.com/content/maple-syrup-101-tap-tree-2/
I also did an interview with Cornell Maple Expert Steve Childs back in December and there is a lot of good information about the modern maple industry; http://yourlisten.com/sapsquatch/steve-childs-interview

One final note; if you have never heard the song by Pete Seeger who passed away last week, you owe it to yourself to give it a listen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFeiFLv1HdE

Posted in 2014, book, grading, Great Maple Heist, maple production, media, Mike Ferrel, Pete Seeger, radio, Steve Childs, technology | Leave a comment

First boil of 2014 time to ID problems

The 2014 maple season is officially off and running. The warm spell over the last week got the sap flowing and at Sapsquatch, with the help of some wonderful new volunteers, we were able to tap about 1/3rd of our sugarbush and collect enough sap for a small boil before everything froze up again during Polar Vortex: Part II.

The first boil is the most crucial of the season. Usually a smaller batch, the first boil is an opportunity to ‘discover’ new or recurring issues and problems that may have developed during the long off-season of inactivity. How is all the equipment working? How is everything flowing through the new sap lines? Do I still remember how to do this?
On Friday, January 17th I set out to the sugarbush for what was to be my earliest boil to date. I began the day with tapping and got to enjoy the last warm sunny day for a while out in the woods. Intending to get started on boiling by 1pm, I had my lunch while priming the evaporator with fresh sap. That’s when I discovered problem #1; the connection between the front and back evaporator pans was leaking profusely and upon loosening the valve, discovered that the connection was still not meeting up properly after being resoldered. I got in touch with Teo the blacksmith over at Durand’s Forge (at Carmen Road Artist Quarters aka the CRAQ Barn http://centralny.twcnews.com/content/news/622330/mecklenburg/
about 5 minutes away and alerted him to the issue. He told me to bring the pan over and he got to work on the fix immediately.

Two hours later I have everything set to try again, this time with addition of a temporary makeshift gasket inserted in the connection to reduce the leakage. Great, everything seems to be working and the leak has been minimized. Time to boil…but wait, here’s problem #2; the valve regulating sap flow between the pans does not close all the way. Without being able to control sap flow into the front pan, sap will keep mixing with more finished stuff and I will not be able to finish any syrup tonight. Best to keep things boiling, get all the sap I have boiled and sterilized and sweeten up the pans for next time.

Luckily, it looks like the weather will give me at least another week to sort out these problems so that next time when I have a whole lot more sap to deal with, I will be ready.

Posted in 2014, CRAQ, gremlins, Polar Vortex, Sapsquatch | Tagged , | 1 Comment

2014 Pre-season News from Sapsquatch Maple Syrup

Well the new year is almost upon us and that means sugaring season is only a month or so away. It’s always nerve-racking as the calendar ticks down to tapping. It seems like no matter how many projects are completed and crossed off my pre-season to-do list, two more pop up. The last two months of 2013 have been especially busy since I chose to rebuild the mainline system this year. For those of you who don’t know, gravity sap collection systems have several features. Mainlines are the larger tubes suspended by high-tensil wire which collect sap from all of the lateral sap lines which connect to each tap. I now have mainline in three sizes; ½” on the outskirts of the system (which has about a 40 tap capacity) leading to ¾” (which can handle 400 taps) and now 1” mainline near the bottom of the system which can hold sap from up to 1000 taps. Each section of mainline must be suspended from high-tensil wire which is used in cattle fencing. The mainline is attached to the wire using hundreds of plastic zip-ties. Each wire in turn is attached to a select tree at either end and must have a tension spooler at one end in order to tighten it. I finally completed this major project yesterday and am now at a point where I can begin hanging lateral lines and taps.

Each tap is attached to a short 2’ section of tubing with a barbed plastic T on the end. I prepared 400 of these over two late nights while watching the pilot of Battlestar Gallactica. While many producers use a special tool to connect all of the barbed fittings to tubing, I still use brute force and a pot of boiling water to expand the tubing and make the process go somewhat faster. Now that all the taps and drop lines are assembled, it will make construction of new lateral lines go much faster. A new feature this year is check valve taps that prevent sap from flowing back into the tap hole during freezing cycles. This keeps bacteria from reaching the tap hole and keeps the hole from sliming over, thus increasing yields. This should work with my gravity only system just fine. I should see a large increase in sap yield between the new lines, new taps and redesigned and reconstructed mainlines and hopefully after 7 years I have learned a thing or two which will make this coming season go smoothly.

To make all of these projects possible, I began CSA sales at the beginning of November. As of today, I have sold fifteen shares; more than ever and al before the beginning of the season. I have been working with some friends in New York
City to try to sell an additional ten shares there that will be delivered at the end of April.

If you are interested in a Sapsquatch maple CSA share, I have about 10 more that I would like to sell before the season begins. Each share consists of either a gallon or four quarts of your favorite grade or grades for $80. Please contact me ASAP via email at sapsquatch7@gmail.com to order or for more info. I will be hosting community work and fun days at the farm on January 4th and 5th and I will be leading hands-on instruction on gravity systems from hanging wire and mainline to lateral lines and tapping. The 2 hour hands-on classes are free with a two hour work contribution. Please RSVP.

Posted in 2014, maple production, Sapsquatch | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maple Weekend Festivities

This coming weekend is the second installment of festivities across New York State celebrating maple syrup. Sugarhouses andIMG_0248_JEREMYVEVERKA nature centers statewide open their doors and give the public a glimpse of the production process and a taste of the sweet stuff. Sapsquatch will be open to the public from 11am Saturday, March 23 – 5pm Sunday March 24 for non-stop boiling, a dish-to-pass along with cocktails, musical debut by The Gripes an d their musical guests. Come keep the sugarmakers company, pick up a jar of syrup or your csa share, try some pancakes and hopefully do some sledding.

Sapsquatch will also be appearing at the Cayuga Nature Center for their annual MapleFest from 10am-4pm both days.

Posted in 2013, events, Maple Weekend | Leave a comment