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

Reminds me of maple sugaring. Actually met Erick over a decade ago when I was hitchhiking over in Starkey.

Redbyrd Orchard Cider

Pruning is my favorite orchard chore.  It is truly art, sculpting RedByrd_13_006of the tree. To promote fruitful wood, renew old branches, shape the tree for good sunlight and airflow.  Apples and leaves will surround these trees this summer but for now they are mere skeletons.  The air is crisp and the cider, fresh and cold.

The air is crisp and the cider, fresh and cold.

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Posted in CSA, Farms, Ithaca | Leave a comment

Update for March 2013

It has been an incredible week and I have been very busy down at the sugarshack. I was not sure I would even have time to knock off this quick update, but there are some really important events coming up that you should know about.
Several important dates are coming up as New York’s Maple Weekend approaches. Sapsquatch will be open to the public on March 16-17 and 23-24 from 11am-5pm all four days https://www.facebook.com/events/494320303961991/ and on both Saturday nights will be alive with boiling and festivities at the sugarshack. Please pay us a visit at 2247 Mecklenburg Rd./Rt. 79 in Enfield, pick up some syrup, try some pancakes, hike in the woods or do some sledding. We will also be selling our syrup at Cayuga Nature Center’s annual Maple Fest http://cayuganaturecenter.org/
If you are thinking about joining our CSA, you can pick up you shares at either of these locations. Here’s how it works. For $80, you receive a gallon or 4 quarts of your favorite grade of syrup. Quarts can be mixed and matched and by purchasing your CSA, we reserve the grades that you want. This is key if you want to get your hands on our extremely popular Grade B syrup. As a CSA member, you can schedule a free guided tour of the sugarbush for your whole family, have a private syrup tasting with pancakes and receive regular updates about events and happenings at the sugarbush and beyond. We will ship or repack your share into your choice of containers for an additional $20. Payment plans available. Contact Josh at sapsquatch7@gmail.com for details and to reserve your share.
This week, in addition to getting ready for what could be the biggest run of the season, I have been working with a wonderful group of students from Kurt Hahn Outward Bound High School from Brooklyn. This Wednesday they spent a few hours out at the sugarbush helping with a few key projects and helped move two black locust logs which have been waiting for over a year for a crew big enough to pick them up (they were really heavy!) We carried these logs and placed them across Sapsquatch Creek and they will serve as trusses for a brand new bridge. Thursday we visited Good Life Farm http://thegoodlifefarm.org/ did some spring planting in high tunnels, pulled drip tape from a vegetable patch to prepare for plowing and spent time learning about and watching their draft horses in action. A lot of firsts on this trip from sledding to petting goats and I have been honored to be a part of their trip. I will be looking forward to the documentary that a few of the students are working on about this trip.
Speaking of videos, check out ‘I am a Sugarmaker’, a short film I produced during a workshop in NYC last month sponsored by the Center for Digital Storytelling: https://vimeo.com/60576866
As always, check us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sapsquatch-pure-maple-syrup/41901318258?fref=ts on twitter @sapsquatch7 and check our blog at http://www.sapsquatchsyrup.wordpress.com You can also reach josh by phone at (607) 280-8498.

Posted in 2013, CSA, education, events, Kurt Hahn, Maple Weekend, media, programs, video | Tagged , , | Leave a comment