St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Maple Season Day 1

   I threw a few medium chunks of wood into the cabin stove at 11:00 pm last night -- temperature outside was still 40 degrees.   I don’t like to get up, go down stairs and throw another chunk in 4 hours unless I wake up cold.  Heat with just wood here. 
  Woke up warm at 6:30am without the electric blanket and just the normal light blanket and spread--figured it must have stayed warm outside overnight.  Got up and checked--41 on the outdoor porch thermometer and 61 in the cabin.  The wood stove was cold.   However I heard a fan running--the electric space heater was running.  Thought I shut if off, but on closer inspection, I had set it at 60 degrees and it ran enough to keep the cabin warm!   Rather amazing as it is only a $15 1500 watt heater bought to replace the one the burglar took in March. 

   The goals for the day:  get the two tractors started and checked out both having set in the garage since November, put the sap tank on the back of the Ford, get the 1987 F150 Ford started and checked out (this one has a failing clutch--slips), and take a tour of the woods with the Ford to see where Neil and Bryce and friends had set out the buckets. 

   As I had not planned to be up for maple season, the two decided to try doing it at the cabin.   Bryce has equipment and so do I, so I think they put out about 100 buckets.  

   With a shot of starting fluid, the 1947 Ford 2n started right up.   Let it idle a while and then took it out and hooked on the 3-point back carrier.  The sap tank looked like it needed a wash, and as I don’t hook my water system up until late April (after the freezing nights), it looked like a good reason to start the truck and take the tank, some gas cans, and a few dirtly pails out to the car wash.  

   Checked the 1952? Farmall Super C.  The starter barely works on it, so I usually crank it up.  It starts easily with the crank.  Turn on the gas, put it in neutral, pull the switch on, and pull the choke all the way out.  Quarter turn it two times so gas is leaking from the carburetor, then shove the choke in almost all the way, and two more quarter turns and it starts.   Only it didn’t start.   Checked and it was out of gas.  Sometimes if I forget to turn off the gas, the carburetor float lets it all leak out.  Took out the crank, turned off the switch and headed to town with the gas cans. 

   The truck started up immediately--also sat since last November.   We bought it new in 1987 when Scott was in Boy Scouts and I was the Scoutmaster.  The troop needed parents with vans or trucks to haul boys and equipment.   We planned to buy a van until my friend Gene, who had a truck and boy in scouts said, “You know Russ, lots of parents have vans already, so two of us with trucks would be nice.  And, remember, with the truck you have two scouts riding along and the van 7 or 8.  It is much calmer in the truck!”   

It is 4-wheel drive, very rusty, but the 300 cubic inch 6 cylinder engine seems to be indestructable (190,000 miles).   The rear main engine seal is leaking and has leaked onto the clutch and soaked it up so it slips in high gear going up hills (my diagnosis with advice from brother Ev).  Don’t know if it worth fixing.   I would like to get it fixed, because I probably would never buy a truck again--just can’t justify having one with the little use I give it.  Probably the 16 mpg makes me leave it at home most of the time. 
An open spot in the lake
below the cabin where the
spring runs in. No dead
fish--means probably no
fish freeze out this winter!

   Filled the rear tank with gas (front one leaks) and the gauge doesn’t work so I reset the trip indicator and when it gets to 200 miles fill it again. I replaced the rusted out floor on the driver’s side with doubled flashing tin, so my feet are secure again! 

   Every spring when I start it up, I have to drive it a few trips with the windows open.  Mice crawl into the engine compartment and leave droppings that are smelly as they burn up.   Was 43 degrees by the time I went to Cushing. Filled the gas cans and tank and pretty much blew $100.  Only $2 for 4 minutes to spray out the sap tank and pails, and gave the truck a squirt too, being very careful not to wash off the patina that old vehicles sitting outside get.   Very hard to duplicate it without 25 years of neglect. 

   Got back and mounted the sap tank and drove through the 38 acres following the 4-wheeler tracks from Saturday’s tapping.   You could see they had difficulty wallowing through the snow then, but today it was soft and fine.   Never even spun either back wheel.  

Spring runs year round into the lake
   Thinking there might be some sap, I brought the old milk strainer and stuck a filter pad into it to collect any buckets that were running. I think 10 buckets had sap, one almost full, a couple half full, and a few with a gallon or so in the white plastic 5 gallon buckets.  Altogether got about 30 gallons of sap.  Takes me about 35-40 gallons to make a gallon of syrup.  I usually don’t start cooking until I get 150 gallons on hand.  The big cooking pan needs that much to boil it down and still cover the whole pan bottom. 
   Having been successful starting the two Fords, I put 5 gallons of gas in the Super C, turned on the switch and went to the front to crank it.  No crank!   I must have taken it out when I tried earlier and then went to town for gas.   Must be nearby.  I hunted and hunted around and around the inside of the shed and the outside.   No where to be found!

   Stymied with the Farmall, I decided to try starting the 1973 (?) Cub Cadet.   Pulled it out of the garage into daylight with the Ford and put the battery charger on the small 12 volt lawn mower battery.  Wouldn’t take a charge, and only spun the starter without engaging with the charger in boost mode.  Battery was from October 2010, so I suppose it is shot.  Added some oil and checked the gas tank.   Rusty inside.   Last year I used muriatic acid to clean it out as rust flakes were plugging the needle valve.  Back to that problem again.  I guess I have to coat the inside with some kind of tank sealer.   Brother Ev tells me that some tanks rust with gas that has alcohol in it. 

    When I had come back with the Ford tractor from pulling out the Cub, I parked it in a different spot. Walking back to the sap shed, stepped on the crank--I had parked the Ford over it!   So, cranked the Super C up--started right up. I have a front truck snowplow blade on it, so drug it back and forth over my muddy driveway.  10 acres of hillsides to the east all melt and flow through and down the driveway making it more of a creek in the spring. 
The spring starts oozing out of the ground

   By then it was 3 pm and I was pretty much tired out.   I am still not the man I used to be--Myasthenia seems slow me down.  Although, I have been idling for almost 3 years with a broken leg, knee surgeries and Myasthenia, so it may be that I am out of shape just a little.

   Sap has just started, so we are hopeful that it will gush the next few days and weeks.  We have a large crew that helped set out the buckets and are promising to help collect and cook sap, so hopefully we will get a few gallons for each of us by the end of the season.
   No robins here; no red wing blackbirds; no other spring birds yet.  I did hear the call of a sandhill crane in the fields to the south. It wasn't the mating call, it was the "I'm available" call. 
Sandhill Crane mating call from youtube