St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Maple Syrup Day 2

This morning was cold--20 degrees.   Sap doesn't run until it warms up, so the morning looked like a good time to get the battery for the Cub Cadet.   Hit McDonalds for the senior coffee and a buck shrinkwrap.   Then got a lawnmower battery at Walmart--went for the best one $28 vs the $25 or $26.  None of these last more than three years--but the cub is hard to start--so the more cranky hours it has the better.

Also picked up a hack saw (can't seem to find mine) and a chain link.  The Cub has 12 inch carlike treds on the back tires--very little traction, so I hunted around Mom's garage for the old car chains Dad saved from when he used them on the 1938 Chev (drove until Marv and I "filled" the gas tank with sand  visiting Grandpa).   The hacksaw was to saw off the extra chain, and the links just in case I needed them to attach the chains.  When I got back it was sunny and 36, so spent two hours putting the chains on.  They went on surprisingly well--not a harsh word needed.

With the new battery in, the engine turned over fine.   Wouldn't start--would run if I sprayed ether into the carb, so guess the rusted gas tank has stuck the needle valve with the float down--no gas running through it.  Not quite ambitious enough to tear that apart today, as I probably need to add a gas filter to the gas line too.

After a sandwich and hot chocolate lunch, headed back out and took the chainsaw out for the first time. Had a little gas in it and a little oil, so before filling, decided to see if it would start up after sitting since October.  Normally the old Stihl takes 7 pulls and then it starts.   This time after 12, it fired up and ran smoothly, so I attacked the pile of 4 cords of sawmill slabs.   The chain was dull, but I sawed a few minutes and ran it out of gas to get enough cut to start cooking sap.   Cummings Lumber, Frederic Wisconsin delivered 10 bundles of pine slabs 3 years ago -- 8 foot long.  I saw them in half and use them in the sap cooker.  I didn't cook last year, but the year before had used about half of them.

About 2:30 pm, neighbors Dick and Jeremy pulled in pulling a trailer with a 4-wheeler.  They were here to collect sap.  I hadn't planned on being here this year, so they and my nephew and others tapped the trees last Saturday and planned to try to cook it at my shed.   Of course, hearing that someone else was going to help with the work--collecting sap in the woods is a lot of work--I came up to help out too.   It is really too much fun to let them have all the enjoyment!

We collected almost 70 gallons of sap (not so much considering I think they must have 100 pails out). Maybe 1/3 of the pails had some sap--a few almost full.   I had the tank on the Ford tractor and they roamed around with the 4-wheeler emptying buckets.   I think it would probably have worked better with the tank on the 4-wheeler, but I am not sure if it could carry the 50 gallon tank full.

Before they came, I had started cooking the 30 gallons from yesterday to check things out.   The pan isn't quite level, so before the next time, we will level it.  The smoke didn't go out the stovepipes, so we took them down and cleared out a bunch of soot that had come down the pipe to the 90 degree angle--then it drew fine.

I am headed to Classic Movie night at the Luck Museum tonight  (7 pm) to get free popcorn and watch "An American in Paris."   I help out a little too--have been away all winter, so my turn is coming up now.   Dick and Jeremy and spouses are coming back to feed the fire while I am gallivanting about.

Tomorrow have to get some more gas and saw some more slabs and watch the fire.   It is a pleasant job!  Mark stopped in this afternoon, before I had the fire going, so the sap shed wasn't sweet smelling and warm--wasn't ready for visitors!  It should be from now on if the sap keeps running.

Two trumpeter swans on the lake this morning, a bald eagle came by, 3 deer, and lots of geese honking overhead and the sand hill crane still at it.  Came back from St Croix Falls up the River Road.  Ice is still at the dam, but just north at the Lions Park, partially broken up and open, and fully open about a mile north of the dam.  

Margo says she is feeling good.  Guess it must be true as she is hard at cleaning and organizing the Pine Island home after having been out of commission for a half year.   With all of April off, and feeling better, I think we might see her at the cabin for a week or so later in sap season.