St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

More Sap!

Another day with lots of sap!  About 200 gallons collected today with the help of neighbors Dave and Marcie.  That  makes about 500 gallons on hand to cook!   Probably about 3-4 days of cooking plus it was dripping as we collected them early this afternoon.  

Talking to others we hear they too are having a sappy year.  After last year's total bust, it is great to be running at capacity.  We are cooking the sap to syrup and storing it in 5 gallon pails until we have time to finish it (bring it to 66.5% density, filter and bottle it).  We are busy keeping the fire going and tonight Scott and I plan to draw straws to see who gets up every 2 hours at night to fill the pan and feed the fire.   

While collecting sap back in the woods, we saw 3 woodcocks.  Two were paired off, and the other by itself.  The male is smaller and is the one that does the dancing.  Even more interesting is the evening courtship where the male picks an open spot near the woods, stands there calling "peent" every so often, then flies high in the sky and swirls around and makes a sort of whistling with his wings as he comes back to the ground.  That attracts the females and if they are suitably impressed, they retire to the brush for more intimate activities.  

   According to Wikipedia, the male is not involved in nest building, egg sitting, nor any fatherly tasks with the young.  The woodcock is a game bird, hunted for eating.  It seems much too small to bother with, and is much to fun to watch for me to want to hunt it.  Pheasants and grouse are similar in that the male does not help with the young.  Many smaller birds are dual parents as are most water birds--so not sure what the advantage is to being a single parent.  

  Deer and bear are single parents, as are cats, but wolves, otters, beaver and foxes are dual parents.  Lots of variation in nature.  The pair of owls that hoot near the cabin have their nest hidden somewhere nearby, and like the eagles, are dual parents.  

A flock of 25 or more robins swirled around the woods and nearby field this afternoon.  Dozens of small sparrows, either fox or song sparrows I think--maybe both scratched around the open area where the big wood pile and sap shed areas are--the areas I plowed free of snow.   
A lot of neighbors showed up for the Cushing Spring Bash.  Scott and I got there in time for Lasagna after having just finished cooking 12 gallons of syrup and cleaning the 8-foot pan and getting it restarted for the next batch.  We were too tired to stay for the auction to see how much the 10 bottles of syrup or the History Society books brought.  The lasagna was excellent as were the desserts and everything.  Those two Olsen girls (Betty Wilson and Margie Mattson) sure know how to feed huge crowds. Got to meet many of my neighbors all congratulating each other for nearly making it through another winter.  

The cabin is a mess with every flat surface filled with stuff.  Luckily Margo is still at Pine Island, so it will give me time to sort through the things and organize them.  Above the soft chair is my paint-by-numbers maple syruping scene.  Don't understand why that wasn't stolen when the burglar broke in last February.  Great art is really valuable --I watch the Antiques Roadshow--hardly any oil painting goes for less than $10,000!  Left, the blue painting, is an original by neighbor Ed Emerson, depicting Long Trade Lake at Atlas. 
Update: 5:30 went out to add wood and sap to the cooker.  A dozen robins picking around plowed area where there is bare ground and driveway.  Sprinking just a little as predicted to start at 5 pm.  
   We made adding sap easier.  We had been dipping it with 5 gallon buckets out of our covered tanks, but I bought a sump pump at Menards for $50 and 25 feet of garden hose.  Just drop the pump into the tank, run the power cord and hose into the sap shed and plug in the pump and in a few minutes the pan is filled--quick, no lifting, and get to stay inside during the whole process.  

    We also store enough wood inside for the firing all night. We order a 10 full cord load of white pine slabs from Cummings Lumber out of Frederic every other year and saw the slabs in half to fit in our firebox (about 6 foot deep).   The pine slabs burn fast and hot, so really should add every hour or less, but that is way too often at night!