Saturday, March 19, 2011

Solar-Powered Syrup and Other Signs of Spring

The sap is running like crazy in our two  big silver maples.  We have collected over 20 gallons of sap from them in six 5-gallon buckets today.  Silver Maple sap is half as concentrated as Sugar Maple sap, so it takes 60 gallons to make one gallon of syrup. Silver maple syrup is very light, with a slight vanilla flavor. If we have two more days like this, we should be able to make a gallon of yummy maple syrup!
Two years ago we  boiled the syrup down on a wood fire. It turned out very smoky.  Last year, we boiled it down in a large  roasting pan over an LP gas tank flame--very costly for the fuel, but worked great.  This year, I am experimenting with an induction hot plate that purports to be 89% efficient (the heat heats only the pan, not the surrounding air.) Our electricity during daylight hours comes from twelve solar PV panels on the roof of our barn, so I guess we can call this solar syrup.  Rog has a Kill-a-Watt meter hooked up to determine the electricity usage of the induction hot plate  to verify whether it is really any more efficient. I like that we can set it at a specific temperature and it won't  boil over.  One downside, the pan is smaller than the large roaster we used before, so we can't boil as much at one time.
With warmer temps the  snow is melting fast and it is SO MUDDY. Not only does a large percentage of that mud get tracked into the house by  pets and people, it is kind of ugly out. So this afternoon, I spent hours power-washing the patio, and then  spreading pea gravel by the entrance, creating a mud buffer between driveway and house. This is the "after" photo. I think the last time that green metal patio furniture appeared in a blog post the snow was up to the table top!  Of course you can't see the two snowbanks I cropped out of the photo.
One reason it is so muddy is that in December they  trenched  all over the yard to connect the  solar panels to the  main power pole and to bring electricity to the granary. As the contractors were doing that, it was snowing heavily, so you can't entirely blame them, but now as it is melting there are sneaky, deep trenches under the snow. I cannot tell you how many times I have suddenly plunged into the  depths of a hidden  trench while innocently going out to feed the chickens.  It is also a major source of the incredible mud in our yard this spring.
Other  great  signs of spring: rhubarb is poking through!
The large purple drumstick alliums are poking through!
Apple tree buds are swelling!
And even a peony bud has burst through the ground!

Hallelujah! Spring is  almost here!


gz said...


Allison at Novice Life said...

Hmmm, I thought my peony bush may have been done for after hubby hit it with the lawn mower late last year...but now, after seeing your pic, maybe I should go double check it and hopefully I am wrong!