Freedom + Mobility

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So, just a short bit ago, we fulfilled one of the checkboxes on our annual list of To-Do’s …

Get a Trailer.

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We hiked down to Connecticut a few Saturdays back to scope out an older, but solid, all aluminum trailer large enough to fit both our horses, all our stuff, and even a sleigh… (If you know how I like to pack, I prefer to bring IT ALL … just in case…)

IMG_1001We’re super pumped about the purchase — especially how great it’s been to have our own set of wheels, rather than bumming rides off our trainer or other Draft Club members.

So far, we’ve loaded up for a few local events. Jed & Finn tried their hand at plowing, teamed up with Finn’s buddy Windy and his owner, Pam …

IMG_8207Finn is in the furrow, the horse and driver (if all goes right) plow a straight line by walking in the furrow they just plowed.
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Everyone had a blast… Finn & Jed learned something, and it was great to work around so many knowledgeable people and horses. It’s the best way to learn! (And a great way to spend a cool Spring morning in NH!)IMG_8206

IMG_1058 We also made a hike to the beach! Here in New Hampshire, public beaches are open to horses from Oct 1 – April 30. Each weekend (and many days during the week), you can find equestrians out on the beach, enjoying the sand and surf. IMG_1075Moxie loved a good gallop right on the edge of the waves.
IMG_1110All in all, we’re looking forward to a fun summer of independence with the trailer. Living in such a beautiful place as New Hampshire, we’re excited to explore new beaches, forest trails, and other New England destinations (Acadia!) via horseback!

Sap Happenings

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We’ve been doing a lot of boiling around here… the sap-to-syrup process isn’t a hard one, but it sure is time consuming.
IMG_0736It has taken us about 6-7 hours of boil time for 3 gallons of syrup, and today we’re doing a marathon boil of nearly 5 gallons. IMG_0738We stored yesterday’s gatherings in an old carboy from our winemaking days. This one is a 5-gallon carboy, and we have half of it on the stove right now…

Ours is just a backyard operation, but I could see how people can go nuts with this! Many farms around us collect sap with tubing which terminates in a larger holding tank. This is often near the sugarhouse, which is exclusively used for boiling down sap. In fact, next weekend here in New Hampshire is Maple Sugar Weekend where dozens of area sugar houses are open to the public!

Spring is certainly on the way, but first, we muddle through the messy Mud Season. Late Winter sun melts mounds of snow resulting in lots and lots of mud. It’ll stay this way until things start drying out later in April.

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That can’t come soon enough!

Time to Tap

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Back after a long hiatus and a busy winter … and… we’re trying our hands at maple syrup, folks.

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It’s a New England institution, gathering sap, and one we’ve been on the periphery of each year. We’ve been to maple sap boils, sugar houses, and sent nearly every family member a Christmas bottle of New Hampshire-made syrup. With two huge (namesake) trees on our property, it was time for us to give it a go.

Eschewing the modern plastic sap containers, I posted an ad on a local farm & garden Facebook group in search of the classic, old galvanized ones. In a bit of a rush (40 degrees starts TOMORROW!), I got in touch with the farmstead across the street, and of course they had sap buckets hanging around, complete with tops and spiles (combo tap/bucket holders.) IMG_0673

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Buckets were cleaned and scrubbed with bleach water and thoroughly rinsed.IMG_0660

Then, we started the hunt for maples around the property. Any sugar-type maple would do, but popular varieties are Sugar, Red, Silver, Black, and Rock. Trees needed to be at least 31″ around before they can safely be tapped without damaging the tree. This was a bit larger than we anticipated, and we discovered lots of junior sugar trees … just a few more years needed!

Trees 79+ inches around can take 3 taps, which is the max. At 150+ inches around (12+ feet!) this tree is our largest… shortly after the photo, we hung a third bucket on this one.

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We pre-drilled a 2″ downward-facing hole and gently pounded in the spile with a mallet. The hook on the bottom holds the bucket, and the groove on the top funnels sap into the bucket. Buckets should hang on the South-facing side of the tree, which is the warmest. Sap flows best when days are 40-50 degrees and nights dip down in the 30s. These temperature changes make sap flow up and down the tree (and out of our taps!)

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IMG_0670Each tap can produce 10-20+ gallons, and 40 gallons are needed to make 1 gallon of syrup. This sheer quantity, along with the labor-intensive and hands-on process involved in making real syrup dictates much higher prices for genuine maple syrup vs. the general grocery-story maple-flavored (corn) “syrup”…

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Today was truly the easiest day of the process, I’m imagining. Now, we wait, haul sap, store it and boil it down. Hopefully things won’t go wrong along the way, and even if we end up with enough to put on a few pancakes, it’ll be success. We have much to learn!

Lots of helpful reading here if you’re interested in trying this at home!

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