Sunday, March 8, 2015

Having lived on this little farm for 3 full growing seasons already, we are becoming more and more in sync with the tasks of the season.

In March, we tap maple trees, at least the very few we happen to have here.

heading out to the back of the property in search of maples

This year that was a grand total of two.

Why even bother tapping two trees, you ask?

Papa gets ready for tapping maple trees

Because even with only two trees we manage to get many gallons of sap, which yields 6-7 pints of the most delicious syrup you're ever tasted, especially so because you foraged it from your own land, and because it's in limited supply so you really enjoy it.

And so the ritual begins with the gathering of supplies - (free) plastic buckets, plastic taps, plastic tubing, a 5/16" drill bit and a drill.  Oh, and my favorite farm tool, a black plastic ice fishing sled.

I use sleds year-round, over grass, snow and ice, and they are fabulous for hauling buckets or weeds or hay bales or manure.

maple tree tapping supplies

If it were up to me we'd use old metal spiles and metal sap buckets, but we already had plastic buckets, and they do hold more sap and keep the sap cleaner.

{if any of you have a few of the old supplies you want to get rid of, please contact us}

The hardest part of the process is pushing the spile into the plastic tubing. Luckily I had Papa handy to do this task so I could just stand around snapping pics.

prepping the spile for maple tree tapping

After drilling a 5/16" hole about 2" deep at a slight upward angle, you insert the spile (with tubing attached), tapping it gently into the tree.

Insert the other end into the bucket. Seal the bucket with the lid to keep out spiders and dirt. If the sap is running, you will see sap flow into the bucket almost right away, although at a fairly slow pace.

Why does our maple tree have red flagging tape around it, you may be asking?

Well that's because our property is full of oaks and very few maples, so we walk around in the fall looking for maples when the leaves are on, and mark the trees with red flagging so we can find them in March when they are bare and all look the same.

Yup, we're brilliant that way.

make sure you get the dirt out of the bucket

Depending on the size of the tree, you may be able to place more than one spile. You can find some guidelines, and more specific tapping instructions, here.

One your taps are set, don't forget to come back often and check the buckets.  You may have many days in a row where you get nothing, then suddenly you can have an overflowing bucket in one day.

It all depends on the temperatures, ideally freezing at night and warm during the day.

in search of maples

The trek out there makes for some nice "sweetie" time anyway, so I always look forward to it.

Cheers -
gypsy farmgirl writes about tapping maple trees

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Holstein heifer calf at Whispering Pines dairy farm in Elroy, WI

I am seriously in love with these sweet Holstein calves on my friend's dairy farm.

Johanna and Valentine, Holstein calves at Whispering Pines dairy farm

Remember these cuties?  Johanna, whom I had the pleasure of naming, and the Valentine boys, whom my tribe on Instagram named?

Yup, still sweeties.

Johanna, a Holstein heifer at Whispering Pines farm in Elroy, WI

Whiskers and eyelashes and freckles, oh my!

I still want to scoop them up in a big bear hug and bury my neck in their furry coat.

Visiting the calves at Whispering Pines farm in Elroy, WI

I doubt they'd get much enjoyment from that however, so I content myself with offering to bottle feed the babies whenever I can.

Sometimes the neighbor boys come over to help.  They know a lot about cows and farms already, even though they do not live on one.

there is always something to be done on a dairy farm

They are thoughtful and ask serious, grown-up questions and they listen intently to your answers.

the girls are the "work horses" behind every dairy operation

Additional supporting staff at the farm include Gypsy, our Border Collie who prefers hanging out with cows at this farm than hanging out with turkeys at our farm...

Gypsy the Border Collie

And a number of barn cats like this one, Sam, the sweeties little cat you ever did meet.

sweet Sam, one of several barn cats

And if you're curious what the "cockles of your heart" means, I found this from here:

The cockles of the heart are its ventricles, named by some in Latin as "cochleae cordis", from "cochlea" (snail), alluding to their shape. The saying means to warm and gratify one's deepest feelings.

sweet calf faces at Whispering Pines dairy farm, Elroy, WI

Cheers -
Gypsy Farmgirl LOVES Holstein calves

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