Thursday, February 25, 2010

Maple Syrup Harvest

On the West Coast? Are you kidding?


We've got bigleaf maples. They produce sap that actually has enough sugar in it to make it viable to produce syrup. And they've got a long harvesting season (from mid-November to mid-February most years; in the east, it's only a few short weeks). Of course, we have to collect more sap to make the equivalent amount of syrup, but what the heck!

Thanks to the Forest Discovery Centre's Maple Syrup Festival, Dave has now got a new hobby. So we got the book, picked up a kit from Bees 'n Glass, got some wine kit bags from Valley Vines to Wines for sap collecting and cleaned them out, and all we needed was Dave's drilling expertise, and a little patience.

We got started at the very end of the season, yet the weather cooperated to give us some hope for success. After a week's worth of collecting, we ended up with about 20 litres of sap which boiled down to 500 mLs (two cups) of syrup. YUMM!!!!! This is definitely something we'll be looking forward to doing next winter.

Water Collection

We now have 1200 gallons of water storage available!! Here are two of the three tanks (one in the background):

We get lots of rain during the fall, spring, and winter, but precious little during most summers. Since we are putting in a lot of food plants (greenhouse, orchard including soft fruits, veggies, grain crops, root crops), and we live on a well, we figured we needed to put in some water storage. We still recycle our laundry water (you'd be surprised at how much water goes down the drain just from your washing machine). These tanks will definitely help a lot. We might need more, but this will have to do for this year!

Greenhouse Modifications

While the greenhouse worked beautifully last summer, and its design was always intended to extend the season on either side of summer (which it did at least this past fall, and we think it will do really well later this spring), the light levels inside were not ideal in the middle of summer. So Dave spent a week or so recently adding some windows, some of which had always been in the plans, but the rest we'd not had the materials for originally.

The door was reclaimed, having been stored in our barn, and the opening windows were reclaimed from a house that we got from a used building supplier. This is the north face, where no light (other than ambient) comes in.

This is the west face, with three windows we'd acquired from our cousins when they replaced their windows this summer, plus a shower door (and another one of the reclaimed windows) newly installed. The apex is now enclosed with plexiglas. This face gets a lot of heat and sun in the afternoon.

This is the east face. Again, another shower door, and another window from our cousin. There is some sun in the morning over the trees and around the hazelnut in the summer, but not enough to warrant putting a lot more windows in this end. The holes at the top will be vents.

Dave also built hinged wooden vents at the base of the south wall (you can just make them out in the lower left-hand corner of the above photo), that we'll have open in the summer to let air & pollinators (hopefully!) in.

Now we're reconsidering our options for the planters inside. As you can see from last year, we used oak half-wine barrels:

They worked very well; however, there is a lot of "wasted" space in there. We might build some raised beds instead. Last year, there just wasn't time, budget, or energy; this year, we'll see!