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Follow organic dairy farmer Jonathan Gates as he reports weekly from his Vermont family farm. Howmars Farm is a certified organic dairy farm, one of many Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative farmer members who supply the milk that goes into making Stonyfield's yogurts and smoothies. The entire family pitches in on this third-generation farm. Check out some of the happenings on his farm and post your comments. Jonathan loves to get feedback from readers.

Hanging buckets for sap is a family affair

Setting out sap buckets and tapping trees is an extended family affair at Howmars Farm.
The weather conditions were perfect this past weekend for tapping the sugarbush (our stand of maple trees which supply us with sap). And, being the weekend, it meant we would have plenty of help. Ben finished getting the wagon ready, and then we loaded it with buckets, covers, a bucket of spouts, and snowshoes. On hand to help were my sister, Patty; my brother, Steve, and his wife, Jill; Emily, Hanna, Zach, and Maddy--my nieces and nephews; and my wife Karen and our boys. Patty's husband, Marty, was the tractor driver and he did an excellent job in the deep snow. Must be the good luck lick from one of the Jersey steers helped him drive so well.

MapleSyrupCowLick0305.JPGWe ended up putting out 425 buckets, about the same as last year. The snowshoes really helped in the woods, and hopefully the trails we made from tree to tree will harden and be easy to travel on when we gather. The kids were tuckered out by lunch time, so they stayed with Grandma and then with Aunt Patty while we finished tapping.


The biggest challenge was keeping enough battery packs charged to run the 19.2 volt battery powered drill we use to tap the trees. We would get about 50 taps out of one pack before it needed charging again, but with 4 packs and two chargers we kept going at a pretty steady pace.

It was great to stop once in a while and just listen to the ping-ping of the drops of sap hitting the bottom of the sap buckets. Music to a sugarmakers ears. Now we just need to get the sugar rig in the sugarhouse ready, and when there is sap to gather we'll be ready to make some syrup.


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MANY years ago as a child, I used to accompany my granddad on his rounds collecting sap from his maples in Norwich, Vermont. As you mentioned in an earlier blog, he used horses and a sled to pull the sap tub through the trees and then on to the sugaring shack. My favorite memory is of the "sugar-on-snow" that we would convince "Pop" was necessary for us young ones (and older folks, also) to enjoy. Boiling down the syrup and searching for clean snow in a pile somewhere are fond reminders of the joys of growing up on a farm. And, that yummy hard maple syrup on snow is making my mouth water just thinking about it!

I've enjoyed reading your blogs! Good luck with this year's syrup production!

Sandi Prince....Escapee farmer's daughter who lives in the Big City of Seattle!

Do you make enough syrup to sell, or is it strickly for your family's use?

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