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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.

Setting up the pipeline is a family affair...that goes to the dogs

During the week, I had been putting in a few hours here and there working on the pipeline system in our maple sugarbush. I had worked on getting the mainline tied up so that if some extra help showed up on the weekend we could run the tubing to the trees. As luck would have it, we had a good crew show up to help at the farm. We loaded up the wagon and headed to the woods.

The crew consisted of my three sons, my brother, Steve, my brother-in-law, Kris, my sister, Patty, her husband, Marty, and me. The wagon was loaded with the reel of 3/4" black plastic mainline, rolls of 5/16" blue tubing, a box of all the necessary fittings, and buckets with the tools and twist ties to do the job of installing the pipeline. We finished putting up the 3/4" mainline that connected three lines coming off the hill. While Ben and Steve put on the twist ties, Kris and Noah made up some more drops, 3' lengths of tubing with a tee on the end, and Justin and I ran tubing from groups of hard and soft maple trees to the mainline.


Once all the mainline was done and all the y-fittings in place, Ben and Patty put drops into the tubing that Justin and I had run out. Ben used a tool, borrowed from my neighboring sugar-maker, Tom Patterson, that would clamp the tubing in two places, make a cut, spread the tubing, and then close the tubing over the ends of the tee inserted between the two ends. When it comes time to tap the trees, we will then drill a 5/16" hole in the tree to a depth of about two inches, put in the spout, and put the end of the "drop" on the spout. The sap will run down the tubing to the mainline, and down the mainline to a collection tank.

It was a beautiful afternoon, with bright sunshine, blue skies, and fairly mild temperatures. What a treat to be out working together with your family. When we say our farm is a "family farm", it is a fact in every sense of the phrase. When we have something going on at the farm that we could use some extra help on, there is always some family member or members that show up to help. Even the dogs, Yukon and Abbey, were out patrolling the woods.


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I'm jealous! I love "sugar on snow" and, though I've never been able to be present at a tapping, I will buy nothing but pure maple syrup. Nothing tastes the same!

Great job keeping the organic movement up. I appreciate your blog and efforts ! Keep it up !!

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