Sunday, March 31, 2013


Someone I know stopped by the Sugar Bush.

It's been a great weekend for boiling off some sap down in the timber.  The temps have risen and it's feeling more like Spring each day.

The new chorus I heard in the timber this morning, like that of the Black-capped Chickadees and the little gray bird with an echoing voice, the Tufted Titmouse, aren't singing about air temperature.

It's about daylight. The lengthening of the days gets birds' hormones racing. As the days get longer and birds get active the males start to sing, beginning the period of courtship.  Meanwhile, other birds that pass their winter in warmer climes are just starting to return, like the Gulls, Sand hill Cranes and Snow Geese.

 Each migratory species has its own characteristic route between its nesting and winter ranges, and I'm fortunate enough to do my tapping right here along the Mississippi Flyway.

The dogs and cats always manage to find me but lately I've had a few other folks stop by.  Our neighbor Dustin has stopped by several times watching the maple syruping process and Beau is home from school for a few days and that's always a great help around the house and down in the bush.

This morning Joan and Mart stopped by to check on Susie kitchen/living room remodeling project. 

Later on our good friend Sandy Dyas a visual artist who specializes in environmental portraiture.  

Sandy came by to chat and snap some photos for an upcoming on line show.  I have always admired Sandy, both as an artist and as a creative soul, and have always enjoyed seeing her work she's always had an eye for what's cool.

I'm looking forward to seeing what comes out of this shoot.
Here's a link to sandy's website/blog check it out.

 And here is my wife Susie's new website/blog too.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


 On Wednesday a vigorous puff of white smoke from the smokestack of the Sistine Chapel, where 115 cardinals had been sequestered since Tuesday evening to pick Catholicism's new leader.

White smoke emerges from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican on March 13, 2013. White smoke emerges from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican on March 13, 2013.

There was white smoke rollin from my stoves in the sugar bush this weekend too. 

The Indians would also leave the sap out in the cold to freeze. Then the ice could be lifted off of the top, leaving a higher concentration of sugar behind.
The pioneers, over time, improved the process. They developed the "spile." The spile is a "faucet" placed in a small hole, drilled into the tree. Early spiles were made from sumac branches.

And Bckrvue has improved on the process too. But, not by much.  Like the early settlers I'm still using the hand drill but I've upgraded to copper spiles with 6 foot long bags for collecting the sap.
I'm off to a slow start this year.  The sap is flowin well but after stepping on my mattock that popped up and cracked my tibia just below my knee.

A mattock is a heavy sturdy grubbing tool with an adz blade that can be used as a hoe for digging in hard ground. The other blade of a mattock may be a pick (pick mattock) for breaking or prying small rocks or a cutting edge (cutter mattock) for chopping roots. 
Safety tip:The handle can be removed for ease in packing and tools should always be put in their proper place so not to smash into your shin.
mattock  Things have slowed down to a crawl, literally.

Susie is picking up my slack, emptying sap bags and bring some back to finish off on the wood stove.  She also has been working on her new web site

Beckervue Studio
if ya have problems linking, just google it
   be sure to check it out and feel free to re post.  THANKS!

Sunday, March 10, 2013


 “Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”
Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

When the sap is flowing in the timber and soccer season is just getting underway, then you know it's March and that's Paddle fish season on the Mississippi.

So, with Jerry back form school for spring break, Beau came back for our annual father and son outingon the river.

Last year we fished all morning in 65* weather, wearing shorts and tee shirts and only managing to hook one small sand sturgeon.

This year was a totally different story, with over an inch of rain last night and temps in the upper 30s* we set out in the fog just below the lock and dam.

 On only his third pull Beau hooked a nice ten pounder.  Well, that set the pace for the morning.  It wasn't long before both Beau and Jerry had there two fish.

Next up, the dads took the rods.  I caught a 39" 34 bls. and Rich caught a fish that ran just a little shy of the my fish and 25lbs.  With in an hour we had caught our eight, fish keeping only one for eating.

Like most fish, paddlefish make a healthy source of protein that is also lower in fat and calories than other types of meat, such as beef or pork. Paddlefish is a type of sturgeon, which is also a healthy source of phosphorus and potassium, as well as vitamin A.



Paddlefish are North American river fish that live in waters in the Mississippi Valley and down to the gulf areas near Texas and Louisiana. This species of fish is similar in appearance to swordfish with large mouths and paddlelike appendages off the front of their faces,known as the rostrum. Paddlefish can grow to weigh up to 60 lbs. and measure up to 5 feet. Similar in taste to swordfish.

 You can't ask for a much better day than that!

Thanks Rich and Jer!

Monday, March 4, 2013


During a brief warmup in February I hiked down and pulled out the old stove or what was left of it.

  After a little shop time I converted an eight foot rusted out stock tank into a double walled four footer.

 I also did a lot of research on rocket stoves and banged out a small prototype for quick high heat.

  Started moving the supplies down into the sugar bush the other day.  The down hill run was easy with the snow and sled.  I must say, I felt a little like the Grinch flying down the mountain into Who ville.

Winter storms have dropped many branches from the elms and wild cherry and a few trees close to the Sugar camp.

I tapped a few trees just to get an idea of what kind of flow I've got.

Right now the drip rate is pretty slow.  Only around 12 to 16 drips per minute, DPM.  but the forecast for the upcoming week looks favorable, with good temperature fluctuations and a few blasts of snow mid week.

Parent teacher conferences on Wednesday and Thursday nights.  So, No School on Friday!  That's when I'll get my first batch rollin.  Followed by the start of Boys Soccer season on Monday.

Tonight's for cast is for 5 to 7  inches of snow.  I love the way the sugar bush looks after a fresh snow fall.