Sunday, March 30, 2014



 Spring is here and each and every day there's a new look here around Bckrvue.  The warm summer breezes carry large flocks of geese north  and the first pair of swans are back on the Mill Pond.
 On the Mississippi the ice flows are breaking up.
 In the timber the sap flow is strong with the cool nights and warm days.

The snow is gone and there are signs of green here and there.

 With the increase of sap came the need to increase sap production.

RR set me up with his chop saw so I could cut into the top of the stock tank.

A 3 X 3 angle iron frame drops right and comes right out.  Great for cleaning out ash build up and easy to swap over for the next stove upgrade in a few years.
 The pan with sap drops right in.

It uses a third less wood and gets the sap to a rolling boil in no time at all.
 The curse of M@rch m@dness struck once again.

As with all new set ups there's always a little learning curve.

After settling in to catch a few elite eight ball games with pizza and a cold one.  I got caught up in the action and let the pan turn to candy. 
 Susies, "Moon Hawk" sculpture got a new look this weekend, too.  After about eight plus hours the grouting was done.

Next,  mounting it on a pole in the garden.

 After some yard work, Susie walked down to the Sugar Bush and convinced me to hike the perimeter of the hayfield and look for sheds.

I'm HAPPY to report I found one!
Another new look...This is the first time my chin has seen the light of day sense November

Look for the signs of spring!

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Last night after I got home Susie and I booked it down to the timber to get a fresh batch rolling for the weekend.  We fired up the stove and gathered up all kinds of sap.  Most of the bags were loaded to the top after Fridays unseasonably warm temperatures.

By 5:00 pm the temperature had dropped and I was out on the water snagging for paddle fish.

 Paddlefish are one of the oldest fishes, with fossil records dating their first appearance at 300 to 400 million years ago. They have a very large mouth, and a long, paddle-shaped snout (called a rostrum).

 They're great deep fried in a beer batter but these all went back in the water. Any thing over 33" measured from the eye to the v in the fork of the tail goes back in the river.

Within 45 minutes I had my two fish but neither one was in the slot limit.  One too small and this one was too large.  36" form the eye to the fork in the tail  and just over 25 lbs.

 What a blast.  They put up quite a fight and I really don't mind releasing these prehistoric fish.  Knowing that the male Paddlefish reach sexual or reproductive maturity between six to seven years, while the females reach sexual or reproductive maturity between ten to twelve years.

 Jerry had a rough time finding a fish and we were over an hour and half in before he caught his first fish... too small.

 Then a few minutes later he doubled.  One on each hook.  Over 55 lbs of fish.  Snap a pic and then back in the water.

The largest one that Jerry caught had its rostrum cut off at some point. Probably by a barge. 

Saturday we boiled sap and socialized down in the sugar bush.

 Ryan stopped by to chat.

Mart and I enjoyed a couple
Dark N Stormies.  The drink of choice down on Little Corn.

While the girls enjoyed some green tea made with Maple sap.  Susie also made some tasty burritos that we heated up on the stove and scones.   

Sunday, March 16, 2014


I got the first batch of the year rolling Friday night.   No big sap run yet but enough to get things rollin.
 With Susie in Milwaukee taking care of family matters.  The dogs and I have been making many treks back and forth from the bush the the house.

A quick bite of polish and back at it.
I had a few visitors today.  Mike and Conner stopped by for a juice box.

Later,  my snagging buddies Rich, Jerry his mom and sister came by to give me the report on the ice conditions below lock and dam 12.  Then they ran down to Clinton to check things down South.

The plan was to snag this am but 20* with some howling winds nixed that plan.
 I did another late night burn down in the bush.
 I tarped the stove area and  covered up the pan to prepare for the predicted inch of snow.
 As I spend time down in the timber I often think my childhood and of the time we spent at our family cabin.  I couldn't have been happier, being with my mom, dad and often other family and friends at our cabin.
What a great place that was. According to the back of the photo.  Mom wrote, "Backbone Hideout, Good times in this place.  From 1956 to 1973, grandpa John and dad built this"!
This cabin sat on 3 acres, surrounded on three sides by Backbone State Park.  All materials were brought in by boat or over the ice on the Maquoketa river.  Then carried  about a half mile overland down a foot trail.  The floor plan was wide open with the kitchen and wood stove on the West end,  dining table near the large south window with the beds and sleeping loft on the East end.  To the North the cabin butted up to the hillside at the base of a small bluff.
 Although we never tapped maples, we hunted the surrounding  hills, fished and swam in the Maquoketa river.

Here's a shot of dad with some nice fish from the Maquoketa.
As I put on my Green, gearing up for a Council meeting at Council Hill Station.  I think of my mother, Joyce who passed peacefully, three years ago after an afternoon of card playing and celebrating St. Patrick's Day.

  I would like to make a toast to lying, stealing, cheating and drinking.  If you're going to lie, lie for a friend.  If you're going to steal, steal a heart.  If you're going to cheat, cheat death.  And if you're going to drink, drink with me.
To Joyce and simpler times!

Sunday, March 9, 2014


 This morning I loaded up the runner sled with gear for the sugar bush.  This year I'm having to deal with some the deepest snow for the start of the maple syrup season in the past 15 years.

 The snow is over a foot deep with some spots drifted to more than twice that much and sled and gear stay right on top.
 Once down in the bush it was time to make some curls with the drill.  My Grandpa John Becker was a contractor in the Cascade area, building homes and barns.  So, I get a lot of satisfaction using his old drill to tap these trees.  I could use a power drill but it just doesn't seem right.

I drill a hole 2 to 2 ½ inches deep. Drill at a slight upward angle to facilitate downward flow of sap from the hole. The shavings from the drilled tap hole should be light brown, indicating healthy sapwood. If the shavings are dark brown, drill another hole in a different location.
 Clear any wood shavings from the edge of the hole. Insert the spile.  I always used copper tubing, then insert the spile into the tap hole. Gently tap the spile into the tree with a hammer . If the sap is flowing, you should immediately see sap dripping from the spile.

Ace and Maxine made themselves right at home down by the stove but it will be a few days while I collect some sap before I fire up the stoves.  A winter wind storm dropped a good size elm near by for a handy supply of fire wood,

Saturday, March 1, 2014


 Another winter storm rolled through this weekend and now is the time to get busy putting together frame for the five new hives for the Becker Has Hives Host Program.

The hives are built and have to bee painted, yet.

This year I've committed to making the switch to Mann Lake's Rite-Cell Natural foundations.  The plastic core foundation with the cell structure embedded into the plastic. It requires no pinning or reinforcement of any kind and can be easily inserted into an assembled frame with grooved top and bottom bars. The cell structure is deeper than other cell embedded plastic foundations leading to less drone comb.

The cells of our foundation are more defined and textured, which we have found to be more appealing to the bees. The cell structure is in the wax only and not in the plastic. If the wax gets damaged or chewed down, the bees are not likely to draw out the smooth plastic core. Pure wax foundations require time-consuming reinforcement and are prone to wax moth damage and chew down by the bees. With Rite-Cell, if wax moths enter and damages the hive, one would only need to scrape off the damage and reinsert the frames into the hive.

Some assembly required...

Glue all ends.

 Assemble and tack in place.
 One down and 119 to go.

That's about 500 more glued ends and tacks.
 Its a start but I've still got a way to go
Well,  I'm about half way done.  And, I'll finish up on Sunday.

 Here's an update hives all primed and ready to paint the next warm day.

Now, back to the original post!
 After I re-repair the roof of the hoop house.

I guess I've got to look on the bright side.  At least we're getting a little moisture inside.

Hopefully I can get this job done right, the second time.

 Sunday am update...

Frames 120 frames finished.

Time to head out to repair the hoop house and shovel snow.

Hoop house repaired by noon.

 School house in winter and my finger  ;-}