Little Creek Maple Farm

Our adventures around the homestead.

Our new website!

Well as of the 2015 Maple Season we have our own official website and are in the process of migrating everything over to the new website so if you want to follow along please check out http://www.littlecreekmaplefarm.com for all of our latest adventures!

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Hopefully after we are down with sugaring we will set up a re-direct link for a future visitors to this site.

Thanks

Bill C.

http://www.littlecreekmaplefarm.com

April 5, 2015 Posted by | Sugaring | Leave a comment

Potato & Onion Bin – Part 2

Part two of the Potato & Onion Bin Project, focuses on the doors and getting them installed, you can read about Part 1 here which focuses on the construction of the carcass of the potato & onion bin.

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With the size of the doors roughed out on scrap paper and some quick math to figure out the size of the wood door frames I was ready to start cutting some pine boards to width.  I set my table saw to 2-1/2” wide and ripped the stiles and rails for the doors.  After ripping the stock to width, I switched out my regular saw blade for the stacked dado set.  I used to blades for a 1/4” width.  I set the saw up to be centered in the middle of the 3/4” wide stock I was using and set the depth to 1/4” and created the dadoes in my door frame stock.

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A after cutting everything to length and creating some tongues on the short stile that would fit in the dado of the rails I did some dry fitting of the door assembly and notice my tin fronts where just a little too long and too tall.

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So I had to grab my metal shears and trim off some of the excess metal panel.

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That this was a pretty cool shot of the excess trimmings below…

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With everything fitting nicely after trimming the tin panels down to size I glued the doors together and gave them a quick sanding after they dried.  It is important to note that I made the doors slightly oversize of the openings they were going into so I could trim them to final size to fit.

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The doors for the potato bin are pretty straightforward to install using face mounted hinges.  And fortunately for me our potato bin is going to be painted so I can putty two small errors that I made.  The first you can see in the photo below that resulted when I was building the carcass and I skewed the board a smidge as I was cutting one of the dadoes in the side.  The second error you will see in later photos when I wasn’t paying attention to where I was laying out the last hinge and put it too close to the side and lining it up with the hinges on the first two doors.  Luckily for me a little putty and you will never know after it is painted.

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My method of installing the doors was pretty simple.  First I install the hinges on the carcass, make sure you pay attention so you hinges line up…  Second, I install the magnetic catch to the top of the opening for each door.  Third, I take a couple scrap pieces of wood that are 3/4” shorter than the depth of the carcass opening.  These will temporarily hold the door while I center the door in the opening crating a uniform gap around all sides of the door.

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When I get everything lined up perfectly I can flip the hinges over and fasten them into place with screws.

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With the door in place and hinges secured all that is left to do is layout and drill the holes for the pull.

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With everything back together it was time to bring the potato & onion bin back inside to see how it works with it’s surroundings.  Next up – a design meeting and discussion about the top.

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March 1, 2015 Posted by | Woodworking | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Potato & Onion Bin – Part 1

 

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Potato & Onion Project

 

So Wen put her order in for a potato, onion, and garlic bin from the wood shop.  Using Pinterest she found some inspiration from a Pin linking back to Ana Whites website, and after a few design review meeting I had my marching orders.  We decided on making 3 bins, and figured the opening for each of the bins should be 10” high by 16” wide inside dimensions and the depth of the carcass would be the width of a 1×12 piece of pine minus a 1/2” plywood back.

I started off with the cabinet carcass and took some 1×12 pine from the big box store and set up my stacked dado head cutter to cut some dados after adjusting for the depth on a piece of scrap.  I was lazy and kept all dados 3/4” wide for the shelves and the back panel.    For a little extra flair and to create faux legs I notched out the bottom of the 1×12’s.

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All the

Glue up was pretty easy after dry-fitting all the pieces together on the workbench.  With everything clamped up I double checked my measurements on the 1/2” thick plywood back panel and cut it to size.

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All of the pieces cut to size and the inside faces sanded prior to glue up below.  I glued all the 1×12 pieces together and clamped the carcass together.  After clamping I laid the carcass face down slid the plywood back in positions and squared up the cabinet and tightened down the clamps.  I screwed the back on so I could removed it later to make painting easier and I shot a few brads into the shelves from the sides for good measure.

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We moved the cabinet into it’s home to test drive the proportions and I think we nailed it.

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Potato & Onion Project

 

Up next some pre-planning on the ventilated doors, wood frame size, and a mesh that has a little more pop then chicken wire or hardware cloth…

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February 21, 2015 Posted by | Woodworking | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Greenhouse – Part 2

Greenhouse

Still waiting for the cold weather and snowy pattern we are in to break here in New Hampshire.  I was able to successfully disassemble the greenhouse and move it outside pretty easily with the help of Wen and the boys.  Reassembly of the greenhouse was straight forward.  With the frame complete I needed to add some strapping for my corrugated roof panels because I will be installing the roof panels with the flutes running vertically on the gambrel roof.  This design change will help the gambrel roof shed snow up here in the great white tundra much easier than if the flutes were running horizontally.  So I installed some 1×3 strapping perpendicular to the roof trusses two foot on center that would pick up the closure pieces for my roof panels.

Installing greenhouse strapping

With the strapping in place I needed my trusty assistant to help pass me the plastic closure strips that would attach directly to the strapping. These plastic pieces get screwed down and fill in the voids between the panels and the strapping.

Greenhouse closure strips

It’s always good to have a second set of hands to help hold things in place and after all the greenhouse is like a mini jungle-Jim now.  I ran out of short screws so I had to resort to using some 1-1/4” drywall screws that started to poke through the strapping.  I will need to come along with a saws-all after the panels go up and trim off these pointy screws so I don’t wind up with any greenhouse injuries this spring.

Installing Greenhouse Closure Strips

A close up below of the plastic closure pieces as I installed them on the strapping. Not sure if you need to put a screw in every flute but I figured I better so I would limit my chances of having a panel blow off in high winds.  I also plan on using corrugated roofing crews long enough to penetrate though the plastic closure strip and into the wood strapping itself.

Plastic greenhouse closure strips

We had to mock-up at least one plastic panel on the side and they seem to go up pretty quickly.  I just need to cut the roof panels to the appropriate length and away we go.

Plastic Greenhouse Panels

Thinking of spring…

Thinking of spring

February 16, 2015 Posted by | Gardening, Home Maintenance, Woodworking | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Greenhouse – Part 1

Greenhouse

Finally have an opportunity to sit down and write a few words.  Despite the continuous snow fall that we seem to be getting lately, I am thinking spring. Inspired by searching for greenhouses on Pinterest I came across a greenhouse design PIN that we think would work for us from the Ana-white.com website I tweaked the design, a smidge as I always seem to do and started the build a couple of weekends ago.  I ended up building it in the garage because it was hovering right around 0-degrees outside without wind chill at the time.

We decided to go 10’ x 10’ in size and figured we would use clear plastic panels to skin the whole outside.  We are in a heavily wooded area so we are hoping that this will help get us to an early start this growing season before all the trees leaf out.

I ended up building this by myself in one weekend, and because I was building inside, I had to build it so it could be knocked down, moved out of the garage and assembled outside.  The side walls are each their own components.  The front and rear end walls are also their own components.  Lastly the (4) roof trusses and ridge are one component.  Anything that was not being disassembled was nailed, and any connection points that I was going to need to disassemble was put together with screws.

I started construction with the knee wall.  I used a 2×4 PT sill plate and KD SPF 2×4 top plate and 2×4 studs 24” o.c. to build the knee walls.  I threw and extra 2×4 in at the corners so I could easily screw in the front & rear walls to the sides walls.

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Next I built the end walls.  The first thing I did was to make the rafter gussets.  The Ana-white website has a great video of how to this, which saved me from having to figure it out.

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Essentially using a piece of blue tape and a couple quick marks on my chop saw you can mark the point where you make your 22.5-degree angle cuts and where you make your 90-degree cross cuts.  This made for quick work of cutting out the dozen or so plywood gussets I needed for the trusses.

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With all the gussets cut, I cut a total of 8 rafters 48” long with 22.5-degree angles on both ends.  These are for the end walls.  It easy to make a quick jig for cutting your rafters to length as well.  With the rafters cut, I glued the but joint where they meet and clamped them to my work table.  I then applied a liberal amount of glue to the face of the rafters getting the plywood gusset plate, and clamped it down.  Eight screw later and I was good to go.  Just make sure you thing about the orientation of the gussets prior to assembly on your greenhouse.  I wanted all gussets facing inside the greenhouse, so they would cause a problem when I side the outside face of the greenhouse walls.

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Three gusset plates and four 48” roof rafters and I had the end wall roof rafter ready to go in place.  I had to add a couple more 2×4’s to keep the end wall rigid when I go to move it outside.  Rinse and repeat for the opposite end and away you go.

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I got both end walls up and stopped for the night.  The next day I set the ridge up and and made the rest of my rafters up and installed them.  I don’t have many photos but it’s pretty easy to figure out.  Just make sure you do the math on the lengths of your pieces so everything will work.  I deviated from the Ana-white plans on the framing so some of my dimensions were slightly different.  This goes up quick and is an easy build just take your time.

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February 8, 2015 Posted by | Gardening, Home Maintenance, Woodworking | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Splash of Color in the Sugarbush

Last fall as a test run for planting fall bulbs, I planted a whole bunch of clearance bulbs on the North Side of the Sugarbush.  This area is heavily wooded and being on the Northern edge gets limited sun.  I was hoping the sun would have enough time to make these bulbs pop before the trees had enough leaves to block out the sun and it looks like I lucked out.

Spring BulbsSpring Bulbs

The only bad news is that I have no idea what these varieties are…

Spring Bulbs

Oh well, this fall I will need to pay a little more attention, and stick some markers in the ground for spring identification purposes.

Spring Bulbs

May 5, 2014 Posted by | Gardening | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sugaring 2014 – Re-Filtering Last Year’s Syrup

Little Creek Maple Farm Syrup

Prior to running this years syrup (2014) I figured I would run what I had left over of last years (2013) syrup though Daryl Sheets Filter Press.  I probably had a little more than a gallon of syrup that I had real issues filtering last year.  Some of the frustration I now know was finishing the syrup to heavy, which made it harder to run through the gravity filters and I am sure I may have pushed some of the sugar sand through.  This made for an unsightly layer of sugar sand in the bottom of my 8 oz. and 12 oz. glass bottles.  So these bottles sat for a year and we would use them as we needed more syrup.  This unsightly product prompted me to get a filter press.  Probably overkill for our small scale operation but if I am going to do something I want to do it right.

The first steps involved in setting up the press can be found in my previous post about The Dry Run with Daryl’s Press.  So, after opening all the old small bottles of syrup and dumping them with all the settled sugar sand into a double boiler, I began re-heating the syrup up to 185F so I could run the syrup though the maple syrup filter press made by Daryl Sheets.  I used three cake plates as you can see below and cycled the heated syrup with diatomaceous earth (DE) through the press and filled up some glass quarts.

Below I removed the end waffle plate from the filter bank.  The filter papers stayed on after removing the waffle on the end and I was surprised to see what looked like some brown syrup or sediment trapped in the bottom left corner of the cake plate.  To describe the process of what happens simply.  Hot syrup with DE is allowed to flow freely into the cake plate via the hole on the bottom right.  The DE collects on the surface of the filter paper inside the cake plate and the syrup pushes through the DE and filter paper to the waffle plate where filtered syrup leaves the waffle plate via the holes that you can see in the bottom left of the waffle plate in the left image.  The filtered syrup than travels out of the bank via the hole on the bottom left of the filter bank.

Back plate removedMaple Syrup Filter Press

Removal of the last cake plate from the press, it came off easily with filter papers on both side of the cake plate stuck on as you see below.

Daryl Sheet's Filter Press in OperationDaryl Sheet's Filter Press in Operation

After setting the cake plate on a real dinner plate, it was time to reveal what was behind the filter paper.  There was a layer about 1/8” thick of DE on the inside of the cake plate, with the brown sediment concentrated down at the outlet of where the syrup would pass from the cake plate to the waffle plate to leave the press.

Daryl Sheet's Filter Press in OperationDaryl Sheet's Filter Press in Operation

More of the same as I removed each plate.  Each side of the filter paper had a nice cake of DE that was about 1/8” in thickness.

Daryl Sheet's Filter Press in Operation

The final result was 5+ quarts of crystal clear syrup.  I had to keep checking this batch up to the light for at least a week because I could hardly believe the clarity.  I know a lot of people have success with gravity filtering, and the press is not cheap, but in my mind Daryl’s filter press is worth every penny, based on the results that I observed.

Homemade Maple Syrup

May 4, 2014 Posted by | Sugaring | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sugaring 2014 – Filter Press, Dry Run

So we hooked up the new filter press form Daryl Sheets two weekends ago.  Prior to running syrup though I did this one set up where we ran hot water with filters & diatomaceous earth (DE) though the press to make sure everything was clean and rinsed out real well.  This was the trial run for us to see how everything would work with water.  As you can see below in the series of photos the press consists of a bunch of machined waffle plates, cake plates, and the filter paper.  Because we were only doing a gallon and a half of syrup I arbitrarily decided on using 3 cake plates. Below is the first waffle plate, which is fixed in position at the beginning of the filter press.

Daryl Sheets Filter Press

After the first plate I place on of the filter papers in front of the waffle being sure to line up the inlet & outlet holes of the filter paper with those on the waffle plate.

Daryl Sheets Filter Press

Next, I place one of the cake plates on the other side of the filter paper.  The cake plates are going catch all of the DE and the impurities in the syrup when you are using the press.

Daryl Sheets Filter Press

Once I had a cake plates and waffle plates that I was going to use in place along with the end plate, I found that it would have been impossible to wind the wing nuts onto the threaded rod on the side closest to the hand pump, so I took the remaining unused plates and stacked them up behind the end plate.  These plates filled the gap and allowed me to tighten the wing nuts as if I had been using all of the plates on the press.

Daryl Sheets Filter Press

I used some 1/2” plastic 90-degree fittings (these will be upgraded next year to quick-connects) and some RV-style water hose that I picked up at the local big box store.  The hose did get soft running boiling liquid through it but did not collapse too bad so we were able to use it for filtering syrup.  Because we are trying to figure this process out I went with two 8’ lengths of hose, which was a paint for the long length but a blessing because we could spread out.  We put a little more than a gallon of water on the stove and brought it to a boil. Then we circulated the boiling hot water with nothing in it through the press, just to see how this thing would work.  The spring clamps from Harbor Freight are a must have for any sugaring operation…

Hooking up the Hoses

After circulating the hot water through, the boss added the DE to the hot water.  We had to keep stirring the DE in hot water to keep it suspended in solution.

Adding DE to the Water

If you look closely in the photo below you can see the bottom hose is milky-white as it sucks up the DE and water solution, and if you look at the top hose you can see that it is clear with crystal clear liquid coming out of the hose.  So, basically the filter papers in the press are catching all of the DE.

Pre-heating the Filter Press

After locking up the hand pump (we used to much DE) and not being able to pump any more water through we decided to stop and see what the press looks like on the inside.  Below you can see how we removed the last end cap waffle plate and you can see the white DE behind the filter paper.  There was also a little bit of drippage in the drain pan.

Removing the end plate

I remove each cake plate and both filter paper were sticking well to each side.

Filter Press Cake Plate with DE

Peeling back the filter paper revealed the cake plate filled with DE.

Filter Press Cake Plate with DE

After this dry run with hot water, we rinsed and cleaned everything, so now it was time to see how well this process would work with some of last years syrup that we had a heck of a time filtering with gravity methods.  Stay tuned for the results.

April 13, 2014 Posted by | Sugaring | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Tree Down!

Well we awoke Saturday morning to a surprisingly sunny, and mild day.  The weather forecast was for the entire weekend to be a washout, so the lack of rain was a huge bonus.  We gathered the kids and some buckets and went down to check the sap flow.  Just before we were to check the first buckets I saw that the tree in the center of the picture below has fallen on one of our lines.  The tree was obviously one of the many standing dead trees that I have yet to take down.  We had some high winds on Friday that probably contributed to it’s demise.

Falled Tree On Maple Line

Lucky for me, I had the chainsaw in the garage ready to go, and the tree was nice enough to fall in right over a ditch that made cutting a breeze.

Husqvarna MapleYellow or Black Birch

After I finished cutting all my helpers were lined up to shuttle firewood up to the house.

Cutting up Fallen TreeFirewood Chain

Once the wood was brought up and split we collected the buckets for an afternoon boil before the rain!

Maple Sap in 5 Gallon Buckets

March 30, 2014 Posted by | Sugaring | , , , , | Leave a comment

Sugaring 2014 – Impromptu Blower

Partially Fronzen Sap into Filter

Even with yesterday’s 50F degree day we still had some buckets with a little bit of ice skin on the top of the sap.  I am too stingy to discard this ice for fear that I am throwing out even the tiniest bit of maple sap, despite what I have read about this ice containing virtually no sugar at all.  After filtering out the maple sap I got my oldest to stack some of the fire wood I split into our garden dump wagon.  The wagon helped to keep it off the ground.  I have confirmed that wrist sized pieces really do work best, and I use a mix of hardwood and softwood off cuts from the wood shop.

Firewood for the Evaporator

After reading a lot of posts about adding blowers to evaporators to increase your boil, last year and this year on the Mapletrader Forum, I figured I would see if a little Air Under Fire, AUF would actually work.  I read about people adding fans in front of their ash door and last summer I picked up this Lasko fan for the house.  The height seemed right and it was adjustable, so I could set it on the ground and aim the air straight into the ash pan of my WF Mason 2×3 Hobby Evaporator.  Now Bill Mason does have an add-on option for a blower that you can to most of his evaporators and hindsight being 20/20, I should have ordered one set up for my particular evaporator, but I was unaware of the benefit until I saw it first hand yesterday.

Portable Blower for Mason Evaporator

So below is my WF Mason 2×3 Hobby Evaporator, boiling outside with the temperature around 40F and a slight wind from the West.  This was my normal set-up the pan boiled and I had steam and I want so say I was probably in the 5-6 gallon range on evaporation rates but I did not see the billowy steam that you would see at larger sugarhouses.  I had written my lack of steam off to just boiling outside.

WF Mason 2x3 Hobby Evaporator No blower

Below is a photo of my WF Mason 2×3 Hobby Evaporator with the Lasko fan set at it’s lowest speed and aimed into the ash pan of my evaporator.  I propped the ash pan door open with a small board.  As you can see the amount of thick steam coming off the pan was noticeably different than the photo above.  I was shocked!  Now because I was melting a lot of ice during this boil I did not have a good way to measure the evaporation rate, but the thicker plume of steam coming off my WF Mason 2×3 Hobby Evaporator made me feel awesome.

WF Mason 2x3 Hobby Evaporator With Blower Fan

When the wind blew strong enough to disperse the quick column of steam you can get a feel for the rapid boil that was in my stainless steel syrup pan.

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Even as I was melting frozen sap, the column of steam I was seeing was intense.  At the end of the day I boiled of many buckets worth of liquid sap and frozen sap that I swear would have taken me two 4-hour boils and I was wrapping up shutting things down in under 4-hours because I ran out of sap.  Hopefully during the next run, I will be able to time and watch the evaporation rate using the blower with a little more accuracy than I have so far, but this will definitely improve things for me as long as I have the sap to run my WF Mason 2×3 Hobby Evaporator with the blower fan.  Two words of caution to anyone planning on doing this.  First shut off or point the fan away from the ash door when you are ready to reload more wood.  If you keep the fan on you will below coals out the wood door when you load.  Second you have to be mindful of a few hot coals blowing out the ash door as you turn the blower on/off or point it in the ash door.  This was not a big concern for me as I boil outside on pavement that is typically wet with snow melt.

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March 16, 2014 Posted by | Sugaring | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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