Our little farm has two dairy goats that we have had since a few months after we bought our property in May of 2012. We bought Nora a two year old Alpine Oberhasli cross in August of 2012 and Fauna a 3 month old Nubian Oberhasli cross in September of 2012. Before purchasing Nora I had no experience with dairy goats. Dairy cows yes, but goats NO. I soon learned that while the milk comes out the same way they are not the same. Goats require a whole different mindset when it comes to feeding, fencing, and socializing.
Nora is the first goat I have ever had and over the last nine years she has consistently had her kids close to Easter. This year she had her kids on Easter which made a nice Easter present for us. She was acting restless earlier that morning. She would walk to the far end of the pasture paw at the ground for a while before pacing back to the other side of the pasture where the shed is. She did this for a little while before the two yearling goats we wintered here started to bother her. I put her in a different pasture where she immediate found a shady secluded spot to settle in. When I brought her a bucket of water a little while later she had already given birth to one baby. Lucian and I watched her and the new baby for a little while before we gave her some space.
When we checked on her a short time later she had two babies. One was standing and the other was still wet and resting on the ground. I’m glad she picked one of the few days we’ve had where it wasn’t raining, the sun was shining, and the wind wasn’t blowing. I left them out in the sunshine for a few hours before we brought them into the barn. I like to keep the new babies with their mothers in a stall for at least a week so they have bonding time. This ensures they are nursing well before they get outside and start wondering. I have also been keeping a heat lamp on them at night and during cold, wet days. I have started to put them outside when the days are nice, which is rarely. I put them into our buck/weaning pen which is a 10 X 30 foot pen that has pig panel sides. The small squares mostly keep the kids contained. (Baby goats are escape artists!) They really enjoyed playing out in the weaning pen during their first day out. Nora was definitely ready to get outside too!
This year Nora had two bucklings again. I was really hoping for a doe from her to continue her bloodline. She isn’t getting any younger and Franky was a great Toggenburg mixed buck. Oh well, hopefully she will throw a doe next year. Nora is a great mother and takes the best care of her kids. I never have to worry about them because I know she’s got it all in hand. Fauna is a different story altogether but she is a story for a different post.
The end of February was so cold that the very idea of spring was driven from our minds. Then it began to brighten and warm up during the day and all of a sudden it was time to tap the maple trees. The days were warm and the nights were cold which makes for perfect weather to get the sap flowing in the trees.
I love sapping season. The warmth of spring is finally in the air and the cold chill of winter is working it’s way out. Another great aspect of sapping season is the exercise it takes to traipse around the woods each day carrying buckets of watery sap. Smelling the damp woodsy smell and sloshing through the cold creek on our property with the kids is a great spring past time.
This year we tapped about 20 maple trees and over three weeks of sapping we gathered roughly 160 gallons of sap. We made syrup in three batches this year. It’s a long process to cook down the sap so we decided to have cooking weekends. It worked out pretty well and we were able to keep the sap cool while we waited for our cooking day.
Cooking it Down
For each batch we spent about a day and a half boiling it outside in the sap boiler. Our system is not the most efficient but it works much better than doing it in the house like we did the first two years we decided to make syrup. It is basically a modified wood stove with a giant pan on top. The pan holds 35 gallons. The reason each batch took so long to cook down was that after the sap had boiled down a ways we would add another bucket to it. This cooled the boiling sap down so it had to heat back up. This may not be the best practice when boiling sap but for our first batch we had 65 gallons of sap that needed to be cooked down. Sap will go bad just like anything else and the shorter it sits the better
Each weekend for the last three weeks we boiled sap to make maple syrup. We cooked it outside in the boiler until it was close to the right consistency then we brought it into the house to finish it up. Last year we invested in a hydrometer, which measures the density of a liquid, this measuring tool cut all the guess work out of syrup making. Before buying this tool we would usually have syrup that was too runny or accidently make maple candy which is delicious but not what we are after.
Maple Syrup Yields for 2021:
65 gallons of sap = 14 pints of syrup
45 gallons of sap = 9 pints of syrup
50 gallons of sap = 10 pints of syrup
160 gallons of sap = 4 gallons and 1 pint of pure Maple Syrup!
We made more maple syrup this year than in previous years. We did notice a definite color variation in our last batch of syrup. This was because we collected later in the season when the maple trees were starting to bud out and the weather was warmer. We have been enjoying the syrup on our pancakes and waffles and we have also been finding different recipes to cook with maple syrup. I recently found a pumpkin/maple muffin recipe with maple frosting that is amazing! There will be plenty of jars of sweet maple syrup to go into Christmas baskets this year.