2015! New Syrup Grades

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The syrup is the same – the words are different – as our 8 month old standing next to me says “blah, blah, blah, blah.”  Maybe you should just stop reading now and get off the internet!

Vermont syrup has always been graded based on both color and flavor. In the
past, slight regional differences in terminology existed in the maple syrup grading system. Over the next few years, all maple syrup producers – from Canada to West Virginia
and Maine to Minnesota- will phase in the new standardized grade descriptors
found above.

It’s a marketing thing.  There is concern that consumers are confused about what syrup they are going to get with the old descriptors and also that  “Grade B” means bad.   I’m not sure if these assumptions are true.  Some would say there is a growing worry that massive increases in maple production over the last decade (basically doubled in the U.S. – with little signs of slowing in the near term) is making the big packers nervous.  As such there is a pressing concern to market all this syrup, hence, a “better” grading system.

Vermont is among the first to require these new grades – beginning in 2015.  Unfortunately in our minds, an entire existing grade (Grade A Dark Amber) is split to fit into either Amber Color with Rich Taste or Dark Color with Robust Taste.  Our opinion, is that there is quite a spectrum of flavors from the lightest Amber to the darkest Dark.  To bad people can’t get something in the middle anymore – you can always buy one of each grade and dump them together I suppose!

Ha Ha – our opinion.  They had a big listening tour for sugarmakers to weigh in and in the end the deciders spit out the exact same phrases they had initially proposed years earlier as this grade consolidation concept was first in it’s concept phase.

Pumpkin Village Foods / Green Wind Farm will continue to provide you with the same excellent syrup as before – slightly different names, but, one on the light side of Amber (great for table syrup use) and one on the dark side side of Dark (great for cooking). Make sure your store carries the one you want! In the words of an old friend – “If you’re gonna bring one, bring two.”

What’s the difference between the grades?  Well – “come on in the water’s fine”  – If you like the flavor you’re getting – good for you!  Find a producer you like and stick with them. The difference in grades simply a matter of preference… find the grade/flavor you like for different usages.  Typically though the lightest grade, does not have a strong enough flavor for most people looking for maple, and the darkest flavor should not be sold except for commercial purposes.  Why it is now being called “Grade A” is beyond me.  Makes me think of an old Tommy Boy guarantee.  

Typically lighter syrup is made earlier in the season when the weather is cooler. As the weather warms up, the sap quality declines, and the darker syrup is made. The lighter the syrup the more delicate the flavor.

There is no difference in mineral content between the gradesall you master cleansers out there – use either grade!  The variation in flavor is more batch to batch, local soil differences, or the way the syrup is actually produced.

High RO syrup is often lighter in color (and lighter in flavor).  Oh what??  You like flavor?   Make sure you find some syrup that’s been produced with care.  Luckily that’s what we’ve got for you… only 7% sugar coming out of the RO here at Green Wind Farm.  What’s an RO?  See this post.

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Syrup canning facility at GWF

Remember a few years ago when I posted those pictures of the sawyer, cutting some beams for a building? Well, after another visit from him, some excavation, insulation, site work, etc. we finally poured concrete a few weeks ago.

Now we’re wrestling with some of the dried, twisted timbers getting them to lie flat as sills in order to stand a frame at some point in the near future! Wish we’d had fresh straight timbers, and some true tie down bolts in the six inch elevated concrete we added to keep water in the canning area. Next time!

GMO’s cause hairy babies!? Take action here.

Okay, well probably not. There’s certainly a lot of concern about GE foods (GMOs – Genetically Modified Organisms). There has been a big push by food advocates of all kinds to support GE food labeling.

According to a 2010 Thomson Reuters poll, 93 percent of Americans support labeling of foods containing GMOs. Big business, thus government, doesn’t.


An additional listing of GE resources can be found here

Hurricane Irene visits VT, doesn’t bring her tourist pocketbook

It’s been a wild time for some communities in Vermont since Hurricane Irene spun up off the coast and got stuck over VT and parts of upstate NY. Incomprehensible damage to many communities along waterways small and large both.

We were lucky at Green Wind Farm. We live on a rocky hillside with ledge not to far under the soil in some places so water is accustomed leaving our land to the little brook at the bottom of the hill finding its way quickly into Black Creek then the Mississquoi River which both flood multiple times a year. Our area of the state saw little damage beyond limited access to fields and woods due to wet ground and a little wind damage to trees in the woodlots.

Of all the producers I work with to get quality foods to NYC, it appears that only Catherine of Nitty Gritty had significant adversity to deal with. Closer to home, Catherine was stranded at her daughter’s house in Waitsfield, wisely turning back after attempting to drive south on Rte. 100 to her own home in Rochester. They watched the water in a creek nearby rise to unbelievable heights not knowing what to do if the water kept rising. Luckily it was all okay and 5 days later, emergency crews had worked to restore power and rudimentary road access to Rochester. Additional Nitty Gritty news is according to nephew, David, high winds blew down about 1/2 the corn on their finest cornfield.

The work repairing roads and infrastructure is just progressing well for most towns. Conversations about prudent locations of roads, and repairs are happening all across the state. Some waterways have changed and are likely to stay changed for a long time. Awareness of the tenability of locating infrastructure in many locations is prompting long-range planning. Our governor is talking about preparing for weather changes already upon us from global climate change. We’ll all recover with some hard work and community efforts. Life continues to keep us on our toes.

See some flood pictures

I’ll admit this also… I’m a father – as of 6/26/11!

That’s right! Martha successfully and amazingly produced a baby boy, Jasper, weighing 7 lbs. 12 oz. June 26th.

We are enamoured, excited, and entrenched. Back when we were young, playing the board game Life, it never seemed that difficult to simply put another peg in the back of the family car and keep on driving. Let’s see how it works out this time!

More Photos

Thanks to all our friends and family for the wonderful support we’ve had so far.

American Jars for American Jobs (I’ll admit it, I’m a secessionist.)

In so many ways the fourth of July reminds me of the challenges of existing in a world so aggressively influenced by United States big business (er, government).

The persistent meddling of the US government into sovereign nations’ private affairs is storied and troubling. The constant war-mongering and resulting profiteering; disgusting. Deciphering the contrast between words and actions of US lawmakers and business leaders with regard to the health and welfare of the working person can be disheartening at best. Even the stickers displayed on the packaging of these jars is misleading. America actually signifies all of North or South America, not simply the United States… but I digress.

The point is, I’m proud to support an American (sic) company. Local should trump all. The jars I fill with pure Vermont maple syrup are made in Muncie, Indiana. Cool.

Do you want to find out more facts about the history of Ball Mason jars and perhaps identify when the special blue tinted jar you’ve got was made? Visit the fresh preserving website and download the pdf titled “Jars of the Past”. They’ve got the entire history of when each design change was made through out the 125 year history of these quality canning jars that are useful for preserving virtually anything!

But back to the point of succession. My sister-in-law was surprised to learn of my leanings. I was surprised to have a “sister-in-law”. But more so, I was surprised she was surprised.

She said, “You could kiss your health care good-bye”. I took this to be a conversational non-starter.

I’m a slow thinker, so I thought. “Well, sure. You can kiss almost everything good-bye as we know it now. Don’t you think the result at the end of all the work to take care of each other would look better than it does now?”

Really, couldn’t we, in Vermont (~675,00 people), do almost everything better than the bloated, misguided national bureaucracy we’ve got now? I won’t bore you with specific examples of bloated or misguided (hint: see warmongering).

For some interesting writings on succession, see Vermont Commons. For some reason, my favorite contributor to their newspaper, the Greenneck, doesn’t put his stuff on the website… but thought provoking site none-the-less.

Hay, that’s what we make (in the summer anyways)

It’s funny how maturity (a kind word for getting old, encroaching responsibilities, and all sorts of other changes shunned during the vigor of post college hedonism) changes what you get excited about. It wasn’t long ago that my bros and I cranked up the 50 Cent to race out the door every day searching Wyoming white smoke to leave contrails 20 plus feet long as it splashed over our shoulders. Will gravity ever cease to amaze and please?

At Green Wind Farm we milk about 25 Jerseys and maintain a youngstock herd of about 25 animals as well. Not to mention the two belgian draft horses that each eat about 40 pounds of hay per day in the winter. This adds up to a lot of dry hay which we put up ourselves.

Just last week I cranked up some Craig Morgan “International Harvester” as my wife and I got ready to leave our house in Burlington. A quality tune that brings to mind quality concepts like “Right to Farm Law”, “Have You Thanked Your
Farmer Today?”, “Don’t Complain About Farmers With Your Mouth Full of Food”, and “No Farms, No Food”.

We were hoping the weather would cooperate and we could assist (truth be told; Martha over 8 months pregnant picked strawberries for the freezer) my parents in baling the hay from an entire 12 acre field in a single day. We did it! Just under 1000 bales put into the barn. Almost 1/3 of our necessary hay for the winter.

The last 75 bales or so were baled in a light rain that had been looming to the west for hours. To avoid the possibility of starting a fire in the hayloft these bales were stacked on their sides with some space between them to be fed out prior to second cut hay which will probably go in the barn in late July.

The day was so successful I didn’t even have the energy to drink a second beer prior to bed. Almost like the good old days in the Tetons except meritorious efforts instead of hedonism gone up in smoke…

2011 Season wrap-up

That’s right we used a lot of wood. The pile above is about 10 feet high. We burned almost 70 cords this year! Thanks to those of you who help move a load or two.

Don’t ask about the carbon foot print this year. Sorry Gaia. We’ll do better. Promise? We’d better. do better.

The reason we burned so much wood (and made so much syrup!) was we added vacuum to a pipeline system that was previously on gravity. The increase in sap was astounding. Vacuum is the conventional method for most production of maple syrup nowadays. Look for a post soon describing how vacuum works in a sugarbush.

better do better.

A reverse osmosis (RO) machine will help. Some say the use of ROs lessens the flavor of the syrup. Continue reading “2011 Season wrap-up”

Bees, Lumber, and Lady Liberty

This was a tough summer for the bees. Cold and rainy. I didn’t take any honey this year… Fingers are crossed as the bees have been moderately prepared for winter. They give me a new reason to scratch my head every time we visit each other. Some animal has been persistently scratching the ground underneath one of the hives while this hive is also experiencing many dead bees outside the entrance of the hive. Hmmm. Hopefully some closer observation and communication with some experienced beekeepers will provide some insight.

The end of fall is nearly upon us. As such each pleasant day for working outside becomes increasingly treasured. Mike and his helper spent three days during this last week of October milling out some lumber and beams from trees my father thinned from the sugarwoods. The plan is to build a facility dedicated to canning maple syrup with the potential to process other food products too. That Green Wind Farm label might be appearing on something else one of these days! Any requests?

Sitting in traffic on the Manhattan Bridge a view of Lady of Liberty supported by her multiple booms of commerce…can we keep them simultaneously aloft maintaining the current disregard for survival’s basic tenet, conservation (and of course population control!)? Might be tough. Let’s think we can figure it out!

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