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©J. Merrill Lynch
Echo Valley Farm
Watauga County, NC
Elevation: 3,400 feet
With all of the wonderful apps available, it is still a good idea to have a shelf of guides to call on. We love paging through them while planning our next exploration, exploring their beautiful illustrations, and carrying our favorites with us for quick reference.
BRDC recently hosted a Primitive Technology course as part of Galax Middle School Enrichment Week. The students were engaged with a variety of hands-on activities that connected them to skills used by early American Indians and materials found in their backyards.
"Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs."
"The technology boom of recent years has given kids numerous reasons to stay inside and play, while parents' increasing safety concerns make it tempting to keep children close to home. But what is being lost as fewer kids spend their free time outdoors? Deprived of meaningful contact with nature, children often fail to develop a significant relationship with the natural world, much less a sense of reverence and respect for the world outside their doors."
"On a desert island in the heart of the Galapagos archipelago, where Darwin received his first inklings of the theory of evolution, two scientists, Peter and Rosemary Grant, have spent twenty years proving that Darwin did not know the strength of his own theory. For among the finches of Daphne Major, natural selection is neither rare nor slow: it is taking place by the hour, and we can watch."
The week of raising, August 1-8, was one of pure mountainous glory, as the meadows were full of flowers, butterflies fluttered about in great numbers and variety, and the skies offered several days of rain-free weather. With architectural plans in hand, a horse pulled logging crew and sawyer, a crew of experienced carpenters, and another crew providing food and drink...locust and poplar were turned into a sugar house in a week, save for some complicated connections on the roof.
As roof construction reached the final details, it became apparent that finding the right roof jack for the flue opening would be a challenge. That issue was resolved, and after many technical challenges, the roof jack was secured. Since then the roof has been completed, all the way to the cupola. A tin roof was installed, and custom flashing was made. The siding is up, and two holes were cut, making room for two large windows that hold old wavy and bubbly glass panes. Today, Doug is building a front door. Next week an electrician will arrive to install lights and wiring.
With the timing of September’s drought and the addition of the sugar house, Doug is quite overwhelmed. Like many other farmers throughout the region, there is a rush to do work that could not be done when the ground was dry and hard. Gardens are being tended for next year’s crop, remaining hay is being harvested, grading and hole digging has commenced, and the time for gathering firewood is upon us. Busy, busy , busy!
While Doug tends to his usual tasks, including the planting of saplings for his tree nursery, he’s scrambling to ensure the sugar harvest operation is ready in time for next February’s sap drop. It looks like the sugar house and related equipment will be in place in plenty of time. The final and hefty bit of work to is to install tubing. This can be a complex thing to do, especially on complex terrain. So, to gain some confidence and hands-on experience, Doug will be traveling to northern Vermont in early November for a class at a tubing demonstration site . The workshop will be held at Leader Evaporator Company’s retail facility in Swanton, Vermont (to learn more: www.leaderevaporator.com ).
The trip will also be used to save shipping costs. Doug will pick up the final pieces of major equipment needed, including 3 tanks, a custom-built evaporator and a filtering sytem. This should save nearly $500 in shipping costs! The resulting tubing experience and increased confidence in using tubing tools should bring the sugar operation to a state of readiness!
2011 production estimates: Doug anticipates that he will produce about 20 gallons of syrup in 2011. He will be selling it in 8oz. and 12oz. portions because of the limited quantity and the large amount of requests. In summer of 2011 the final remaining network of tubes and maple trees will be tied into the production system, and that will greatly increase capacity for 2012. American umbrellaleaf fruit, Diphylleia cymosa.
All images ©Devin Floyd.
If you would like to join this volunteer effort, contact Doug Munroe at 336-385-6507.
>Illustrations copyright Aaron Floyd, 2010.
>Black Locust illustration borrowed from the Forest Service Silvics manual: http://www.na.fs.fed.us/pubs/silvics_manual/volume_2/robinia/pseudoacacia.htm
March update, 2010
All Photographs in this posting taken by Patrick Considine
Links to prior articles:
November update, 2009
December update, 2009
February update, 2010
Summer Update, 2010
Pouring sap into the cooking pan, February 2009
It is time to harvest sap: For this year's harvest, tapping will begin this week. With the new taps and tubing, the lines will run directly to buckets, and the buckets will be covered with a lid. This will be an air-tight system, which should increase efficiency substantially. Another benefit of the closed system is that the taps won't dry out during windy conditions. Doug plans to tap only 25 trees this year (we witnessed 40 taps last year...some in very hard-to-reach places) and expects a greater output because of the new system. For this year's small harvest, Doug will again rely upon an exterior fireplace and boiling pan. Some preparation work will be needed in the coming week to repair this setup...the weather has wreaked havoc on things. Yesterday Doug plowed snow and ice from the site and he anticipates needing some gravel to level things.The full upgrade to his system won't begin until the fall. This includes full installation of tubes, placement of a collection tank and the construction of a sugar house.
The outdoor fireplace and processing pan, February 2009
This summer sugar house preparation will begin. The foundation will be installed and trees from the property will be milled. Doug hopes to construct the Sugar House during the week of September 20th-24th. He is looking for volunteers, and has some commitments already (Wheeler, Louis, Steve). If enough people show up, he plans to install the extensive network of tubing planned for next year's production.
Summer Update, 2010
This event was a partnered effort offered by Grandfather Mountain, Blue Ridge Birders, Ashe County Gardeners, and Blue Ridge Discovery Center.
Event summary: Jesse Pope presented his program at Mountain View Elementary today,
with Doug Smith and Scott Jackson-Ricketts providing back-up. Two program sessions were offered before noon, that in total included 90 kids, with a sound approach of conversation as opposed to lecture. Education tools included two live owls, bones, feathers, visual backup with Thayers software, nests, and the the most popular...a hands -on 'build-your-own-bird' activity, based upon choice of habitat. Special thanks go to Doug, Jesse, and Scott... and to Ruth Turnmire for being the smartest and most enthusiastic teacher Scott has ever known.
After the presentation, Doug, Jesse, Scott and Ruth walked the campus and found huge trail and garden possibilities. Many ideas were discussed, with the understanding that a long term vision will be required, along with the requisite patience and persistence.