Sunday, March 20, 2016

Happy Spring!

Spring might be early this year, but it certainly hasn't brought warmer weather.  It was -10 in Creemore this morning.  Brrr!

Running has not gone well so far this year, mainly because I've been desperately seeking alternatives to lacing up the shoes and heading out into the cold gloom.  Every Autumn I convince myself that running in cold weather has its advantages, such as (help me out here!) less foliage blocking the views and (a bone, throw me a bone!) uncrowded trails.  But around early February, I'm fooling nobody.  Running in Ecuador, although difficult to breath, made it that much harder to don the winter running uniform and head out the door, once back in Creeland.

Eventually, it is time to ramp up mileage.  Yesterday was scheduled to be a 20K run.  However, we slept in a bit and took our time getting ready.  The start was slow, even by my standards.  At 10:42, we had reached the 10K turn around; a hamlet called Dunedin.  Those of you who have joined in the OUTRace Spring Warm-up fun run will know the local.  The hall is exactly 10K from our house.  This is about the point where I woke up and realized that meeting Andja at the sugar shack was going to be dicey.  I had to run home (10K), then drive 25K to the property, by 12:00.  Epiphany!  I will combine a longish run (20K) with speedwork!  I turned for home and increased my speed.  This lasted about 5K when my bad knee (left) started complaining.  Not sure how many people have a chronic injury, but my bad knee has been hurting since 1975.  Yes, my doctor has suggested that I take up a different sport, but I'm an optimist and somehow I keep thinking that my knee will get better, possibly in the next 40 years.  Yes, I can guess what you are thinking, about how my knee will get "better"...  Needless to say, I had to slow down and was a bit late meeting Andja.

A timely segue into the Spring Warm-up.  OUTRace (Ontario Ultra and Trail Race series) puts on an annual fun run that doubles as a fund raiser.  This year, Stephen Bridson and I are organizing the run.  For a modest entry fee of $35, runners get to test their "winter legs" against some big hills and part of the course follows the Bruce trail.  There is also a grand prize of free entry into most of the races in the series.  Lunch is typically soup and pizza and there are spot prizes to compliment the grand prize.  For me, the best part is chatting with some of the regulars on the Ontario circuit.  The Spring Warm-up is on Saturday April 16, 2 weeks before the first race in the series, the dreaded Pick Your Poison.  Better to test the legs early, than in a race!  For details and to sign up:

OUTRace Spring Warm-up

This has been a troubling year for maple syrup.  It is still a bit early, but there has been a plethora of warm days with no sap run.  My concern is that the tap holes will heal early, reducing the sap yield later this season.  I have made 37 litres of syrup so far, which is less than half the syrup needed for the race.  I would also like to sell some syrup to recover the costs and a bit for personal use would be enjoyable.  This year, along with cutting 4 bushcord of firewood for the evaporator, I had to replace about 200 feet of tubing.  The warm December resulted in more squirrel activity and they chewed through quite a bit of tubing.  Add in general maintenance, jars and cleaning supplies, the cost adds up!  I normally make more than 200 litres of syrup in a year, so the current tally is not healthy.

Today is too cold to make syrup, so I will start a fire in the pottery studio and start making the CVC medals.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

In Like a Lion

Not sure what the rest of Southern Ontario is like today, but the Creemore area is white and cold.  Running this time of year is a challenge;  the struggle to don outdoor running gear AGAIN and run in slush along the side of the road.  The alternative - an epic run on the treadmill, is less than inspiring.  Also at this time of year, I have a few too many distractions to focus totally on winter running,  Today, I transported the evaporator up to the sugar bush, hauled it 1K to the sugar shack and assembled it.  Tomorrow, I'm helping to build a deck at my son-in-law's in Toronto.

However I did get a trail run in recently.  It was tough, although I was only sinking about 4 inches into the snow.  Only once did I break through the ice into the Mad river, so it was a fun run (no police reports to fill out).

Hauling the evaporator to the sugar shack was also quite pleasant.  One reason I decided to do so today is because we are expecting about 25 cm of snow, which makes pulling a 2' X 6' drop-flue evaporator on a sled by hand, quite difficult.  Think in terms of pulling a plow for 1K.  Today, the sled was only sinking about 3 inches, so there was no need to hyperventilate.  Building the evaporator went smoothly as well, which is why I'm home by noon and have time to write this post.  To avoid boring people with the build details, assembly requires using nifty little clamps for the drain valve, draw-off valve, anti-backwash coupler and float box.  I'm supposed to level the sap and finishing pans, but I forgot, for the sixth year in a row...  Hopefully I can add a picture to show the end result.

This weekend, the plan is to tap.  With only 1 foot of snow in the bush (yes, I mix up imperial with metric in a most confusing fashion, look!  An eagle!) tapping should be easier than most years, when there is 1.2 meters of snow.  In recent years I've had help tapping, which is wonderful, as drilling 325 tap holes and setting the spiles takes a bit out of me.  Daryl (son-in-law) and Stephan (good friend) both claim they enjoy it.  I guess there are worse things than being out in the bush, tramping through snow and working up a thirst!

Another reason for this post is because I tend to get real busy during maple syrup season.  If you are interested in checking out a small / medium sized operation, feel free to drop by in mid / late March.  Email me for directions and disclaimers.  Note the 1K hike through forest, to get from the road to the sugar shack.  Most years all you need is boots, but snow shoes, a canoe and perhaps a helicopter might come in handy.