Published by bill on Thu, 08/04/2005 - 09:02
Trinidad and Tobago
Sunny climes We were again fortunate to be able to visit our friend John Bogert on Nirvana, his 35 ft. sailboat. This year we joined John to sail to Trinidad and Tobago for Carnival (a Powerpoint slide show of the Trindad Carnival 2005 is available for download). Carnival is justifiably billed as the "worlds biggest block party". The local folks spend a huge amount of time (and money) building their "costumes". Calling them costumes is an understatement, since some of them at 20 feet tall and even wider. The creativity displayed by Trinidadians of all ages is amazing. Trinidad is a rather well off country since they have significant oil reserves, but there are some issues of safety for visitors.
After a rather snowy winter, we headed into sugaring set up with a lot of snow on the ground. Sugaring started right about on time, but sap flows were never really outstanding. Once again, we produced an average crop of syrup, most of which was of the lighter color grades. For the first time in our memory, the season ended before we produced any of the darker grades (Grade B, cooking grade). Our syrup sales business experienced significant growth in 2005 after one of the chains we deliver to (DiGeronimo Victory Supermarkets) was sold to the Hannaford Bros. Chain (Portland, Maine). When we first learned of the impending sale, we were a bit anxious as to whether the new owners would still allow us to continue with direct store delivery (DSD). We were pleased to meet the category manager for maple syrup in Portland who assured us that Hannaford wanted to maintain local suppliers and did allow DSD. Based on this, we were able to keep all our farmer Victory stores, and to add several others in more eastern Mass.
After many years of renovating and maintaining the various vacation rentals, we were finally able to do some long-awaited renovations to our own home. The "el" part of the farmhouse dates to sometime in the 1800's, and it had been allowed to go down hill over the years. In particular, renovations in the 1950's were done in such a way that squirrels could get into the walls and ceilings. In addition to driving our cats (and us) crazy, the little darlings also ruined all the insulation so that our kitchen and laundry room were always really cold. This year, faced with a huge increase in the cost of heating fuel, we decide that enough was enough, and ripped off the old wall sheathing, replaced a 12 foot section of rotten sill, and thoroughly insulated the entire wall. With the onset of winter, the best we could do was to install new wall sheathing, and staple up Tyvec. Our plan is to clapboard and stain the new wall in 2006.
Barn roof maintenance
As visitors to the farm will note, all the buildings are roofed with slate. Slate roofs are wonderful in the way they resist wind and shed snow. However, on the barns in particular (dating from the mid 1800's), the old, tapered nails used have gotten pretty rusty over time, so that they tend to pull out and allow slates to fall with heavy winds or as the snow slides. Of course, as a slate pulls out, it allows the roof to leak on all the hay and equipment stored inside. After many years of getting up on the roof using ladders, this year I decided that I was getting far too old for that much risk, and rented a great self-leveling bucket lift. In just one weekend, I was able to pull and re-nail, or replace many, many slates with a much higher level of safety than ever before. Presto, no leaks.
Jubal comes back to the farm
After many years of living and working on his own, including several years in California, our son Jubal is back living and working part time on the farm. His main job is on another local farm, where he milks the cows (getting up at 4:00 AM to do so), helps with corn chopping, etc. His Mom and I are thrilled to have him back home and working with us.