The color tour – Autumn arrives!

It’s the truth!  For those of us who live here in Lutsen, a sign is not needed to show us where we can see the fall display of beautiful maples and other deciduous trees amongst the evergreens. If you haven’t made a sojourn to the North Shore … you’re dawdling and time is of the essence. Start your migration soon …

The forest service has placed numerous signs around the Arrowhead that indicate driving routes  that pass you through locations of seasonal splendor.

For the new and veteran leaf peeper, the Minnesota DNR has a wonderful resource for when is a good time to see the Fall colors here in Cook County. Check here for more info! Fall Color Tour signs are placed along some of our most popular routes in the Tofte/Lutsen and the Gunflint area, Tour maps can be downloaded online or picked up at the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Stations.

Here is a list of Fall events and fun things to do when you visit

  • The Art Along the Lake: Fall Studio Tour
    September 28 – October 7.  Will feature a variety of unique handcrafted works created in Cook County.  Fall in Cook County is a time of tumultuous beauty, so take some time to explore the colors and meet artists during the Fall Studio Tour!  Stops include home studios as well as galleries with guest artists. All locations will be open daily, from 10am-5pm, with a few special Fall Studio Tour events scheduled outside of these hours.The Art Along the Lake Fall Studio tour is the second of two seasonal Art Along the Lake events here in Cook County and has replaced the Crossing Borders Tour which had been ongoing for 20 years. See the schedule here!
  • Lake Superior 20/20 Studio Art Tour
    September 28th – 30th, 2018.The Lake Superior 20/20 Studio Art Tour offers visitors a variety of artistic talent to peruse while enjoying the autumn splendor of Minnesota’s North Shore.

    Glass, ceramics, woodwork, painting, printmaking, jewelry, sculpture, and photography,  will be exhibited, demonstrated, and offered for sale on this tour. Many sites are providing hands on activities. Click here for more info.

  • Lutsen Community Potluck Celebration
    October 9th, 2018, 6:00pm to 9:00pm at the Lutsen Townhall on the Caribou Trail. Bring a dish to share and an enjoy prizes, fun and food!
  • Live Radio at the Winery in Lutsen
    WTIP Radio, along with the North Shore Winery and Sawtooth Mountain Cider House, invite you to experience live, local radio on the North Shore! Join us on Friday, October 19 and be a part of the fun. The event begins with music by Gordon Thorne at 4:00 pm, leading up a live broadcast of WTIP’s variety show, the Roadhouse, from 5 – 7 p.m. The excitement continues with Small Change, your favorite call-in trivia program from 7 – 8 p.m. Hosts will be taking answers live from the Barrel Room at the winery, or over the phone. This event is free and open to all. There will be special WTIP membership incentives offered–including guided wine and truffle tastings during the Roadhouse!
  • Moose Madness in Grand Marais
    October 19th – 21st, 2018. Throughout Moose Madness weekend, there are activities for everyone.  Activities range from the athletic to the artistic and kids will win “moose bucks” to spend on prizes when they do scavenger hunts, races and arts activities around town. Check here for more info!

There are so many other fun and inventive things you can do while you visit the Fall colors of Cook County. Click here to be even more inspired! And don’t forget to visit Wild Country Maple Syrup as part of your fall tour of the North Shore this season.

See you in Lutsen!

 

 

Events please! … and now that it’s summer, let us enjoy.

Shall we move on from our 2018 harvest? Why not lets have some summer, and at the end of this post please enjoy the May 5th video of our final day at the evaporator as we pull off the last of the 2018 maple syrup crop. It’s always an event … Speaking of events, I’d like to add something fun and exciting to your summer calendar.

Most prominently on July 15th Fulton Brewery is hosting a fun event at their campus called “Beers and Brunch”. It’s a brunch featuring their newest and brightest brew that features (our) maple syrup and locally roasted Fika coffee. Yes you heard correctly and both products are infused in to their beer which hails from our little hamlet of Lutsen Minnesota. Behold Sawtooth Maple Syrup, and Fika coffee together in a breakfast blend event sure to be ground breaking. Make your reservations, then get to the Fulton Tap Room and enjoy an amazing beer with your brunch, and of course buy some of our maple syrup while you’re there. Kirstin from Sawtooth Maple will be present to help you get your maple on!

Now, if you’re a local, or happen to be on the North Shore July 13 – 15. You need to stop by the “Hopped Up Caribou Beer Festival” in Lutsen Minnesota. There are just 9 days left from today to make your reservation and enjoy a weekend in the Sawtooth Mountains. It’s next to my favorite snowboard runs at Lutsen Mountains – enjoy a craft made oat soda slope side. Yes, it’s an awesome event!

Granted that not everyone is into beer, so in Grand Marais on July 14 and 15, we encourage you to come enjoy the Arts Festival sponsored by the Grand Marais Art Colony. Featured on the harbor and all along Wisconsin street, enjoy the cobblestone beach and all the wonderful artisans who come to feature their craft and wares. Visit https://www.visitcookcounty.com/event/grand-marais-arts-festival/ for even greater detail.

And as always, your best resource for events and activities is found at our illustrious  Cook County Visitor Bureau https://www.visitcookcounty.com

If I may also mention that there are some awesome accomodations to enhance your stay along the shore. Who better to help you find some of the most lovely properties to get your summer groove on than Cascade Vacation Rentals , with over 200 cool locations to stay on Minnesota’s North Shore.

So for July, that’s our update. And as promised here is a short video of our final day of boiling shot back in May.

 

 

 

We interrupt Spring to bring you the return of Winter.

At least for northern Minnesota we are indeed experiencing a repeat of earlier season weather. However for the Sawtooth Maple Syrup gang there hasn’t been much of an interrupt – we never did got off our snowshoes.

Hello everyone, here is our sugarbush update!

We have indeed been making pure maple syrup, and the lovely bottle shown below is evidence of what we have been making. This sample was pulled off the pan on Friday (Apr13) and is a medium amber with an incredible flavor I call “immaculate maple”, and graced with the color of a fine Cognac! Click the image to get the full experience.

For those interested in the finer details, the sugar content (s.c.) was at 3.2 on April 13th and has been averaging 3 throughout the season. Our highest s.c. recorded for 2018 was on April 10th at 3.6 and our lowest was 2.1 on March10th. We have had five boils since March producing an estimated 60% Dark Amber. It’s a popular color you know …

Yes it has been a long season, even though for some or most sugar makers the sugaring season hasn’t really started. We expect to see real results this week as the temperature trend is swinging up to the low to mid forties for daytime highs and freezing temps at night – perfect!

On another note, I owe a heart-felt apology to the Yellow-Bellied Sap Sucker. In my last post I reported some of the issues we were experiencing in the field. Namely the bird bites on our spouts and we discovered the real culprit to be the Hairy Woodpecker (see below). Seems our white spouts have been mistaken for bits of suet (my thinking). We really don’t know for sure what’s driving them to hammer out hundreds of spouts. We’ll take any hypothesis you may have and a solution to the problem will get you rewarded with a pint of the above “immaculate maple” syrup. At any rate, I’m sure the sap-sucker is relieved to be acquitted of all charges.

Though there seems to an extension of  Winter, we don’t really believe spring has been cancelled and with this recent snowstorm, the trees will be on ice for a little longer making our season a little sweeter. Stay positive on your sugaring front, my gut tells me we’re all going to have a wonderful harvest.

Carry on regardless!

-Greg

 

The Word is the Bird!

“The birds are back!” came the call over our text message communication thread.

Look closely at the side of the spout. Holes are pecked by the sap suckers causing vacuum leakage.

Of the many challenges to bringing in the harvest, it is the pests we encounter that makes the relatively short season a bit of a trick. In this case it’s the Yellow-bellied Sap Sucker causing our headaches this season, and they don’t like our spouts in the trees. It’s not just one or two spouts to be replaced but up to 30 in any particular section. However, the trouble is short lived, maybe a week of inconvenience and the birds move along.

At this point the squirrels have been easier to deal with.

 

In production news: Sugar making on Sunday (3/18) produced 275 gallons of finished syrup … a very mapley flavor as it came out of the pan. So we are off to a good start!

Day to day the sun’s intensity can be felt as we struggle through the snow checking lines and tuning the sugarbush to its best ability. The snow pack is deep, but is also transitioning from a hard pack to a mashed potato consistency. The question before donning our gear and tackling a section of the sugarbush may be: “Snowshoes? Or no Snowshoes?”

You may think with some of the warmer days we have experienced there would be more of a sap run, but the trees have not wanted to budge here on the shore of NE Minnesota.

These transitional days from winter to spring are the most difficult, but we’ll find our rhythm once we are past the start-up pain and get on with the business of producing 100% pure maple syrup.

March is Maple Syrup Month – A State of Minnesota Proclamation

Thanks Governor Dayton!

Click to zoom ...

Click the image to read, print and share the full March Maple Syrup Month Proclamation

March has been proclaimed “Maple Syrup Month”, whereas … “The annual spring ritual of tapping maple trees, and producing maple syrup and maple syrup products marks nature’s transition from winter to spring in Minnesota’s hardwood forests!”

Well that about sums it up and the proclamation at left says it all, click to read, print and share the full document.

 

 

 

 

 

I think this deserves a Maple Syrup song “The Sugar Bush is Just Awesome!”
by Sean McCammon … (Follow this link below)

 

Rest assured, Spring is Within Reach – Our 2018 Maple Syrup Season Update

Often, and I mean quite often while running the usual grocery store, gas station and hardware store errand in town (be it Lutsen or Grand Marais), I get asked:

“How’s the Maple Syrup?”

To which I reply (in January and February): “It’s still in the trees, I hope.”

It’s common to be asked by our neighbors who know us and our woods-work these wonderful questions. And we love to answer them because we are so passionate and exited about our sugar farming. So how is the maple syrup? Well there is some exiting news to talk about in this blog and forthcoming blogs; about what’s new in the sugar bush, and what’s cool about our current and new customers.

In January (on the 23rd  precisely) Chris, Kirstin, Calvin, Ian and Greg charged up their drills, shouldered their tap packs, rallied the dogs and marched out of the sugar house to begin the task of tapping 24k+ trees. We can attest that there have been some incredibly beautiful winter days and some, well, down right exotic days. Brrrr!

Below watch Kirstin at work tapping maple trees.

As of today 99% of the sugar bush is fully tapped and we are in the preparation stage to our seasonal harvest.

Click to see full image

Dropping off the tank at the sugar bush. A big thanks to local mechanic Joe Hall … Like a boss!

Click to see full image

Installation complete, the new sap tank in place. Now to the roof …

One new addition is here!

You may be interested to know of the arrival of a new 4800-gallon sap tank. It was delivered two days ago and installed on Thursday the 22nd.

 

 

 

In the coming days Chris and Calvin will finish the Sugar House extension with a metal-roofed canopy that will cover both the 4500 tank and the new 4800 sap tank.  Hook up the plumbing and “Bob’s-your-Uncle!”.  Now we’re talking capacity!

As we progress to the cusp of Spring, transfer lines will be connected and some lines will be sloped and then the whole network will be tested together under vacuum. Like tuning a giant orchestra for the big concert!  The sugarhouse will get some reorganizing, the membranes will be installed in to our Reverse Osmosis (RO) machine. The evaporator will be given a final vacuuming, assembled, polished and hooked to the plumbing and finally the tanks will be washed diligently while we await that first call of our 2018 season: “SAPS RUNNIN’!”

If I may suggest … On your next visit to Minnesota’s northland, stop by Wild Country’s little store for a bottle of Pure Maple Syrup and other fun things – it’s always open! Snowmobilers can easily zip off the State Trail on their way up or down the shore to visit our farm – the trail crosses our driveway. If you like snowshoeing there’s plenty of trail blazing to be done (and appreciated) just send us a note if you’re up for the task. I’d keep the cross-country skiing to the trails but after, come enjoy our farms marvel of tubing and taps while you snack on a maple caramel or pick up a bottle of Minnesota north shore country maple syrup.

As I write the maple blog today, abundant snow-fall graces our North Shore again adding another foot or two to our snowpack. The winter won’t be long lived as we hear often the Pileated woodpecker drumming and the Chickadees singing their spring song to the increasing sun’s intensity and the longer days. Life is on the way again in our frozen land – Just give it a couple weeks and the trees will be awake giving their sweet nectar that we will transform into a delicious treat to top your pancakes or lattes!

Tapper Greg

Northern winter comfort in the Sawtooth Mountains

Violent November winds produced a disturbance in the force.  Many branches and trees down on the lines … Wouldn’t it be nice to wield a light-saber-chainsaw?

On this November day, a very different landscape has materialized and we now find ourselves working our sugarbush within the fringe of much cooler weather. Perhaps the “lunatic fringe”? But we welcome this pre-season to our approaching 2018 harvest with open arms.

Much of our region has little or no snow, and very little has been collected along the Hwy 61 corridor to date – But here in the elevations of the Sawtooth Mountain range, we’re flush! However, we are not just yet needing the snowshoes to navigate our lines as we continue to repair and prep and talk to the maple trees. Yes, we speak comfort and good blessings to our trees. It’s included in our production!

With the descending winter, holidays etc, some of us turn our thoughts and hearts to the comforts of food and beverage – with a little REAL maple syrup of course to make things right. And here are a few of my favorite things:

Waffles! What a great afternoon snack, and if you have a toaster here’s what I like to do:

Mmmm … comfort food!

Make and freeze your waffles ahead of time. That way you can answer your craving immediately! I prefer a homemade buttermilk recipe, but you could just as easily hit up the frozen section for a box at your grocery store if you don’t own a waffle maker:

Buttermilk Waffles (from Better Homes)
1-3/4 cup All-Purpose flour
2 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
1/4 Tsp Salt
2 Eggs
2 Cups Buttermilk
1/2 Cup Cooking Oil or Butter – melted
1 Tsp Vanilla

Mix your dry and wet ingredients separately then combine, mix together and cook. Let the waffles thoroughly cool, then pop ’em in the freezer for your future comfort cravings.

Personally, I like to dip the corners of the waffle in the maple syrup much like you would dip fresh baked bread in a little olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette with fresh cracked pepper … ooo,  now there’s another comfort food idea to enjoy with your favorite beverage.

Maple Marzen – by Castle Danger Brewery

A BOLD fall/winter beverage If I may suggest! Our good friends at Castle Danger Brewery released a very special seasonal beer this past fall: “Maple Marzen” It was lagered over the summer with traditional German malts and hops and blended with local maple syrup.

Here are a couple highlights you may not be aware of:

  • This lovely Maple Marzen beverage’s ingredients use 100% Organic REAL Maple Syrup from the Sawtooth Mountain Maple Syrup Company, and
  •  5% of the proceeds are donated to the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT). Now that’s cool!

Find Maple Marzen along the North Shore by clicking the map or on the Castle Danger Brewery website.

It’s only available on-tap in taverns and at the Castle Danger Brewery, where you may purchase a to-go growler as well.  Where to find this Maple Marzen along the North Shore drive? Click the map image or visit their website for more information.

Oh, and that’s not all! Coming soon, Castle Danger Brewery will be re-introducing their signature “Big Dumb Stout” featuring, you guessed it, our 100% REAL Maple Syrup and to be found only in their tap room … if you are a craft beer lover, I highly recommend stopping at their Two Harbors tap room for a snit on your way up the north shore.

Enjoy!

Autumn Bliss, ya’ just can’t miss!

Regarding the colors here on the north shore in four words; “Fall is not done!”

There is still plenty to enjoy! The tree crowns are about peaked but the understory is lightening and that perfect window of viewing opportunity is here, but closing.

Visit Wild Country Maple Syrup’s onsite store here in Lutsen.

There are a few calendar items left to do before all is transitioned to a winter landscape, and more.

The latest addition is the annual Lutsen Communtiy Potluck Celebration happening October 10th between 5:30pm and 7pm at the Lutsen Townhall on the Caribou Trail. Bring a dish to share. Prizes, fun and  food!

 

 

Don’t forget to stock up on a season’s worth of Pure Maple Syrup!

If you just can’t be here this fall, enjoy a video of a short drive down our driveway!

 

Fall Color Tour 2017 – Inspirational ideas and resources

A lone maple tree on the driveway begs for attention and is indicative of the coming seasonal change. It’s Fall color time here in the sugarbush with lots to do and see! Pancakes and waffles never tasted so good in the fall, and it is certainly a great idea to stock up on REAL Wild Country Maple Syrup while you’re visiting the North Shore!

For the leaf peeper, the Minnesota DNR has a wonderful resource for when is a good time to see the Fall colors here in Cook County. Check here for more info! Fall Color Tour signs are placed along some of our most popular routes in the Tofte/Lutsen and the Gunflint area, Tour maps can be downloaded online or picked up at the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Stations. 

Here is a list of Fall events and fun things to do when you visit:

  • Radio Waves Music Festival September 8-10, 2017, Grand Marais, sponsored by WTIP North Shore community radio. Check here for more info!
  • Lutsen Pancake Breakfast  September 17, 2017,  8am to 11:30am at the Lutsen Town Hall sponsored by the Lutsen Fire Department. Wild Country Maple Syrup will be on your table.
  • Lutsen Fall-der-all Community Yard Sale
    September 30, 2017, 9am to 2pm in the lower parking lot of the Lutsen Clear View mall.
  • Art Along the Lake – Fall Studio Tour
    September 29th – October 8th, 2017. Occurring during the same 10 day time-frame, the new Art Along the Lake-Fall Studio Tour will feature the same Cook county studios as Crossing Borders, with the addition of many new open studios and galleries. Check here  for a map and a list of participants.
  • Lutsen Community Potluck Celebration
    October 10th, 2017, 5:30pm to 7:30pm at the Lutsen Townhall on the Caribou Trail. Bring a dish to share and an enjoy prizes, fun and food!
  • Moose Madness in Grand Marais
    October 20th – 22nd, 2017. Throughout Moose Madness weekend, there are activities for everyone.  Activities range from the athletic to the artistic and kids will win “moose bucks” to spend on prizes when they do scavenger hunts, races and arts activities around town. Check here for more info!

Additionally, our favorite craft beer brewers will be releasing their newest products featuring  Sawtooth Mountain Maple Syrup Company Grade A maple syrup! Visit Castle Danger Brewing in Two Harbors and Fulton Beer in Minneapolis for soon to be released craft maple brews!

There are so many other fun and inventive things you can do while you visit the Fall colors of Cook County. Be inspired here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Putting to bed 2017 sugaring season

Pulling spouts

As we worked to conclude our season pulling spouts from trees and washing the lines and such. The weather, uncooperative as it has been this spring, did not change it’s on-and-off performances. Is it winter or are we going to enjoy Bloodroots and Spring Beauties? Not so much, we got all flavors. But the final tap was pulled and the final line was washed Sunday evening April 30th and just in time to beat the next weather event – which fizzled – and black fly season.

Our season was good, yielding a quart of maple syrup per tap. We like that, and the syrup though not overly abundant like in years past, had spectacular flavors!

Here’s where to buy it: Wild Country Maple Syrup

 

Up Next:
May 20th, Minnesota Maple Syrup Producers Association (MMPSPA) meeting in Two Harbors, Minnesota

Enjoy!

Michael Baker of Wild Country Maple Syrup pulls the final spout of the 2017 season!