About Us and The Farm
THE TWO PIGS FARM JOURNEY AS OF SPRING 2017
We have so much news to share after our best season EVER! We hired 2 young sugar-makers, at the referral of the VT Sugar Makers Association President and her husband. Wow, what a difference it made to invest in someone to work on the operation full-time, vs seasonally. Over the past 10+ years, we went from a 5-gallon/year operation, to producing over 1000 gallons this year...that's double what we produced in 2016, so we'll have plenty of syrup to sell, hoping you'll spread the word. Please be sure to tell your friends about us by sharing a link to our site! Here's all that's happened...
Up until November 2015, we relied on our caretaker/farm manager & his son to take care of our sugaring operation. This coincided with their running their own contracting, excavation, plowing and landscape-maintenance company, so they of course could not devote their full-time efforts to our operation. Typically sugaring season coincided with their business' down time, which was when they would take care of our lines and, add a few more every year as time allowed. Eventually, the lines began to show signs of wear & tear, requiring not just regular maintenance, but 100% replacement in order to get our production back to a level that was commensurate with the # of trees they'd tapped over the years. We came to learn lines last only so long, but also that vacuum is extremely important. We also learned we'd been ill-advised to over tap our trees according to 'old' technology. We produced 4X the amount of syrup this year with only ¼ the number of taps at our highest prior year when we had over 4000 taps...this year at around 1000. 4X more syrup with only ¼ the # taps. Yes, we too scratched our heads, wondering how can that be?, and that's where vacuum plays the most important role. In case I'm speaking 'Greek', talking about vacuum, etc, we run a gravity fed operation, vs collecting from buckets. See our Gallery for an illustration.
We have a vacuum system attached to the lines which constantly draws the sap to the tanks. As long as there are no leaks, and the pressure per square inch (PSI) remains high and sap's running (i.e. temps are above freezing), the sap will run, and we get incredible production every day. Lexi & John are diligent about keeping track of the PSI, which if it drops, they go out into the woods to find the leak. They never know what they'll find, it might be a line that's been chewed up by a porcupine, or one that was torn out cause of a fallen limb or tree. Sometimes it's easy to find, others it's like a needle in the haystack. Once the repairs are made and the PSI restored, the sap should run.
Lexi & John worked consultation with the VT Sugar Maker Assn President & husband, who without a doubt know their stuff! Our sugar bush spans across 3 areas along the north-facing side of a foot hill (i.e. the shady side) along the western edge of the Green Mountains. We refer to the areas as sections A, B & C. Lexi & John's first season boiling for us was 2016. We hired them in late November 2015, and they began tapping on February 22, 2016 (coincidentally the same day they began tapping again, one year later). They had little to no time to make much headway improving our lines in the 3 or so months leading up to tapping the trees. Keep in mind, December through late February can be the coldest, darkest, wettest and most unforgiving months of the entire year, at least in VT, that's the case, not the most ideal of conditions to begin a new job, but they still proved to 'deliver'. To start, they decided to limit their attention to only Section A, and did everything they could to repair all breaks, and leaks, and tighten up the lines.
The 2016 season was one of the shortest on record, as the temperatures warmed up more quickly than during usual seasons. The trees budded out very quickly, which results in the reduction of the sugar content in the sap, so the season ended much more quickly than expected, much to the dismay of all sugarmakers. After tapping only 1 of our 3 sections, leaving sections B & C untouched for the 2016 season, Lexi & John produced over 575 gallons of syrup....our best year ever at that point! With so little time under their belt, and such great results I was convinced the time had come for us to expand our investment in the sugaring operation, resulting in all sorts of upgrades and improvements during 2016-17. It's not to say everything went smoothly, we indeed also had our trials and tribulations, from countless equipment failures & a robbery, but in the end, they had another great season and we all learned a lot.
After pulling the 2016 taps, and 'summerizing' to all the equipment that'd go unused until the next season, Lexi & John set their sights on working on the woods. They also explored relocating our sap house, the building where our evaporator is located, where we boil the syrup....using the argument that if they accomplished the level of improvements they projected they could achieve over the year in the woods, they'd need a larger evaporator and facility, or otherwise wouldn't have the capacity to boil all the sap they projected they'd collect, it'd go bad and we'd have to discard it. We'd already outgrown our bottling facilities in 2016, and found we had to truck it to another location, with more space, resulting in additional time and transportation expense. The time had come, as our projected production increases to make a more to a larger location. The good news is this all coincided with the emptying of another, larger building we have on the farm, which had about 4X the space of our prior sap house. We now have an all-in-one sap house, with kitchen, office, and plenty of room for expansion and storage. Lexi and John were barely able to get it up and running in time for their first boil, but was it ever exciting to see the new and improved operation underway. They have so much more space to work in, our equipment is top-of the-line, and much more efficient, & safe as compared to our prior operation. Again, go to our Gallery to see more.
We are now in the process of completing our kitchen installation and will begin bottling our 2017 vintage soon. We hope to have it available for sale by or before the middle of June. Over the course of the next few months, I will update this page, and add other pages about the farm. We also look forward to adding additional products, starting with raw honey, stolen from some of the bees here at the farm and developing recipes for maple cream, and granulated sugar products we'll make available for you to purchase, in addition to recipes you can make at home our syrup and honey. There's so much work behind us, and so much more to go! It's all VERY exciting and we're pleased to have you accompany us on the journey. If you have any requests or suggestions, we'd love to hear from you. Please contact us here.
Thanks for taking the time to visit, hope you enjoyed it!
Two Pigs Farm
Continue here, if you'd like to know more about the history of the farm, and how we came to produce maple syrup...
HOW THE FARM BEGAN
30 years ago, Two Pigs Farm was nothing more than a couple of abandoned corn fields. The farmer, who tended the land, had a heart attack and never got around to harvesting his crops the year Chris (Kimball) & I bought the property, back in the early days, before we were married, and were running the first iteration of Cook's Magazine...later reformatted into Cook's Illustrated. Back to the farm...the rest of the parcel is comprised mostly of steeply sloped, wooded ledge, laced with a few forest streams. There has been some logging on the land over the years, as evidenced by old logging roads that crisscross in the forest. For the most part, we purchased the land, just as Mother Nature had created it and loved it from the first time we set foot on the property, confirmed by our confirming an offer to buy within 48 hours. Much of the raw beauty of the place remains intact, except for the area around the farm house, which has transformed from some undeveloped hay and corn fields to an even more magical place, where there's always a flurry of activity. We laid out the buildings to work with the land, and to be sensitive to the surrounding area. Many of our first time visitors insist we're lying when we tell them we built everything, from the ground up. When they insist we're must be pulling their leg, that they're convinced the farm is at least 100 years old, if not older, we know our mission has been accomplished! That's exactly how we designed the place, to look like it's ben and belongs here, forever!
We've built numerous buildings, mostly barn or farm related. Our farming life started first with a large garden, and larger out-lying crops, like corn and potatoes. We also planted a couple of small orchards, for example fruit trees (apple, pear, cherry & plum), as well as numerous berry bushes (currant, rasp- & blue-). Of course we try to consume or store as much as we can, making large amounts of preserves, jellies & jam every year, but we also give away quite a bit to neighbors, never managing enough time to harvest everything we produce.
The garden eventually led to our more serious farm food-related projects, like raising animals, mostly for our own consumption, but we've also had our fair share of. We've raised chickens, pigs, cattle, horses, rabbits, and bees. Our pets have ranged from cats, a dog, a goat, guinea pigs, rabbits, chinchilla, among other specimens. At one point we even considered raising animals on a commercial scale, perhaps even processing our own pork & beef, curing, smoking, but other projects took priority, like having 4-kids among others. We've cut back quite a bit, and now have only 3 horses, a cat, dog & bees. Speaking of bees....a bear recently attacked some of our hives, such a shame, a couple of them were thriving, and are now a complete loss.
HOW WE CAME TO PRODUCE MAPLE SYRUP
So many of you have inquired, how'd we end up making maple syrup? ...and so much of it?
It all boils down with my trying to come up with a "project-oriented" Christmas gift for my then husband, Chris Kimball. He'd always expressed an interest in boiling sap during the winter, so his big Christmas present one year was an assortment of all he needed to make maple syrup. We went through a lot of syrup every year, not only because we had 4 kids, but we also periodically developed pancake & waffle recipes either for Cook's or one of our cookbooks. So I thought, why not make our own, right? What a fun project, not only for Chris, but also the kids.
In the very beginning, when we were much younger, and not very smart, we had the romantic vision we'd run the farm and work the land with a team of horses, for instance, leading them through the trails, dragging a wagon through the woods, collecting sap, one bucket at a time. We can hear many a farmer chuckling at that idea right about now - how romantic! ...crazy flat landers! Little did we know that 10-15 years after starting out with some tin buckets, a few taps, funnels, and a small evaporator, capable of yielding about 5 gallons of finished maple syrup we'd end up with a 2-story sap house, and enough equipment to produce over 1000 gallons of syrup in a season. Before we knew it, what started out as a simple gift turned into a boutique business, with a lot of customers to keep happy.
We've come a long, LONG way, as was proven by the results of this year's production. We upgraded much of our equipment and methods to the latest state of the art maple technology. There's no way we'd manage to produce as much as we did without our new team, John & Lexi, who stayed on top of the operation this year, running the vacuum-pump, a new R/O (reverse osmosis machine), a new ATV, plus they had to repair our lines, many had to be replaced entirely, having passed their prime. We've got lots of news to share, but need to get back to work, so you can buy our 2017 vintage.