Majestic Cat

I’ve gotten in touch with Lara Laubert through MandalaGaba when she reported a bug about it. Thank god for bugs, because she’s an extremely talented artist from Brazil, and has great enthusiasm for random cool projects. Inevitably when the big plotter was built, I reached out to see if she’d like to collaborate on getting her art rendered by it, and being the cool person that she is, she was willing to launch into it. I won’t link to her social media, because they’re all walled, I don’t have accounts, and I don’t want to refer to them but she is easily Googlable (something I soon won’t say either seeing as they have been taking steps away from their “don’t be evil” moto, but let’s not turn this into a state of the Internet discussion). Lara is an amazing artist greatly skilled in capturing the natural world. I would say there’s a gift in there too, but I don’t want to take away from the work she must have had to put in to develop her skills.

An so through much back and forth, Majestic Cat was born.

I don’t do much more than run some algorithms and operate the machine, but there’s still a lot of work involved. Including many trials before the public reveal: 6 days in a public place where her art to be drawn by the plotter. I did this to coincide with a public event and it was wonderful to see people’s reactions to it.

There was a slight misalignment about 2/3rd of the way in as was made evident at the return to origin. You wouldn’t really know it’s there unless you looked carefully. I believe someone must have bumped into it at some point and that’s ok, I know it’s a bit of a gamble with many people (and kids) stopping by to see it. Maybe it was an actual issue with the plotter, but I never saw this in thousands of hours of plotting.

I’ve been practicing with a laser, and so of course I lasered Majestic cat. It looks awesome.

From the many trials before the public installation, we have Majestic Cats all over the house now.

And the best part is, this is only our first checkpoint to make sure we could work with each other’s format requirements. Majestic cat is a fraction of something bigger.

It’s the Season of Mistakes

Here I was, patting myself on the back for all the experience acquired over 7 sugaring seasons. This 8th one though, I’ve made several costly mistakes. A filtering snafu, sap overflow, woodpiles allowed to get wet, and more importantly, I misread the weather and let the pan full of syrup spoil. I thought it had been cold enough but it hadn’t and I let it sit too long. I could smell it right away when I started boiling. It didn’t smell bad but it was lacking the sweetness and you could tell something was off.

So that’s it, an anticlimactic end to a very decent season otherwise. It’s not worth rebuilding up the pan with the sap about to turn. And it’s ok really, we still made enough, and I’m actually enthused to get going again next year with a list of many things I want to improve, which I’ll implement until then.

Still though it’s a bit of a shame to waste all this effort. If nothing else, it’s good exercise out in the woods, and it’ll make a nutrient dense addition to a pile of compost. It’s always good to remind myself that I used to go to a gym and exert myself into the void. Moving 200 gallons of sap from the forest to a compost pile achieved something at least, on top of being a good workout.

We received a monster snow storm that made bucket harvesting a snowshoe ordeal. Esther loved creating little paths between the buckets.

Birch Syrup

One of the maple taps wasn’t producing much at all, so I moved it to a birch tree. I had tried before but was too late and didn’t really get anything. This time though, the sap was flowing and so I got about a gallon that I boiled on the stove inside.

And it was really delicious. Much like maple syrup but with more of a floral tone. Maple syrup takes ~40 gallons of sap to get 1 gallon of syrup, a 40:1 ratio on average. Birch syrup is 100:1! That explains why it’s not common. I’m definitely curious about it though. In one season, we make enough Maple syrup for our family’s generous use for a good 2 years. Maybe I could do Birch every other year. It’s the same process with the same tools, just more water boiled out.