Nitty Gritty Dirt March 23rd

It's seems like yesterday that we were walking around muddy fields, tapping trees and hanging buckets to catch maple tree sap for this years' syrup.  Wait a minute... it WAS yesterday or nearly.   Today as most of you know, we are being dumped on by more March Snow.  The farm is white again.  The livestock are hunkered down in their shelters.  The heated buckets for water are all plugged in again.  March continues to live up to its reputation.  With wind and travel advisories, we're staying put.  Karla, our first intern to arrive for this season has been commuting back and forth a few days during the week.  She turned back before  getting to Forest Lake this morning after crawling no faster than 25 mph and stopping to clean the ice off her windshield wipers.

Robin collected about 8 gallons of sap from the buckets hanging on the maples in the yard, and is using it to brew some batches of Maple Oatmeal Stout and Maple Amber Ale using maple sap instead of water.  She did it last year and it was superb.  Robin shoveled nearly a foot of snow out the walk way from the house to the barn and shortly after morning chores it was almost as if she had never shoveled - the blowing snow filled in all of our tracks.  It looked like we haven't been out there at all.   We spent the day catching up on inside activities like brewing, baking bread and researching rather obscure topics like raising tilapia and how to use a cream separator.  

There's a hole in the bucket dear Robin dear Robin.......
 We use buckets from the Acadia Cafe (NGDF shareholder) to collect the sap in. We drill a 1" hole just under the top rings.  This is just right to hang the bucket on the metal spiles drilled and tapped into the trees. We smap on a lid and run a baler twine under the handle and around the tree to keep it from blowing off in the wind.

Karla and Robin ready for some tapping action......
Robin has the twine and the battery powered drill, Karla has the buckets and taps. They'll start on the trees in the yard and eventually tap the trees that border of our farm.  Our neighbor lets us tap those trees each year.

Which way does this thing go again? 

The 7/16" hole is drilled on the side of the tree that is exposed to the south and east.  A good run requires days above freezing and nights below freezing.
Karla records Robin's hole drilling skills......
Two years ago with fewer taps, we collected over 400 gallons of sap.  Last year, the run was shorter but we still collected nearly 200 gallons.  When the trees begin to bud we will pull the spiles, but with 46 taps in the trees, we should have plenty.  It takes 40 gallons of sap to cook down into 1 gallon of syrup.
Tap Tap Tap.... I guess that's why they call them taps.
 The spile has a fin-like shape.  We place the hole in the bucket over the spile and it holds there.  We snap on covers so the bugs and squirrels don't take a swim.  Then we tie them on with twine for wind insurance.

The tap (or spile) ready for the next step, hanging the buckets...
 In some of the trees, the sap was already running and it started to drip out of the spile right away.  That was true of this tree as well but my photo timing was off so I never caught the mid-drip picture. 

As the sap run progresses, we check the buckets in the yard first.  If there is a lot of sap in those buckets, we know to go and collect next door as well.  Soon, we'll be getting the  sap cooking stove our of storage, setting it up and begin cooking sap down into syrup.  Forty gallons of sap cooks down to one gallon of syrup and we can cook about 60 gallons of sap in a day - more if we put in a really long day. Stay tuned for more pictures



Use the addresses to google or mapquest or look up the drop site from your particular location. Keep in mind that the folks at the drop sites are volunteers, allowing us to use their space (and in some cases, their homes) as drop sites. Be nice to them. We couldn't do this without them. If you have any questions about your share etc., you should ask us, not them. They have enough to do....as do we all. All deliveries occur on Thursday afternoons. Approximate drop site times are listed below each location. The end times vary but you should pick up your share as early as possible. Look for the NITTY GRITTY DIRT FARM DROP SITE signs at your delivery locations along with lists to check your name off when you pick up, and a description of exactly what you should take.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Farm
10386 Sunrise Road (Cty Rd 9)
Harris MN 55032

35 north past North Branch to the Harris Exit. Turn Right.
Go into Harris, cross RR tracks to stop sign. Turn Left
Go 2 blocks to County Rd 9, also called Sunrise Road. (at Heartbreakers Bar) Turn Right. Farm is 4 1/2 miles out on left side of road. Look for Nitty Gritty Dirt Farm sign.
Shares available from 3:00 to 6:00

United Theological Seminary 3000 5th Street NW, New Brighton MN 55112
694 to Silver Lake Road exit. Go south to 5th and turn west (right). Go three blocks to UTS. Follow driveway (left) to the maintenance garage at the far north end of the parking lot. Shares available after 3:30 PM to 6:00 PM.

Pilgrims United Church of Christ
8801 Rice Lake Road, Maple Grove MN 55369
Just off of Weaver Lake Road across from Rice Lake Elementary School. Use main church door. Shares available from 3:30 to 6:00.

Acadia Cafe
329 Cedar Avenue South, Minneapolis
NW corner of Cedar and Riverside. Park on Riverside or
in lot behind the cafe.
Shares available after 3:15 PM until 6:00 PM

Vincent Avenue
3646 Vincent Avenue North, Mpls MN 55412
1/2 block north of 36th Ave N, and 2 blocks south of Dowling. Park on the street. Shares available after 3:30 until 6:00 PM

Additional drop sites may be added as shares are sold. Drop Sites are subject to change but plenty of notice will be given and alternate sites will be within close proximity to the original drop site.


Robin Raudabaugh & Gigi Nauer

Nitty Gritty Dirt Farm

10386 Sunrise Road

PO Box 235

Harris MN 55032

(651) 226-1186


Also Nitty Gritty Goods Wool CSA
Robin Raudabaugh

We are a 15 acre Community Supported Agriculture farm providing a wide variety of fresh, organically and sustainably grown vegetables, fruit, lamb, pork, turkey and chicken. Located one hour north of the Twin Cities, we deliver to several metro locations. We are intentional about our organic and sustainable farming practices which include (but are not limited to): maintaining soil health through green and animal manures, compost, mulch, cover crops and crop rotations; Organic Pest Management to naturally monitor, prevent and control insects and other pests; maintaining animal health and well-being through the use of portable and loose housing and pasture rotations. Owner/operators Robin Raudabaugh and Gigi Nauer provide over 30 years experience in fruit, vegetable and livestock production, education and customer service. Our primary goal is to build community, relationships and personal health and well-being around good food and the intentional living that creates it. We’d love to have you join us.

Not every day is like this but we try.

Not every day is like this but we try.

Not every day is like this either.

Not every day is like this either.