Archive for March, 2013

It’s That Time of Year Agian – Part 4

Just when we thought Spring was around the corner, Winter returned.  No sap has been flowing for the last two weeks.  We had 14+ inches of snow during that time and only recently has the temperature warmed up enough to begin collecting sap again.

We finished the boil we started several weeks ago:  Heat the concentrated sap to the right temperature,

the final boiling down

filter out the sediment that forms,

our sophisticated filtering system

bottle it and wait for the seals to pop.  It’s a pretty simple process with amazing sweet results.  From our initial 44 gallons of sap, we made almost 7 pints of liquid gold.  Yummm!

finished syrup

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It’s That Time of Year Again – Part 3

We’ve finally had some warmer sunny weather and we’ve been collecting sap for several days now. Each day we trudge out into the sugar bush with our trusty 5 gallon pails in hand.  We head to the farthest out buckets first and work our way back to the house.  It’s pretty simple really: remove the lid, dump the sap into the collecting pail, rehang the bucket (and take a moment to enjoy the sweet ping ping into the bottom), then move on to the next one.  We have hung 32 buckets and so far the two of us have been able to haul out all the sap in one trip.  When the sap really flows, it’ll take another trip or two.

collecting saptoting sap back to the sugar house

So far we’ve collected just shy of 45 gallons.  That’s almost enough for one gallon of sweet goodness!

We started boiling today.  This is the first sap for us in our new set-up and it is so exciting to see it in operation.  The air inside the sugar house is heavy with the sweetness soon to come.

Cupola letting out steam

the comforts of "home"

We’ll be finishing our boiled down sap later.  Stay tuned.

It’s That Time of Year Again – Part 2

Sap runs when the days are warm and the nights dip below freezing.  The time of year fluctuates a bit but last week we decided it was time to tap.  The weatherman was predicting warmer day temperatures and the trends looked promising.

trekking into the woods to tap maple trees

With our sap buckets clean and ready to go, the first order of business was to haul all the equipment into the woods: buckets, taps, lids, drill, and hammer.  The snow is pretty deep this year and snowshoes are in order.  But even then the walking was tough.  Each step sank about a foot, especially carrying the weight of buckets and all.  After several trips, we had nice packed paths to the trees and buckets ready to install by each one.  Monte made sure we didn’t get lost.

drilling the holetap in, bucket hung

Now we were ready to drill holes to insert the metal taps.  Holes are drilled to a specific depth and diameter to fit the taps.  Once the holes were drilled, we hammered the tap into the hole and hung the bucket on the little hook.  It was a good sign to see sap flowing right away and to hear the sweet sound of “ping, ping, ping” into the bottom of the bucket.  Adding a lid completes the job.  Covering the bucket helps keep out bark and other debris, and keeps rain and snow from diluting the sap too much.

our "sugar bush"

Now we just wait for the sun to warm and the sap to flow.

It’s That Time of Year Again – Part 1

Late winter is a magical time in much of New England.  Just about when you can’t stand the thought of yet another snow storm and are longing for spring, it is time to rinse the cobwebs out of the sap buckets and get busy.

We are a small operation but we’ve added a new wrinkle this year.  In the beginning we had just a few taps and boiled down on a camp stove.  We made great syrup that year but the white gas for the stove was pretty pricey.  Then we got a small two-burner propane stove and boiled almost constantly on our covered deck.  The boiling rate was much cooler and slower and we weren’t able to keep up with the amount of sap we were collecting.  Next we started hauling our sap to a friend’s sugar house about 3 miles away.  site prepThis worked well except for the fact that we were boiling away from home and it was messy and laborious to haul the sap there, and then the almost finished syrup home.

So this summer we decided to build our own little place.  We purchased a small kit from Jamaica Cottage Shop and arranged for some strong young backs to help us put it up.  Our friend Gary helped us with the site preparation and we were all ready when our kit arrived.
kit delivery

IMG_2865
James and Greg did much of the manual labor while we gave advice and kept them supplied with the right kit components.  Our friend Kevin helped too.  With just a few field adjustments we were in business.

sugar house construction

installing the cupola

installing siding and roof

Next up was the Leader evaporator kit we purchased.  The hardest part was getting it square and level and I have to say installing the firebrick inside the burning chamber was not very fun.  We were still speaking to each other after the work was completed; that sounds like success to me.

evaporator put together IMG_2957

Finally, it was time to install the chimney to vent the evaporator.  My brother John helped Roger engineer  that not-quite-textbook feat and it was a wonderful thing to see smoke coming out the chimney (and not filling the sugar house!) when we built the first fire.  Now we just had to wait for the weather to be just right.

the chimney

Yay!  It works!

Stay tuned…


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