February 2009



The Sugar Shack

The Sugar Shack

I have been delightfully pleased by the output of the 15 taps I have. Two or three of my 5 gallon buckets have been overflowing by mid day! I just wonder how much I have lost because it filled over. I also had one hose back out of the bucket, and again the same tree, this morning the bucket had blown away. Fortunately, that tree isnt a huge producer, but every little bit adds up! I just went to my friends house and dumped 25 gallons into his bulk tank.

As I stated before, I am just tapping and collecting. He has the time, equipment and experience to boil it down. So I get half the maple syrup that my sap produces as a trade off for not having to boil it. So anyway, I went to his sugar shack and no one was around. I was hoping he would be home, so I could have gotten his picture in here. Maybe when he starts boiling I will run over and get some pics of the process.

I posted a picture of a sugar shack that looked like his a few posts back. Today while dumping my buckets, I decided to snap a few pics of his shack for you to see. He has a stainless bulk tank that is really just an old  milk tank from a dairy farm. He has hoses from tapped trees all leading to this tank through one final hose. Then out the back he has another hose attached at the bottom with a shut off valve. This hose goes straight out the back as the hill slopes down the hose stay straight and meets the shacks roof where it enters the shack. Quite ingenuous if you ask me!

Bulk tank for sap storage

Bulk tank for sap storage

Hose entering shack through eves

Hose entering shack through eves

Then in the shack he has an evaporator. I believe his set up has evolved over the years getting more and more efficient with better equipment. As you can see there isn’t much room inside, and my flash doesn’t work, so its a bit dark.

Evaporator

Evaporator

The shack is built into the hill so that the back side provides a wood storage place to keep the wood under roof. If you are outside, you can see at around head level, there is a trap door to feed the wood insede the shack. This is a very efficient way to feed the stove under the evaporator! inside the shack. As you can see, it takes a lot of wood to make the amount of sap that they make. The more efficient your evaporation the less wood you need. My friends set up is quite efficient…he just makes a lot of syrup!

Wood

Wood

Dry wood and trapdoor

Dry wood and trapdoor


The sweetest drip!

The sweetest drip!

I was finally able to take my boy out with me to go tap some maple trees. He was so excited. He loves taking walks out in the field with “Dadda”. We got to the sugarbush and he really wanted to use the drill! So I started drilling and had him stand in front of me and help push the drill and then clean of the bit and then drill some more. It was a perfect day for a sap run because the sap was just gushing out as we tapped! He was so excited and wanted to taste it all the time. I got a tap in and a hose connected and he started drinking it like a straw! I told him not to touch the tube to his mouth because we wanted to keep things as clean as possible (he had just finished eating cheesies and had an orange mouth and hands!).

Our sugarbush

Our sugarbush

He was a big help, fetching lids and taps and hoses. I let him hammer in the taps with me. Overall I think it was a great first experience for the both of us. Towards the end he was done with it before I was finished getting all the taps in. But he stuck it out.

In the creek, next to a nice clump of maples.

In the creek, next to a nice clump of maples.


My first tree tapping!

My first tree tapping!

Ok folks, the big news today is that my neighbor called back and gave me permission to tap the trees I had asked about, and even suggested I tap more around his house!! So this morning I got up early and walked out to a few trees and tapped them. I am making use of some hosing and “T”‘s. I have 5 trees tapped so far with 6 taps. I would have done more but I stopped for 3 reasons.

1. My battery for my drill ran out on the third tree. Yeah, so I was twisting the drill to get holes in the last two trees!!

2. It was getting late and I had to get to work

3. I want to tap the rest of the trees with my boy, Charles.

Today it is supposed to get up to 39 degrees, so this will be a great test to see how much comes out on my first ever sap collection!

Some more tapping

Some more tapping


So far I have obtained the needed equipment to collect the sap. I have the hoses and about 10 5- gallon buckets and all the taps and “T”‘s. A friend of mine who I am going to use for boiling the sap lent me the hoses and taps. My wife went around calling the local restaraunts and food service places and got a bunch of free buckets that I  picked up.

I washed the buckets and boiled the taps and tees and cleaned out all the tubing with soap and again with a little bleach. Now I am just awaiting permission to tap my neighbors trees. I went for a wal with my boy, Charles, and found some really nice maples on field edges and creek bottoms. I am careful to not ask for permission to tap maples in woodlots as those would be considered premium lumber trees.


The time has come. The Maples are flowing! It actually has come a bit early this year. I have been wanting to start collecting sap for Maple syrup for some time now. And now that my oldest boy is old enough to really appreciate it and help somewhat (2 1/5 yrs old), I will start with him this year..

I am planning on tapping only a few trees and am going to use hosing to a 5 gallon plastic bucket that will sat at the base of the tree. I will try to find one near our house and maybe a few on the way to work. I will than take all the sap to one of my coworkers and put it in his pickup. He will then take it to his sugar shack and boil it down with the rest of his sap. He has quite the system in place already. The deal is, for every 40 gallons of sap I collect, I get a half gallon of syrup back. You see it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. So I get half the product because I am counting on them to boil it down and put it in containers.

The above photo is a photo I borrowed of a sugar shack that my friend has. This one looks just like it. Its kinda set out in the woods. It has quite a nifty boiler in it and just enough room for some folks to sit around and have a good time keeping watch over the forming syrup.

I am very excited about it. Now that the days are a bit above freezing and the nights are below freezing, and its only early February….this might make for a good long season! I cant think of many better things than walking through the big woods with your boy, tappin’ trees for sap!

I’ll post pics of our progress!