DSCF2563I have been thinking a while about some of the local businesses around here and how they really deserve a little recognition for their services to the community. Some are not well known and often do not advertise. Their reputation goes before them through their satisfied customers, and frankly, that’s really the best kind of advertising.

Today I would like to talk about A & A Metal Shop. This small business is run out of  the owners shop at 464 Collins Hill Rd, Ulysses, Pa. The owners name is Aaron and his son Amon, hence the A & A in the name. I happened upon them through a friend of mine and through Mapletrader.com,  as I was looking to purchase a maple syrup evaporator. I had found one in New Hampshire and my friend told me to check out A & A before I made a long trip. So after looking him up, I found a few threads mentioning his business on Mapletrader.com and they were all praising his work.

I decided to take a road trip one day after work since it was only about 40 minutes away.

Typical  Amish house. Picture credit: amishtrail.com

Typical Amish house. Picture credit: amishtrail.com

As I crossed into Potter County and on to Collins Hill Road I was entering an Amish community where Aaron lives. The homes are large, white , well kept, simple, and efficiently serve a purpose as they are spacious to large families. Out in front of Aarons home is his red metal shop with a small sign hanging on to the mailbox with the words “A & A Metal shop”.

I entered through the door and stepped into his little office. I could look through a doorway into the main shop and see all the men diligently working with metal in some way or another. You would think of a metal shop as loud and industrial like, but this was quiet other than the occasional sound of metal on metal and conversation in Pennsylvania Dutch. The shop was warmed by a wood stove. No electric lights, though the windows all around gave ample light by which to to work.

Inside the shop.

Inside the shop.

Aaron eventually came over and inquired as to what I needed. He was dressed in simple work clothes, and a caring face, kind of like a real nice Grampa. We talked about the different kinds of evaporators he made and their pricing. I had settled on their smallest model, the Hobby Model, which is actually a bit larger than the large manufacturers version. I didn’t measure it but it looked to be almost a 2X4. I was really impressed with all the options that came standard: a pre-heater pan, 8′ chimney stack, fire brick for the arch, and fire cloth. That set up came in UNDER $1000. I had ordered a tin tester cup ($12) so my total order was $987. I may order a steam hood which would be around $140.

Hobby Evaporator

Hobby Evaporator

The construction of their stainless pans is done without welding. He uses all 304, 24ga, B2 finish stainless steel. They still use soldering which some people frown upon due to the old kind of soldering which uses lead solder but all joints are crimped and are lead free soldered. He also does not use the shiny anealed stainless steel as it is hard to solder.

I am very glad I stopped in to visit his shop. If you want to order from him, you’ll have to either write a letter or stop by as he does not use a telephone. Its actually quite refreshing to see a business run the old fashioned way with a smile and a handshake instead of an impersonal email or long distance phone call.

Large evaporator ready to be shippped.

Large evaporator ready to be shipped.

Sugar Shack mailbox

Sugar Shack mailbox

Large drop flue with pre-heater piping.

Large drop flue with pre-heater piping.


Snowshoes

Hey Folks! Its that time of year again. The days are getting noticeably longer and the temperatures are a tad above freezing but still below freezing at night. That means the sap is starting to run up the sugar maple trees. Its time to put your taps in and drain a little out for your pancakes!

New tubing zip tied to high tensile wire

The snow here is still quite deep so I have taken to snowshoes to make the trek out to the sugarbush a little easier. I have been taking any spare time to go out and string up a new addition to my system. My friend is making available his high tensile wire. So this past weekend I ripped out all my existing tubing and taps and put up high tensile wire. Now I have a “backbone” to attach my new lines to. This will keep my tubing from sagging as it has in the past.  Sags in the lines do not allow for good sap flow. Its best to have as straight a line as possible always in an unlevel position to let the sap flow down instead of collecting in the sags. This has always been a problem for me.

The trick to no sags!

I am also adding about 30 more taps this year. I am very excited about these as they are nice big trees. Half of these will be collected by drop lines into buckets. In the past those bucket lines have produced so much that the buckets were always overflowing by the time I got back from work that afternoon. This year I am going to split the line right before it drops into the bucket so that I will have 2 buckets per one tap.

Hurry before the sun goes down!

I also have new tubing and taps which will cut down on the bacteria being introduced into the tree which would increase the speed of healing of the tap hole. As you can assume, the faster it heals, the shorter the time you have to collect sap from that hole. Sometimes you can freshen up the hole again by reaming it out if you still have good weather approaching but it is often considered not a good practice. I have done it in the past and it allows for more sap to flow for a few more days.

In the next few days I plan on hanging all my tubing and then hopefully tapping this coming weekend. I will post pics as I get them.

A beautiful day.


Jeff's Sugar Shack

This spring has not been the best of seasons for the maple syrup producers. The weather patterns, though delightful to enjoy, have been misery for sap collection. In mid February there was a run of days where the daytime temperature was around 40 and the nights were around 2o-30 degrees. This is perfect for a sap flow. However many figured it was a tad early to tap the trees. Keep reading


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!