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.

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This is an update as to what I have been up to lately. We have about 6 new chicks (1 mo. old now) out in the coop. We have 5 Khaki Campbell ducks on their way in late may, and 4 of our goats are pregnant and due in late June.

My next project is to tear down our existing sheds and build sheds made out of pallets. This would be our garden shed (may also double as sugar shack), and our goat shed. I’d like to make it bigger and have dry space for hay and feed storage.

We also had a great sap season. I gathered 400+ gallons of sap which returned 14 gallons of syrup. I boiled about 15 gallons of sap at home after my boiler friend stopped boiling. We got 1.5 quarts from doing that over the fire pit. The kids loved it!

Boiling sap at home

We also received a baby Sannen buckling from a friend. He was a week old in mid march and we are bottle feeding him currently. I also built a goat milking stand for when our two goats, who are half dairy breed, freshen. The other two goats are Boer goats so we will not be milking them. =)

Goat stand from scrap wood.


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


Sweet water

My son and I are getting excited to start the maple sugaring season again. I stopped in to my friends place the other day in Liberty, Pa. He has quite a large maple sugaring operation. He had mentioned to me that he had some supplies that he no longer needs and was either going to give them away or burn it all. It was apparently just taking up space and he had no use for them. So, of course, I came down to see what all he had. I was amazed as to the amount of equipment he had for his operation. He really had it down to an efficient system. He showed me all around his shack and explained how everything worked.

His sugar shack is quite impressive for the size of it. I will add pics of his shack to this post when I get them. Check back!

I was able to walk away with hundreds of feet of main line tubing, regular tubing and many many spiles. I am so appreciative!


Slab wood

Slab wood

A local specialty lumber mill has offered me all the slab wood I can handle for firewood! My friend manages Irion Lumber Company near my home in  in Wellsboro, Pa.  Irion Lumber specializes in curly or tiger maple, cherry and walnut. Most being used for the antique furniture industry.They also distribute other uncommon specise such as mahogony and butternut. They are passionate about thier products and just great folks  to be around.

I will use this not only for my home heat but also for evaporating sap this spring hopefully! I am trying to get all the equipment I need so that I can expand my operation this year. It looks like I will have permission to a whole hillside of maples this spring! The largest investments will be taps, hoses, utility 4-wheeler, and an evaporator. If anyone knows where I might be able to get this equipment for free or for a low cost, please let me know!

Second trailer load

Second trailer load

Irion Lumber Company

Irion Lumber Company

Irion Lumber Company

Irion Lumber Company


Sugar Shack

Sugar Shack

Now that all the sap has been collected for the year, the next process is boiling it. Although, boiling starts before collection is finished. As I mentioned in previous posts, I have been taking my sap to a friends sugar shack to have them boil it. They already have quite an elaborate system, so I figured that was the best arrangement.
As you see in the photos there is a large evaporator that takes up most of the space in the sugar shack.

Friends in the sugar shack

Friends in the sugar shack

Under the evaporator is where the fire is burning. The large stainless steel section holds the sap coming in from the bulk tank. This is where the majority of the water is boiled off. Then it flows to the front pan by way of a valve. In the front pan the sap is then “finished” off. This is where it turns to syrup. By the use of a hydrometer and the good old “drip test”, my friends determine when the syrup is at the right consistency. From there, they pour it off into 5 gallon buckets where it sits for about 2 weeks to let any residue or sediment settle to the bottom. From there, it gets bottled and sold or given away.

Evaporator

Evaporator