You know spring is really on it’s way when the Caldwell family fires up the sugar house and loads the maple trees with sap buckets. Eddie and I tapped our maple trees last week with the awesome help of our son, Shawn. It was a spur of a moment decision because of the unpredictable weather situation. We tapped fourteen trees with 1-5 buckets depending on the size and condition of the tree.
We gather the sap every two hours so by the time we had all of the taps drilled, plugged and a bucket hung on them it was time for Shawn to start making the rounds to each of the trees. The sap was running like a heavily dripping faucet and soon the buckets were running over. We had a total of 52 buckets hung and we hauled it in milk cans from the trees back to the 210 gallon storage tank. The tank was filled well past the holding mark giving us about 225 total gallons of sap in 2 1/2 days. On Tuesday afternoon we pulled the taps and buckets, cleaned them and put them away for another year.
At this point we stored the tank full of sap in our garage where it would stay below 40* until we were ready to make the syrup and would be okay for 10-12 days as long as it stayed cold. We now waited for weather that was cool, dry and not too windy to fire up the sugar house.
On Friday, Eddie hauled in the firewood to use for the fire. It had to be dry and a sturdy wood that would stay really hot. We had a stockpile of old locust post that came from replaced fencing on the farm so he brought in two loads and placed them on top of three other posts laid out on the ground to keep the wood dry in the event it rained again before we started the fire.
Friday night we made the decision to make the syrup while we had at least one good day. I emailed the kids and we set the syrup vat on the fire pit. The syrup vat is a stainless steel vat with four sections.
We put the vat on the firepit around 9:00 p.m. Friday night and we thought we had everything ready. The sawed up fence posts were in the pit along with kindling and we don’t put the sap in until right before lighting the fire. (Don’t want no varmints sucking up the water or worse walking through it. The lights for working in the dark first thing in the morning were set up and ready. The hose was hooked up to the tank, buckets in place, and all we had to do was try to get a good nights sleep because it was going to be a long day.
The next morning Eddie got up at 5:00 a.m. and got the vat filled with sap, started the fire and when I got out of bed at 6:00 I could see the steam coming out from under the sugarhouse roof. It had been cooking good for about half an hour and Eddie was going to add more sap and the waterhose from the storage tank to the vat was froze. We were really doing some hustling trying to unthaw it. First he tried a small propane torch but that didn’t work and would have melted the hose. Then we tried running hot water from the house to the hose and that didn’t work. Finally we ran straight hot water into the hose, whipped it against the ground to beat up the slush and ice in the hose and finally after thirty minutes and almost scorching the syrup in the pans it broke free. At this point we filled the vat sections quickly again but this time we kept the hose off the ground by placing it on several milkcans from the garage to the sugar house.
After this things went pretty quickly and I left him to go to Covington at 9:00 to visit my younger brother. This was a short trip because he wouldn’t get out of bed and didn’t want to talk. I got back home a lot sooner than I expected and our daughter, Heather, had joined her Dad around 10:30 and things were going pretty good. Only about 75 gallons of sap had gone through the vats during my absense but I had about two gallons of syrup to strain and process. It was beautiful and so sweet. You have to remember though that when we collect that sap from the trees it looks and tastes like clear water.
We had a very successful day ending up with 53 pint jars and 6 quarts. We’ll sell the pints for $8 and the quarts for $12.
Here’s some of the pictures shared throughout the day.
Our granddaughter, Victoria, and her new beau joined at the end of the evening just in time for french toast and sausages. Fun and hard work was had by all!