Tag Archive | maple syrup

Maple Syrup Season was Short & Sweet

Hubby and I had a quick window of time to collect our sap this year and it turned out perfect!  We decided to make the syrup by ourselves this year because of the unpredictable spring weather.  We also decided that about half a batch would suffice so we only filled the sap tank with 135 gallons of clear maple sap!

Brick firepit before pan is placed.

The cleaned pan before and after.

Pit of ashes after all is completed and the cleanup is done.

These are the scoops we use to move sap from one section of the pan to another.

This is the paddles we use to scrape the foam off the cooking sap!! They’re handmade by one of Eddie’s ancestors but we’re not sure which one.

Pancakes and french toast will be on the breakfast menu for a while!!

135 gallons of sap yielded 3 1/2 gallons of delicious maple syrup.

When the sap goes in the pans it’s clear as water and the longer it cooks the more golden it becomes.

This is a gallon bucket we use to dip the paddles in after dipping the foam from the sap.

This is the foam that builds up while the sap is boiling. We have two paddles on hand to dip it off the hot sap. If left on it will leave a crusty top on the sap and we don’t like that.

Of course we have entertainment as hubby hooks up a jambox on the rockwall above the cellar!!

It was an absolutely gorgous day and a spectacular blue sky stayed with us the entire day.

Early morning at the sugar house!

The only equipment in the sugar house is the firepit and the pan over for cooking down the syrup. We do have a 1/2 gallon scoop that we use to move the syrup from one section to the other.

Mr. Caldwell started the process by lighting the fire around 5:00 a.m. and let me sleep in until 7:00. He is so good to me!!

Front view of the sugar house which is open on two sides to allow the steam to roll out!!

We save old fence posts just for the cookoff. They’re locust post and locust rails that are perfect for this special event!

We hook a water hose to the tank which is on the back of our Dodge pickup and park it on the driveway above the sugarhouse and let it gravity feed to the pan. It has a cut off so that we can cut it off when the pans are full. This saves us from carrying milkcans up and down the path.

Attaching the hose to the tank and flowing to the sugar house

The pan has four sections that we keep full at all times. The first two are wider than the last two and there is a slot opening that the sap flows through to keep the cooking at an even level. The third section of the pan is where the first thickening really starts to show and the smallest section holds about 3-4 gallons of sap and is the final thickening pan. As we work down the sap the pans stay full and when we run out of sap we start filling them with water to keep the pans from the scorching because the fire in the pit has to continue to stay hot and boiling.

The sugar house firepit was blazing and the steam coming off the pan was heavenly. Nothing like a good steam bath to open the pores!!

This is our holding tank that the sap is stored in during the tapping season. It holds 275 gallons but we downsized this year.

We only tapped seven trees that were in our yard and around the sugar house this year.

Closeup of the straining screen on the bucket.

Metal strainer bucket for straining at the trees when we gather and again before putting it in the holding tank.  Some of this is out of sequence but I think you’ll get the gist of it.  We had a wonderful day and my youngest aunt and uncle came and spent the day with us.  They had never seen the process and seemed to enjoy the day!  This was the first year that our kids weren’t involved but they had to work and the weather situation would not allow us to put it off!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sugar Time at Caldwell Farms

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.

Sugar maple tree with tap

Sugar maple tree with tap

This is one of the sugar maples in our front yard that provides us with plenty of maple sap in the spring and glorious shade in the hot summers.

This is one of the sugar maples in our front yard that provides us with plenty of maple sap in the spring and glorious shade in the hot summers.  This tree held five buckets this spring.

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.

These are some of the tools we use to start the process of making maple syrup.

These are some of the tools we use to start the process of making maple syrup.

Stock water tank holds 210 gallon at the top ridge of the tank.

Stock water tank holds 210 gallon at the top ridge of the tank.

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.

Cooking tank has four sections. The first two on the right have a opening so that the sap runs from one side to the other. The next section is the first thickening section and the narrow section on the far left is the last section before straining off. The pain has grown dark over the last few years and each year our syrup gets a little darker and sweeter.

Cooking tank has four sections. The first two on the right have a opening so that the sap runs from one side to the other. The next section is the first thickening section and the narrow section on the far left is the last section before straining off. The pain has grown dark over the last few years and each year our syrup gets a little darker and sweeter.

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.

The sugar house sits down over the hill from the garage about 50 feet and it was warmer down there than it was up the hill at the garage.

The sugar house sits down over the hill from the garage about 50 feet and it was warmer down there than it was up the hill at the garage.

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.

First pot off the firepit and it's ready to strain once more, heat to boiling and put in the sterilized jars to seal.

First pot off the firepit and it’s ready to strain once more, heat to boiling and put in the sterilized jars to seal.

Cheesecloth for straining the syrup. I use about four layers of cloth when I strain the syrup and it's strained twice once it's cooked. We also use a bucket with a straining net to pour it in the storage tank.

Cheesecloth for straining the syrup. I use about four layers of cloth when I strain the syrup and it’s strained twice once it’s cooked. We also use a bucket with a straining net to strain from the tapping buckets and pour it in the storage tank.

Regular and wide mouth jar lids

Regular and wide mouth jar lids

Sterlized pint jars

Sterlized pint jars

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.

Pints and quarts of heavenly fresh maple syrup.

Pints and quarts of heavenly fresh maple syrup.

Caldwell Farm labels include the date made and the ingredients.  We do not add any preservatives or other sugars.

Caldwell Farm labels include the date made and the ingredients. We do not add any preservatives or other sugars.

Here’s some of the pictures shared throughout the day.

Frosty morning started at 29* at 6:00 a.m.

Frosty morning started at 29* at 6:00 a.m.

At times the steam in the cool air made it impossible to see what was going on in the vat.

At times the steam in the cool air made it impossible to see what was going on in the vat.

Boiling maple sap to scrumptious maple syrup.

Boiling maple sap to scrumptious maple syrup.

Our daughter Heather after a steamy day of fun!

Our daughter Heather after a steamy day of fun!

Mr. Caldwell considers himself the "sugar monster" at the end of the day.

Mr. Caldwell considers himself the “sugar monster” at the end of the day.

Jared and Crystal joined in the afternoon. This was Crystals first trip to the farm and she also got to feed the baby calf, Miracle.

Jared and Crystal joined in the afternoon. This was Crystals first trip to the farm and she also got to feed the baby calf, Miracle.

Jared hanging out in the sugar house.

Jared hanging out in the sugar house.

End result!

End result!

Sassy guarding the woodpile from mice and voles.

Sassy guarding the woodpile from mice and voles.

Undescribable smell in the air!

Undescribable smell in the air!

Vats are full and boiling.

Vats are full and boiling.

Boiling sap almost maple syrup.

Boiling sap almost maple syrup.

He's stays busy during the entire process.

He’s stays busy during the entire process.

Sugar Monster fueling the fire.

Sugar Monster fueling the fire.

Crystal and Jared enjoying the day.

Crystal and Jared enjoying the day.

Jared and Eddie catching up on everything and planning their spring gobbler season.

Jared and Eddie catching up on everything and planning their spring gobbler season.

Red hot coals from old locust posts keep things hot and sap boiling from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm.

Red hot coals from old locust posts keep things hot and sap boiling from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm.

The steam makes the whole area smell like maple syrup.

The steam makes the whole area smell like maple syrup.

Firepit in sugar house

Firepit in sugar house

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!

 

The farm has been quite busy for the last three weeks

The farm is always busy but the last three weeks have been quite busy.  My chickens had almost completely quit laying but now the eggs are pouring out of them.  We’re getting 18-22 eggs a day and two of my ladies are starting to show broody signs.  It’s just too cold to set these ladies yet so I think I’ll give them until the first weekend in April to put eggs of my choice under them.

Beautiful eggs of all sizes and colors.

Beautiful eggs of all sizes and colors.

 

I had thought about buying some babies in mid-April or May but then decided if I’ve got broody hens that won’t give me eggs, I’ll put them to work hatching me some new layers.

Then maple syrup season came on us and last weekend we made 45 pints of the golden nectar.  The weather was such a hit and miss thing that we didn’t invite a lot of people to join us but our daughter had some of her clients come in to see the process.  It was very, very windy the day of the cook-off.

210 gallon tank for sap storage

210 gallon tank for sap storage

Gallon stainless steel bucket used to strain sap into tank.

Gallon stainless steel bucket used to strain sap into tank.

Trees tapped

Trees tapped

Shawn & Heather keep watch on the pan.

Shawn & Heather keep watch on the pan.

 

Sugar house steaming.

Sugar house steaming.

 

2014 Golden nectar

 

AND, the babies are arriving and they are so adorable.  The calves seem a little on the small size this year but that’s fine.  They grow so fast and smaller calves are definitely easier on the mothers.  Here’s a few of our recent arrivals:

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And of course, keeping the driveway clear of ice and snow and feeding the cattle has been a chore, not to mention keeping firewood on the front porch to feed the stoves.

Ice on top of snow

Ice on top of snow

 

You just can't be a good wood fire with the winter we've had.

You just can’t be a good wood fire with the winter we’ve had.

 

Stay well,  Stay warm.
Rita

 

 

Think Spring Pictorial

This has been the coldest winter I can remember for a long time and I’m just so ready for it to be over, yet, I know we still have two more cold months to go for our neck of the woods.

My hubby asked me tonight to take some pictures of the ice and snow hanging off the roof of our house. I decided to share them along with some pictures I hope will bring beautiful spring thoughts to our minds and ward off some of the cold while we wait for that precious time of year called SPRING.

A lot of it melted today but there's still a lot of wait on that new addition.

A lot of it melted today but there’s still a lot of weight on that new addition.

This doesn't do it justice but it looks COLD!

This doesn’t do it justice but it looks COLD!

It's hanging over the edge of the roof about four feet.

It’s hanging over the edge of the roof about four feet.

This is about 22 inches in the deepest part.

This is about 22 inches in the deepest part.

There's some serious icicles hanging from it too!

There’s some serious icicles hanging from it too!

Icicles look like some kind of prehistoric weapon of the ice age!

Icicles look like some kind of prehistoric weapon of the ice age!

Can you tell the depth of the snow on both sides of the walk off the porch?

Can you tell the depth of the snow on both sides of the walk off the porch?

Okay, enough snow and cold, think spring!  Think spring!  Think spring!

Apple blossoms speak spring!

Apple blossoms speak spring!

Beauty of the blue skies and green grass!

Beauty of the blue skies and green grass!

Spring rains!

Spring rains!

Sap running from the sugar maples.

Spring = Sap running from the sugar maples.

Gathering sugar sap

Spring = Gathering sugar sap

Opening the sugar house and cooking the syrup.

Spring = Opening the sugar house and cooking the syrup.

Puppy checking out the purple crocus-that is springtime!

Spring = Puppy checking out the purple crocus-that is springtime!

Spring is definitely merkel hunting time.

Spring is definitely merkel hunting time.

Tilling the garden the first time!

Spring = Tilling the garden the first time!

Warming up the potting shed.

Spring means warming up the potting shed.

Irises popping out of the ground.

Spring = Irises popping out of the ground.

Peach tree budding!

Spring = Peach tree budding!

Of course, it couldn’t be spring without Papa and granddaughter hitting the spring gobbler trail!

Shes a true hunter 04142012Let’s really put on our concentration hats and get the season rolling!!

2013 Maple Syrup Season Completed

It took three days of work for my husband and a very special friend and our kids and the maple syrup is cooked off and ready to sell.  From 235 gallons cooked down to 59 pints of golden maple syrup.  

Hubby collected the sap three days and stored the tank in the garage to keep it chilled.  He and our friend from Giles county worked on it from 10:30 Friday morning until 12:30 that night and started again at 6:30 on Saturday morning.

 Several of the neighbors came to visit and watch the creation and some friends from Blacksburg came on Saturday afternoon but not in time to watch the procedure.  They were fascinated with the results and the education they received about Mother Nature and maple syrup.  

I’ve decided to complete this post with the pictures I have of the event which my daughter took.  I was under the weather and banned to the house and a very special friend stayed in with me so we could catch up while I filtered the syrup and canned it.  All in all, everyone had a good time and there were lots of smiles throughout the day!

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Final pan boiling down 03162013

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Eddie and Jared in a maple syrup fog 03162013

Shawn skimming the foam from the sap_syrup03162013

Marion Ross joins the maple syrup festivities 03162013

Preparing to take off a batch 03162013

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New Year of Maple Syrup

 

Sugar maple tree with a beautiful blue sky background.

Sugar maple tree with a beautiful blue sky background.

 

We could not have picked a better time to start tapping the maple trees.  Saturday morning after feeding the cattle and cleaning up from breakfast we got started.  It was clear, sunny and still a chill in the air.  First we gathered the bucket and cleaned them and then we cleaned the 210 gallon water tank.

All the gallon buckets have been washed and ready to hook up to the taps.

All the gallon buckets have been washed and ready to hook up to the taps.

Nice and clean gallon buckets.

Nice and clean gallon buckets.

 

Shiny and clean tank.

Shiny and clean tank.

It holds 210 gallons and it was specifically purchased just for sugar maple processing!!

It holds 210 gallons and it was specifically purchased just for sugar maple processing!!

A regular garden/water hose will attach to the fauce when we're ready to fill the pans.

A regular garden/water hose will attach to the fauce when we’re ready to fill the pans.

 

From here we gathered the portable drill, wood bits, hammer and taps and headed for the maple trees in the yard.  From there we tapped the trees behind the garage and then went to the mansion and tapped the tree that we know has been in the family since the 1800’s.  She is still producing and we tapped with six buckets on her and from there went to our daughter’s house on the farm and tapped two trees at her house.  In total we nine trees in all and as tonight at 7:00 p.m. the tank is full.  We’ll hold it in the tank in the garage until Friday morning.  It will stay ice cold in the garage.

 

26 taps sterizied and ready to put in the trees.  Eddie likes using the plumbing tees best because they stay in the tap hole better.

26 taps sterizied and ready to put in the trees. Eddie likes using the plumbing tees best because they stay in the tap hole better.

Metal taps were used in the tree at the mansion and at our daughter's house.

Metal taps were used in the tree at the mansion and at our daughter’s house.

Drillling the first hole about a 1/2 inch in diameter and about  1 inch deep.

Drillling the first hole about a 1/2 inch in diameter and about 1 inch deep.

These trees are not being damaged.  The one inch hole heals within a few weeks and as I said before the tree at the mansion is in a photo we have of the family back in the mid-1800’s and it’s still living.

Tapping the tee in the tree good and tight so it won't leak around the hole.

Tapping the tee in the tree good and tight so it won’t leak around the hole.

Up close view of the hole drilled into the tree.

Up close view of the hole drilled into the tree.

Tap, tap, tap!

Tap, tap, tap!

Three buckets on this tree in the yard and the taps are dripping away.

Three buckets on this tree in the yard and the taps are dripping away.  This tree is at our daughter’s house.

 

Around 1:30 Saturday our son joined us and he was kept busy emptying the buckets into the tank and was glad to have the ATV for collecting.  He won’t be still long enough for Mom to take his picture.  But sometimes we have to do what we can and here’s a picture helping at the sugar house in years past.

Our son, Shawn, manning the pans in the past.

Our son, Shawn, manning the pans in the past.

From the tree to the straining bucket.

From the tree to the straining bucket.

By Saturday night we had 100 gallons in the tank and the high temperature at the farm on Saturday was 49*.  Sunday morning we got up to 27* temps, the buckets were running over with ice and the sap had even pushed out of the top of the tee.

Beautiful Sunday morning.

Beautiful Sunday morning.

Icy buckets and frozen hands.

Icy buckets and frozen hands.

Bucket of ice from the cans which we thawed and poured into the tank.

Bucket of ice from the cans which we thawed and poured into the tank.

Ice frozen all down the tree.

Ice frozen all down the tree.

Ice coming out all over the tee.

Ice coming out all over the tee.

Sap running over onto the ground!  The honeybees enjoyed it once it warmed up.

Sap running over onto the ground! The honeybees enjoyed it once it warmed up.

On Sunday we got another 75 gallons and the sap has slowed a little.  The temperatures got up to 52* and at 9:30 p.m. it was still 49*.  For the sap to run really good the temps MUST get below freezing at night.

Today hubby filled up the tank and the trees have slowed down immensely but the tank is full of 210 gallons of pure sugar maple sap.  The cooking will begin on Friday and finish up on Saturday around noon if all goes well.

Here’s a few of today’s photos:

Last bucket to empty for the day (Monday).

Last bucket to empty for the day (Monday).

 

Hard to see the water line on the tank.

Hard to see the water line on the tank.

Stainless steel bucket with lip and strainer.  Every bucket on the tree is emptied into this bucket and then strained into the tank.

Stainless steel bucket with lip and strainer. Every bucket on the tree is emptied into this bucket and then strained into the tank.

Straining into the big tank.

Straining into the big tank.

Better view of the full tank!

Better view of the full tank!

Hopefully more pictures of the process when completed on Saturday!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring is in the air and it’s almost sugar time!!

It is almost sugar time.  Hubby announced this afternoon that if the weather cooperates we’ll tap the trees week after next.  I wanted to share with you some pictures we took at the Highland Maple Festival a couple years ago.  This event is a two weekend all about maple syrup fun time.  The pictures I’m going to share are from one the operations we visited that work on a much, much larger scale than we do.  Here we go and hope you enjoy the ride:

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We drove for miles and miles that day and found one family that makes the syrup, taps the trees, and made it fun for the guests viewing the process but the rest of the journey was looking at miles and miles of plastic tubing running through the woods and into big tanks.  Trucks emptying those tanks and taking it to a main processing building where it was cooked off in a big evaporating tank heated by propane.  It was all so commercial and kind of took the fun out of the entire process.  I think we’ll stick with our little sugar house and making enough to keep our friends and family happy while making enough money from it to pay for hubby’s time making it work.  Hope to see you in a couple weeks at the sugar house licking our lips!!!