Tag Archive | sugar house

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!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!!!

 

Sugar house repairs

When we moved to the farm almost 12 years ago we  were way too busy taking care of  my husbands uncle who had Alzheimer.  What a horrible disease but that’s another post!!  My husband inherited our farm from his uncle which has been in the family 200+ years.  It once was the farm of at least five different links of the Caldwell family.  Some parcels were sold off and some of what we know was in a journal of one of my husbands great uncle, OFWC.  There are at this time two apple houses, two cellars, two smoke houses, numerous  grain bins, storage building, barns, barns and more barns and currently four houses.  We live in one, our daughter is building another, the other two are family homes or build somewhere in between.  We have bull barns, cattle barns, hay barns, equipment barns, bee house, and did I mention a “sugar house”??

A sugar house was built for just making wonderful maple syrup.  Our farm is loaded with all sorts of fruit and nut trees, pines, and more than anything else, sugar maple trees.  One on the property we are sure was about thirty years old when a family picture was made on the farm and that was in the mid 1800’s.  It’s starting to look pretty bad and in need of pruning or taking down but it sure pours the maple sap in the spring.  I digress again and on with the story of the sugar house.  This is what it looked like when we moved here 12 years ago and hadn’t been used since our kids were small and they’re 36 and 39 years old at the moment.

2004  and the sugar house fire pit is full of trash.

2001 and the sugar house fire pit is full of trash.

The brick and mortar are falling out.

The brick and mortar are falling out.

Some bricks have fallen out of the chimney.

Some bricks have fallen out of the chimney.

Brick and mortar around the pan spout hole are completely gone.

Brick and mortar around the pan spout hole are completely gone.

 

Time to take some measurements and start over.

Time to take some measurements and start over.

My son-in-law is a brick mason and loves restoring old building and the fixtures within.  Even though he’s my kin, I have to say he used to do awesome work.  Economy and no work has changed that way of life in our neck of the woods.

Anyway, hubby, Joel and my brother broke it down, cleaned it out and started over as you will see from the following photos.

Brother, Junior , helps with recontruction.

Brother, Junior , helps with recontruction.

 

Backhoe is perfect tool for hauling off old brick to fill up ruts or wash outs.

Backhoe is perfect tool for hauling off old brick to fill up ruts or wash outs.

Syrup pan in good working order, just needs a good cleaning.

Syrup pan in good working order, just needs a good cleaning.

 

Now, I wasn’t around to take pictures when Joel was rebuilding but I think these beauties will show you what a beautiful job he did and I’m so proud of the beautiful “sugar house”!!

Bandit Ann checks for varmints Now to clean out around the pit and put down small gravel Nice pit, clean pan and tools time to make syrup Need to fix the chimney flashing Side view Sugar House Tools ready_pan full_fire heating upWe’ve used it several times since the renovations and everyone enjoys the time together!  We usually have friends and neighbors into for the day or two that it takes to cook the sap off and everyone enjoys the french toast and waffles when the first batch comes out of the pans.

The main reason I did this post is the time is upon us to tap the trees again if Mother Nature will cooperate and everyone is well.  I’ve posted in the past on the process but plan to do that again sometime next week with some new photos of last years event.  Until then, THINK SWEET THOUGHTS!!