Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Real Deal

We'll be ready this weekend to start boiling our sap down to syrup.

While it's not a big operation, that's okay. 

For us, it's not about being a money making venture, 

but rather one more step towards self-sufficiency.

 Tonight, while the Artist, Callie and I were out for a walk, we noticed one of our neighbours 

working on his own syrup. The Artist, trekked into the woods and introduced himself.

Then he asked if his wife could take some photos. Because he's cool like that and I'm not.
  So Callie and I made our way through the mud, to see what was at the end of the lane.

This is what we arrived to.

 Meet Dan and his super-sized evaporator. 

I'm pretty sure, some guy doesn't appear out of the woods every day 

asking if his wife can take some photos, so as off guard as he must have been, 

he was a gracious host and shared lots of interesting information about the syrup process.

Dan's family has owned this land for multiple generations,  in fact remember that old atlas 

a few weeks back mapping our county? Well, according to it, Dan's family has 

worked the same land for over 150 years. 
 At one time, Dan's grandfather used to hang over 3000 buckets for sap collection. 

Today, Dan has up to 500 trees tapped, 350 by bucket, the rest using the new tube method.

 It takes 2 people, 2 hours to empty all 350 buckets. Imagine collecting 3000!

This year, Dan is expecting 80-100 gallons, which is used strictly for personal use, and as gifts for

friends and family. It's hard to believe that someone else out there is as addicted to maple syrup, if not more,

than the Artist, but by golly I think we've found one! 
He first started out with a wood fire and an iron pot, then soon enough had made his own evaporator. 

Last year he began using this beauty and for the record, making 80 - 100 gallons of your own syrup

is not a job for the faint of heart. After spending his day at work, he then fills his entire evening til midnight,

or (hopefully not) later, boiling down syrup.  And it's a process that keeps him on his toes. 
  If he's not tending the fire, 
 and it takes a lot of wood, to keep the temperature steady; 

then he's watching the sap to make sure it doesn't boil over. 
 Can I just say how glad I am that there won't be any more boiling over incidents 

this year in the kitchen at the old farmhouse? Very glad. To keep the foam under control,

a few drops of milk are added to the syrup mixture and faster than you can say Mississippi, 

the foam recedes but only for a few minutes.
 We asked how long the season usually lasts and when he would stop collecting sap. 

I've heard once the maples bud, it's time to pull the spigot out but I like Dan's tried and true method better.

According to his Grandfather, once the ice on the pond has melted or you hear the peepers, then it's

time to call it quits for another year. Of course, once the sap is no longer clear but has a yellowish tinge,

you just won't get a nice tasting syrup. 
 As the season progresses, the syrup will become darker but if you have a warm day like we

had here today, the syrup will also react to the higher temperatures and darken. Today was a

little too warm, the trees really do their best work when the temperatures aren't too high.
So there you have it, a real sugar bush operation. And while I've been exclaiming profoundly around 

here lately, how ready I am for spring, I'm hoping the ice on the pond doesn't leave too quickly. 
 Maybe it can hang around for another few weeks. 

All in the name of some maple goodness. 

I'm linking up with Verde Farm for Farm Friend Friday!

~Put the real stuff on your pancakes!~


Verde Farm said...

Andrea, all this syrup making is fascinating to me. How wonderful that you all met a new friend who shares your interests and obviously has a passion for this old fashion event. I am amazed at the work that goes into all this--you are right, not for the faint of heart at all. Great post :) Thanks for sharing with FFF :)

Jayme Goffin, The Coop Keeper said...

I'm just so jealous! I wanted to do that this year as you know - but I just couldn't wrap my head around what or where I'd boil it down...what an operation that guy has! So, I'm assuming, by 'peepers' you mean frogs in the ponds? They were screaming here today so I guess the season has passed here already....

TexWisGirl said...

That is awesome to meet up with him and get a bit more knowledge on the whole process! Looks like he has a great operation running there. I wouldn't have the energy it takes to make syrup from sap!

Elle Bee said...

Oh that is just too cool!!! I had no idea about any of that process. I just like me some pure maple syrup! Now I don't have to be an ignorant consumer anymore. :o)

How nice to meet an interesting new friend.

mountain mama said...

sweet! {literally:}

hopped over here from FFF, love ur blog!

Camelia said...

This is really very interesting! We don't have maple syrup here, I tried it while in USA and I didn't know anything about the production process.
Thank you for sharing, and thank The Artist for the guts :).

Mary @ Neat and Tidy said...

This is a lot like my son in law's operation - small and a lot of work, but he does it every year. He says that the syrup boiled over a wood fire tastes better than that boiled over a gas fire, so that means extra work in the form of finding and cutting the wood.

The stuff that turns dark at the end of the season is sold to companies that manufacture Log Cabin, Aunt Jem's, and Mrs. Butterworth's. Now think of that when you see that stuff in the stores!

MJ said...

What a fun post and great learning post!! My kids have asked me out sap turns to syrup and now I can show them!!!

Nancy said...

Andrea, you really put alot of work into this post and I appreciate it. Very interesting and full of good information.

FYI, my husband is the type of guy who goes up to strangers to ask if his wife can take pictures of his farm and/or family. So I completely understand. :)

Leslie @ Farm Fresh Fun said...

I really really enjoyed this post Andrea ~ THANKS! Your info and pics are just wonderful. I soo wish we could do this. Good luck in your endeavors! We've had peepers for a few nights now - YAY!!!!! Wishing you just enough cold to make more syrup and then a rapid rise to SPRING!
ps - I am also jealous of your hubby. Mine thinks I'm crazy w/my camera and would never ask for me... Tho he might tag along and later show my pics to his friends. ;-)

Lisa ~Suburban Retreat~ said...

Well, now that I know all that is involved in the process of producing maple syrup, it's no wonder it's so expensive to buy. But, nothing can compare to its flavour and that's all we use here at home. I hope the ice doesn't melt too soon either so you can get enough syrup to get you through until next year.

Deb said...

Fascinating! There are a few of those operations around here. I didn't know there was such a lot of work to it.

Alica said...

This is fascinating! I love maple syrup, and seeing all the work and time that goes into it, makes me understand why it's so expensive...and so GOOD! Thanks for giving us a special treat!

Teresa Hord said...

This is so great to read! I wish we had maples around here...I would totally be into making syrup! Are you going to sell it? Maybe to your Farm Friend Friday friends??? :)

Genny said...

I've always wanted to try making syrup, but I think it's beyond my capability. I LOVE the taste of pure maple syrup, and I'll be content with buying it off the shelves in the store because it looks like a LOT of work!

Chris at Red Gate Farm said...

Andrea thank you for this wonderful, informative post about something most of us would never be able to see in person! I love to hear about how things are done, especially somthing that isn't available in my own area! I didn't realize it was such hard work to collect and "create" the finished product. Truely amazing.

Happy Friday and good luck with your syrup "making" this weekend!


Teresa said...

How wonderful you met someone that was such a gracious host! I am finding these syrup posts just fascinating!

Kim said...

What an amazing process! We don't have maple trees in Oklahoma. Wish we did. Course, it would be a short season if we did because the "ice never freezes on the pond".

Really enjoy your blog. Always fun to find another farm friend.

Jackie said...

Andrea, this is so cool!! I have never seen how this is done even though I think there are a few of these operations in Missouri. Like someone else I understand why it's so expensive.

Thanks for sharing.

Have a great weekend.

Vintage West said...

What a great and informative photo story! I've really enjoyed checking out your blog :)

Buttons Thoughts said...

Oh what a great post. I would have introduced myself to Dan too I think your yourr Artist is smart. What a job that is. Your photos are amazing.. Great story of the farm family committed to hard work. Hug B