This was Mike's second year making maple syrup. He didn't do it last year because of the extremely mild winter it just wasn't a good year. Since we don't have land (boo!) full of sugar maples, Mike goes to his parents for the weekend and taps trees that are on a friends property (with permission of course). It pretty much takes the whole weekend so I am not really involved (someone has to take care of the baby). The last time he did it this year, I think it was the 4th tap, I decided to go down and we all stayed at his parent's house. Usually he collects buckets on Saturday morning and takes them to his parents house to cook it (They built an outside brick stove to cook it and Mike fabricated the metal pan to fit the stove- the stove can also be used as a pizza oven!) he puts the buckets back at the trees and it sits there all week. Depending on the weather the buckets are full or peobably overflowing by the next weekend. Mike's system is based on the cheap end now, but eventually we'll probably put more money into it. It is a lot of work! (and that's coming from me, who really didn't do much...)
The property he tapped is gorgeous! I was imagining living there and our kids running free in the woods..
He uses 5 gallon buckets, most were pickle buckets I believe, with lids. Free! The tubing connects to the tap and he bungees it to the bucket handle so it doesn't fall out. Next year I'll try to go when he taps so I can take some pictures of that process.
5 gallon buckets full of sap are heavy! This was a fairly steep hill too! (I did help carry some buckets ;))
Silas hanging out at Mike's parents, this is the day he decided he wasn't scared of the grass so he wouldn't stay on the blanket :(
Mike starting the fire! The top is the giant metal pan he made!
It takes a long time to get the sap to boil and since there is so much to be added we use a little bucket (white in the pic below) and poke a hole in the side. This allows the sap to be added slow enough that it won't bring down the temp in the pan. It's a long slow process to get it all in! We also used pots to heat up sap on the stove inside the house and then that can be added when it's boiling, or close to it.
Eli counts empty buckets! I forget how many buckets we had... It takes about 40gallons of sap (the liquid straight from the tree) to make 1 gallon of syrup!
Finally! It's done and time to pour off. It happens really fast and has to get off the heat before it turns to maple candy (I think). When the syrup is done it gets thick and they put big blocks of ice in the fire to stop it from cooking. We started cooking on Satrurday afternoon and it was done around 8pm Sunday. It was a loooonnnggg weekend!
Syrup! We put it in buckets (after a quick icy cool down) and took it home to bottle and can it. We'd just reheat it and then can it. Eventually he'd like to be able to sell it. We got enough this year that it probably could last us two years but I know he'll wantto do it again next year ;) He got 7.5 gallons total!! from the 4 runs. That's a lot of syrup! I never got a pic of all the jars together. Of course we don't keep it all but we do have quite a bit personally. It would be nice if we could do it all at our house, maybe someday.....