It feels like weeks since I last wrote. We are really going at it now, twelve to fourteen hours a day of syrup making. It is long days but well worth it!
Here's a typical day for us right now...
I get up at 6:30 and get my breakfast put together, load up with stuff, and head for the woods. When I get to the syrup house I work on opening the roof vents, clean the evaporator flues and take out some of the ashes, and get a fire started. Then I start up the little generator borrowed from our friend John Carroll (thanks a ton, John!) and fill the blue barrel full of sap, sucking it out of the large steel tank that sits outside the syrup house. While that fills and the fire gets started, I quick wolf down my waffles (with syrup of course).
When the guys get the chores done, emails answered, and heat the houses, etc., they come down to help out. We all take turns watching the evaporator as the sap boils so it doesn't boil over. We also take turns with putting wood in and cutting more wood, an ongoing task. And, yes ladies...I run the chainsaw also! (A regular old Rosie with the muscles here!)
The idea is to keep the sap boiling as hard as possible without boiling it over and out of the pans. When the sap in the front pan is thick enough, we all work together to draw it off into a bucket and filter it twice into the finisher. Everything works a lot easier with the three of us working together. While Marty continues to watch the sap boil and control that part, which he is very good at, Will and I work on the bottling part of the operation.
Will is really good at testing the syrup to make sure it is done. We do this with a hydrometer that tells us just the right amount of water (or not) to have in the syrup. Too much and the syrup spoils, too little and the syrup crystalizes. It is a very exacting science, and also dependant on the weather. After Will gets the syrup at the right consistency, we work together on the bottling. I fill the bottles and then later clean them off and label them at the house.
At lunch time Marty fixes something spectacular and we all eat together picnic style in the woods. In order to not have the sap boil over, we crank it down...that means we cool it off by either adding more sap or closing the front damper. It really takes a lot of keeping an eye on things. And, even tho it might seem that watching sap boil would be boring, we are going on our feet almost all day.
We keep track throughout the day of the sap boiled, the wood used, and the gallons of syrup made. We also write down the weather conditions and little things like when the first redwing blackbirds start singing. That all helps us the next year to do a better job with the syrup and to make sure we pay attention to spring coming.
At 5:00 we start to shut down, not adding any more wood to the fire. The guys go up to the farm to do chores. I sweep, close the vents, wait for the fire to go down, clean the counters and equipment, make sure chairs are hung on the walls and trash taken up to the house. We keep everything as clean as we can. That is what I'm good at. Then I pack up my stuff and track up to the house to help wash filters and equipment, to have dinner, and to collapse.
Up again the next day for the same. But, the syrup is heavenly tasting! Buttery and rich. No sugars and additives, just pure maple syrup. It is well worth it...did I already say that? Well, it is!