Monday, February 6, 2012

An Early Syrup Season

   The last couple of days have been foggy and it has attached itself to the trees and plants. Lovely.

Syrup season is underway, a whole week under our belts. The first week is really hard. We are excited to start, but aren’t used to the physical work after sitting on our butts in the warmth for a couple of months. How physical is it, you ask? Well…

There’s tapping trees…and thanks to the Prairie Central high school agriculture classes, Will only had to tap about 50. Last year we tapped 322. This year we decided to get wise and only tap 150 to see if we wouldn’t have so much wasted by it flowing over on the really heavy running days. So, far it is working out.

Then there is the collecting the sap. Once again, we’ve had help from the teens at the school (they are terrific!). We’ve collected twice and they’ve collected twice. We put all the sap into a large stainless steel tank that holds about 400 gallons. It is well insulated and with the temps below 32 at night it keeps for a few days.

Here you can see the cool lean-to and the big sap tank
Then there is the firewood. Loads and loads and loads…We fill it in the back of the pickup and it takes 1 ½ loads a day to boil…minimum. Lots of wood. The best is dry and under 3 inches in diameter. That burns hot and makes for less work keeping the sap at a rolling boil. We stack it under the lean-to that we built last year and bless that thing every time we walk under it…so nice to have. Then we cut piles of the firewood and carry it in to put in a box inside, filling it quite a few times during the day.

Other physical work includes pouring buckets of sap into the evaporator. Sounds easy, but for me…well, I’m shorter than the guys. So, I like to use an old water jug to pour it in a gallon at a time. We also fill a 55 gallon drum in the morning and it trickles in thru a pipe until about 2:30 when the barrel runs dry. Then we bucket it until 5pm...closing time.
The blue barrel behind Will holds 55 gallons of sap.
Marty is watching the back pan to make sure it doesn't boil over.
Will is getting ready to draw some syrup off to put in the finisher (not shown).

But, there is some great down time also. With two or three of us, we are able to take some time to read, chat, listen to music, etc. One person has to keep a constant eye on the sap so it doesn't boil over and the other two will add wood as needed. But we take some breaks to just sit. We all take turns with cutting and bringing in firewood, hauling sap, and watching the boil. It makes the work less and more enjoyable by far!

Here's Marty taking a much needed break.
I love the walk to the syrup house. There are three paths, all are nice. One is thru the prairie, one along the edge of the prairie and woods, one just along the inside of the woods. Today there was a yearling deer that I scared up unknowingly when I passed it. The guys saw it flit away. I’ve also heard the starlings come into the trees with their incessant chatter, and the kree-kree of the killdeer scouts entering the area.

Everything is a few weeks early this year. The season itself is three weeks early! We were afraid if we didn’t start to tap trees then we would miss out. It all depends on Mother and what she wants to do. Temps above freezing during the day (up to 4o is ideal) pushes the sap up into the branches of the trees. Then below freezing at night, it goes back down into the roots. As it passes the spout…drip, drip into the buckets with a musical ringing sound. And, this week the last of January was perfect weather to start.

So far we’ve bottled 48 – 12 oz jars and a gallon and a half of syrup. Almost all sold out! We have a lot of gallons presold every year to our chefs, but we like to bottle some for other people also. If all works out good, we will beat our record of 53 gallons made last season. Fingers crossed!

More syrup news to come...and animal updates!

No comments:

Post a Comment