I'ts not just climbing up this slippery mud hill with 5 gallon buckets weighing up to 50 pounds....
It's the storing and boiling that's wearing me out. We spend all day at the fire on super cold and windy days boiling down the sap.
I'm exhausted by the time, the smoke, the cold, and the use of wood. Obviously, making maple syrup is a labor of love, not finances. It really takes a lot of energy.
I have contemplated building a Fresnel solar heater and using it to boil sap. If anyone has done so with success, please leave a comment. I am afraid of the Fresnel heater because they are so powerful they can melt metal! I wonder if it would burn the sap, melt the pan, burn down the forest, burn one of us, or if it would work at all?
This week, we had our second boiling of Maple sap. You can read about our first weeks' adventure here: Maple Syrup part 1 and part 2.
This time we made a few upgrades. I was extremely stressed by our storage capacity. We had milk jugs, tanks, bottles, and all sorts of containers filled with sap in our refrigerator and outside. It was so stressful! Each day the trees made more and more, and I had less and less places to put it.
So I went out and got this:
Be advised that this is the week of fingers in photos. I don't know what was wrong with me....
But take a look inside the sap bucket:
Icy cold "water." I decided to taste and dump any water ice this week. I dumped a few gallons worth of "ice." Some of my ice tasted sweet so it went back in the bucket (yes...after I had tasted it...there is always extreme boiling so none of my germs are left in the syrup, lol.)
In total, we collected 36 gallons this week from 5 trees. That's more than 1 gallon per tree per day (not including the ice I chucked!) I left a bunch of sap in the tree buckets and did not count that as collected. We had so much to boil off already, I thought I'd save it for the next week. Phew....Sap season seems to go on forever!
We spent all day boiling 31 gallons. 5 Gallons stayed in the black bucket because we ran out of daylight.
We had such a great set up this time. We had 3 pots in the fire and 1 near the fire keeping the sap warm so additions would not slow our evaporation as much.
I can not tell you how frustrating it was. We thought maybe the wind would die down, or maybe it wouldn't effect the fire much, but we were wrong. It slowed us down tremendously. We boiled for 9-10+ hours and evaporated away 27 gallons (we started with 36, left 5 in the black bucket and ended up with 4 gallons of finished sap). There is disagreement as to what time we actually started/ended so it was somewhere around 10 hours.
Then, in the dark of night, we took the sap inside and filtered it:
Then it was time to boil in the house and bring that 4 gallons down into syrup. We ended up with 4 quarts and 1 and half pints.
Going into the next week we already had 15 gallons in the black bucket. I pulled the taps and the trees continued to bleed onto the ground. I felt horrible about it but the weather was getting warmer and it was time for them to heal and start growing leaves.
Since the weather warmed up and I had recycled all of my indoor containers, we could not keep the sap outdoors and it spoiled. I fed it back to the trees and cleaned up all of our equipment.
So in total, we boiled down somewhere between 48-53 gallons and ended up with 7 3/4 quarts of syrup.
That should last us at least a year, if not two. We will be letting our trees rest next year and may tap just 1 tree or will rest up and prepare for the 2017 tapping season.