WOW, what a weekend!!
Today we are T I R E D!
Making maple syrup has a tendency to do that.
The process itself isn’t that labor intensive, it’s the stuff you do while it is boiling that really wears you out. But more on that later.
We collected 40 gallons of sap from our trees this year. I know that I was hoping for 60, but we weren’t complaining. And Rick’s parents make the long haul and brought 5 gallons that they had collected from a tree in their yard. We did the calculations on this, and figured we could end up with 1 1/2 gallons of finished syrup.
Unfortunately, we got a late start. 8: 30 a.m. is a late start for this day. And of course the equipment still had to be taken out of the shed and set up.
To protect the bottom of the barrel where the fire will be, Rick had to put a layer of rock and dirt. We want to be able to use this contraption for many years.
OK, now here is where my
arsonist fire making skills are supposed to come in handy. I hardly ever have a problem getting a fire going… until yesterday. This nice little starter pooped out shortly after this picture. After about 10 minutes of trying everything I could to get a good fire going, I was getting pissed.
Rick to the rescue. While I went into the house to grab some more matches, he went and grabbed a big old piece of birchbark off a fallen tree and created a nice little nest with twigs on top of it. I was skeptical, but at that point I would have resorted to lighter fluid if we would have had any around.
So I lit the birchbark and hoped for the best. Success! After about a half hour we had a good base fire going and were ready to put the pans on.
After the first 5 gallon bucket gets strained…
…into the pan it goes.
We put 15 gallons into the main (lower) pan and 10 in the top (warming pan) by 10 a.m. and patiently waited for the boiling to begin. For this to happen the
fire-tender (me) gets that fire roarin’.
50 minutes later we had the sap boiling. I think we were both pretty surprised at how quickly this heated up. (I secretly thanked my fire keeping skills.)
We really got that thing cookin’. This contraption was really designed well to allow the draft to heat the back pan and exhaust out the chimney pipe.
Of course, as those big metal pans are starting to warm up real good, you get these cool wisps of vapor that curl up the sides.
What to do while waiting for 45 gallons of sap to boil? Clean up the yard, of course!
We had a lot of branches in the yard from the winter which needed to be picked up and burned, as well as leaves. So I summoned up the
arsonist fire making skills once again and hoped for better results than earlier.
Taking Rick’s cue, I grabbed a big old chunk of birchbark and dry kindling. Score! I felt at the top of my game once more.
So now I had 2 fires to keep going,
In the meantime, Rick & his folks went about raking up the yard and the leaves that were up against the house.
We have so many leaves that we had to employ the lawn mower to pull around the utility cart to get them to the compost pile. (There were too many to burn, plus they were still a little on the damp side.) Rick’s dad was a great help!
Needless to say, they didn’t get the whole yard finished (it’s quite large) but a huge portion got done.
Keeping true to her nature as a caregiver, Rick’s mom took a break from yard work to made sure that we kept our bellies fed by providing ham sandwiches, potato salad and fruit.
I just love this lady!
As I mentioned in a previous post, the Weather Channel had been predicting thunderstorms for Saturday evening. All day long I prayed to the weather gods to hold off until we were done with our syrup. At 10:30 p.m. I saw the first flash of lightning.
The syrup wasn’t done yet, but it was close.
We all made our plees to the sky, begging for the rain to wait just a little longer.
It worked. At 11:00 p.m. the real tricky part of the day had arrived. We strained the syrup out of the pan and headed indoors to jar it up while it was still super hot. The next 15 minutes were a whirlwind of activity. In true assembly line fashion, we strained the syrup once more, boiled lids, filled jars and tightened bands.
And here is the final product: 1 1/2 gallons of maple syrup.
Our numbers were spot on.
After cleaning everything up, the exhaustion hit. Finally at 1:00 a.m., all of us were zonked out.
We sent Rick’s folks home today with more syrup than they wanted to take, but they deserved it… and more!
Thanks Georgia and Jerry for all of your hard work. We couldn’t have done it without ya!!