Dave is home and we are working hard to dig out from what Old Man Winter has left us with. We put our road crossings in and brought the lines back to a 4% rise away from the Sugar Shack to maximize the vacuum efficiency.
Next step: tapping the bush.
We have so much snow; the main lines were completely covered in some areas.
Some of our tap lines were buried deep.
We lost a team player, which fell on Main Line #6. At least it’ll make good firewood.
Well it has been a long time since our last post and I apologize but it has been one of those months. There has been a few developments in the last little while, but first the rest of the season.
The sap went buddy. The trees don’t produce the same type of sap all year round. The only good sap is at the beginning of the season when it is clear and sweet. Near the end of the season when the trees start producing buds the sap changes cloudy and bitter. The true tell tail sign is when you start to boil it you will notice the smell, there is no mistaking it.
Our clean up this year was also a bit hairy as the well on the property started to collapse which cased a ton of problems with sand. Making maple syrup takes a TON of water to produce. Most of it is used making sure everything is clean clean clean. We have back washed the bush and the solution is going to sit in the lines for a little while.
Cleaning the big evaporator was a bit of a challenge but we did get it all done. A bit of a challenge when compared to the small evaporator.
Another great news is that the FIRE WOOD IS DONE!!!
Trilliums are out again which means we are officially done all of our work in the bush (for a month or so). The Trillium is Ontario’s Official flower and they are illegal to pick or destroy, this means we have to stop work in the bush which is all right with us.
I just wanted to put together a little post on our favorite evaporator to date. Yes she is very inefficient, yes she is warped, yes she is not 100% square but this pan and archway has so much character that we can’t help but love her.
Mike’s father is the only one who really knows the history of Burns and it is spotty at best, his memory is not what it use to be. As the story goes Mike’s Grandfather was using a very old style flat pan with no channels in it. Burns was custom made by someone in Sault Ste Maire. She is a three channel flat pan made out of 1/4 stainless steal.
The reason we call her Burnsie is because of how much wood she burns. This pan is so inefficient that we can’t possibly produce Maple Syrup for the market on it. The Days of old wood fired maple syrup are going to be a thing of the past.
There are however very fun facts about running Burnsie.
If you burn the pan it is no big deal – When I tried to run the pan with 3/4” of sap in it the first time I started it up I burnt the pan pretty good. The nice thing is that you can use a grinder to get it clean again. Try that with a delicate raised flu pan1.
It is easy to Run – Once you get a few inches of sap in her there is pretty much nothing that can go wrong2. No floats to jam up, no pipes to check on. Just keep the level high and the fire hot!
The Syrup is AMAZING – If I had my choice I would love to run this pan all day and I am sure that Mike would agree with me. The syrup is so thick and rich it is hard to describe, it like what maple syrup tasted like half a century ago. Mike calls it his Grandfather’s maple syrup.
This year we made a special batch 6 which took a ton of wood and over 2 days of boiling. I don’t know if we are going to run it next year or not but hopefully we get the privilege.
Thank you Alain for your comment the other day about getting one of these old pans for yourself. I would love to know more about it like how many channels does it have and what size it is? Chances are you will have a blast making syrup on it. If your really ambition you might even use it for a couple of years if you don’t break your back feeding it thousands of man hours of fire wood.
But I bet you it will be the best Maple Syrup you have ever tasted.
1 – please don’t do this for any reason!
2 – never say that within ear shot of your evaporator.
It looks like the season is coming to a close for us this year. We have run out of firewood and are not able keep making maple syrup this year. We went though almost 30 cord of wood this year which is all the dry firewood we have.
We were able to get 11 batches so far and we are going to finish up batch 12 as soon as possible. We still have about 2 cords of wood left so we might try and get a 13th batch out, we will see how it goes.
The weather in over the last little while has been bad to say the least. There were a few days this spring that felt just like summer and now it feels like a dreary fall day. That is one of my favorite things about being in the bush during spring, you get to see all the changes in the season first hand, without the insects.
So it has been pretty cold up here the last couple of days. No sap is running at all but I have a feeling that this is only the calm before the storm.
It has been a pretty long time since I posted anything but there has been so much work to do all the time. We spent the last few days cleaning everything, a clean sugarshack makes for happy syrup.
We finished cleaning both Chuck and Burns, the extractor, the gravity tank and everything else. I am relearning that when everything freezes it makes doing anything a lot more difficult. Take for example pumping up our back tanks to the gravity tank. We had a great little system set up with valves that turn tanks on and off. When this system froze however it became useless so Mike completely cut all of it away and installed one line that went directly into the tank.
Simple is good.
We also got a huge jump on Fire wood. It takes a ton of wood to make Maple syrup and we sure hauled out a ton of it. I leaned how to be a hooker! It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it. The job entails following the guy driving the tractor and looping a chain around the log and hooking up to the tow bar. The hooker than follows the log as it is dragged out of the bush, if the log comes off the hooker hooks the log back up again. When the log is taken to the place it is going to bucked up the hooker release the log. The logic behind the position is to keep the guy driving the tractor from having to get on and off of it . You do a lot of running in the job, something I could stand to do a bit of.
A really interesting effect that we noticed from the freshly cut trees was the icicles forming out of sap on the ends of the logs. These “sap-cles” formed very quickly and were a very sweet treat.
More to come soon.
Well it looks like I’m going to be expanding my maple syrup career. I was up north on St. Joseph Island and I got to talking with a very good friend of mine Mike Garside. Mike is on the far end of the island at a beautiful hunting camp in the middle of the woods. his grandfather and father both used to work in the Sugarbush that is on the property. Mike and I started chatting and thought maybe we should revisit the Bush and bring it back to life.
Mike and I go back a long way our first adventure together and commerce was our firewood business. My father had logged are old property and the logger had left all the tops of the trees in the back of the Bush. After leaving all these tops four a year Mike and I collected an old truck, wood splitter, a chainsaw and a hell of a lot of work. It was one of the better working relationships I’ve had in my life.
We had a chance to walk the Sugarbush and made a rough estimate of about 800 taps in full Bush. In the first year though I don’t believe we will try to put in all the taps for now we would be content with 400. Some of the old equipment is still there like a beautiful stainless steel boiling pans. It also helps that there’s power out there and a cornucopia of odds and ends that you’d don’t know you need until you need them.
Well are on our way for another adventure that’s for sure. At least now I’m going to have something to talk about on a regular basis on my blog. It’s incredible how much I’ve been lacking in the last little while I apologize to anyone who has come here hoping to find new content.
I plan to be investing a little bit more time and effort into this website I know I always say that by this time I’m going to as I want to begin selling our beautiful woodfired maple syrup online.
Stay tuned for some more updates and check out my broken bone.
Ohh how I love high speed internet, I can just log in and post something in about 30-40 seconds rather than hours and hours.
So I am back in Toronto and ready to head over to a buddies place for Easter Sunday supper. I had a bit of a problem at the airport as I loaded up my bag to much with syrup. The nice ladies at the check in said they would get rid of some of it for me. The one nice thing about syrup is that everyone wants it no matter where you go.
I was checking out one of my favorite design website when I came accross this picture.
It makes me think of all the time I spend screwing with firewood this year. Hopefully next year it won’t be an issues. I guess if you are going to make wood fired syrup than you have to split firewood.
OK so I have not posted in a couple of days and that is because we have been busy, (Steve I got your message). The truth is that It takes forever to do anything on dial up and I have been getting in so late that I can’t think so spending another 1h playing with dial up is not going to work. But I am posting now!
first of all here is the video that I shot of Bill cutting the huge block of wood.
and now here is what has been happening over the past few days:
The day after my last post, April 4th we were out at the sugar bush until about 10:00 p.m.. We tied in a spur line and tapped about 80 more trees. Steph and Mike came by the sugar shack at about 7:00 p.m. and stayed until the sap ran out. They were very welcome as they brought beer, like I said they are very good friends. I also met a great guy named Cody who helped to fire the boiler and watched the temperature gauge. Than after syrup was done we went out to Mike’s hunting camp and stayed up way to late. I wanted to be in the bush that day but no dice.
Since most of the people in the camp did not get up until about 3:00 p.m. I thought that there was no point in going into the bush that day. We had a lot of fun anyway playing with Mike bombardier trail groomer. We also did some very useless building of dams in his creek and played with the deer in his yard. All this while the largest run yet this season took over Bill and the sugar bush. Thank goodness we had the emergency tank to fill otherwise Bill would have lost even more sap than he did.
Mike gave me a ride out to the Bill’s sugar bush at about 10:30 a.m.. Mike has worked in a number of sugar bushes so we went to see one of the larger operations on the island, Thompson’s sugar bush. This is a truly a first class set up! The boiler they use is out of an old steam ship. The whole bush is put together in a double line system and he has two beautiful R.O. machines. There are all sorts of really cool little curiosities in his operation enough to write a whole post on.
We stayed out at the bush until about 1:00 am trying to get rid of all the sap that had accumulated from the day before. Once again the big problem was fire wood, we just did not have enough! We ended up burning some green stuff at the beginning of the day to see how it would go, it was bad. We were basically splining wood and throwing it directly in to the fire, never really getting ahead. It is very disheartening to be splitting wood for 8h straight and not even having pile to show for it.
Towards the end of the night we decided to clean up the yard a bit and through the wood-splitter chips into to coals near the end of the boil. This worked better than expected as it kept the fire going longer than we anticipated and we were running low on sap. In the end the problem was the not the amount of sap but rather the flow, as it was getting pretty late at this point the lines from the holding tank to the boiler froze, which stopped the flow of sap.
Luckily we were able to kill the rest of the fire and threw a couple of buckets of cold water in the boiler for good measure. We were both very very tired and trying to finish up all the little chores that had to be done before we left. Just than it happened.
The brand new 4 wheeler that only had 14 km on it would not start. This thing was less then 3 months old and we had been babying ever since it arrived in the bush. We just pushed it out of sight, locked up the camp and went home.
Day 6 – Today
Well since it was a really late night last night we got started a little later today. Everything was frozen and the sap is not running so it was a good day to finish up some chores. Bill had to go into the Sault today which gave us an opportunity get the bring the quad back to the dealership. That machine has been a god sent for us and has already shown it worth in the few days that we have used it. I am no very pleased that it BROKE before it even hit 50km. I hope Esquire Honda treats us right, I though you bought new stuff so that this would not happen?
So Bill got some of the syrup ready to drop off in the Sault, I cleaned up the Archway and the large holding tank and we tried all the trouble shooting we could to get the quad fixed. We still had a very big problem, fire wood! We ended up going out to the bush and cutting down a nice piece of dead standing. Bill fell the tree perfectly, though he almost cut the wrong one down which was already tapped in (that would have been a mess). We got just over a cored of fire wood which might last us a few hours but every little bit helps.
Now Bill is suppose to be in the Sault at about 3:00 to meet up with his girlfriend but of course we get stuck in the bush with the load of wood on it. When we finally get out it is about 2:20 p.m., not enough time to make it the 55 km to the Sault from the sugar bush. We loaded up the the quad as fast as we could, grabbed the syrup that he had to sell and headed out of the bush at top speed. Needless to say I forgot a few items in the bush mainly the video camera and my jacket so there is no way to get back until tomorrow.
So that is what has been happening over the past few days, thing are more reactionary rather than preparation. The good new is we are making syrup and I think that is all that really matters.
Just got off the phone with good ol’ Billy Smith. He told be that the big producer, Gilbersons, just made their first 20 gallons.
So Bill has about 1300 taps out this year, he was complaining about squirrel damage being really bad this year.
The equipment is not completely set up yet which is a bit disconcerting. Bill has all new equipment this year. I am worried most about the stack that goes on the sugar shack, I remember putting up the last one and it was really hairy! 30′ in the air on a steep slippery sheet metal roof with a lack of safety essentials, I am not looking forward to that face of death. Now instead of it being galvanized I am pretty sure it is stainless steal, (shit).
We are burning green beach this year and there is only about 20 cords of wood cut the rest is still in tree form. Looks like half the time is going to be splitting fire wood, thank god for the wood splitter.
Bill also got a new truck this year and the starter is already going on it (shit shit). Well at least I am hearing about this all at the same time. But mark my words I am sure we are going to be stranded somewhere and we are going to have to walk a few KM to get out of the problem.
I can’t wait!