Every spring, sugaring is something that I look forward to and then once it starts I can’t wait until it’s over. This year, the season ended up being five days of straight boiling, a ten day freeze up break, then boiling ten out of the next eleven days with a weeklong warm up after that – that’s when I decided to shut down. The last couple of boilings I’d dragged the wood splitter right into the sugar house. I delivered logs to the sugarhouse, cut them up, split them, and threw them straight into the arch. I was running out of dried wood and gumption at about the same time. At 184 gallons it was a good time to quit.
Next comes the part that doesn’t get a sugarhouse tour or extra people hanging out wanting to help: clean up. In the sugarhouse I take the last run of sap, run it into the arch until all of the pans are nearly full, close all the valves and let it sit for a couple of months. The natural acids in the sap help to break down the sugar deposits on the insides of the pans. It’s a natural cleaner and also one of the most disgusting jobs to clean up; a thick smelly slime that you have to heat up so you don’t freeze your hands off removing it, then scrubbing down the insides of the pans one patch at a time.
Out in the woods, the pipeline all needs to be cleaned. I drag a generator, air pump, water pump and almost a thousand gallons of water down into the woods. I force water and air into the main lines, walk around to each tap to pull it out (if I can reach it now that the snow is melted) then let the water and air run out of that spout into my hand until it runs and smells clean. We have 900 taps to get to. It takes three people a very long day to finish.
Below, I’m reminding myself why it’s worth the work with some pictures of ways we enjoyed maple during the sugaring season. I’ve already started the process of refilling the woodshed for next year’s boil. Between now and next spring I have a lot of syrup to sell, so e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to order yours!
More pictures and recipes will follow in future posts