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Romance Vs. Labor
If you remember in my last post about making maple syrup, I showed you how we tapped early on. When I first started, I started with some taps I got at auction. They were old school taps. some of them were molded aluminum and some were galvanized steel and some were stainless steel. I used milk jugs (last post) to catch the sap the first time I made it. It worked fine for that first year, but I quickly tired of having to empty them so often.
Then I bought some actual galvanized steel maple buckets with the soldered joints, the hole to hang it and the slide on tent tops. I was going to do it the old fashioned way, because that was the BEST way… until after I actually did it. I discovered that I like the buckets (they would hold 3 gallons typically) but when it got a little bit warm on a good flow day, they would fill up with bugs because they were so open.
The romance of making syrup was surpassed by the labor of it. I needed to work smarter. Here’s a little secret. If you make syrup, you’re going to cook a few bugs. It will be mosquitoes mostly. Least desirable is the moths. Although that doesn’t bother me, because I know how food is made and where it comes from, I like to keep the bug content to a minimum. So I moved onto the Modern Homestead Hybrid System (TM). It’s plastic spiles (about $.15 each) and tubing with connectors run into a 5 gallon bucket. I drilled a hole in the top of the bucket. This keeps most bugs out and keeps the sap contained until the bucket. You can see the photos below.
I also built an “arch” (the firebox that the pan sits on) from steel that I had sitting around the house. I’ll have to see if I can find pictures of that build but you can sit it in action below.
As we continued to evolve, I also threw a quick sugar shack made out of 13 2×4’s and an old sign I had laying around for the roof. It was pretty easy to set up and it kept me warm(er) and dry for the season. If you are boiling syrup. you will be in the rain at some point. There’s no use in boiling off extra water if you can avoid it!
So enjoy some of the pictures below.
We used to use this type of spile (tap) courtesy of walmart.com site
We moved to this style tap so we could attach tubing down to a bucket. Now we don’t have to empty it as often. courtesy of leaderevaporator.com
Yes, that’s a Home Depot Bucket. Yes their website says “not food grade”. Yes, I work in the plastic industry and know that it’s an HDPE “2” recycle code… and yes I know that HDPE 1, 2, 4, and 5 are actually food safe, you just have to clean it.
Having 4 kids is convenient when standing 4 legs up for a quick sugar shack!
This “roof” is an old sign from the Drive In 42 in Brunswick Ohio. My Dad and I did the salvage job there of cutting down the sign when the old drive in was sold to 84 Lumber
Close up of the 42 Drive-In Sign. Use what you have and make sure to save handy materials you come across in your everyday life. It’s where my SS pan came from also… another clean up job
This particular year I was boiling with a buddy and we had a little competition to see who’s evaporator was more efficient. He made one out of a barrel. It was actually pretty cool, but I won 🙂
You should always have helpers. My kids all have so many skills that I never had as a kid. I think it has helped to make them curious and resourceful
We even got neighbor kids in on the deal!
Tarp Up and boiling at night! You will have to boil at night if you want to make syrup!
- A nice boil rolling off at 1 AM on a snowy night.*
Note: I’m still having problems with DTUBE. I have a ton of video to share of this process but it keeps giving upload errors.