Good things come to those that scale up; isn’t that the saying?
The 2020 maple syrup season will be our third year of tapping our trees for their sweet sap and boiling it down to make pure maple syrup. The whole thing started off with simply tapping our trees and we were going to give the sap to our friend to boil, but as I’m sure you can tell, that isn’t the way that things happened!
The 2018 maple season started with us buying 3 metal buckets and taps to use, but quickly escalated into purchasing tubing and plastic taps which allowed us to have a total tap count for that season of 25. We built a DIY wood-fired evaporator, based loosely around the inspiration from Eric over at GardenFork, and made our first 3 gallons of syrup. Looking back on that first year it is clear that we had no idea what we were doing and how hooked we could get on the process!
Fast forward through 2019, where we added a complex tubing system and had a total of almost 100 taps, we come into this season where I feel we now actually know what we are doing (mostly) and the goal is to now not only make syrup for the fun of it, but also to sell some as a part of our homesteading journey. Much like any business, “you have to spend money to make money”, and this endeavor is no different! Major upgrades were needed to speed up the process and improve the quality of the product, the greatest of which was a new evaporator.
That little DIY evaporator that we build in 2018 out of a discarded file cabinet did its job much better than we could have expected, but we were only able to boil at an average of 3 gallons per hour and when you collect potentially over 250 gallons in a week the time needed to boil all the sap was not available. In future posts I’ll talk about the reverse osmosis system that we use to help reduce the sap volume, but even with that we needed a bigger evaporator that would help us to move up in the maple world! Luckily we have a few great local buy and sell Facebook groups and one day in October just happened to notice an evaporator for sale in the next town over. A few emails and a phone call later, we had the 2’x7′ evaporator that we will use for the foreseeable future!
In addition to the new evaporator, we’ve added a second vacuum pump and collection tank to service the rear of the property better than last year. This allowed us to split some very long tubing runs into shorter ones, but also spread a bit more so we are now running about 160 taps in total! The expansion requires more logistical equipment like pumps and hoses to move the sap around.
After all of the changes that we have planned and implemented for this season, we are hopeful for good weather that allows the trees to produce sap for many weeks and that all of our gear works just as well as it should! We are quickly moving into the thick of maple syrup season so we hope that you’ll come along on this ride with us!