So I had this crazy idea, "Let's make maple syrup" and my Aunt Jemima loving husband just said, "Sure" and got to work on figuring out some of the details.
When it was time to tap, we were so excited to finally get going on this adventure. My brother and Ryan loaded up the cans, got themselves a drink and then got stuck! ha ha! Great first start!
But they did get all 50 buckets and taps in the trees and we were so excited for those first few drops!
I was obsessive about checking them but I loved to see how much sap we had gotten. We decided to only tap trees that were close enough to walk to. It made for a fun activity with Sam to walk to check the buckets. When they got very full we would load up on the RTV and dump the sap into storage containers.
Some of the trees were slow to start to flow some sap but others were MASS producers. Couldn't keep up with all the sap sometimes!
About 3 full weekends and a few evenings we spent boiling with our new evaporator that we purchased from syrup hobbiest in Ontario. It's a small evaporator compared to some. It is good for about 150 taps which we figured would do for us as we just want to get enough for ourselves and as gifts.
So how does sap become delicious maple syrup? You boil, boil, boil, boil and then when it's almost done...you boil some more!
We had Ryan's dad there every weekend giving us tips and tricks thankfully! He really gave us a crash course on sugaring!
Our evaporator is run by wood heat and so we basically spend all day outside watching it and reloading the wood. Sam LOVED it. The weather was starting to get nice and anytime that he can spend tons of time outside, he is a happy boy!
Ryan and I would stand around and visit with friends and family that would stop by. We look forward to the day that maybe we can have a little shack that protects us from the elements.
There is nothing more satisfying then getting some "almost" ready syrup from the evaporator after hours/days of boiling. This almost ready syrup would then go onto a little propane stove to finish boiling it (outside). Ryan's dad taught us for to look for sheeting off the spoon and then you know the syrup is ready!
We would then double filter it and after it has all dripped into the pot, I would bring it inside to
test taste bottle.
The friends of ours (Hi Josh and Rebekka) that gave us the idea to get into maple sugaring gave us their syrup in a liquor bottle and said it was the best way to store it. We decided to do the same thing and also put some in smaller mason jars that we could give away to friends and family as gifts throughout the year.
When we started out this year, we had no idea how much syrup we would get. Our hope was that this year we would do a lot of learning and get a little sweet stuff as our reward. But what surprised us is not only did we do a lot of learning but we got more maple syrup then we imagine! We were actually asking friends/family for empty liquor bottles because we had nothing left to store it into.
In total this year we collected and boiled enough sap to get 23 Liters of maple syrup. Our ratio was about 50 gallons of sap to 1 gallon of syrup. That's a lot of boiling.
I think the best thing about this hobby is that the season is short. Just as you are getting tired of collecting sap and boiling, the weather warms up and it's time to call it quits! While the buckets, taps and evaporators are put away, I am into my freezer constantly looking at our liquid gold, our maple syrup stash! I have yet to have to buy maple syrup or use regular sugar! Even our pizza dough and bread has syrup in it instead of sugar.
The biggest thing this new endeavor brought us this year was a distraction, A project to keep our minds busy while our hearts healed after the loss of our baby girl. It was almost like a team building project as we worked together on our new hobby.
Now that we have had a few weeks break, we thinking and talking about next year's sugaring season! We hope to move from 50 taps to 75 taps, improve our evening boilings and getting wood ready earlier in the year. I think we are hooked on our new hobby and hope it is something our family can do together for many years to come.