Saturday, March 1, 2014

Bigleaf Maple sap- running strong

It snowed 8” in Bellingham on Feb 23rd and for the last week, the Bigleaf Maple taps have been running copiously. February 26th was the best day of the year so far and I collected 66 gallons of sap. Stiff shouldered and sleepy, I am beginning to learn what it means to work on a "sugar bush": repeated trips through the forest hauling 40-60 lb containers of sap in each hand over rough terrain, followed by late nights tending the evaporator. I can’t even keep up! With so much sap, I’ve had to fill every large cooking pot in the house in addition to 50 gallons of storage capacity in the form of carboys and plastic buckets. If this keeps up, I might have to upgrade to a 55 gallon drum. 

The homemade evaporator has been performing admirably. With a backlog of sap, I have been boiling for 16 hours a day at an average rate of 1.5 gallons per hour. I have experimented with a pre-warming container to try to improve my efficiency, but it I haven’t yet worked out a system to keep the condensation that forms on the outside of the container from dripping back into the evaporator tray.

It is snowing again and I expect another few days of sap flow before the season comes to a close. With luck I will end up with more than a dozen quarts of syrup this year, five times more than last year, and enough to replace sugar for most of our sweetening needs this year. Some may say it is too much work for so little syrup, but the labor is its own reward. My shoulders are getting stronger and I always smell like maple steam and smoke - manly perfumes that draw Katrina closer when I crawl into bed after midnight.

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