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Sugar Season

Monday morning began clear and frosty. The rising sun quickly warmed the air, pushing temperatures above 30, then 40 degrees. Classic maple syrup weather.

Daniel was down a few times in the morning, collecting empty syrup jars and other sugar making supplies that had been stored in the attic of the store.

I finished my morning chores and decided I was not ready to go back in the house. Instead, I decided to prune the apple trees in the yard. There is a sense of satisfaction that goes with clipping off twigs and branches that don't belong. I was pleased with how the trees looked when I was finished, and I gathered all the discarded sticks and took them to the brush pile.

After lunch, Mum and I walked to the sugar bush to see what was happening. As we came down the hill to the sugar house, the unmistakable sweet smell of maple sap boiling filled the air. Billows of steam escaped from the roof of the sugar house.

Daniel was inside, cutting sections of insulation to fit into spaces on the walls.

"Might as well do this while I'm waiting," he said, almost shouting over the noise of the blower. Two of Daniel's goals for the sugar house are to make it warmer and quieter. Warmer wasn't much of a concern on Monday, as the roaring fire made it possible to work in shirt sleeves. There are times, though, where they are working out there when the temperature is well below freezing, trying to finish boiling sap that ran when it was warm.

As for the noise, Daniel is on the lookout for a quieter blower. The blower blows air into the fire box, making the flames burn hotter and the sap boil faster.

Daniel had a new pan made for the front of the boiler this year. That will allow us to trade out pans, cleaning one while using the other. The new pan seemed to cause the boiling sap to foam up more than usual. Daniel kept a close eye on it, throwing an anti foaming powder in when needed. There is not much worse than trying to clean up syrup that has boiled over. It's a sticky mess!

The spout on the side of the pan was turned on to a trickle as the thermometer indicated the sap in that side of the pan had turned to syrup. Daniel encouraged us to taste it, pulling a spoon from the supply box. I tasted carefully, trying not to burn my tongue. It had a sweet caramelly flavor. Later, when Daniel and Hannah bottled, they found it to be Amber, described by the grading system as having a "rich taste."

Mum and I went out to have a look at the sap lifter. It is a fun thing to watch. Sap runs into the upper barrel from the main sap lines. The ends are plexiglass, so you can watch it run in. If you walk around, you can look in the three smaller barrels underneath. They fill with sap from the upper barrel, and when they are full enough, the float triggers the vacuum and the sap is sucked up to a barrel way up in a nearby pine tree. From there it runs downhill to the sugar house. Once the small barrels are empty, the float drops and they start filling again.

We returned to the sugar house. Daniel had shut off the blower. He opened the door of the fire box to reveal blazing hot coals. He chunked in more wood and closed the door on the inferno. Then he turned the blower back on.

We stayed to watch a little longer, then Mum remembered that she had left bread rising, and she needed to get it in the oven before it overflowed the pans. It was also chore time. We walked back home.

Pictures (from top to bottom):


Snow Drops


Spring Beauty


Blue Cohosh


Toothwort Tubers


Trout Lily



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