This seems rather out of season, as I look out at all our lush green grass, but I never posted pictures of the actual sugaring process this year!
The sugar shack is as beautiful as ever-- here's the steam coming out of the cupola.
The trusty Johnny Popper, hauling the feed wagon, which was pressed into service as the sap collection wagon. (Maybe by next year, Evan's 9N will be up for the task!)
This year, the guys have the Leader pan they had had their little hearts set on, so there was lots of excitement for the first boiling.
Maybe they have never heard the old adage about a watched pot never boiling... Although quite a bit of steam is coming off there!
With the sign Dana made them.
The new pan heats the syrup much faster, so there was lots of steam!
You can see the difference in the sap as it progresses through each baffle-- thicker and more "syrup-y" the closer it gets to the end.
Justin drawing some off the tap so he can test it.
Yup, it's syrup! Drawing it off into a pot.
This is the set-up for determining if it is syrup-- a hygrometer that measures the amount of water still in the syrup. You stick it in that metal tube, and if it's syrup, it floats to the "syrup" line. The poor old hygrometer bit the dust the last night of sugaring, which was really quite considerate of it. Of course, the guys are now salivating over getting a better measuring system which actually measures the amount of sugar in the sap or syrup. Naturally, this would cost a lot more than buying another hygrometer.
The filtering system. This is an old coffee urn, reconfigured to hold cone filters for filtering the niter, or sugar sand, out of the syrup. The niter is composed of minerals naturally occurring in the sap, but it makes an unattractive brown sludge in the bottom of the syrup bottles if you don't filter it.
In the syrup goes!
Don't spill the liquid gold, Evan!
The fire gets to be a raging inferno, thanks to a fan that's positioned inside. Note: Do NOT attempt to refill the firebox with wood while the fan is running. That inferno might be on your clothes.
This was Evan's birthday, when we all went up together to make syrup for the day. Cheyenne came along with Evan and I to collect sap on the hill.
Such picturesque buckets!
Unfortunately, these not-as-pretty buckets are way more efficient, and cleaner.
But these are still too pretty. Next year, the guys want to use all plastic buckets, but I'm pushing for them to at least use the metal buckets on the two maples in Mom and Dad's yard, so I can go moon about them with a camera.
Collecting in among the Amish's hay supply.
Yup, I got to drive the tractor. It was the first time I had ever driven the John Deere, so I was impressed that I didn't injure anyone or anything.
Penny was the tireless escort.
Later, for collecting sap in the woods, we brought the whole crew.
Lincoln was pretty much indispensable.
Good thing they built the sugar shack big! It's where the cool kids hang out.
And where the cool guy has birthday cake.
The other trailer there is a neighbor's. He asked the guys to boil his sap on shares.
The last night of sugaring, we had a LOT of syrup to filter and bottle. Figuring Mom wouldn't want all this apparatus on her table come Sunday morning, we kept busy!
I love the way the syrup sheets out of the faucet. Of course, the real maple sugar experts use this quality to tell when they sap has become syrup-- when it sheets off a spoon.
I wish I had taken a picture of the almost ten gallons of syrup laying on the kitchen table, cooling overnight. Quite a feeling of accomplishment! Next year, the guys hope to have a little heater under the filter system, so they filter the syrup, heat it up, and draw it out right into the bottles. This year, though, we had to filter it, heat it up to around 200° or so on the kitchen stove, then bottle it and cap it. Considering we also finished boiling some sap into syrup, it was quite an evening!
And now I try to work French toast or waffles or pancakes into meals often, and we wait for next year!