- February 25, 2014 at 1:15 pm #82580
I thought I would start a thread about sugaring this season, anyone ready to go?
I have tapped most of my tubing lots and have repaired the damaged areas from squirrels and moose. Lots of snow and all work in the woods is done on Snow shoes. Good exercise.
Sugar house is all cleaned out and ready to go. I need to install the stack on the evaporator and set the front pan on new gasket but should be ready for the next warm up. Need to hang 250 buckets still.
Still lots to do before the first boil.
EdFebruary 25, 2014 at 1:21 pm #82581
Tapping on snow shoes 🙂February 25, 2014 at 5:17 pm #82588
I am interested to hear more about your operation. How many taps do you have out? Buckets vs. pipeline? Owned or rented land? How and where do you sell your syrup? Solo or joint operation?
GeorgeFebruary 25, 2014 at 7:40 pm #82589
We have about 700 taps or so. Most are on private land that we have permission to tap. We have about 250 buckets and the rest are on tubing. We trade syrup for use of the trees. We sell all our syrup retail to local consumers. We have some local labor that work for syrup but we pay no labor rates.
We have been making sugar here for 4 generations and boil in a sugar house that was built by my Grandfather in the early 50’s. Before the homestead sugar house, the family sugared allover East Washington. Several sugarhouses were built and used over the years and abandoned for one reason or another. The largest operation on Lovwell Mountain was destroyed by the hurricane of 38. We have added several additions and made great improvements over the years, but the basic process remains the same.
It is a labor of love and tradition. We struggle to make syrup and make a profit. I think the newer advancement’s like reverse osmosis and vacuum will have to be considered for our operation to continue with the limited labor resources and escalating costs of container prices and overhead. But we are trying to keep it at a scale that is affordable and fun. We have no debt for the operation and have often placed our profits from a year into an upgrade for the sugarhouse.
The biggest concern is the ever increasing state and federal oversight and potential regulation we face. I hope we can keep that at bay.
Below is a link to some photos of our homestead and sugaring pics from over the years.
EdFebruary 25, 2014 at 9:22 pm #82591
We started tapping this past week, we have over 800 already, but haven’t finished since it cooled off and we on to taxes now. We brought almost 2,000 gallons to our neighbor to boil and he has made 50 gallons so far. We have yet to put pails out, just 2 vacuum lines mostly tapped. Lots of squirrel damage here and some leaky saddles. We hope to get back at it when the current polar vortex migrates north once again.
ErikaFebruary 27, 2014 at 6:19 am #82615
Thanks for sharing your sugaring details. I really enjoyed the pictures and the fact that you are carrying on a family tradition. I hope it continues to work for you.
GeorgeFebruary 27, 2014 at 8:17 am #82616
Hi Ed, so neat to have all those historic family photographs of your homesteading traditions. Thanks for sharing.
Like you, we focus on keeping our overhead costs down and sell all of our syrup through our farm store at retail prices. This is only our 5th season as first gen. syrup makers but we have built up our production debt free by investing back a little of the syrup sales each year. (It is tempting to over invest though! There is no end to the amount of money that could be spent on a sugaring setup!) I guess we have relied more on our youth and sweat equity to make up for the lack of specialized equipment purchases. Though we are small, 215 buckets, we rely on our own labor, our own firewood and collect using the team. At the end of the day all I have to make back now is covering our labor and the price of filters/bottles etc.
Last year we made 50 gallons or so and we hope to do better this year with a few more buckets, though by this time last year we had made about 15 gallons already. All of our syrup gets bottled in pint or quart containers so that it spreads out our limited supply to all of our CSA members and we get $11 a pint, $20 a quart which is much more worth our while than larger containers.
At this scale it is still a lot of fun for us and we are able to keep up with the other things that need attending to in the spring to get ready for our vegetable growing season to come. I find that is is incredibly good training for our young team since they get harnessed almost every day for 6 weeks or so, drive the same route, stop in the same places, stand and wait for me to collect buckets and their load gets progressivly heavier.
Because about a third of our taps are handy to our driveway, we can’t use a sled to collect sap because there is no snow on the pavement. So I will attach a few pictures of the rig we came up with for collecting. It works in the woods, where I have used our scraper blade to open a trail and it works great on the roadways. All in all it takes us about one hour from harnessing to unharnessing to collect all of our buckets with the team this way.February 27, 2014 at 8:56 am #82620
That is some sweet sap you have there.
Do you use the wheeled arrangement in the woods as well? Great photos. I have taps spread all over the village so we continue to collect with the truck and our UTV. It is a lack of labor that keeps me from using the horses more for gathering. We do use the horses to collect buckets at the end of the season and to harvest all our wood.
The industry has changed so much in the last 25 yrs. The equipment prices have skyrocketed. I was at Bascom Maple Farms the other day to pick up supplies and saw an evaporator exactly like mine but it was welded not soldered. The price of that unit was $15,000.00 dollars. I paid $8,000.00 for mine only 10 years ago.
Glad I was able to invest in equipment back then, I do not know how producers can get started today from scratch without going into serious debt. But I guess if you have a solid business plan it is doable.
Here are some more current photos.
EdFebruary 27, 2014 at 9:28 am #82624
We do use the wheeled rig in the woods as well. Usually if there is a lot of snow I will go through with our scraper blade behind the forcart and open up a path for the team to walk through. I do collect sap in the woods first though to avoid having to pull a full tank through the snow with those narrow steel wheels!
We are boiling in a used 2X6 evaporator that we got for $2400 a few years back. Not the best but it works..
Also it should be said that our situation is unique because our operation is on family land and we trade syrup for the ability to tap the trees.
Is that a 3X8 your boiling on? Looks like a nice setup.March 3, 2014 at 4:16 pm #82678
Thanks Ed & Joel for sharing info & photos.
A few random rants.
I have been thinking about Ed’s comments about the future of sugaring and just this afternoon picked the latest edition of Northern Woodlands out of my mailbox. In it is an interesting article about the maple “industry”, “A Maple Bubble?…”. Of course they don’t answer the question but they do a good job outlining how the actions of the Maple Federation in Quebec in recent years is largely responsible for the recent boom in maple development. A boom in both technological development and investment in both that development and gross bush size. Vacuum is pretty much standard and RO is coming along right behind. The commonplace use of the word “industry” to describe the maple production business is instructive to me. While many of us continue to produce at an artisanal scale, the siren call of “more, more” is out there. And a question to ask is “To what end?” What have we gained as farm families and as a culture? If my equipment is so high tech I can’t enjoy the occasional “boiling soda”, and the sound of machinery drowns out the sound of the wood fire under the arch, and the net profit never quite catches the gross outlay, what have I gained? What have I lost?
At the prices they get for these rigs, as well as replacing your tubing every 5 years (more or less), it is pretty clear to me who is going to be left holding the bag if this is a bubble. The same guy as always, the little guy who was assured that all this stuff would “pay for itself”. This would then be followed by some small timers just disappearing and others bought out for pennies on the dollar by the big guys. Sound familiar? Is that the ghost of Earl Butz stalking through the bush?
The question of whether or not we are in a bubble is one I raised at our recent NH Maple Producers regional meeting. The response I got was guardedly optimistic that we are not, but delivered in carefully measured words. As for me, I am seeing a waddle and hearing a quack, though my crystal ball is no clearer than theirs.
I hope when I get going here at my place, hopefully next year, I will have enough sense to do it like Ed & Joel, slow & steady.
MarkMarch 3, 2014 at 8:58 pm #82683
Great thoughts Mark, I agree that some producers loose sight of the forest through the trees. How large does a producer need to be?
We basically pay our property taxes with the revenue generated from our sales. If we are lucky, we can invest in a new piece of equipment or set aside money to buy containers for the next year.
Since my children have grown up and moved on, I look at the new technology as a means to reduce my labor and time investment. I really do not wish to make more syrup but dream of making the same amount with less wood burned and labor involved. The balance is achieving that goal in a manner that does not require debt.
EdMarch 9, 2014 at 2:40 pm #82782
We hung all our buckets yesterday and I finished the last of the tubing lots today. It was running well by afternoon. Now we just need the proper weather. This season is certainly off to an odd start.
Looks like a couple of promising days early this week, then snow and cold again for the end of the week. At least the sun is high and warm this time of year.March 16, 2014 at 8:59 am #82837
It is still a slow start here in Southwest NH. We have boiled twice so far and have finally drawn of a few batches. Too windy yesterday so we gathered little sap. But we wanted to empty the pails before the cold snap.
How is everyone else doing?
EdMarch 16, 2014 at 9:36 am #82839
have not made a drop as of yet only enough sap to flood pans
too windy forecast for last two weeks of the month is promising
BillMarch 16, 2014 at 10:06 am #82840
We had a decent little run yesterday. Didn’t really shake loose till early afternoon but ran until almost midnight. Actually felt like Spring for a few hours. Fighting with vacuum system components, of course. (See other active thread on technology!) Will boil today for 3rd time this year. Making some nice medium from sap running 2.0 -2.7%. If we get the weather they are forecasting for the end of the week may finally really get to work.
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