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Prime Sugaring Weather

March 5th, 2010

As part of the Real Food Challenge over at Not Dabbling, we’re all posting about real Food today. Can you get any more real than homemade maple syrup???

Yesterday was the most beautiful day here in Ohio. It was sunny and warm (well 40 degrees which is warm this time of year). The morning was frosty, with temps down in the teens. All the sap that was flowing the day before had stopped and was frozen in the spiles. It didn’t take long for them to thaw out with the sun and warmth and start flowing again. These are prime sugaring temps; you want it to be above freezing during the day and below freezing at night. The rest of this week and next week look like it’s going to be beautiful, especially for sugaring.

At first we weren’t getting much sap so we saved it for about a week until we had 15-20 gallons. We stored it outside in big pots to keep it cool, since sap will spoil. The sap is flowing nicely now, so we’re keeping up with it by boiling constantly. Yesterday we collected 7 gallons of sap from our 20 taps. Mr Chiots heads out several times a day to collect sap since we don’t have big sap buckets that hold a lot.

We bring it inside and let it sit inside to warm up a bit. Then I strain it through a coffee filter into a big stock pot on the stove, this strains out any wood chips, sticks and any other dirt. We warm the sap in this stock pot and when it’s boiling we transfer it to big kettle that’s boiling outside. We do this to keep the big pot outside at a rolling boil, if you keep pouring cold sap into the boiling sap it will take longer to reduce into syrup.

At the moment we’re reducing the sap over a big propane burner by the garage. Our fire pit is buried in snow, as is all the firewood. If the sap starts flowing more rapidly with the warm weather we’re going to start reducing half of the sap over the fire and make kettle syrup.

I haven’t finished any syrup yet, I ran out of time last night. I plan on finishing our first batch today. I think we’ll end up with about a half a gallon from our first boil down.

Sugaring is the first signal of spring for me, it begins the outdoor work. Soon enough I’ll be spending the crisp days building rock walls and hopefully making some new garden space.

What’s your first outdoor activity in the spring?

22 Comments to “Prime Sugaring Weather”
  1. Mangochild on March 5, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Also sugaring for me – even though I’m not doing it myself. When I know that my local maple syrup farm is starting to sugar, I’m right out there to do whatever I can to learn and “help”. It is one of the first signs that the weather is warming enough for the sap to run, which means that spring is coming, even if hesitantly. At this place, many residents in the neighborhood “rent” out their many maple trees to the sugar farm (in addition to the farm’s own vast area of course) and its fun to see the taps running all through the neighborhood.
    .-= Mangochild´s last blog ..New Local Blog On The Scene! =-.

    Reply to Mangochild's comment

  2. Ken Toney on March 5, 2010 at 8:03 am

    I, too, am so looking forward to this warmer weather. I put 3 spouts in some maple trees about 2 weeks ago. I collected 10 gallons from the 3 days of good weather, then more snow and below 20 degree temps. Today will be the first day above freezing and I can’t wait to check the sap buckets. It looks like we’ll have good weather for the next week.

    This is my first time making maple syrup. Thanks for the tip about pre-heating the sap indoors before boiling it outside. That will help. How long does it take to boil down a pot of sap?
    .-= Ken Toney´s last blog ..Buried in the Snow! =-.

    Reply to Ken Toney's comment

    • Susy on March 5, 2010 at 10:23 am

      That depends on how high the heat is and if you can keep it at a rolling boil. It’s definitely faster over a hot fire rather than a propane heater. We spent probably 2 days boiling down 25-30 gallons so far.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  3. deb on March 5, 2010 at 9:46 am

    This is something I’ve always been interested in learning. I need to find some trees I can tap.

    Thanks for sharing the lovely photos. I ♥ reading your blog!

    Reply to deb's comment

    • Susy on March 5, 2010 at 10:23 am

      Thanks so much Deb! I appreciate the compliments.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  4. warren on March 5, 2010 at 9:55 am

    We’re sugaring also and, like you, we had an excellent day yesterday and I am so excited for this weekend! It’s great fun!
    .-= warren´s last blog ..Sleeping is weird =-.

    Reply to warren's comment

    • Susy on March 5, 2010 at 10:23 am

      That’s right – you’re putting your kids to work carrying those heavy buckets ;)

      Reply to Susy's comment

  5. Dave on March 5, 2010 at 9:56 am

    That is very neat! I don’t know that many down here in TN make their own syrup, maybe close to the mountains in East TN. Real maple syrup is very good, and being able to do it yourself is really cool.
    .-= Dave´s last blog ..Playing With Blocks =-.

    Reply to Dave's comment

  6. Tree on March 5, 2010 at 10:05 am

    And 2 days ago my husband announces a change in our life plans (to retire on our urban plot) and I was upset (I didn’t want to live in his moms house), but the more I read these blogs the more I realize, once the girls are grown, a 5 acre plot that will allow me to have chickens, goats and a family cow (yes he has agreed to all these things) and a larger garden and yes a dog or two again…. lets see what the deal is at the time. I am almost done with my mortgage and I don’t ever want to take one on again…
    .-= Tree´s last blog ..Mostly Meatless =-.

    Reply to Tree's comment

    • Susy on March 5, 2010 at 10:24 am

      I know what you mean! We’re hoping to pay off the mortgage ASAP and save up for a little plot of land where we can have chickens, oh I’d love to have some chickens.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  7. […] Chiot’s Run it’s been a busy busy week. This week has been prime sugaring season as next week looks to […]

    Reply to Real Food Challenge Friday Wrap-up « Not Dabbling In Normal's comment

  8. sweetlife on March 5, 2010 at 10:42 am

    What lovely shots…how fun and exciting for your family!!

    sweetlife
    .-= sweetlife´s last blog ..Sweet Life Down…. =-.

    Reply to sweetlife's comment

  9. Kelly on March 5, 2010 at 11:24 am

    This year my first outdoor spring-y activity has been clearing snow off one of my raised beds so the soil will warm up for next weekend’s beet/turnip seed planting. Typically it’s clearing paths and tidying up the water paths (we have heavy clay soil so we have to direct the flow from spring rains). Then it’s also clearing/pruning up the perennial herbs, tossing the garden soil and checking repeatedly for crocus activity.
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Winter Storms and Scarves =-.

    Reply to Kelly's comment

  10. Hailey on March 5, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    How many trees do you have? From past sugaring seasons what has been your total yield of syrup after processing? Thanks

    Reply to Hailey's comment

    • Susy on March 5, 2010 at 12:35 pm

      This year we have about 20 trees tapped (last year we had 10 taps).

      From what I read this is what you can expect: for each quart of syrup you want, you’ll need one tap hole in a sugar maple, assuming you collect all the sap. For 20 quarts of syrup (5 gallons) you’ll need 20 taps and 20 buckets. The number of maple trees you need depends on their size.

      Other maple trees can be tapped, but they produce a less sugary sap, so more is needed to make syrup and their sap producing season is shorter, therefore if you’re tapping red maples it will take more sap and the season will be shorter.

      Here’s a great article on home sugaring: http://ohioline.osu.edu/for-fact/0036.html

      Reply to Susy's comment

  11. melissa on March 5, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    well now that I have some seedlings going, clearing out my beds. :)
    .-= melissa´s last blog ..paradigm shift =-.

    Reply to melissa's comment

  12. Sense of Home on March 5, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Facinating, I have always found maple sugaring interesting. I would love to try it someday.
    .-= Sense of Home´s last blog ..…and the "to be read" pile grows =-.

    Reply to Sense of Home's comment

  13. Jennifer Krieger on March 5, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    You’re going to build a rock wall? I have a lovely concrete block wall, only about 3-4 blocks high, and I’ve been collecting rocks, with a goal of facing the wall with the rocks. I think I’ll have to use concrete. Any ideas/suggestions?
    Jenny

    Reply to Jennifer Krieger's comment

  14. the inadvertent farmer on March 5, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    This year our first big project was to till up a new area to move the tomatoes to. Cleaned out the camel and chicken houses, spread the manure and some unfinished compost and tilled. It is all covered with plastic to keep it dry and warm. A later I will hill it and make paths…

    It has been unseasonable warm here in the Pacific Northwest, we have reached the 60’s quite a few times since January! Kim
    .-= the inadvertent farmer´s last blog ..Buying ‘Real Food’ through a Food Co-Op =-.

    Reply to the inadvertent farmer's comment

  15. Emily on March 5, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    This brings back some memories (or watching others do it). Grew up in MN and WI and we used to go a pancake breakfast every year to watch the process and eat the fresh syrup that was made recently.

    A question totally off topic: I just picked up my first order of raw milk and cream and made my first butter (in food processor). I know the first liquid once the butter forms in the buttermilk and to keep that. Can the “rinse” water that is a milky-like color be used? Like in place of water in bread? Just wondering if it has any value” at all. Thanks!

    I enjoy your posts, and will also be making brown sugar soon. Thank you for all you share. Emily

    Reply to Emily's comment

    • Susy on March 5, 2010 at 10:54 pm

      You can use the rinse water for breads & stuff. I generally give it to the pets – they LOVE it! I also sometimes use it to water plants, it’s a nice low-dose organic fertilizer.

      Reply to Susy's comment

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