I've known that maple sugaring went on throughout the county since long before I lived here, but I'd never seen an operation up close until today. Our neighbors, about a mile up the road, took up maple sugaring as a hobby. A very expensive hobby. They built a sugar shack, more like the ones in New England. They have two sugaring methods going on, a more old fashioned one in a kettle stove, and a modern evaporator. We took Emma by to visit after work this evening. I was really glad we went.
On the way up to the shack we stopped by the trees in their front yard. They use the old fashioned galvanized steel taps and buckets. Larger modern operations use plastic taps and tubing.
Don't worry about the drowned fly and the lichen in there, by the time the syrup is done it will be boiled and purifed fifty times over.
Here's the sugar shack, built expressly for the fun of it.
Our neighbor is checking the progress of the current batch. You have to keep the machine running around the clock, so they do shifts to get through the night. That evaporator has to be stoked with wood every fifteen minutes. You can see the glow of the fire through the doors. You'd have to be a hardcore hobbyist to enjoy this.
If you look back up at the picture of the shack you can see the open vent on top to allow steam out. When you step into the shack it's steamy, like a sauna. It took me a minute to adjust to breathing steamy maple sugar air.
As you can see here, the sugar water does some pretty serious boiling.
Here he's checking on his kettle stove. This one works by straight evaporation, the same as if you did it on your stove at home. But beware, it can take up to 100 gallons of water tapped from maple trees to make only one gallon of pure maple syrup.
Here's their finished product. A local artist drew their shack for the label. While they do sell their syrup, they could never hope to sell enough to pay for the costs of running the operation.
Emma was tickled by the cat who was resting in the chair.
Here's another cat that our neighbor saved from the dumpster. A local lady was going to throw him away but the cat found it's way to the shack. I told D. that people coming to the hills expect to see local eccentricities; he was giving them their money's worth.
I added this last picture to show you that it wasn't as brightly lit in the shack as my flash photos implied. It wasn't quite as dark as this picture implies either. It was somewhere in the middle.
I really enjoyed our visit and am going to highly recommend that Noni and Popi and Uncle B. and Aunt K. and the kids stop by and visit this weekend when they come over.