Sunday, March 09, 2008
Last week Bev, Ann and I traveled up to Marie's again to work in the sap house/sugar shack. We weren't sure if the weather would co-operate as the days have to be above 40 and the nights below freezing but not too cold. It rained about 2" the day we drove up there, hard to drive in but great for sap running.
Our only full day there was pretty nice, not sunny, but thankfully not pouring down rain because I REALLY wanted to tap some trees. But first, coffee and a lazy morning. I love the view from Marie's dining room/kitchen. The first building is the 'donkey barn' where the donkeys live and the further house belongs to the Curtis family that run the maple operation.
Walking over to the sap house, we saw smoke and steam coming from the stacks, a sure sign that they were boiling sap.
There are two evaporators in the sap house, boiling the water out, leaving maple syrup.
Fuzzy pic of the grand daddy of this operation, Ralph Curtis, a kind, gentle man.
This is Bill loading logs into the burner. This operation is one of the last that use wood to boil the sap instead of propane or oil. I was amazed at how much wood they used during the day and when the sap really starts coming, the two burners will go 24 hours a day. The logs were about 4' long and nearly 12" around. A new log was put on every 5-7 minutes. That's FAST burning! It was really toasty warm in there. Bill has worked here for over 30 years. As a child he would get off the bus and look to see if Ralph had tied a red bandana on the mailbox. If so, he knew it was sap time and he'd rush to the sap house to get to work.
Ann, Kate (a 17-year old from Philly who is working here for a month) and I washed out these 50 gallon drums that were purchased from a candy factory. They had been filled with chocolate and we had to wash out the remaining chocolate. Yum!
Barrels, clean. Check
These are the lines that go from tree to tree and eventually down to a barrel in the sap house.
We used this stone wall to reach up high on the trees to put in the line.
The tubes were all set for us to just drill and put in the line. Some trees got 2 or 3 lines.
The drill had a tape on the bit so the bit wouldn't go in too far, about 2". As soon as the hole was drilled, the sap started running, a clear, shiny liquid.
Back in the sap house, I got this great shot of Ralph with his dog, Molly. The evaporator has to be watched closely as the temperature has stay high enough to keep the sap boiling.
The top has four compartments that the sap moves from one to the other.
When the thermometer reads 'syrup' and the syrup forms a 'sheet' while being poured from the pan, it's time to turn on the faucet that will drain the liquid through a filter into these old milk jugs.
Kristen took some of the syrup and put it in her grader to judge if it is grade Grading standards are the same for most of the United States. Maple syrup is divided into two major grades, Grade A and Grade B. Grade A is further broken down into three subgrades: Grade A Light Amber (sometimes known as "Fancy"), Grade A Medium Amber, and Grade A Dark Amber. This first batch is Grade A light amber, the best and we each bought a gallon of it. I think it's $50 a gallon this year.
Kristen (in the middle) instructing us novices in the finer points of grading maple syrup.
The water that's boiled off has to go somewhere, so it drains out into these buckets, then spills over the a drain below the floor and eventually ends up outside.
And what better way to use maple syrup (except of waffles or pancakes) than to make maple sugar candy. Kristen is filling the maple leaf molds with the boiled down syrup. It only took about 1/2 to cool enough to eat. Yum!
We then packaged them up so they'd be ready for the Poconos tourists this summer.
Kristen's passive and active solar house where we made the candy.
And now for a look at some of the animals at the Curtis' Maple Syrup Farm and Marie's Funny Farm.
The cows lined up for lunch.
I kept trying to get a pic of the cute calf in the pen but it was so curious this is usually how they turned out. That's her nose.
Finally I got one when I left and snuck back in. She did catch me with her sideways glance tho.
This is the front of the peacock house at the Funny Farm.
This is Woody Guard Duck who thinks he's the boss of the farm.
and the turkeys showing off for me. We always hate to leave Marie's, but we'll be back this summer for more farm frivolity.