Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Farm Hands

I forgot to add this to the last post. On Saturday James and I had our Farm Hands program. My friend is also doing it with her son, and it is fun to have them along. Due to cold weather and possible snow which never materialized, there weren't many visitors to the farm. We were sent to help with collecting the maple sap. They collect it the 'old fashioned' way, by horse team and wagon. We followed the wagon all over the farm. The wagon would stop and we would collect the sap buckets and pour them into milk cans on the back of the wagon. The sap must be collected every 24 hours. It is amazing how much sap is collected in just 24 hours! The sap buckets are 2 gallon, and many buckets were nearly full, or full to the brim in just that short time. A tree gets one tap for every 8 inches in diameter, so some of the larger trees had two taps. It is basically a little spout hammered into the tree. The bucket hangs on a hook below the tap with a cover to keep out leaves. Incidentally the cover does not keep moths out, but they are strained out later. It takes 40 gallons of sap from a sugar maple to make one gallon of maple syrup! You can tap any type of maple, but their sap is less sweet and therefore takes much more to make syrup. The sap is clear and thin, very similar to water. In fact, it tastes like faintly sweet water. In three hours, we collected 350 gallons of sap! That was 3 and a half wagon loads. They said it is a good year for sap. The weather should warm up a bit during the day, and fall below freezing at night to bring the sap up in the trees. Once the sap is collected it is poured through a regular kitchen sieve into a holding tank and pumped up to the barn loft. It is fed down into the 'sugar shack' where there is an evaporator that slowly evaporates the sap until the sugars become concentrated and the syrup reaches boiling. The sugar shack was a nice short break from gathering sap, because it was warm, smelled of maple syrup and wood fire, and complete with a few old timers who happily answered all my questions. The evaporator is wood fired, so they have to keep a really hot fire. The syrup gets strained through a paper filter and a really heavy thick wool filter. Then they bring it to the exact temperature by hand, and bottle it up. The kids get to help with each step of the process, and sample the syrup. It was really good! My favorite part of the day was seeing James running across the pasture with a sap bucket swinging, ear flap hat flapping in the breeze. He looked so happy and he was having so much fun. I am really glad we can do this. I could sign him up for Karate or soccer or something, but I don't think he would really enjoy it. This program was made for him!

1 comment:

Shay said...

I love everything about this post :)