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video on small farm maple syrup operation  RSS feed

 
paul wheaton
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paul wheaton
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Posts: 22494
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
 
paul wheaton
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bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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another vid:


I kinda wonder if the outdoor boiler is the smartest way to go.  The indoor ones would probably work better if they had a lot more ventilation.

I kinda wonder about the quality with the galvanized stuff, the garden hoses, the little pump and the wooden lids.
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
 
paul wheaton
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Posts: 22494
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
 
paul wheaton
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I like the milk jug approach on this one.  Good for small timers.



I think that using plastic with cold stuff is okay, but when they use plastic with the hot stuff, I would worry about plastic stuff getting into the syrup.

Good ole mason jars for storage.  Seems pretty smart.  No need for a boiling water bath I suppose.



 
paul wheaton
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bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
 
                
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Our neighbors here harvest from the maple tree's in our neighborhood (including the boulevard).  This is an old street the house we are selling here was built before 1930.  This year when we arrived in mid April they were harvesting the sap and boiling it in one of those back yard propane turkey boilers.  A large pot on a propane burner they had going day and night for a few days on the back porch.  Apparently the family has been doing it for 30+ years.  as long as the tree is more then 8 inches across it works out well.  We are in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada at the moment.
 
paul wheaton
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TeeBuck wrote:
Our neighbors here harvest from the maple tree's in our neighborhood (including the boulevard).  This is an old street the house we are selling here was built before 1930.  This year when we arrived in mid April they were harvesting the sap and boiling it in one of those back yard propane turkey boilers.  A large pot on a propane burner they had going day and night for a few days on the back porch.  Apparently the family has been doing it for 30+ years.  as long as the tree is more then 8 inches across it works out well.  We are in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada at the moment.


Any chance the next time they do it that you can take some video?  I think that's a rather brilliant idea!


 
                    
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paul, if you ever get the chance, the canadian maitimes is an awesome place! more familiar with the extreme southern county, charlotte, but have many friends from all over the province! (and nova scotia!)
 
Jesse Coker
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Hello- first posting here! Excellent site. I'm planning on doing some small scale maple and birch sugaring, and planning the setup. I've experimented with rocket stoves a bit, and it seems that the Bengali pit stove type would be well suited for boiling sap down. Highly efficient burn and ability to direct the heat right where you want it. I've only used the pit stove as Ianto & Leslie's book describes though, with relatively small pit size. I wonder if this model can be expanded to suit larger boiling vessels, etc. Any thoughts on that?
 
                          
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hi gang,
i collected sap from silver maples after reading that it works just as well as sugar maples.  it DOES NOT.  not only is the ratio much worse than 40:1 because of the lower sugar content, the resulting maple syrup tasted terrible.  i found out later that the tannins (like in tea) in silver maples can result in a foul tasting syrup. 

gorilla jets:  let us know how the birch syrup comes out.  i have heard that stuff is increadible.  and maple syrup-ing with a rocket stove...brilliant!!  just make sure that the surface area of the evaporator is large.  the turkey boiler that  tee buck mentioned, i imagine, would take forever because of the small surface area of the boiling sap is so small.  what u want is shallow with huge surface area like a cookie sheet.  that's an extreme example, but u get the idea; the large operations always have a wide and long, but shallow evaporator. i am welding together my own stainless steel sheet to make my own evaporator this winter.  the manufactured ones are super expensive! u can buy sheets of ss sheet and have someone weld it together for u for much cheaper.  i have my own MIG welder with argon gas so i can do it myself.  a simple pre-heater made from a coffee can with a pin hole in it works on a small scale. adding cold sap to the preheater which is suspended above the boiling sap keeps the cold sap from killing ur boil. n
 
                          
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Travis Philp
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I made maple syrup last year for the first time. It was small scale, only 50 taps and about 30 trees or so. I used steel taps and aluminium buckets. All but two of the trees were red maples, the other two were manitoba maples. The red sap tasted sweeter than any sugar maple I've had before, and the manitoba maple sap had a grassy taste but I added them in to the final product anyhow.

The site was an old trailer park which is now used for outdoor boat storage. It was perfect for syrup production as the trees were spaced well apart to allow for healthy crowns (ranging from about 30-60 feet apart) And the land was on a gentle slope at the edge of a lake so there was plenty of water available to the trees. The maples were pretty old for the most part but with fairly healthy crowns. A few were going into visible decline, showing significant limb death.

This year I plan to have a go at it again but I won't be going to that same site due to the 25 minute drive from my new house. There are maybe a dozen or so sugar maples on our property so enough for home scale but I think I may try my hand at birch syrup since that is one of the predominant species on the land here. I don't know if I want to gather that much firewood though...

 
Jeffrey Lando
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I tried for the first time last year.  It was def an experimental year.  My father used to do syrup for money.  Since that time he had the property logged.  There has been quite a few tree's grow up since then so there were plenty of hard maples.

I bought a kit online that came with plastic taps and tubing.

I had 2 versions of sap collection. 

version 1:1 gallon mayo containers I got for free from a cafeteria.  This turned out to be too small since I was doing this from 20 miles from home and could only get there once every few days.  Also when it froze the contrainer was smaller at the top so you had to bust the ice up.  Overall just a bad fit

Version 2 : was 5 gallon plastic food grade buckets.  I put the tubing underneath the LID.   They sat on the ground and were less tipsy then the 1 gallon mayo containers.  They held much more sap.  The were of good size so that I could bring a empty one from my car , take off the filled one , fit the new one to the tubing and walk back to car (at this time i had abandoned- onsite sap making). 

Conclusion version 2 worked really well without needing to have the weight of the bucket on the tap.  Perfect if your not out there empting it everyday to hold quite a bit of sap.  Transported well by hand with out a need for a intermediate bucket to transfer to where your making sap.  Will use this system again.  The buckets I paid 3 dollars a piece for.  The material is a high density Poly (hdpe) a very stable plastic. 

Boiling down process

In common with all the versions of stoves I had, i used stainless steel deep dish lasanga pans.  The are roughly 25"s long maybe 12"s wide and 4 or 5"s deep.  They have lips on them that made setting them on the sides of all my designs nice.

Version 1:  I had made a kind of firepit with chimney out the back out of brick pavers and concrete block.  I did this inside my dads old sap house.  I had chimney pipe extending out the back to the roof.  My thought was that it would be while raining.  It kind of looked like the designs of most evaporators commercially sold. 
WELL....  it had a variety of issues.  Smokey as hell b/c It was inside an inclusore.  It would burn my eyes and was very inconveienct to move tray from over fire.  Result burned sap....very burned.  I bascially tiled the pan and it went onto a very hot part of the pan with no other liqud. 

Version 2:  I moved the operation to my house (partly b/c I had more wood there ) I had an old woodstove so I set the pans on the cast iron.  I did not have a flue regulator so I think most the heat went up the chimney...could not keep fire hot enough and the surface area was not enough i don't think.

Version 3:  I used a design in the backyard sugarin' http://www.amazon.com/Backyard-Sugarin-Complete-How-Guide/dp/0881502162   The design had concrete blocks sat on the ground with two of those lasanga pans under the fire.  The pans were say 6 to 8"'s of the ground.  The front where the fire was less would be used to pre=heat the sap and the back where it was hotter was used to finish the sap (in retrospect I probably should have reversed this as to lessen the chance of burning while finishing).  The bricks were laid on a hill so that the fire would go UP the hill and I could feed the fire from the bottom.  The hill was not much.

Conclusion
Version 3 was by far the best.  However for some reason ...maybe being that the pans were all ready a bit black from my previuos burning of sap or ashes were flying into the sap (which tiny ones would on occasion) or a combo of both the sap had a bit of a funny burnt taste.  This was however FAR FAR better then my batches using version 1.   It was usable but technique and the system of burning could be improved alot I think.  Keep in mind I spent a total of say 70 bucks ( just a guess don't remember exactly).  I had around 10 taps.  I knew it would be learning year so did not have super high expectations.  I was content with the education i got

I won't be doing sap this year b/c we are in the middle of building our earth bermed PAHS home but the year after I have some more idea's esp after the rocket stove comments.  








 
Jeffrey Lando
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You are right.  I thought briefly about buying one but some of the comerical units are over a few grand. .  There is a reason my old man is not doing sap any more.  I think between a few minds we might be able to come up with a superior AFFORDABLE way of processing sap.  I will make sure to share whatever I do next year. 
Also the lasanga pans I bought were 22 bucks a piece.
 
Jeffrey Lando
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TeeBuck wrote:
Our neighbors here harvest from the maple tree's in our neighborhood (including the boulevard).  This is an old street the house we are selling here was built before 1930.  This year when we arrived in mid April they were harvesting the sap and boiling it in one of those back yard propane turkey boilers.  A large pot on a propane burner they had going day and night for a few days on the back porch.  Apparently the family has been doing it for 30+ years.  as long as the tree is more then 8 inches across it works out well.  We are in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada at the moment.


Using a larger deeper pot does seem like a smart idea.  something like this


One thing if you read my above post was that the sap is always in danger when finishing of burining , b/c of the small volume of syrup.  This deep pot keeps the footprint low so the sap could possibly be finished in the same pan with out needing to transfer.  I likey!!!


Now added a rocket stove like some great minds have mentioned.


No chance now of smoke or ashes tainting the taste.
No smoke in your eyes
Easy to remove when done.
Or course much more efficient then standard fire.

WolfMnt:  You bring up the conventional thinking that I was following with my designs.  Do you think though with all that focused heat the metal pan as a whole (including the sides) would act as that increased surface area?


 
                                  
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A larger, deeper pot is not what you want.  You do need the larger surface area of a shallow pan to allow maximum efficiency.  I did tap our trees and used the turkey cooker.  Not worth the money you spend on propane.  To tap I used new 5 gal buckets with the lid on.  Drilled a hole in the lid just big enough to stick the flexible tubing I bought from a local sugarshack, as well as the plactic taps.  The tubing & taps were very resonable in price if you aren't doing it large scale.  The sap was kept very clean with the lid on, so I didn't have to worry about straining it, and the propane heater is great for not getting smoke or ashes in the syrup.  But, I went through $60 worth of fuel for a few jars of syrup.  The wood fired evaporators would be great if several people were able to go together and buy one to share.
 
                        
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--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
As a kid in northern Michigan, it was my job to keep track of the sap buckets while making maple syrup.  My Dad would drill the trees and set the spiles which were available at places like the co-op.  We had a big horse tank and if the sap was running my brothers would start a wood fire under the tank.  On a warm day in early spring when the sap was running, I might have to check the buckets several times a day and dump the sap into the tank for processing.  After the sap was rendered down into syrup, we transferred the syrup to large tin containers and took them to the local cannery where the syrup was canned in gallon tin cans.  The best part was the sugar left in the bottom of the horse tank.

I was able to tend maybe 30 or 40 trees on my skiis each day.


The tank we used for the evaporator was a galvanized horse tank.  As the process continued the tank became coated with sugar crystals which melted each time we rebuilt the fire for a day of rendering down the syrup.
we used a wood fire.
The buckets we used to collect sap from the trees were gallon canning tins from the local cannery.
 
Travis Philp
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I'm thinking of using a rocket mass heater design similar to the diagram above. I found this great video series that explains the process. Here's the link below.

http://www.rocketstove.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=42&Itemid=93
 
Travis Philp
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I wonder if turning the barrel/cylinder on its side, cutting a hole lengthwise and laying in a lasagnia style pan would work better  than standing it upright?
 
                        
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travis:  I think it helps to increase the evaporating surface - the area of metal exposed to heat.
 
Travis Philp
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Do you think turning it on its side would compromise the effectiveness of the rocket stove design too much?
 
Jeffrey Lando
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Great Link Trav,

This is exactly what I was thinking of .  This video's intimidate me a bit though so much precise measurements.  I usually like to make stuff but If someone sold one of these it would be worth me buying.  One thing I also like about the "insitutional rocket stove" is that it looks nice and portable.  Very cool, this is looking like ver 4.0 for me

JEff

 
Jeffrey Lando
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Stovetec makes a 60 liter stove for $500usd.  Shipping estimate was 200 to ny OUCH!

Says it boils 10 gallons in 30 mins

Here is a Flyer.
http://www.stovetec.net/us/images/stories/pdfs/StoveTec_60L_Flyer1.pdf
 
                                            
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My family has made their own maple syrup for generations.  A sugar maple tree should be close to 50 years old before it is tapped so planting a sugar bush is an investment for your kids and grandkids.  But most kinds of maples can be tapped. 

I tap sugar and silver maples and box elders which is in the maple family.  You just need more sap of other maples besides sugar to make syrup.  In sugar maples it takes around 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup.  In box elders it takes closer to 60 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup.  That's why sugaring off must be done either outside or in specially made sugar shacks because that much water put into the air would warp many woods and peel the paint off the walls.  

I both buy some of my maple buckets and use milk jugs.  Milk jugs work as well if not better sometimes than galvanized buckets.  They are more enclosed so they don't get as much junk into them.  They are lighter and easier to carry through deep snow out into the bush.  I also have bought many spiles and make my own from staghorn sumac and elderberry branches.  Metal spiles are easier and cleaner to work with but homemade wooden spiles work okay for a season and then throw them away.  Sugaring off (boiling the sap) should be done with as much surface area as possible.  Shallow cake pans work the best for us.  Make sure you have some tea bags that you can make some sap tea while boiling it down.  Ladle out a bit of the boiled down sap over a tea bag in a cup.  It is an amazing thing to drink.

You need a cold winter that sends the maple into dormancy then days above 40 degrees F and nights below freezing to get the sap moving.  A fast warm up is no good for maple season. 

I can't think of any other tips but if asked I probably could.  I have a rather bad and small video on YouTube on tapping.  When I can sugar off alone I'll put that on too (my friends don't like being on video ). 


I have been a lurker here learning from all of you wonderful people.  This is one area where I know at least a little about, at least how it works for me.  It is a nice way to get out at the end of winter and enjoy nature.  The cardinals and titmice are starting to sing, the geese and cranes are flying over, there's an barred owl's nest at the back of the sugar bush and you get to sit around a fire with friends while making sweet stuff.  It can't get better than that.  And it's not hard at all.  If I can do it anyone can.
 
Jeffrey Lando
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Awesome content in the video thanks woodswoman! 

Your bit on the plugging of the trees was really helpful.  I've had this internal debate whether or not to plug them.  Your reasons seem very sound to me.  Why do you (as in tree) need an infection rammed into you?  Now I feel good about being a slacker and not plugging them.   
Could you describe how you boil down the sap?  There seems to be a sweet spot in syrup production, I think I'm still finding it.  What way do you determine if it's done.  I think it's 67% sugar that you then bottle at? 

Having fun listening to the world wake up, it's just a great time to be out side.

Jeff
 
Travis Philp
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the temperature you want is 7.1 ferenheit above the boiling point of water, which changes due to altitude.

Essentially, boiling the sap is done by either fire, propane, or on the stovetop. The most economical and some would say environmentally friendly way is to boil over some kind of oven fire outdoors. Use a candy thermometer and measure when the sap boils at 7.1 degrees above waters boiling point and voila.


The following link take you to a pretty comprehensive beginners guide PDF

http://www.umext.maine.edu/onlinepubs/PDFpubs/7036.pdf
 
Travis Philp
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speedfunk wrote:
the lasanga pans I bought were 22 bucks a piece.


Where did you buy your pans? I went around to department stores in town but all I could find were roasting pans that were only about 3 inches deep.
 
Jeffrey Lando
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I also looked around locally and could not find anything, so I ordered it online.  I wish i had the link but i lost it . 

Thanks for that link to that book.  The book I've used for a refrence is "backyard sugarin"

http://www.amazon.com/Backyard-Sugarin-Complete-How-Guide/dp/0881502162

 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Leif Kravis
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the pans are known in the restaurant /hotel world as hotel pans, they are the pans you see in steamtables and chafing dish set ups, often available at auction for reasonable prices
 
Jeffrey Lando
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This was posted on another thread and I thought it should be shared here.

http://www.webstaurantstore.com/6-deep-full-size-standard-weight-stainless-steel-steam-table-hotel-pan-anti-jam/92220069.html

This is 6" deep instead of the 4" that the hotel pans are (at least thats whats the ones I purchased were.  So this is quite a bit bigger
 
                            
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One year I collected only a small amount of sap and experimented with a native american technique of freezing the sap instead of boiling.

(The water freezes but the sugars don't, so you freeze,throw off the ice and repeat until you get it to the sugary concentration you want. I'll bet that waste ice would've been great to make the tea that was suggested!)

You do not get as much from this method, but the flavor was extraordinarily mild - 
 
                    
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A better method? Freezing!!

Boiling to evaporate or distill takes far more energy than concentrating by freezing. When freezing, the ice that forms tends to be very pure and it leaves the sugars, salts, and other molecules behind.

The only good thing about the old firewood method is that is low tech and dependable.  Not energy efficient at all.  Commercial operations could save a lot of firewood and forest by switching to freezing methods, or possibly using a reverse-osmosis filter unit that has been customized for the purpose.
 
paul wheaton
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Matthew Groves
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Anonymous wrote:A better method? Freezing!!

Boiling to evaporate or distill takes far more energy than concentrating by freezing. When freezing, the ice that forms tends to be very pure and it leaves the sugars, salts, and other molecules behind.

The only good thing about the old firewood method is that is low tech and dependable.  Not energy efficient at all.  Commercial operations could save a lot of firewood and forest by switching to freezing methods, or possibly using a reverse-osmosis filter unit that has been customized for the purpose.



For the small time operation, freezing works well enough, but it can only get you so far in the process. For the larger operations, they'd rather NOT waste the (albeit, small amount of) sugar in the frozen part.


Reverse osmosis is used heavily in operations of size. They can take sap from it's normal 1-3% sugar all the way to 17-20% or more. Feeding the evaporator with 20% sap instead of 2% really cuts down on fuel needs.
 
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