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Winter wonderland maple sugar bush rush
What it takes to make maple syrup
Each winter, usually after the holidays, for two years now, I work at a local sugar bush maintaining the lines and tapping the trees for the upcoming season. For anyone who doesn't quite know why maple syrup is so expensive, you should realise that it could be much more costly if it shared standard product mark up with the rest of the industries standards. The work however, keeps me in relatively good shape until my spring stonework contracts start. My first retaining stone wall will be a breese having spent two months or more treking through the forest layered with more that four feet worth of snow this year. Snow shoes an obvious must, take them off and it is nearly impossible to move in the waist deep mess. Yes, ten to fourteen kilometers a day in rain or blizards through all that snow, up and down the maple farms bush sections which happen to run to the top of the mountain do keep me in good enough shape to jump right in to building my walls, patios, steps and other stone creations in the spring. This year seams that spring will not show itself early, March 5th and we're adding on top of our already immense snow load with another expected sixteen to twenty inches. Not around the corner. And back to my sugar bush experience. In order to make maple syrup you need to collect sap from maple trees either in the tradditional bucket method or the newer, but still trusted for many years, hose and vacuum system. Bucket require much more work when collecting has to be done while the sap is running and buckets must be handled and brough to larger containers pulled by tractors or other equipment. The hoses require more preperation and maintenance before sap starts running, but you don't have to handle any buckets, just large rolls of wire, hoses and large pipes from time to time. These steps gets the sap to the sugar or pump house. From there, the sap must be stored between one and three degrees in order to maintain its quality. Large stainless tanks are required for this, as well as filtration systems and additional tanks should good sap desired for boiling. Then comes the boiling, the higher the percentage of sugar in the sap, the less time it takes to boil down to syrup. The better quality sap, being stored properly, will boil down to desired syrup more quickly. And the best quality syrup comes from the freshest and cleanest sap, and to get it, to boil off all the undesired water from the sap and reach the desired temperature that indicates syrup is ready, it takes hours for a few gallons. Innitial start up takes longer and once the system is primed and ready for the next boil, it takes a bit less time. But here's the kicker, you pay under ten bucks for a litre of syrup which takes up to fifty litres of sap to make. That's a lot of sap for your can of syrup, I enjoy mine that's for sure. And that's not the end of it. In order to be able to heat the sap gathered by the maple farms ten thousand taps into syrup before too much sap is collected, the main boiler works on high burn with two blowers which are diesel fuel fed that burn an average of twenty litres per hour each. That's fourty litres of fuel per hour at prices that keep on rising. If your syrup costs a bit more this year, don't be too surprised. You know you'll still have to get yours though, cause it is delicious. So, 'till spring, I make the lines are all in tip top shape, the sap can run freely and nothing is stopping the syrup from being made. Sounds simple, but spring stonework and construction contracts bring a nice break from the constant hiking through the forest.