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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sugar Shack

For years, my husband's side of the family has had a "Sugar Shack" to
make maple syrup from the sap of the trees on their land.

If you haven't ever tasted REAL maple syrup, please make it a point to do so.

Nothing else tops the taste!

So this year, when the sap started running, I asked the cousins if we could stop by the Sugar Shack
take some photos of the process so you can see how it is done.

They happily obliged me, and called the last day of March and told us to hurry over
because the sap was almost done dripping because of the warmer-than-usual spring days.

In order to get good sap output, the days need to be warmer and the nights cold.

This year, our evenings were warmer than usual, which for maple syrup making, is not good.

So, upon receiving the call, off we went to take some photos.

This is a picture of their Sugar Shack!
I loved their homemade sign.

Right outside the back of the shack, was the much needed woodshed and pile of wood.
You need this to keep the fire burning to boil down the sap into the syrup:

And some other tools you might need?
Because often, when the sap begins running, there is often a LOT of snow still on the ground:

You can gather the sap from the trees in several ways.
Usually, you can just tap the trees and hang a bucket and the sap can be gathered there.
You  have to go and get the buckets and pour them out every day:

Here is a closeup of the tap in the tree, yielding the yummy sap:

But, the fastest way, is to use runs of lonnnnnng tubing that twist through the woods and connect downhill:

See how the tapped tree is hooked to the tubing instead of dripping into the bucket?:

The buckets are downhill, where all the tubing runs the sap into larger buckets.
Some Sugar Shacks have the tubing run right down into the Shack and into big vats where it can be steamed:

But our cousins just hook the smaller tubing into larger tubing and into larger buckets:

See all the tubing running from wayyyyyy up the hill on all those trees?:
(Isn't  that amazing?)

Here is a photo of some of the large vats where the sap is stored before being boiled down in the steamer:

Here is some sap that has been in the steamer a while. YUMMMM!:

At the Sugar Shack, they have a large steamer and also use small stoves to help boil down the sap too:

Here are the Sugar Shack owners, Mary and John, standing by the BIG steamer.  Aren't they just the cutest??:
(And they are as sweet as the syrup. Genuine, sincere and sooo nice.)

Here is John by the steamer. He asked if I wanted a "ghost picture" of him behind the steam. :0}

Checking the syrup. Is it done YET???:

I thought the large steamer was amazing!
What was even more amazing is that our cousins took an older steamer and made it into this gigantic one all by themselves and set up the Sugar Shack to be a well-oiled operation!:

The secret pantry full of little bottles of finished syrup!!!:

And did I leave empty handed?

Oh, no....I did NOT.

Even though it was a bad year for output, they gave us a bottle of syrup to go home with...
to which I was SO grateful.....

Guess who's  having pancakes these days???

We would like to thank John, Mary and cousin-in-law Dan for all the time they took to tour us around their maple syrup Sugar Shack operation and for being such gracious and generous hosts....
it will be a memory I will cherish for a long, long time...
Don't forget to enter my FREE April PHOTO CONTEST!!
This month's theme is:

Just follow THESE RULES and send in your photo by midnight, April 30th, 2010!!


Brian Miller said...

great pics. we love maple syrup and go to the festivals every year...there is nothing like it, that is for sure...

Joanie said...

Thank Joan! That was really cool!!

DJan said...

Thank you for the tour and the great pictures, as usual. I love the "ghost" picture, too, and was surprised at how clear the sap is in the beginning. Very interesting, I've never seen it done, but I've sure tasted the result, and you're right, it's wonderful!

The Retired One said...

Brian: they have done this for years, but we never got out there to take photos...we had such a good time that day and it was uncharacteristicly 78 degrees in April in the U.P. that day we went...unheard of!!

Joanie: you are welcome..we loved it too.

DJan: it is amazing and once set up, you just boil down the sap to get the best maple syrup ever...we did it once at home when the kids were little....we hung buckets and every day after school the girls would empty them and I would boil it down when they got enough to do so...they still talk about it as adults...they loved it.

rainfield61 said...

You have done something similar to what we are doing here: rubber tapping.

Bossy Betty said...

Absolutely fascinating!!!! Thanks!!

Loved the pics!

Unknown said...

As a kid, I had maple syrup my dad made. We didn't have a big commercial operation, but we did usually make enough to last a few months for the family. I loved it when it was boiled down past the syrup stage and became like taffy. It was great on toast! Thanks for the memories!

Kearsie said...


There is nothing better on pancakes.

James said...

Great post. There are places like this near me and I wanted to go for some maple syrup but I forgot. :( Being from California I've never been to a sugar shack. Next season for sure!

Jientje said...

I loved this post. I had no idea how maple syrup was made.

The Retired One said...

Rainfield: Please post some pictures of rubber tapping on your blog..I bet your Followers would LOVE to see the process!

Bossy: so glad you liked them!

Eva:Oh, yes, I have tasted the maple sugar on the bottom of the pan...the BEST!!

Kearsie: you are right!!

James: go and see it,it is fantastic to see and smell!

Jientje: Really? you have to visit somewhere in person someday and see it all being is quite amazing!

S-V-H said...

Finally I know how this superb Maple Syrup is made, illustrated with your great pictures, Joan! Thank you! said...

I'll bet it smells wonderful, too! Thanks for sharing!

Rick (Ratty) said...

That tubing is a neat idea. I knew that the sap was collected in buckets that were hanged on the trees, but I didn't know that there was an even better way. This post is like a fun tour of making syrup. This is the kind of thing I like watching on TV. I'm a sucker for those shows where they walk you through a factory or place like that.

Loree said...

Amazing. Very interesting information. Now I know something new :)

The Retired One said...

Susanne: you are is a simple procedure but lots of work to gather the syrup from the trees.

Quack: Oh yes, the steam is very sweet and it does smell wonderful.

Ratty: I love those shows too..glad you enjoyed the tour!

Loree: Thanks...I am amazed at how many people didn't know how it was gathered and made!

Betsy Banks Adams said...

That is just SO interesting, Joan.... I never knew all that went into making that delicious syrup.... Save me a bite of your pancake!!!!

Thanks so much for sharing this.
Got a baby yet????

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

It's so interesting to see the process of it all. Hadn't really given it any thought before. I love all the photos too. A

Far Side of Fifty said...

Great photographs of the process..I would guess that they don't have a deer problem with the stringing of the long hoses:)

The Retired One said...

Betsy: I love natural, real syrup instead of corn syrup...there is no comparison. Yes, we have baby...he was born 4/28 around noon..but had a real rough start...respiratory distress due to cord around his neck, and aspiration pneumonia. He is doing better today, but is still on IV antibiotics. We are praying for him.

Strawberry: So glad you liked seeing the process!

Far Side: thanks...I guess I never thought about the deer having to hop over all those tubes before. ha

SquirrelQueen said...

I am amazed at the tubing, that is a wonderful idea and far more effective. I had just imagined a bucket brigade to get the sap to the shack. I have had the real thing but I've never seen the process, it is fascinating.

The Retired One said...

SquirrelQueen: I know, when I first saw that type of sap gathering, I thought, how ingenius!!!

Brittany said...

I want home made maple syrup!! I love the pic of the handmade sign! So awesome!

Pat Tillett said...

What a fantastic bit of journalism!
I loved the tour and the details. I felt like I was looking at, and reading a magazine!

The Retired One said...

Brittany: I know, wasn't that cute? I love my husband's cousins..they are genuine folks!

Pat: Thanks so much, is so neat to go there and see it in person too!

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I retired in June 2008 and started my blog in November 2008. I worked at several jobs as a Registered Nurse prior to retirement. I LOVE being retired! Blogging has offered me a whole new venue to start writing again and to share new hobbies such as gardening, birdwatching and sharing my nature photography. If you like my blog, PLEASE click on "follow this blog". Having a lot of followers reading my blog gives me incentive to continue to do photography and to continue to write. I also LOVE comments, so I encourage you to leave me a comment after you read my posts. Thanks everyone, for taking the time to read me!!

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