maple syrup

Assembling the Leader Evaporator Half Pint – Parts 3 and 4 of 4

In this installment will be documented the moving of the bricked arch to the sugar house, leveling the arch/evaporator, installing the stack, and the first (test) boil using water and baking soda.

To see how we got to this point, see:

Part 1, “Assembling the Leader Evaporator Half Pint – Part 1 of 4,” can be found at, and Part 2, “Assembling the Leader Evaporator Half Pint – Part 2 of 4,” can be found at

We knew that moving the arch from the house to the sugar house would be “challenging.”  Unfortunately the controlled environment of the house was necessary to facilitate the curing of the refractory cement used in the process of installing the firebrick.  Getting the sheet metal and cast iron shell of the arch into the house was no real problem, Geri and I accomplished that in less than 30 minutes, using only the garden cart as a simple machine. Read more

Maple Syrup Process Flow Diagram

A short post today, simply to provide something that might be of value to anyone consider the production of maple syrup, on any scale.

Final version for 2016 preparations

I have found that mapping out the process helps me to ensure that we have everything we need, in place, to perform the task at hand, maple syrup production being no exception.  This flow chart is simply a thought-starter, no doubt it is not perfect, nor does it incorporate every possible detail.  However it might be of use to you, I certainly hope so.  You can find 11 in. x 17 in. pdf version at this link: Process Flow-Maple Syrup.  As this process is refined, so will be the pdf. Read more

Assembling the Leader Evaporator Half Pint – Part 2 of 4

Part 2 involves assembly of the Reservoir Pan and the Boiling Pan, which are relatively simple and easy tasks, as well as installing firebrick in the sheet metal structure of the arch, a seemingly simple but very tedious task.

Draw-Off valve and thermometer at right front corner of Boiling pan

I assembled the pans first, which only involved the addition of draw-off valves and thermometers ( 2 each) to the Boiling Pan, and the addition of what I am calling a “make-up feed valve” to the Reservoir Pan.  The only tool required is an adjustable wrench, and aside from the parts supplied with the evaporator, the only item required is a roll of teflon tape to seal the pipe-threaded joints.  Pictured is the draw-off valve and thermometer installed at the right front of the boiling pan, there is an identical set of valve and thermometer at the left rear of the boiling pan.  Having draw-off capability at opposite corners allows the flow through the Boiling Pan to be reversed, which minimizes the build-up of “sugar sand” in the Boiling Pan.  A “solid, sand-like material in the bottom of the syrup pan … is sugar sand (commonly calcium malate crystals containing varying amounts of sugar).  Excessive amounts of sugar sand on the bottom of the pan can burn, giving the syrup an unpleasant strong caramel or bitter taste, and possibly damage the pan.”¹  In our first two years as hobbyists we did not experience trouble with sugar sand build-up in our boiling pan, probably because we did not take the sap all the way to syrup in the boiling pan; we drew off the final 3-4 gallons from the boiling pan and reduced it to 12-16 cups of syrup on the range in the house.  I will have more to say on sugar sand and the operation of the evaporator in a later post. Read more

Assembling the Leader Evaporator Half Pint – Part 1 of 4

This year our plan is to put 100 taps in 100 trees.  By Leader Evaporator‘s account, in their on-line catalog, processing the sap that is produced by those 100 taps may be a bit of a stretch with the Half Pint.  My supplier assures me that they have at least one customer managing 100 taps with the Half Pint, and with the Flat Pan at that, while we chose the newly introduced Supreme Pan for increased capacity and efficiency.  We shall see.

Leader’s Hobby Evaporator Buying Guide (accessed on-line 08 Feb 2016)

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It is Tapping Time, And That Means Spring!

Here we go, in southwest Michigan!  The 10-day forecast includes what appears to be an almost picture perfect start to the maple sugaring season.

10-day weather forecast for Kalamazoo, Michigan

Starting on Saturday, 7 March, you can see that the daily high and low temperatures will bracket the freezing point for six days in a row; that dynamic is what causes maple trees to develop a positive pressure when the temperature rises above freezing, pushing sap out of the tree.  I will plan to tap at least some of our trees on the morning of Saturday 7 March, and I would bet that they will start flowing that afternoon. Read more

Very Early Spring 2014 – Sugaring! Part II of Tapping the Sugar Maples!

Geri and Nancy being sappy!

After two weeks of collecting more sap than we had anticipated, approximately 100 gallons from thirteen trees (7.7 gallons/tap), we desperately needed to process at least some of the sap to make room for more. The “rule of thumb” is 10 gallons of sap per tap, per season, if the tree is in a forest, so just two weeks into a four to six-week season we are well ahead of pace.  We managed to process approximately 21 gallons on a Saturday, and 27 gallons that Sunday and into Monday.  The weather has been below freezing since we started evaporating, so we have gained some ground on the trees ability to produce.  Our current capacity to store sap stands at 100 gallons more or less, and about half of that depends on having snow on the ground sufficient to maintain containerized sap at low enough temperatures to prevent fermentation and souring of the sap. Read more

Very Early Spring 2014 – Tapping the Sugar Maples!

Yes indeed, spring has sprung!  And not only because we set our clocks ahead, but more importantly because sap is flowing from our maple trees which is a more certain sign of spring!  We are very excited, especially since maple syrup will be one of the very first “products” of the homestead.  I am convinced that it will be well worth the work involved in its production.

Maple tree sap flows when daytime temperatures exceed freezing, 32 deg F, and nighttime temperatures dip below the freezing mark.  The temperatures above freezing create a “positive pressure” within the tree, forcing sap out of the tap, while temperatures below freezing create a “negative pressure” within the tree, causing more sap to be pulled up from the roots and into the sap wood. [1]  The optimum variation is said to be a high of 40 deg F and a low of 20 deg F; we tapped Sunday morning at about 9 a.m., after an overnight low of 17 deg F and leading to a daytime high of 42 deg F, and sap was flowing by noon the same day!

Sugar maple leaves and fruits (samara, also known as
“helicopters” when we were kids) 

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