The “sugarers” part of our business will start with Pure Maple Syrup and continue with other maple products and honey.
Sugaring was the first of our productive endeavors on the homestead. In our first spring,we tapped 13 Sugar Maples. We did this simply for fun, and we shared the experience with friends in our community.
It did not take long before several of our friends started tapping their own maple trees, using everything from repurposed milk jugs and PVC pipe, to “store bought” equipment, as we did. (We started with a kit from tapmytrees.com. Our kit included the buckets and spiles for 3 taps, and the basic equipment for evaporating the sap to syrup, including a small book on the subject).
The second year, we tapped 19 trees, and last year we tapped 99. (There is apparently something about even numbers that we cannot do!) The plan is to grow this part of the business to 999 taps within four years, in accordance with our apparent aversion to even numbers. Even then, it will be a very small boutique-style business, compared to the industrial maple syrup producers.
The tool of choice for making syrup in year one of the ramp-up, and potentially in year two, is the Leader Half Pint with the “Supreme” pan. This is a wood-fired evaporator. Leader now makes an extension kit for the Half Pint, which is why I say that it might take us through year two of the ramp-up to 999 taps. Also, the “Supreme” pan and the extension kit increase capacity significantly from the advertised 5 to 35 taps for the standard Half Pint, to 40 to 90 taps for the Half Pint with Supreme Pan and extension kit.
Our intent is to stay with buckets for sap collection. While this method can be less efficient and profitable, and more labor-intensive, we see the benefit in community building. The more traditional methods connect us to an old way of living that connected us more directly to the earth and to our means of sustenance.
We also started beekeeping in the spring of that first full year, and this endeavor has proved to be very challenging. Through April of 2016 we had installed five “packages” of bees (a package is 3 lbs of bees and a queen), and only one had survived a winter. We persist, and in May of 2016 we installed three more packages. There are currently four active hives at the time of this writing.
We will be selling our maple syrup online soon. Contact us and we will notify you when it is available.