Whew. What a long day yesterday was. After Thursday’s really good sap run and all that yummy sap we collected, we finally got the evaporator together. It wasn’t too complicated, except that there wasn’t an instruction sheet or anything (grrr!), so we had bought the wrong thickness of firebrick. We decided to just put it in the front yard, as we’ve had no time to build any sort of structure. I know we are going to regret that, but this whole sugaring experiment wasn’t something we even thought about last fall when the building should have got done. (Not that we had time then, either.) But whatever. It’s temporarily located there, and we will build something permament before next year. (or else!)
We also found that one of our many stacks of firewood had become unburied enough from the snow that we could get a fairly decent pile of it cut up for boiling. This stuff should be fairly dry, as most of it was cut a couple of years ago, and it’s been frozen and buried in snow since then. There’s probably enough here for quite a few boiling sessions, and then Frank’s got to decide where to pull more from. We have piles of dry stuff all over, we just never had the time to get it all cut and stacked nicely. (wow, I’m detecting a theme here. Who ever says we are trying to do too much?!)
So bright and early Friday morning, we rushed through morning feeding so we could start boiling as early as possible, and figured out (of course) that the thermometer we bought was too big, and if we didn’t put it in, there was a 1/4 hole where sap would run out. So I rushed over to Bascom while Frank went out into the woods to pull some sap in.
So we didn’t actually get started boiling around 10 am, which is too bad. We knew it was supposed to start raining in the evening, but you know how it is with weather. It’ll rain when it feels like, not when it’s convenient. I thought enough ahead that I made food that was portable, so we stayed outside boiling all day long. In the beginning, it was slow enough paced that we got a lot of other stuff done. But mostly, it takes a lot of babysitting, to keep the fire burning hot enough and keep the sap reservoirs full.
We boiled all day, until we got pushed in by complete darkness and freezing rain around 6:30 pm. We went from 42 gallons down to 15 gallons, which means we had some ways to go still. That’s now all out in buckets and will probably freeze overnight, but when we run it again, we’ll be starting from further down the line. (Plus, we have loads of just sap left, and the sap ran today and needs to be collected.)
So, that was our first day making sugar. Not bad, considering we’d never done any of it before. It got a bit scary in the end, because Frank had gone to town to see his mother, pick up the pig stuff from the community kitchen, buy oats for the horses and take that out to them in Swanzey, all stuff that couldn’t be put off. But it was getting dark before he got back, and I was getting close to the boiling end with what was in the evaporator, and not sure I could handle it on my own. (Not sure what to do, and I could barely see what was going on.) So I just added a bunch more cold sap to the pan, to stall the whole process until he got back. It worked, but if he’d been there or I knew what I was doing, I bet we could have had actual syrup, not this half-way stuff we have now. But I was afraid of scorching the pans in the dark, having it boil over, or otherwise screwing up.
I brought in a chili pot full of the boiled sap, and I’m going to finish it on the stove, to try to teach myself about the process some today. It’s going to rain all day, so we can’t finish boiling out there, but I need some experience!