At this point Austin & Travis take the sap into the 'Sugar House' and pour it into the big white holding tank. Pete and the boys rigged up a way to have the sap continually dribble into the arch for boiling (an adjustable flow system). We/they have worked to add & upgrade our system over the past 4 years.
We started with an arch made of cinder blocks, a chimney and a couple of small boiling pans. That was fun but, oh sooo smokey! Since our first attempt we made adjustments until we arrived at the system that we have now.... an enclosed hut (sugar house) with an elevated holding tank, side walls that can be flapped up if it gets tooo warm, inside wood storage, a bench and even a steam escape in the new roof!! It has been quite the family project! I'm not sure what the next upgrades will be... but I bet there will be some!
To answer another question.... weather is a major factor because if the sap gets too warm it will ferment and the syrup will be very dark. The lighter the sap the better the grade and the higher the value! :) A couple of years ago we made maple sugar.... with some of the 'extra' maple syrup. It was similar in consistancy to brown sugar and I used it as such....
it was YUMMY!
Here is a picture of the 'firebox' inside the arch. (the arch is where the cooking happens) You can see the brick lining and grate which houses the fire! In one of the pictures above you can see Austin leaning over the arch making sure everything is ok. You'll see the metal frame over the brick... on top of this hole goes a huge pan (I think it is 2'X4') and the wood is added in through a door on the end of the arch. They use gasket rope (like is used around the doors of a woodstove) to seal the top opening when the pan is set on top. It keeps the heat & smoke in the arch. (the smoke now goes up the chimney instead of
filling the sugar house!) :)
Now.... starts the boiling, finishing and packaging process!