March 25, 2018
Winter was very cold up here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where the temperatures were below zero for many weeks. Snowfall? Not so much. As of today’s date (3.24.18), there is about one foot of snow left on the ground with patches of bare ground. The snow is hard-packed and it’s easy to maneuver around the trees on snowshoes. But by the afternoon, with the thawing sunshine, the snowshoes sink into the softened snow.
Since I’m a one-man operation, my days start early morning and continue until after dusk. With 40 acres of sugar maples and 2,100 taps, it’s a matter of checking the lines (plastic tubing), replacing some lines, and then drilling new holes in the maple trees for taps. Depending on the diameter of the tree, some trees have 3 taps, some have 2 taps, and others have 1 tap.
Then the pumps used to create a vacuum to pull the sap out of the tree need some maintenance, tanks need cleaning, and several other duties need to be completed before the maple sap can be collected. Once the checklist has been completed, it’s time to collect the maple sap.
Using a vacuum, the sap moves through a network of plastic tubing to one of two pump stations and then pumped thru underground pipes into a holding tank in the sugarhouse. To achieve the vacuum, continuous leak-free lines and a good slope in the lines are needed. Once the maple sap is pumped into a holding tank, it then goes into a reverse osmosis machine and finally into the evaporator. Water is then boiled off to produce a sweet tasting maple syrup. I have simplified the process (here) because it is a bit more complex to turn maple sap into maple syrup. Bottomline, maple syrup production is very labor intensive!
I’ve been operating my own maple syrup production in the UP since 1996. Prior to that, I worked at my parents’ sugar maple farm from the age of 10 years old. Needless to say, maple syrup is in my blood!
Should you find yourself crossing the Mackinac Bridge into the Upper Penisula in the next couple of weeks, head west on US Highway 2 for about one hour and just before you get to Blaney Park, look to the right and you’ll see white clouds of steam coming out of stacks above our green-colored sugarhouse. You’ll also smell a sweetness in the air. Stop in and see our evaporator in operation and we’ll explain the process of making maple syrup.
And remember, it’s because of YOU (our customers) that we work hard each Spring to produce the best maple products! Come on by or visit our online store for some “delicious sweets from the North.”
Categorized in: UP Sugar Shack News