Monday 12 March 2012
The Sugar Shack
There hasn't been a year gone by that we haven't proclaimed that next year we'd try to make our own maple syrup.
It's not just a matter of will and planning.
Syrup making comes with certain difficulties.
The deal breaker for us has been the fuel.
I have a hard enough time getting the wood in for our Winter's heat let alone all the extra needed to boil sap down.
Maybe next year will be the year. Maybe.
We can start small; just the trees around the house.
But, for now, let me tell you about the grand plan.
We went out today to size up the spot where I would like to build our sugar shack.
The main advantage with the location is it's location.
I can build the shack downhill of a lot of maple trees.
That means that I can use lines to collect the sap rather than hauling each bucket to a central point.
Some trees will have to have the buckets hauled, but that is all part of the ritual that is syrup making.
It just seems smart to cut back on the labour required, especially since we have a small family.
The shack will be far enough away from the house so that it feels remote, like a camp. Yet it will be close enough to retrieve dry clothes and other comforts so that the experience isn't too harsh on the young and old.
I plan on having a heated shack with enough room to gather people, prepare food, get warm, and complete the boiling process. There will be a pleasant outhouse too.
Practically speaking, the maple syrup season is short. Especially with the suspiciously warm weather, the time for collecting and boiling sap is short. I really shouldn't put too much priority into the shack and the equipment to go along with it.
Really, it's a fun idea, until I get some of the more important projects under control.
There is the option of running an even bigger operation, but I could never compete with the large outfits around here. They run state of the art equipment and tap tens of thousands of trees.
The other point to consider is the damage that tapping causes to the trees.
Ideally, I will be tapping trees that have already been infected with disease organisms.(Tree Disease.)
I don't want to use healthy trees for syrup. Creating an opening through the bark increases the chance of infection much like an open wound does in us. I am sure there are precautions to be taken, but I'm eager to care for our maples trees properly.
I do believe that next year we will be able to collect and boil down our own syrup with our own resources.
I have crowns from firewood trees that are ready to burn. I just need to bring them out of the bush and process them. There are enough trees around the house to make enough syrup for our family. It won't be too much work, as long as the fuel is ready to go.
Still, the sugar shack dream is alluring.
The first nice weather of late Winter combined with the smell of woodsmoke and the idle chatter of friends and family. A rustic building that's warm and dry when the wet and cold find their way into your fingers and toes. Hearty food to keep the glow in your cheeks when the sun finally descends.
Every time I look into the little dell where the shack should go, all of the idyllic images flood over me, and so I never forget about my plan. I hope that someday, I'll make it all happen there.