all tapped out

starting out, we had no idea what to expect.  not in terms of length of sap season here in north carolina, or of how much sap to expect to collect, how long it'd take to boil it down, or how much syrup we'd end up with.

we tapped the trees on january 18th, boiled a total of nine days (last on the 8th), and just today I pulled the taps and collected the buckets, leaving jars of syrup on doorsteps for the kind folks who gave us permission to tap their trees.

we learned a lot.  we learned that you really cannot use dryer vent pipe in lieu of actual stove pipe.  that in order to keep the sap boiling when adding wood we needed to add it just to the front half of the stove.  that kiln-dried scraps of various hardwoods from a local furniture maker were excellent additions to the fire (I admit to keeping a small stash of them to use for something because they are just so pretty), that warm milk mixed with hot sap-syrup is delicious, that cheesecloth alone isn't enough for filtering.  that next year we really have to arrange the boiling off area so that we can tuck a few chairs in there behind the windscreen (because you end up spending a lot of time out there, standing by the fire, watching sap boil...).  we learned that even though the 55 gallon peppered pickle barrel we were using to store sap still smelled faintly of peppers after several scrubs, it didn't affect the taste of the end product (much as I worried it might).  we discovered that four trees probably is our maximum given our little back yard evaporator set up.  and mike got so good at estimating when the sap was nearly done that the last time we boiled it took only minutes to finish it off inside because it was already so close to being syrup.

in the end, we estimated that we produced about (some was slurped here and there, of course) 306 ounces.  so, a bit over 2 3/4 gallons.  some has been shared and gifted, most of the rest will be squirreled away for us to use over the next year.  we spent some money on supplies, but I bet it wasn't more than 2 3/4 gallons of syrup would cost.  I am all about doing it again in years to come, and I'm quite sure we're all on board for that.  I find it deeply satisfying to be able to say "we made all of the maple syrup we'll use over the next year".  and maybe even more.

what sweet, sticky, time consuming fun.

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