The sap has been running pretty well in the past week or so, and I thought I'd show a few pics (again, crappy cell phone ones, mostly) of what I've been doing with that.
Right at the beginning of sap season, tractor broke, much to my despair. And DH's too, as the needed part costs $400. . . The part, mind you, just one. One, single--and pretty small--piece. But without it, well, a tractor with 3 wheels instead of 4 isn't very useful. So that left me scratching my head as to how I was going to get sap in from the woods without hand-carrying it nearly 1/4 mile.
That's when DH suggested strapping a bucket to the rack on the quad. Sounded much, much better than hauling buckets filled with 40 pounds of sap each through the field by my own muscle power. So, I tried it. And, apparently, none of our bucket lids are all that tight fitting when they are being jounced and jostled through varying terrain with gallons and gallons of sap pushing against them. After a couple days of coming in from retrieving sap looking like this:
I came up with a new method.
Which, mounted correctly with the spigot hanging off the back of the quad, makes emptying the sap from the jug into storage buckets pretty nifty. Less splashing, less waste. Easier on my back, too.
I just drive up to each tree, take the lid off the Big Orange Jug (that's what it's been called at this little place here since, well, before there was a this little place here.), remove the milk jug sap collector from the tree, unscrew the lid of the milk jug, and pour the sap into the Big Orange Jug. Replace the milk jug lid, put the milk jug on it's spile, put the lid back on the Big Orange Jug, and drive to the next tapped tree.
When it's time to boil, I am still using my turkey fryer. Had hoped to perhaps get a sap pan welded up and an evaporator built out of cinder blocks back in the woods (so no more hauling sap through the thawing field!), but with other events going on this winter, that project had to be put on hold another year. The turkey fryer works, it just takes quite a while.
I only set 8 taps this year. Some of my storage buckets are in use storing other things right now (namely DH's barley for brewing), so I didn't want to end up with more sap than I could store between boils. And with babysitting the grandkids two afternoons a week, that's two days I cannot be tending a flame-powered apparatus. So, each boil is only netting a few pints of finished syrup. I'm up to a half-gallon of syrup, so far after only two boils. Sap is currently running well, so I foresee boiling at least twice this week. Should be a pretty good year.