As mid to late February rolls around and old man winter's grip starts to relax and the sun's rays feel ever slightly warmer the trees standing in the forest begin to thaw. In days gone by and still done by some today, it meant it was time to get the horses and bobsled, fill the sled with metal buckets, lids and spouts and head out to the forest to drill a hole in a maple tree, to collect the sweet sap. After the hole was drilled the spouts would be pounded in, then a bucket was then hung on the spout and the lid put on. Then when the bucket needed to be emptied the horses were used to pull a tank around to collect the sap to take it to the sugar house, where it was boiled down into maple syrup, back in the late 1800s to mid-1900s on little farms, to have something enjoyable to do while waiting for spring to fully arrive.
Now here in 2014, a lot has changed in the way maple sap is gathered and more research has been done to understand the maple tree more. Tubing was introduced sometime in the 1960s, as a cheaper faster way to gather sap. Over 40 years of trial and error and research has made tubing the bread and butter to maple producers looking to make money and a life from producing maple syrup. Knowledge of the maple trees functions during sap time also has helped in producing more sap when using tubing and vacuum. When it comes time to tap the trees we take a battery powered drill using a 7/16 drill bit, and drill a 2 inch hole into the maple tree. A plastic spout is then inserted into the hole the spout is then attached to the tubing. To collect the sap, tubing is strung from maple to maple being attached to the spouts in each tree. The tubing then flows to a collection tank. On most tubing systems vacuum is used to pull the sap from the tree faster.
The processing of the sap is usually done in two stages, depending on how many taps you have. If there is a lot of taps (2000 or more) a reverse osmosis is recommended to speed up the process by removing water from the sap to speed up the evaporation time it takes to boil sap into syrup on the evaporator.
The evaporator is needed to boil the sap into maple syrup. It is fired by wood gathered from the land. The finished product, being maple syrup is then filtered by a filter press in which a pump pumps the syrup through fine paper filters, removing fine dirt and sugar sand to give a crystal clear look to the syrup. From the filter the syrup either goes into barrels for future use or wholesale or it is bottled. Also, the syrup can be cooked even more in a controlled environment such as a stove, to make maple sugar or cream.
Below is a picture of the owner, Ben Smith, in the tank house. Where all the sap flows to and is then pumped to the sugar shanty.
These are called the extractors. They are releasing sap into the tank!