I’ve been getting all of my ducks in a row these past few weeks. Since we tapped the trees 2 weeks ago, I have been stacking wood, cleaning tools, organizing equipment…and waiting for the sap to flow. And waiting some more. Since that week of sunny days with above average highs, the temperatures have dropped again (and I dare say plummeted last night to -15° Celsius with a wind-chill of -25°Celcius). Needless to say I’m antsy; I want to have a boiling day! I’ve been keeping myself occupied by double-checking that all of our equipment is in order, and doing beekeeping research (a story for another day). In particular we’ve been fine-tuning our sap-transportation process. Since the RTV has mini-caterpillar tracks on it meant for getting around in the bush now, it’s inefficient to be driving it back and forth to the house to empty the 50 gallon collecting tank out. I purchased a bigger tank (over twice the size at 125 gal) this winter that we will situate in the truck bed instead. So we will be dumping the buckets into the RTV tank, pumping sap from the RTV tank to the one in the truck, driving the truck to the sugar shack and then pumping the sap from the truck tank to the holding tank outside the sugar shack. We mulled over the best way to do this given the equipment that we already own and settled on purchasing an additional pump to leave in the second collecting tank for the season. Getting the proper sized fittings and tubing and quick connects has been a trial. At Canadian Tire and then at Home Depot we went in search for the correctly sized brass fittings – no dice. They had male 1/2 inch converter for garden hose, and a female 3/4 inch for vinyl tubing. Plastic and pvc but not brass. I reined in my compulsion to pull my hair out in frustration. The only purchase that resulted from that excursion was garden seeds for pretty flowers. We finally accepted that the most reasonable and economical solution is to duplicate the system that we already have instead of buying additional converters to fit the extra tube that we have lying around. Meaning, we simply need to buy more tubing with the right inner diameter. Big sigh.
‘Tis the season! The season to get excited about spring. Maple syrup season round 2! In eager anticipation of this monumentous season I decided to go to Montréal to buy maple syrup equipment. Julia, why wouldn’t you just buy it from somewhere around here, you ask? I’d done my research and found that Montréal was the cheapest place I could get a bulk order of bottles and a holding tank from. But wait, there’s more! Montréal is where the Dominion and Grimm headquarters is, Montréal is where the dealz are, I answer! I picked one of the worst driving days this season to go it seems, but that’s beside the point. I borrowed my Dad’s truck and struck out for the promised land! There were so many tools of the trade on display at Dominion and Grimm that I was like a kid in a candy shop. I saw the Hurricane evaporator on display that can reach temperatures of 2100 degrees Farenheit (evaporates 2.7 gallons of water per minute!), I saw hulking reverse osmosis machines. I saw a bottling machine with 4 spouts for increased efficiency. I saw big coils of bright green and bright blue tubing. I was blown away by the sophistication of some of the equipment. Clearly some of that equipment was beyond the scope of my 200 tap, traditional collection operation. Maybe some day I’ll have a need for all that jazzy equipment but not today. I bought 20 used buckets, spiles, and cleaning equipment that will make the back-breaking clean-up in April easier. After packing my purchases into the back of the pickup we slowly made our way back home through the storm. Crossing the city in rush hour traffic with lots of precious cargo in a snowstorm was nerve-racking. Next time I’ll make the trip in the summer!
As twilight falls, the maple bush burns a mesmerizing pink or gold color. Do not be fooled by the warm colors though: there was nothing warm about the biting temperature!
Our path winds along the side of a field, then cuts into the forest and climbs the slope of the ridge. The path curls through the trees, strategically passing by stands of maples for easier collection in the early spring when snow drifts hinder bucket brigading efforts that our traditional maple sap collection process involves. The warmer temperatures in early March certainly had us fooled – after I motivated 4 family members to help tap some trees the temperatures plummeted to lows of -20C some nights. Getting to take in views like this help make up for my over-eagerness I hope!