Last fall, we found a homemade hobby maple syrup evaporator for sale just down the street from us. It was a great craigslist find and the seller even delivered it for us. Excitement aside, there are a few issues with this setup. First, the built in thermometer is at an improper height to be functional, which is not a big deal except that we don't have another that is long enough to reach into the sap with the dial out of the steam. The steam that comes off a good boil is impossible to see through, so a temperature reading is very important to make sure the sap is not about to burn. Then the welded baffles that serve to increase heating surface area do not meet up well with the curved pan, creating a space that is impossible to clean (old toothbrush and much cussing). Finally, the flue pipe could use some added length. I managed to melt the edge of my polycarbonate roofing on our first boil...whoops.
However, it is just the right size for 20-30 taps and was a very modest investment. We don't have enough trees to justify several thousand dollars of start-up cost, especially if we decide that it's no longer enjoyable. So far, it has been a big treat from the open-fire boil we employed last year with one of my cooking pots that is still blackened.
We had five gallons of sap to try out this evaporator on the second weekend of February. Last year, we hadn't placed any taps until the end of the month. The weather has been unpredictable to say the least. Recently, the temps have either been too cold during the daytime or above freezing overnight. Sap won't run without a good freeze a night and near 40 degrees during the day. Collecting sap is a breeze without the usual three feet of snow, so we have placed more taps than we originally planned. It's great exercise with a toddler on my back. Maybe that will burn off the calories consumed in maple syrup covered pancakes every Saturday from now on.
|Milking room converted to sugar shed.|