Ragged View Farm  
Sugaring  

 

 Mark & Lea 2016

 

  
   As the days get longer in early February, "Sugar Fever" sets in. It’s a busy time from late February through early to mid April, but our own sweet syrup makes it worthwhile.

 In 2005 (if I remember correctly) Eric Johnson and I started sugaring. He built a sugarhouse and bought a wood fired arch. We hung some buckets and ran some tubing. Collected sap, started boiling and figured it out as we went along.

For the next  ten years we worked together with a rotating cast of characters. Eric's maple enthusiasm was pretty much boundless and his operation grew to over 1500 taps at various sites, with vacuum setups and an RO. I tagged along as best I could.

The number of taps here at Ragged View went from about 75 to close to 200. 

 

 

Eric & Mark

Maple Weekend Open House

Spring '07

 In the summer of 2012 my brother Bob and I cut pine here and Pete Druin brought his mill and sawed it out. In the Fall we began construction of a sugarhouse here at RaggedView Farm. With help from Eric and my compadres Andy and Andre', as well as my brother, we got a frame up and a roof on before Winter set in hard. I continued boiling with Eric in the Springs of '13 and '14.
  
  Over the next couple years work continued. We added the cupola, bought Eric's old wood fired rig when he went to pellets and got it and the stack installed. We got it wired for lights and a blower and installed a woodstove, tanks and piping. By Spring of '15 we were ready to boil.
  

 

The "rig". 

A 2-1/2  X 8 witha 30x66  raised flue back pan and a 30x30 front pan on a custom forced air arch by Island View Fabrication.

The finished sugar house. Hopefully it does not look like a shack.

 

In action 2016. 

(This is probably a good place to thank Michele Riopel for the several photos she took that I used. Thanks!)

 

 And of course the Finished Product!

We put up all our syrup in glass containers.   We typically have three sizes: Quart, Pint and Half-Pint.

Quarts are in Mason type jars, Pints are availble in either Mason jrs or "Boston Round" bottles,

and Half-Pints are in Boston Rounds.

Notice that the Half-Pints are available with either the Sleigh Ride logo or a Sap Bucket.

Pricing is on the "Price List" page .

    
 

 Several words about our Maple operation. Like the other aspects of our farm we try to proceed in a way that is more artisanal than industrial. We are not fans of Earl Butz.

That outlook, together with inherited proclivities and inclinations, conspire to guide our choices about what we do and do not do in our Maple Sugaring operation.

To wit:

Although we use plastic tubing for about 3/4 of our taps, they are on gravity. We do not use vacuum. All the research shows that vacuum has no ill effects in the orchard but in my experience, it is a pain in the neck. One more electriclly or gasoline driven system to break down at, of course, the least convenient time. Not using vacuum means that we do not get runs on marginal days, so our overall production is reduced.

We do not use Reverse Osmosis, commonly referred to as "RO". This process uses very fine membranes and high pressure electric pumps to concentrate sap to a higher density before it is boiled. Sap comes out of the tree at typically somewhere between 1.5 and 3.0 % sugar. Syrup is 66% sugar. That's a lot of boiling to send all that water out through the cupola as steam. If you double your density with an RO, you halve yur boiling time, so you can see the attraction. All the research shows no degradation of flavor or quality in syrup that has been made from concentrated sap. RO's are a mechanical system subject to the same untimely breakdowns as vacuum setups.

 We bottle in glass. While we do use plastic tubing to collect sap, the amount of time the sap spends in contact with the plastic is pretty minimal compared with a jug of syrup sitting on a shelf. I like to be able to see what we are selling and assume folks appreciate seeing what they are buying. All the research shows no degradation of flavor or quality of syrup stored in plastic.

The last modern technique that this iconoclastic curmudgeon eschews is using a Filter Press. Another electrically driven pumping machine, the process requires adding a significant quantity of diatomaceous earth (food grade, of course) to the syrup in order to make the process work. (Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S77te5xuja0). This produces an impeccably clear product. We filter through a paper cone filter when we draw "almost syrup" off the rig, then filter again after we have "finished" to exactly syrup just before we bottle. It comes out clear enough for me and does not involve a minng operation of a limited resourcein the Southwest or cross country material transit. All the research shows degradation of flavor or quality of syrup filtered through a filter press.

On a final note of obstreperousness, we bottle in English measure: Quarts, Pints, Half-Pints. I have nothing against the metric system. English measure is just what I grew up with and what is familiar to me. Besides, it is in no small part the influence of our metric measuring Canadian friends who are helping to drive the (to me) regrettable industrialization of Maple Sugaring. So there.