MacPhee's Maple Syrup

MacPhee's Apple Orchard is owned and operated by Richard MacPhee and his neighbors Max Newby and Mary Cameron. Not only do they have apple trees but they also have maple trees.

Maple Syrup is made from maple trees as young as 35 years old, but the best syrup comes from trees as old as 50 years and up. They have a tree at the farm that is somewhere in the range of 170 years old (it's a huge tree).

In order to make the syrup, they have to put a small hole in the side of the tree and put a tap into it which drains the sap off each morning and through the night. The best time for the sap to run off the tree is when there are warm days and cold nights. The sap runs from mid-March till mid-April or even later sometimes. In Richard's recollection, the latest that the sap has ever started to run was April 4th.

The sap runs through the tree from the top, and then it runs into a small 1/2" hole that is made in the side of the tree using a tap, and then it runs into a bucket hanging on the top of the tap. Each morning after the sap has run, Richard and Max go to collect the sap. They use a small to medium sized tractor with a large tank that is on top of a pallet, and the tractor has forks to lift the tank/pallet. They go from tree to tree and dump the buckets into the large tank.

The maple collectors use a machine called an Evaporator that turns the sap into syrup. The machine boils off all the water from the sap and turns it into syrup. Richard says that it takes almost 50 gallons of sap for 1 gallon of syrup, so you can imagine how much sap they have to get. After they are finished collecting the sap they take it back to their shed where they use the tractor to lift the tank in the air, and then it drains from the tank using a 2" hose into another tank. The tank that it is drained into then drains into the Evaporator which is used to make the syrup. The tank has a hose that goes from the outside of the building into a hole into the side of the building, and into the Evaporator machine.

Richard has to use wood to stoke the evaporator. Max was the one that was putting the wood in the shed the day that I was there. They use lots of soft wood, because it burns fast and gives off the best heat that is needed. Hardwood gives off more coals, and is more dangerous to burn in the shed when making syrup. Richard took the wood and put it into the front of the evaporator that looks like a stove. There are two tubs that are divided into another two tubs/tanks on the front of the evaporator. At the back there is a big tub where the sap drains from and is then drained into the smaller vats/tanks. The stove runs under the tubs/tanks and all the way to the back, where the sparks shoot through a normal stove pipe that runs out the ceiling.

There is a small holding tank on the outside of the big tank that controls how much sap goes into the big tank before it is boiled. Then when the big tank is full enough, it drains into another four different compartments, and there is also another side tank that controls how much sap goes into the two front compartments. At the end when the syrup is ready, there is a drain/tap that goes into a bucket, and there is a cloth put over the bucket to strain the syrup correctly. When the syrup is drained off, there is still some left over sitting on the cloth, and it has to be boiled again so that the syrup can be made correctly. After this whole process is over, the syrup has to be taken into the house and boiled again to get the right consistency to be able to be sold.

This story is told by Chris Green from the input of Richard MacPhee, collected on April 13th, 2011. The pictures and videos were all taken on the same day by Chris Green.

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