I’ve got a long way to go before I can make maple syrup again this Spring. I never fully and properly cleaned and store all the tubing from last season, which mean I’m buying new. The good news is that it’s relatively cheap. I was gonna have to buy more anyway. This year, no buckets or collection bottles. I’m running all the tubing to a central collection point right in the shack. I also need to rework my boiler apparatus. Last year was two turkey cookers firing a 3 and a 5 gallon pot. My dad was able to find me a stainless steel tray that will hold roughly 5.5 gallons. My hope is to put two burners under that and then perhaps have a third burner with a large pot on it.
I also have to design some kind of device that will pre-heat cold sap with the heat of the rising steam. Last year I just placed aluminum cake pans on the tops of the pots and filled them with cold sap. In just 20 minutes I’d have 120 degree sap, but then I’d have to trek out to the shack and transfer hot sap to pot and refill the pans. Tedious. I can do better. This year I want some kind of continuous drip system. It may have to be built of plastic tubing, because metal is expensive and difficult to work with (for someone who doesn’t have the proper tools, namely me.)
My entire life has been a journey to find the cheapest, fastest, easiest way to do something. Ask my dad about that winter when I “shoveled” the driveway by using one of his 4×8 sheets of plywood as a giant snow blade and pushed all the snow down into the road in just 6 passes. Time saved: an entire morning of cartoons. Expensive pieces of plywood ruined: one.
So anyway, here’s my cheap, fast and easy 2007 model year Sugar Shack:
Compare it to last year’s shack. Please notice how this year’s model has 100% less old rickety ladder and 200% more floor space and headroom.
Cheap: maybe 5 dollars worth of stainless steel screws, left over form the construction of my apple grinder. Wood was all free, mostly from pallets. All the nails I used were recovered from pallets I dismantled. Fast: 3.5 hours of work. Maybe 4. Easy: Well, I did it all myself, with some help from Makita and Black & Decker. The kids helped by staying in the house.
It’s not what I had envisioned, but it’s damned close. If I had had to build the walls and half the roof by hand I’d still be out there doing it. Using the pallets saved a LOT of time. My perfect model would be one where all the wall and roof pieces bolted together and could be taken apart with a wrench and stacked and stored in the off-season. This one is going to have to come apart with a drill and hammer. When it does, you’d better bet I’ll be collecting the stainless steel screws to use again!
I hope to get the plastic skin on it tomorrow. More pics to come!