"Perseverance and what you learn along the way...priceless."
2010 - Nathan made a homemade evaporator out of an old water tank. Our family gathered sap from buckets. We borrowed a quad from a friend and used our garden trailer to haul the sap from the woods to the backyard. We boiled outside in the yard using the "batch syrup" method (adding sap in groups, or batches, and not in a continuous stream). This method takes time, patience and perseverance. We were proud of the 12 gallons of syrup we made our first year. We had approximately 100 taps.
2011 - In our second year we still used buckets but we also began using tubing for sap collection. Gravity brought sap down the tubing and into the totes we had placed along the pathway in the woods. Instead of using our friends quad, we borrowed his 4wd tractor to haul the sap. This year we put our homemade evaporator just inside the barn entrance. We still made "batch syrup." We had approximately 150 taps and we made 25 gallons of syrup.
2012 - We sold our homemade evaporator and bought a used 2 1/2' x 8' evaporator. This evaporator is capable of evaporating (removing moisture with heat to get a concentrated product) 50-60 gallons per hour. No more batch syrup! Wow did that go faster! We did have to cut, split and stack a lot more wood. This year we had fewer buckets and added more tubing. Also, besides our property, we were given permission to tap trees on other land owners properties. This season will always be remembered as challenging due to the weather. It warmed up fast and earlier than usual. We only boiled 4 days the entire season. Our 600 taps made 40 gallons of syrup. This goes to show, you can have a "new" evaporator, a "new" tractor (of our own) and more tubing but the weather will always determine the end result. That's farming no matter what you harvest! We learn to take the good and the bad. Did we watch the sunset and the sunrise? Yes. (well Nathan did) Did we have to go to work the next day? Yes. Did we persevere? Yes!
2013 - Our 4th season. Our "bumper crop" year! We made syrup for over 7 weeks! In the end we made 274 gallons of syrup with approximately 1000 taps. How WONDERFUL! The new Reverse Osmosis (RO) machine we purchased removes 75% of the water from the sap before it goes into the evaporator. What use to take 16 hours to boil 800 gallons of sap, now only takes us 4 hours. This helps us use less wood and reduces our carbon footprint. Oh sure, we still got the tractor stuck in the field for a couple hours, burned the syrup pan (not a proud thing to admit), and ran out of wood but that's life, you learn as you go.
2014 - Snow. Lots and LOTS of snow! We had to use snowshoes to tap the trees this year. Our snowmobile and a sled came in handy transporting collection tanks out to the woods because our 4wd tractor broke trying to plow a pathway in the woods. Thankfully our friend allowed us to use his 4wd tractor again. This year we added "vacuum" to some of our taps. Basically a pump (instead of gravity) draws the sap from the tree, through the tubing and into a collection tank. This can give us twice the amount of sap per tap if all goes well. The tree still takes all the sap it needs up the trunk to the branches for future leaf growth. We still haul the sap with a tractor and a large trailer out of the woods and up to the barn where a 1000 gallon stainless steel bulk milk tank (now bulk sap tank) is at. Sap is pumped into this tank, then through the RO. After the RO is finished with its job, the sap is pumped through a tube over to the sugarhouse. Here, it goes into the evaporator until it comes out as maple syrup. Sounds like a lot of work right? It is, but it smells and tastes so GOOD! This year our 1000 taps made 201 gallons of syrup. Another harvest complete!
2015 - Year number 6. Wow time sure does fly! We had approximately 900 taps and made 215 gallons of syrup. Our process was very similar to last year except we no longer drive the tractor and trailer out to the woods to gather sap. We now have a transfer pump (located in a pump house out in the woods) that moves the sap over 1300 feet up to the bulk tank in the barn. This saves us a lot of time because while we are at work and school, sap is pumped up as needed all day long. This syrup season lasted about 4 weeks and we had a few more lessons learned. A pipe froze overnight and about 200 gallons of concentrated sap (after the RO process) could not be used until it thawed. We tried thawing it which was successful, however the gasket in the pipe moved unknown to us, and upon our return to the sugarhouse found the tank empty and the floor wet. We had nothing left to boil that night. Another night, we had a float problem with the evaporator resulting in another burnt syrup pan. This was similar to the 2013 issue we had except this time the pan required a repair, thus ending our 2015 syrup season. Then there was the night Evan and Sally made an emergency room visit for some stitches on Evan's hand! We were still blessed with a bountiful harvest and are thankful for it. We also enjoyed our MANY visitors this year who came our way to learn and keep us company throughout the season. Now let's start preparing for 2016 so our story can continue...
2016 - It never ceases to amaze me how God blesses us. Every year making maple syrup has its trials and triumphs. In the end, when the trees start budding and harvest is over, there are feelings of relief and yet sadness too. Why is it like that? I think it's because as exhausting as it can be, those moments turning into memories are just as sweet as the syrup we are making, and in a way we hate to see the season end. Some of our memories from this year include a bigger sugarhouse, our first Michigan Maple Syrup Weekend (MMSW) and "buying sap." First, we transformed our horse barn into our "new sugarhouse." Now we have LOTS of room! We left some of the "old history" of the barn by leaving most of the horse stalls intact. The dirt floor is now a concrete floor. We are still working on the licensed kitchen area. We recruited the Rogers City Elementary K-5 classes to help us decorate our walls. Secondly, we hosted our first MMSW and felt it was a success. What a perfect, beautiful day it was! Thirdly, we "bought sap" this year. Obviously, besides our own taps (approximately 800-900) individuals tapped their trees (approximately 600-700 more) for a grand total of 1400-1600 taps. This kept us very busy! We were able to make 430 gallons of syrup this year, like I said before, what a blessing! This year we used two larger vacuum pumps with extractors. We had some trial and error, but now understand where the problem was and have fixed it. Our son Evan now has his drivers license and kept busy as our "sap hauler." He made it through the season without stitches this year! Our daughter Jill, helped out wherever she could with making and bringing dinner to us in the sugarhouse, splitting and stacking firewood and other household chores. Producing maple syrup is a group effort for sure! Then there's always the weather in NE Michigan. It snowed, it melted and then snowed again (on spring break) so our season was extended a bit longer! Now, with another harvest over, we continue on from here to sell all of it! Shopping online is a click away on our "Shop our Products" page or if you want to meet us face to face, check out our "Contact Us" page for directions to the farm or where we plan to be selling our products throughout the year. Thank you again to all of our customers! Praise be to our Lord who makes this endeavor possible every year!
2017 - It is important in life to give credit where credit is due. We are not ashamed to say ALL credit is due to our God. We are in awe and always thankful for His countless blessings. His creation, family, friends, our health and this farm just to name a few. Every year we continue to tap trees and guess what? The sap is still in them. Every year, though we lose some very dear friends and family members, the ones we are blessed to continue on with, support us and our endeavors. We truly appreciate everything they do. We can't express this enough. Every morning we wake to a new day and move on with our health, harvest time or not. Days turn into months and years, time passing faster and faster it seems. I once read that, "days are sometimes long, but the years are short"....oh how true those words are!! We bottle syrup, unfortunately, we can not bottle "time." We do continue to make memories along the way... and treasure them. We held our 2nd annual Michigan Maple Weekend and had another great turn out. Jordan, from the Alpena News came by and took a few pictures. Kudos to her for a beautiful story earlier in the season. We had multiple comments about it! Our 2017 harvest was 680 gallons of syrup, our largest harvest to date! Our longest "boil" was 12 hours straight with the R.O. working VERY hard! The tap count was about the same, still around 1000. In addition, we purchased sap again this year. Overall, most things stayed the same, there were only a few changes. All of our equipment remained as last year with the exception of a new pump house and upgrading to stainless steel holding tanks for sap. The largest tank holds 3200 gallons. It definitely came in handy during that 12 hour boil! We also have a new "auto draw off" for the evaporator, as syrup finishes in the pan. This works great with one requirement...electricity. One April evening with a few hours to go, we blew a transformer. WOW can a sugarhouse get dark fast! When you use a wood fired evaporator, syrup keeps boiling. This caused a temporary issue to say the least! So...now with a "manual draw off", a few flashlights (we kept boiling), a wonderful crew from our electric company and a new transformer, we were back to "normal" a few hours later. We won't mention the time! Memories...every year has its own. On a side note, our son Evan graduated from Rogers City High School with honors this year and we are SO proud of him. He will be attending Grand Valley State University this fall for business. The sugarhouse transformed into a great, graduation party location surrounded by our family and friends. We will miss Evan's presence and help around the farm. (There's that time thing again!) Our prayer for him is to continue to grow, do his best and remember where he came from. Here, back at home, Lord willing we will be working, making/selling syrup and looking forward to continued blessings and memories. Our most recent memory (and blessing overall) occurred on June 15. A portion of a large tree came down on top of the new sugarhouse (See pictures in our photo gallery). The last tree that fell, a few years ago, just missed the old sugarhouse. This one, did not miss. After cutting it up and removing it off the roof, damage was minimal. One more side note. Nathan is now a H2O maple equipment dealer. We call it Northeast Michigan Maple Outfitters. If you have any questions and/or maple equipment needs, give him a call! He is knowledgeable and would love to help in anyway he can. As always, our farm is always open to visitors. Give us a call, we would love to have you stop by. After all, time continues to go by...we need to make the most of it!