We left off on the subject of tapping! After we tap and the lines are flushed out, we begin the process of collecting maple sap.
While gravity works just fine to transport sap from the trees on the hill to the sap tank at the bottom, we typically encourage the process by using a special type of vacuum. It hooks into a hunting cabin at the bottom of the sap bush and runs during the day to pull the sap down the hill more efficiently. If there are any holes in the tubing, air escapes, and the vacuum won’t work as well. It has to be turned on and off manually each day the sap runs, which is a hassle, and also requires running into a scary poster of Marge Simpson that the cabin owners have next to the circuit box.
The vacuum pulls the sap into chambers, which alternately drop the sap down into a big tank. Big, I realize, is relative, but they’ve only gotten more ridiculous over the years as my dad taps more and more trees in the sap bush. We’ve been using ones larger than a pickup truck. They require multiple people to move them from their home by the sap house onto a truck. When they get to the sap bush, we roll them off the trucks and into place at the bottom of the hill, where they sit for the season. Once spring comes, they get packed back onto the truck and brought back for cleaning and storage.
The newest addition is one sitting in the front yard that can only be moved by a tractor. It will become a permanent sap bush fixture once we find someone to dig out a spot for it. It’s good for collecting maple sap, but unfortunately it also collects leaves, rain, dirt, and everything else.
A maple friend lets my dad borrow his trailer each year for transporting loads of sap back and forth. It hooks onto the tractor or a truck and gets driven back and forth from our house. We load it with two or three small tanks and a pump that pulls from the large tanks into the trailer ones. The trailer and tanks can carry 1,000 gallons at a time.
The RO Machine
Once a load is brought to our house, we run the sap through a reverse-osmosis (RO) machine in our basement. The RO pulls most of the excess water out of the sap, making its maple concentration higher before boiling. This helps our productivity tremendously, since it pulls the water out of the sap at a fraction of the time and cost it would take to boil it all in the evaporator without concentrating.
I don’t understand much about the specifics of what the RO does or how it does it. I do know that like most machines, it tends to act up. It shuts itself off sometimes, and will typically flood our basement at least once a season, making my dad very upset.
Once processed through the RO, the sap runs through a pipe from the basement down to our sap house, where it’s finished by the evaporator.
That’s the process for collecting maple sap and ro-ing it. We’ll discuss the evaporator next week!