Autumn Update: From Backyard Sugarer to Commercial Syrup Production

After much preparation and anticipation, Doug Munroe's sugar house is up! In the true spirit of traditional house raising, the family gathered, coming from far off places. They brought skills, creativity, sweat, and jubilation.

The week of raising, August 1-8, was one of pure mountainous glory, as the meadows were full of flowers, butterflies fluttered about in great numbers and variety, and the skies offered several days of rain-free weather. With architectural plans in hand, a horse pulled logging crew and sawyer, a crew of experienced carpenters, and another crew providing food and drink...locust and poplar were turned into a sugar house in a week, save for some complicated connections on the roof.

As roof construction reached the final details, it became apparent that finding the right roof jack for the flue opening would be a challenge. That issue was resolved, and after many technical challenges, the roof jack was secured. Since then the roof has been completed, all the way to the cupola. A tin roof was installed, and custom flashing was made. The siding is up, and two holes were cut, making room for two large windows that hold old wavy and bubbly glass panes. Today, Doug is building a front door. Next week an electrician will arrive to install lights and wiring.

With the timing of September’s drought and the addition of the sugar house, Doug is quite overwhelmed. Like many other farmers throughout the region, there is a rush to do work that could not be done when the ground was dry and hard. Gardens are being tended for next year’s crop, remaining hay is being harvested, grading and hole digging has commenced, and the time for gathering firewood is upon us. Busy, busy , busy!

While Doug tends to his usual tasks, including the planting of saplings for his tree nursery, he’s scrambling to ensure the sugar harvest operation is ready in time for next February’s sap drop. It looks like the sugar house and related equipment will be in place in plenty of time. The final and hefty bit of work to is to install tubing. This can be a complex thing to do, especially on complex terrain. So, to gain some confidence and hands-on experience, Doug will be traveling to northern Vermont in early November for a class at a tubing demonstration site . The workshop will be held at Leader Evaporator Company’s retail facility in Swanton, Vermont (to learn more: ).

The trip will also be used to save shipping costs. Doug will pick up the final pieces of major equipment needed, including 3 tanks, a custom-built evaporator and a filtering sytem. This should save nearly $500 in shipping costs! The resulting tubing experience and increased confidence in using tubing tools should bring the sugar operation to a state of readiness!

2011 production estimates: Doug anticipates that he will produce about 20 gallons of syrup in 2011. He will be selling it in 8oz. and 12oz. portions because of the limited quantity and the large amount of requests. In summer of 2011 the final remaining network of tubes and maple trees will be tied into the production system, and that will greatly increase capacity for 2012. American umbrellaleaf fruit, Diphylleia cymosa.

All images ©Devin Floyd.

Doug Munroe shares his story. Video by Sheridan Hill. July, 2010.

Links to prior articles:
Introduction 2009
November update, 2009
December update, 2009
February update, 201o
March update, 2010
Summer update, 2010