This was a difficult Sunday for many sap houses across the state. It’s been extraordinarily cold in northern New England and the longer than normal Winter season is taking its toll on maple syrup producers from Ohio to Maine. I just read a few comments on a maple syrup forum and a lot of people were complaining that their yields are a quarter of what they were last year. They don’t expect much more from what this year has to offer. From what I understand, things can change from Winter to Spring in a blink of an eye and syrup season will be all but a memory.
Just yesterday, we had our first Maine Maple Sunday. This is somewhat of a holiday in this state. People from all over come out to enjoy what local sap houses have to offer. I go on and on about the “culture” of the sap house. How you can sit inside one of these things and become mesmerized by the wood stove and all the steam. Last year’s experience was just perfect. And after I explained what goes on to Laura’s brother, he asked when we could start building our own sap house. It’s that good. I’m just waiting for that perfect year to get going. I still need some gear.
The sap houses in the area weren’t running. We stopped by Luce’s in Anson and had a good time. Even though they didn’t have their stove on, they did offer lots of samples of different types of food. We enjoyed the maple ice cream – a lot. I also liked looking through their sap house in stasis. These things have a lot of memories, I’m sure. Take a look through the pictures below and you’ll see what I’m talking about. You can almost hear the guys talking as they’re priming all the equipment. All that “stuff” collected. What I wouldn’t give.
We drove around a bit after we visited Luce’s. We kind of cruised through some local back roads. We even found an abandoned sap house up on a hill. I have a picture of that too. How can someone just abandon a sap house? I wonder if I can somehow move that to my back yard.
After we drove through the back roads, we quickly, and I mean quickly visited the lake nearby. It was a fast visit because the wind coming off the lake was traveling about 100mph and was extremely cold. I haven’t felt that kind of cold here yet. Gives new meaning to the phrase “wind chill.” Holy cow.
Enjoy the pictures. Ask questions. Leave comments.
This is the abandoned sap house we found. How cool is that?
These are a few pictures of the lake down the road. Check out the ice fishing cabin.
Maine Maple Sunday at Maple Hill Farm in Farmington, Maine
A different Maine Maple Sunday…
This was a really good one. I’ve been to some sugar houses in my day and I have to say that this particular sugar house was a lot of fun. I’m not sure if it was because of the energy of all the people inside of it or if it was because of all the steam coming out of the boiler, but I am sure it was a good time.
We almost didn’t have a Maine Maple Sunday this year. We had originally planned on going to a new sugar house that wasn’t too far from where we lived, but when we passed by, all I saw was a pickup truck sitting on the side of the road nearby. I wasn’t sure if it was the right place and when we deduced that it was, in fact, the right place, I felt all weird about being pretty much the only people there. When I go to these things, I need action. And steam. Lots and lots of steam.
After we decided to skip that one, I just kept on driving. I asked Laura if she wanted to head up to Sugarloaf for an event they were having up there, but she suggested that we head into Farmington instead. We heard whispers of a gathering on Titcomb Hill Road. I had no idea where that was, so I decided to drive down a back road that offered good views of the hills. Little did I know, we were actually on Titcomb Hill Road and after we drove for a few miles, we saw some cars lined up on the shoulder. And that’s when I saw all the steam. Tons of steam.
We pulled over and began walking towards the sugar house. I was pretty excited because I hadn’t seen a functioning evaporator in some time. It’s hit or miss when it comes to finding sap this time of year and for the past few years, it’s been less than the best. Last year was okay, but the years before that were only sort of okay.
As we were walking towards the building, I snapped a few photos. I saw an old truck in the woods and I just had to get it. I love these old trucks and if my eyes aren’t deceiving me, I think this one is a Ford F750. I have a Ford F250, so this one is quite a bit heavier duty.
I could tell the farm was having a good day of boiling because steam was pouring out of the roof. It was actually billowing. Good stuff.
By the way, the place we stopped at was called Maple Hill Farm and I was so eager to get inside. First though, I thought I’d take a photo of the countryside around the Farmington, Maine area. It’s always a pleasure to see that from such a vantage point.
Of course, I had to take pictures of some odds and ends on the way into the sugar house. This one is of the firewood they use in the evaporator along with a few syrup barrels.
I’m not sure what this one is, but my hunch is that it’s a piece of an old wire spool.
And finally, we have the entrance sign.
Okay, let’s get inside. I’ll show you the coolest thing first. This is one of the guys feeding the evaporator some firewood. It was so hot over on that end. I know because I shot some video over there and I was getting a bit heated. Lots of energy needed to boil off this volume of sap.
And this is what the entrance to the stove looks like.
It was such a hot fire.
Here are a few photos of the evaporator at work. The guys there told me that it was cranking even more before we showed up. I love this stuff.
This is a bucket of sap resting in the evaporator waiting to be filtered. It’s got to stay warm.
And this is a really cool shot of the steam rising up to exit the opening in the roof.
This is the view from the end of the evaporator.
These are the channels that the almost done syrup flows through.
And last but not least, we have a close-up of some boiling syrup.
Oh yeah, one more of the steam. This is of it exiting the hole in the roof.
Next, I’ll show you some of what the inside of the sugar house looked like. There was interesting stuff all over the place.
Here’s a shot of the current crew and visitors.
The owners of the farm were selling all sorts of really good food. The ice cream with the syrup drizzled over it was my favorite.
Here are some barrels that are full of pure maple syrup.
I believe this machine filters the maple syrup, but I’m not 100% positive.
I have some video of this machine in operation down below.
And finally for the photos, I have some unused buckets that were waiting to be filled.
And then some old snowshoes. This is so classic Maine. Everyone has some of these somewhere.
I think I can sum up today’s visit as interesting. I think my favorite part of doing things like this is looking around to see what’s going on inside the sugar houses. There’s bound to be old stuff that’s been there forever. It sort of reminds me of when I was a kid. I enjoy the fact that structures like this have been standing for such a long time. It’s nice to see something that hasn’t changed all that much through the years.
Anyway, let me show you the video from today. This was so much fun to take. The best part is, out of the six clips used to make this video, I didn’t have to cut anything out. My favorite part is the talking. You get a pretty good picture of what visiting a sugar house like this is all about. Just a few people chatting about syrup and eating some food. It’s a good time.
If you’re reading this post via email, you’ll need to click the following link to view the video. Videos don’t show up in the emails.