In Maple Syrup Biz, Big Log Pile Means Security

by Tig Tillinghast

sugarshack-maple-log-pileHaving a big log pile reminds me of being 16 back when I had my dad’s car and had just filled up the gas tank. So many options; so much potential. I have that feeling now as I look across the street from my house at this big, honking pile of hardwood. We took about 24 cord of it off the lot that surrounds the working sugarhouse.

Last year we managed to burn about a dozen cord of wood in the process of making 520 gallons of maple syrup. We’ll have a total between 30 and 40 cord by the time we’re done. Might be enough for two years, then again, maybe we’ll get some folks sending us some additional sap.

I’ll be heading up to Vershire tomorrow morning to pick up some old tin roofing a friend is setting aside as he takes down a falling farmhouse on his woodlot. Will be sure to stock him up with a good amount of maple syrup. This tin will go atop the split and stacked wood. It’s just about the best thing to help dry it out. The wood starts off about 40 percent water when it’s split. By the time it’s dry enough for my tastes, it’s gone down to between 15 and 17 percent water – about as low as wood can go in Vermont’s outdoor air. We had a doohickey with long prongs you could stick in the end of a log to tell its moisture level. It was sitting out until a friend’s twin boys came by and started to try to test each other’s moisture levels. Turns out they’re both about 85 percent water incidentally, which makes sense, as they’re twins.

In retrospect, the number of gallons of maple syrup we made last year relative to the wood we burned indicates that our pre-concentration of the sap isn’t as strong as I’d like it to be. Suggests we’re concentrating the maple sugar in that fluid only between 2 and 3 times. We’d much rather see between 5 and 6 times concentration, as that’s where we’ve been able to show consistently that the flavor remains the same after going through our reverse osmosis machine. Just for the sake of argument, if we did concentrate by 6x, then the wood we have on hand could make more than 4,000 gallons of maple syrup, if you could find the sap. That gets the mind going.