Not Recommended: Drinking Rafter Sap

by Tig Tillinghast

Things get a little punchy in the sugarhouse after a few hours of boiling. It’s not that infrequent that we wind up overfilling our concentrate tank, allowing it to foam over and start dripping down on us from the rafters. Invariably someone is square under it when that happens. But on a hot, 60-degree day toward the end of the season, this isn’t entirely unwelcome, especially when stoking a fire throwing 900+ degrees against the stack.

[Glug glug glug. Maple syrup it ain’t.]

One friend opted to welcome the drizzle, turning his head up, opening his mouth to take a swig of the falling sap, in hopes of quenching his thirst. This is the last picture I got that stayed in focus, as after he started gagging, I started rolling around laughing. He didn’t realize how much sawdust was going to come down with that sap.

You might note in that picture the funny Coke can antennae hanging from the rafters as well. I put those up there in order to make people avoid clocking their heads on the I-beam we installed there, running outside. We have a small trolley system that can run large barrels of maple syrup or pallets of wood in and out of the sugarhouse. I’ll put up more pictures of that system, but suffice it to say for now that the ugly Coke can strategy has worked pretty well. We’ve had that I-beam at eye-level for a couple weeks, and no one has beaned themselves, which is just short of miraculous.

We broke the 500 gallons of maple syrup mark yesterday in what was probably our second-to-last boil. Today we’re collecting sap, along with more tomorrow, and that’ll very likely be the last boil of 2009. My wife will be very, very pleased about that, but I could stand to have it run a few more weeks. There’s always next year.