So I’m not sure what this has to do with canoeing the Mississippi, but I thought it was cool so what the hell.

Last night Phil and I went out to the indian reservation a few miles east of Northland to help make Maple Syrup.  Phil did this last week too so he showed me the ropes while I stood in awe of the scorching furnace used to boil over 200 gallons of sap.



The furnace with the sap in the square box on top

The fire that had been built was so hot, the full size logs that we were throwing into would fully ignite in less than a minute, and the metal sides of the furnace glowed red hot all night long.


Inside the furnace

The work we were doing wasn’t physically difficult.  All we need to do was stoke the fire every once in a while and make sure the sap was siphoned into the container at the same rate as it the water was being boiled off.  This required us to stay awake and check things every half hour or so.  We started boiling around 8:00pm and finally finished around 8:30 the next morning.  Phil was a real trooper and only slept for about 45 minutes, while I lay down on the ground and knocked out at 2:30, waking up around 5 to see Phil still dutifully throwing stuff into the fire.  Now that the sap has been boiled down, Steve and Joe will take it and refine it further somewhere else.  The whole process should be done in a week or so, and then Phil and I will receive a jar or two of pure Maple Syrup!

While this is not an activity I would want to do on a regular basis, this is not an experience I will am soon to forget.  Joe and Steve told some great stories over the night, and it was really amazing to see the whole process through from start to finish.  I hope we have lots of special experiences like these while we make our way down the Mississippi. (See how I tied in our trip at the end there?  Pretty slick, eh?)


Phil and Steve


Phil and Wool Blanket



For those of you who have never done this before I figure I should tell a little bit more about whats going on here behind the scenes. First of all, out of 200 gallons of sap (one week worth of harvesting) only 5 gallons of syrup is made. For all you math buffs out there, that is a 40/1 ratio. Myself and Rich will probably get a couple of jars out of that syrup for the trip but the primary reason to be out there is to gain the skill and help out some wonderful people who are being hit hard by the recession. Joe along with Steve and his family live completely off the grid, they harvest their own crops, generate their own wind and solar energy. They heat their home with a wood stove and do all of their own canning and preserving. Not to mention they live right on the shores of lake superior. 

The sugar bush is about a quarter of a mile walk off of a backwoods dirt road. There are exactly 65 trees that are tapped and sap is collected from them by Steve once or twice a day depending on the weather. There may be one more boil that happens before the season is over and the sap stops flowing but so long as they are able to fill the tank, I will be out there lending a helping hand. The sap that is made has no additives or preservatives. 100% natural and because it was made over a wood hearth there is a natural woody/smokey flavor in the sap that makes it have a real sharp tang when drunk straight. None of this sap is made for profit it is all given away as gifts and sees Steve and his family through next winter. 

One of the tricks I used to stay awake, is I keep a teapot full of sap boiling that I can use to make tea at anytime throughout the night. If you ever have the opportunity to make tea out of pure tree sap(not syrup), do it! it is delicious and it has enough sugar to keep one awake and slightly wired. 

Until Next time, 



One Response to “Syruping”

  1. […] to Joe Rose’s Sugar Bush (If you don’t remember, all these things were mentioned in a previous post…).   Our adventure start with a quarter mile portage to get to the river, and then we were […]

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