Ice Bucket

For the maple sap to run, you need cold (below freezing) nights, and warm (above freezing) days. In this neighborhood, this magic time of the spring season gives us anywhere from 2 – 5 weeks of this weather. One caveat to this rule of thumb is if we get several nights of above freezing weather, the trees may decide to bud, ending the sugaring season.

icebucketThe below freezing nights can cause some problems for the boiling operation the next day. The sap can freeze in the storage barrel, and especially in the valve pipe from which I draw the syrup into the bucket for transfer into the evaporator. When this happens, I have to somehow thaw the pipe before I can start boiling.

One solution I’ve come up with over the years is to draw some sap into gathering buckets the night before. That way I can usually find a way to get the sap into the evaporator even if things freeze. The picture is what happened on a very cold (single digit) night recently. I was able to pour some of the sap out of the bucket, but the majority of the contents had frozen solid. Luckily the bucket was tapered, and was able to get the ice plug out and into the evaporator. As the sap heated up, the frozen plug gradually disappeared into the boiling fluid. As I was going about my business that day, I smiled several times when I saw that unlikely cylinder of ice slowly sinking into the boiling sap.

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