A Setback

When we “draw off” syrup from the evaporator, it is usually just shy of syrup. Where the reading for syrup is 32 on the hydrometer, we usually draw off around 30. Then when we bottle the syrup, we boil it on the woodstove for 20 minutes or so, until it is bonafide syrup. We then pour the syrup into sterilized jars, cap it, and put it aside until it is needed.

The evaporator holds about 3 gallons of fluid in the boiling pan. Depending on when we drew off last, the fluid can be quite syrupy, or not very syrupy. Still, there is a lot of sugar in the pan.

Today I bottled most of the day, and got almost 4 gallons of syrup done. There are still several jars of syrup in the refrigerator to be done, but I ran out of time. We needed to get back out into the woods, gather whatever sap the trees gave us, and boil enough to get caught up.

While I was starting the fire, and preparing to fill the reservoir with yesterday’s sap, I heard Alice say, “Oh gross!” She’d discovered a dead mouse in the syrup in the evaporator pan. This, of course ruined everything in the evaporator for human consumption. We emptied the evaporator and got about 3 gallons of fluid. I estimate there was probably 4-5 quarts of syrup in this fluid… a significant portion of this year’s harvest.

I have to admit I was a little grouchy throughout this ordeal. When a setback such as this occurs, your mind has to race to figure out what to DO. After removing the poor embalmed mouse, and emptying the pan, we cleaned the whole thing out, rinsed it, and filled it up with the sap we had left. Then I left the fire to Alice while I gathered. I’d say 1/4 of the trees had sap too yellow to gather, so I tossed it on the ground. From the rest of the trees, I probably gathered 2 gallons of sap. This was added to what was currently in the evaporator. We then banked the fire, and left for the day.

We had one other mouse incident in the past, where the poor unfortunate fellow got into the bucket we use to catch the filtered boiling syrup when we draw off. Had I have looked into that bucket before I drew off, its life would have been spared. I now, by the way, always look into that bucket before I draw off. How today’s mouse got into the evaporator is a mystery to me. The sides of the pan are smooth stainless steel; too slick to climb, in my opinion. I suppose the mouse could have been climbing around on the rafters above the evaporator and slipped in. Whatever the reason for the mishap, we’ll have less syrup to bottle this year.

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