[Snakeroot Organic Farm logo]
 • What's New Here
 • Snakeroot Poultry

 • About Our Farm
 • Annual Farm Tour
 • Community Supported
    Agriculture Plan (CSA)
Directions to our Farm
 • From a Run Out Hayfield to
    a Prosperous Organic Farm
    in Ten Easy Years

 • Get Real. Get Organic!
 • History of Our Farm
 • Pictures of the Farm
 • Where We Buy
 • Where We Sell
 • Our Yearly Work Schedule
 • Just Pretty
 • Subscribe to our e-newsletter.
 • Newsletter Archive.
 • What We Will & Won't Ship

 • Working Here
 • Our Apprentices
 • Our Farm Workers
 • Pictures of Us at Market

 • Fresh Vegetables
 • Fresh Fruit
 • Fresh Herbs
 • Perennials
 • Aloe - a magical plant
 • Our Bird Houses
 • Lupines
 • Rosemary Plants
 • Lovage, Tansy & Yarrow
 • Our Product Brochures
 • Dried Vegetables
 • Dried Culinary Herbs
 • Maple Syrup
 • Maple Syrup, p.2
 • Sugarin' Is Like Ice Fishin'
 • Our New Sugarhouse
 • Tomato Seedlings
 • Tomato Seeds We Offer
 • Tomato Seed Production
 • Paste Tomatoes
 • About Garlic
 • Garlic for Sale
 • Garlic Year Round
 • Mulching Garlic
 • Growing Rounds from Bulbils
 • Whole Bulbil Cluster Method
 • Planting Garlic

 • Using Mulches
 • Combatting Quackgrass
    with Mulch

 • We Want Your Leaves!
 • In Praise of Chips

 • Buying in Bulk for
    Storage, Canning & Freezing

 • Winter Storage Tips
 • How to Freeze Our Veggies
 • Building Techniques
 • Our Outbuildings
 • Evolution of the Farm Table
 • The Story of Our Cooler
 • Prepping Veggies for Market
 • Crop Rotations
 • Drip Irrigation
 • Low Pressure Water
 • Planting with Spreadsheets
 • Greenhouse Vegetable

 • Let-tuce Begin
 • Recipe Favorites
 • Our "Remay Roller"
 • Gardening Class Notes
 • Your Most Expensive Crop

 • Being Green
 • Digging Potatoes by Hand
 • Farmers' Markets in 2012
 • History of Pittsfield
 • Hybrids or Open Pollinated?
 • Making Websites
 • Open Source Software

    Our Retirement Plan
 • How Should a Farmer Retire?
 • Impediments to the want-to-be     farmer
 • Reducing the Value
    of the Land

 • Who Will Farm Here When
    We're Gone?

 • Apprentice Terms and Stages
 • From Apprentices to Partners
 • Transferring Farm Ownership

…and now for something completely different…

At dawn
Canoe bow waves are quickly lost
    on the shoreside
But go on out of sight
    on the lake side.


The constant swish-swish of skis
    On a day long ski.
The constant swish-swish of wiper blades
    On a day long drive.


My dog, trotting barefoot
Steps on a garden slug
And thinks
Nothing of it.


Word spreads quickly
as I approach the pond.
All becomes quiet.


Hidden in the vines
a large warted cucumber
jumps out of reach.
A toad!


Delicate puffs
of marshmallow snow
carefully perched
on a branch,
await the trigger of my hat
to melt their way down my back.

Deep in the tomato jungle
Fruits of yellow, purple and red
Tell of their readiness
To go to market.

Sugarin' Chores
Snowflakes hurry through my flashlight beam,
As my boots knead new snow with spring mud,
On my nightly Hajj to keep the boil alive,
For as long as possible until the dawn,
To match the power of the flowing sap,
With my meager evaporator and will.
The prize at the finish line are jars of syrup
And Spring.


Maple Sugaring
Photos. . .

. . . from the 2005 sugaring season at Snakeroot Organic Farm.
The season began on February 5th, continued for two weeks, stopped for three weeks, then began again on March 13 and lasted until March 31. During many of those days we were boiling almost around the clock in our small 18" x 36" evaporator.

We have seven trees tapped singley, where the sap is collected at each tree. We do this because some of our trees are easy to get to (near the side of the driveway) but hard to reach with maple tubing. The pair pictured here wakes up late and is always a good producer late in the season, even though it is in an open location and not shaded by surrounding trees. This pair of maples is right beside the driveway on your right at the end of the driveway when you drive in.

THE EAST LINE - 69 taps.
Most of our sap is collected via maple tubing running downhill to the sugarhouse from up to a thousand feet away to the west, north and east. Small 3/16" maple lines run from tap to tap on the trees, then dump into a ½" main line after collecting sap from two to thirty trees, depending upon the density of trees and the local slope of the land. Sap from these smaller branch lines empties into a main line on its way to the sugarhouse. It is these main lines that run into 5 gallon jugs or 30 gallon barrels near the sugarhouse.

Here you can see the 5 gallon jug at the end of the East line. In a day with a good sap run, this jug will have to be emptied every 90 minutes. In 2005 there was a ten day period where almost every day was a very good sap run.

Shoveling the thirty foot path to the jug must be done after every snow.

This is the view if you walk up to the jug in the previous picture and look back up the line.

The East Main Line as it arrives from the sugarbush. This side of the bush has less slope that the west and north branch lines, so the line approaches close to the ground as it arrives to give the line maximum slope. As you can see in times of deep snows, the line can be buried in snow, which means it won't thaw very easily even on a sunny day. On good sap flow days after a heavy snow, such lines need to be cleared of snow so the frozen sap in the lines has a chance to thaw and begin running downhill again. The area where the snow is cleared from around the line is actually two feet off the ground.

In the distance you can see a lighter colored branch line as it heads down to the main line.

THE WEST LINE - 54 taps.
The West Line was our first attempt to use regular black plastic ½" water pipe for a main line. The cost is about 2/3 of what the regular blue ½" maple main line costs, and many maple operations are using it. After having lived with it for two years, I would not recommend it on any installation with a slight slope like the West Line has. The reason is that with the black pipe it is impossible to tell if there is any sap being retained in the slight sags that occur between supports. In a setup with a good slope, even the uphill side of a sag is still headed down hill. In a very moderate slope setup, the blue maple ½" lines are translucent enough that you can see if the sap is collecting where it shouldn't. Live and learn.

You can see the difference in this picture as the last one foot extension on the line is the regular blue maple line. Regular hardware store fittings for ½" plastic pipe fits both types of line.

THE NORTH LINE (30 taps)
THE BUS LINE (111 taps)
- 141 taps total.
We have connected these two lines together just so they can both empty into the same container. When the sap flow really begins, the 5 gallon jugs will fill up in less than 30 minutes, so we use 30 gallon plastic trash cans to collect the sap. Even these fill in less than a day, so during the height of the season we set two together and use a length of maple tubing to siphon them together giving us 60 gallons of storage.

Here you can see the flow rate is pretty fast, and this keeps up for six to eight hours on a good sap day. After several days in a row like this, panic sets in as we begin to run out of sap storage space. Next to the barrels you can see a stack of ½ gallon recycled juice jugs in trays. We have enough of these to hold another 50 gallons of sap.

Our evaporator will boil down between 40-50 gallons in a day if we boil from 7am to 10 pm. This makes for a long day.

Stepping back from the last picture we see the two 30 gallon barrels with the jugs stacked next to them. On the left is the West Line and on the right is the Middle Line, with its 24 taps. One of the reasons this site was chosen for the new sugarhouse was that for most of the day the sap jugs are not sitting in the sun. This is not especially important early in the season, but as season winds down with warmer weather, the sun-warmed sap can sour quickly. This photo was taken at about 11 in the morning.

Turning about we look toward the sugarhouse, with the West Line in the foreground. This sugarhouse was built in December of 2002, using ideas gleaned from the shortcomings of the first sugarhouse built in December 2000. We made it larger to hold more dry firewood, added more shelving to hold all the miscellaneous syruping implements, and made more work space.

It also has a steam vent which has prevented clouds from forming in the sugarhouse on windless days. The vent can be partially closed on rainy days and completely closed for the off-season. The top of the steam vent propped wide open can be seen next to the stovepipe.

Plastic sides and a plastic skylight over the evaporator provide plenty of light until just after dusk, when the flashlights come out.

Besides boiling, the sugarhouse is used for STORAGE! Storage of dry firewood for the boiling season and storage of sap ready to go into the evaporator. At the start of the season firewood fills about 60 percent of the sugarhouse.

On the right is the evaporator and on the left is a third barrel (of four), more trays of ½ gal. jugs, and the seven 5 gallon jugs, all holding sap waiting its turn to be boiled. Additionally we have six 2½ gal water jugs; all told our storage capacity is around 250 gallons, not including the evaporator itself, which holds 15 gallons when full.


Every morning the now cooled almost-syrup from last evening's final stoking is drained off into jugs to be brought up to the house for final finishing over the wood cookstove. Meanwhile the ashes need to be cleaned out under the firebox, and the new fire laid as new sap is added to the evaporator, keeping in mind to use the "first in, first out" system for the sap storage so you are boiling the oldest sap first, lest it go sour if kept too long. Once the new sap is in the pan the fire may be lit. In a few minutes larger sticks are laid upon the blazing kindling; shortly after that the logs and quartered logs laid on the fire and soon what was 15 gallons of cold sap just minutes before sings as it tentatively begins to simmer.

It is at this point that a few wisps of steam can be noticed wafting above the evaporator. Ten minutes later the roar of the fire is drowned out by the rush of the boil, a sound reminiscent of a waterfall that signals sap is being turned in to syrup. The evaporator fire will need re-stoking every 45 minutes to an hour.

The formerly smooth surface is now jumping with excitement in every corner of the evaporator. Steam bellows forth, up into the steam vent, instantly clouding the glasses of any who attempt a closer look. Mere sap is being turned into mighty syrup!

Through the fired hours of evaporation and carmelization, the alchemy of transformation occurs where the slightly sweet sap of a local tree is turned into a highly sweet and uniquely flavorful syrup sought by millions to lift their spirits on a pancake morning.

The maple steam and the roar of the boil last only a few weeks each year, and occur in all the world only in a relativeley small region of northeastern North America; but within that time and space can be experienced and even performed by anyone wishing to tap a tree and to light a fire.

In the view of the sugarhouse, you can see how the snow has melted away from the stovepipe and steam vent. In 2004, the roof over the evaporator was improved by adding a board roof covered with roll roofing. The rest of the roof covering the end with the firewood is still the original used greenhouse plastic, which allows much more light into the sugarhouse, as can be seen in the next picture.

Just a week away from the end of the 2005 sugaring season, you can see there is still plenty of firewood left. Better too much than too little! Much of this wood was put under cover the previous fall and is not quite dry enough for prime burning wood, but will be perfect for the 2006 season. At the start of the season, the firewood came right up to the back of the chair, full from one side to the other.

More Questions? Want to Visit? Get in touch.

27 Organic Farm Road, Pittsfield Maine 04967
owned and operated by
Tom Roberts & Lois Labbe
Tom: Tom@snakeroot.net (cell) 207-416-5417
Lois: Lois@snakeroot.net (cell) 207-416-5418

Gardening for the public since 1995.

top of page File name: Maple2.shtml
Version: Wednesday 12 February, 2014
Creative Commons License This website is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.