I know…. it’s a bit out of season to be talking about maple syrup in late April, with the buds coming out on the trees and all…..but somehow the month of March seemed to slip away from me this year. Still, we spent so much of that month boiling down sap and making maple syrup that I thought I would share–even if I am a month late . Last year we boiled our sap down on our stove in the kitchen, which worked fine since we had a very powerful hood over the stove, but this year, at the new place, we needed a better set up. We have more trees now (and consequently lots more sap to deal with) and the stove at our new place is lacking a hood, so it was clear to us that the kitchen was not going to be an option. So Ben decided to build an evaporator pan. He got a few ideas for designs from various books, bought a large piece of stainless steel from a local industrial supply place (yes, it was quite a challenge fitting it into the Honda Civic), and hammered it together. Bending the stainless steel proved to be more difficult than he’d anticipated (and reminded him that he really does need torch and a welder), but he made it work–as he somehow always does. There were two stoves made from old barrels that had been left in the barn when we bought the new house, and Ben cut a big hole in the top of one of them to accommodate the evaporator pan. Then it was just a matter of keeping the fire going, keeping the pan filled with sap, and lots and lots of boiling. We started with about 68 gallons of sap, which we boiled down over several weekends in March, and at the end of it all, we were left with little bit more than 1 3/4 gallons of syrup. It’s a small yield for sure, but we were pleasantly surprised that we ended up with as much syrup as we did actually, as we’d heard that due to the warm weather it was a really terrible year for many of the commercial syrup producers. Of course we love the end result of have home-produced syrup to enjoy, but we also just really enjoy the process of making it. And this year was even more fun, doing the boiling outdoors. On our final day of boiling, we were out well into the evening trying to finish up the last of it. Sitting around the stove, on a clear, crisp night bright with stars, occasionally tasting the hot, slowly-sweetening sap….well, I couldn’t have asked for a better late-march saturday night than that.