We tapped our first tree in 2009 after being laid off of work in the spring. I started off with 24 taps/12 trees and a 30 gallon cast iron kettle and a wheelbarrow to haul sap. Needless to say, I got a lot of sap and couldn't keep up boiling.
The next year, 2010; I updated with a wood-fired, 2'x6'x12" flat pan which held 100 gallons of sap and a 4-wheeler. This was fun, I could keep up boiling and haul sap without a problem. Well, now I needed more sap.
So 2011, I put about 125 taps in and was ready to make syrup. After the season, I went back to the drawing board and said, "I have to have more taps next year!" The year 2012, I was geared up for a big season, but mother nature had different plans. That year it was a warm spring and didn't get hardly anything. We had to wash a lot of tubing for nothing.
In 2013, we purchased a 400 gallon vacuum holding tank to hold all our sap. Needless to say, we got a lot of sap!! My evaporated ran 27 days straight day and night non-stop. Eating about 10 cords of wood!! Well, now I was getting too much sap and couldn't evaporate it fast enough. The fall of 2013, I meet a good friend "Allen" in Wisconsin and he approached me and asked me if wanted to purchase his equipment! WOW---his equipment was huge! Like he said, "if your going to jump in, you might as we wet!" We purchased his equipment and had to build a shed.
In 2014, we ran his equipment and it was impressive! This is a 4'x14' fuel-oil evaporator, evaporating a whopping 180-200 per hour. Now that was making syrup! We entered out 3 grades of syrup into the MN State Fair for the first time and winning in all 3 grades; light, medium, and dark amber of syrup and Best in Show by the MMSPA (Minnesota Maple Syrup Producers' Association!
The year 2015, let's start using tubing and putting some on gravity. This meant only 1 collection point and less pail picking. This worked great with the workload becoming less labor intensified.
In 2016, we used a lot of tubing and started phasing out our pails slowly. Installing more tubing and more tubing. Built a vacuum pump/pump house with electricity. in 2017, we introduced vacuum to the trees, and this was definitely making life easier in the terms of "collecting sap!" we had a few pails only left and the vacuum was now in full swing.
The Fall of 2017, we partnered with Coborn's, Cashwise, and The Market Place producing the brand name "Four Brothers" maple syrup. We produce, bottle, and label this brand of syrup, here at The Syrup Ranch. Currently, we have 11 other stores with our syrup throughout central MN.
The year 2018, remains all up in the air and see where the road takes "The Syrup Ranch!"