This blog is about our travels in our solar powered "Airstream" and living off grid, in our passive solar home, near Bancroft, Ontario, Canada.

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Monday, 30 March 2015


Paul brought over a 3 lb splake he caught yesterday.

Looks like we will be having fish and chips for supper.

More snow last night and I don't want to talk about it.

Enjoy your day, I have the fire going.

Saturday, 28 March 2015


We've had maple syrup in storage for a week and today was the boil off day.

Early this morning we started the process.

About noon Dereck and  Jacquie arrived to photograph our house. They are a lovely couple and we had a great time showing them around and getting to know them.

Jim and Pierrette dropped by to see how our boiling was progressing. They live just down the road and have tapped trees for sap this year. We share ideas and stories about our maple syrup production.

It was cold but sunny so we bundled up and enjoyed the time around the evaporator.

Carol and Don made sure the boil pans were kept stocked and Mary checked the level of sap in the final pan to make sure we didn't boil over and burn the pan.

By five o'clock we were bottling the syrup. Carol made sure nothing got spilled.

Now it's time to relax, have supper and watch a movie.

Thanks for stopping by and keeping an eye on us.

Friday, 27 March 2015


Since the sap isn't flowing I suggested we tackle the kitchen  back-splash. We've had the tile for over a year but just didn't have the extra hands to get the job done. With Don here I knew we would be finished before lunch.

The section under the stove hood was very easy. Mary cleaned off the excess glue that squeezed out between the tile.

Don made sure the fit was perfect.

By lunch we had the job done. 

Thanks Don, wouldn't have happened without you. Now we are ready for the photographer tomorrow.

Time for lunch. 

Thanks for stopping by.


It's a white world this morning; more snow last night. No sap today. This is frustrating. Carol and Don are here to work not sit by the wood stove watching the snow come down. Not much we can do to change things.

Thursday, 26 March 2015


Carol and Don came to help us boil sap. Unfortunately it's been too cold for the sap to flow but this afternoon looks promising and we will check our buckets later.

This morning we stopped by to visit Gerry's sugar shack. He has an excellent setup back in the bush at the base of a hill.

His sap is delicious and he explained how he boils it down over an open flame. As you can see the evaporator was working overtime and the sap smelled sweet, ready to bottle.

We did collect sap after 4 and ended up with about 70 litres. That will give us a little more than a litre of maple syrup by the time we finish boiling. If the weather co-operates we will boil tomorrow.

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels everyone.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015


Sunday Paul, Olga, Tien and Minna headed home. It was great to have some time together and we appreciated their help in collecting the sap.

Before leaving we took one last walk down to the lake. You can see how happy Freckles was to be able to roll in the snow.

After lunch we walked down to check on the neighbours sap boiling. They only do a few bottles each year so need just a small fire-pit. 

Then it was on to see Jim's evaporator. He did an excellent job of building an evaporator that will last forever. Nice job Jim.

Yesterday it was in to town for supplies. I noticed the waterfall is still frozen. Looks like another month before we see it disappear.

Tomorrow Don and Carol arrive to help us with the sap collecting and boiling. It is wonderful to have family drop by when they can to help and share in the work.

Enjoy your coffee and thanks for stopping by.

Monday, 23 March 2015


Saturday was a busy day here; everyone helped in bottling the sap.

Paul made sure the filter didn't fall over while Mary poured the sap.

Once filtered it was then poured into the bottles and sealed ready for consumption at some later date.

The maple syrup is delicious this year and nice and dark, just the way we like it on our pancakes.

Minna and Paul keep a close eye on Mary as she fills the bottles.

Today it is -18*C much too cold for the sap to flow. Looks like it will be Wednesday or Thursday before we will be boiling again.

So far next week looks like an excellent week for maple syrup, warm days cold nights, perfect conditions for major sap flow.

Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your coffee Rebecca.

Saturday, 21 March 2015


Paul, Olga, Tien and Minna arrived yesterday. The day was perfect for boiling sap and we soon had them working in the bush.

Before they arrived we started boiling sap we had in storage.

Everyone had to try a cup of "maple syrup" tea. It was sweet, delicious and full of minerals. A very enjoyable drink while sitting around the fire-pit.

Once tea was finished it was time to take the sleigh and collect sap. Here Tien, Minna and Olga go from tree to tree emptying the buckets. They returned with 30 litres of sap which will boil down to about 500 ml of maple syrup.

Back in camp, Paul and I poured off the sap into our storage buckets where it will stay until Wednesday. 

Today looks like another warm day, perfect for collecting sap, but tonight the temperature will drop to -19*C and stay below freezing until Monday.

This morning we will finish boiling the sap we started yesterday and bottle it. In the afternoon we plan to collect more sap; not sure if we will boil any today. (Just looked outside. We had snow last night. Our plans may change.)

Next week Carol and Don will be here and I think we will be busy as the weather looks favourable for a good sap flow.

Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your morning coffee Pat. 

Friday, 20 March 2015


We are back boiling sap this afternoon.

Can you tell Mary is happy?

The new modifications Durl made are working out just fine. No flames up the side of our pans now.

The fire is focused in the middle of the firebox.

And it's producing lots of steam which is the true test of a good system.

Enjoy your coffee; we will soon be having maple syrup tea.

Thursday, 19 March 2015


Yesterday Durl and Linda came out to visit. It was great to see them and Durl had some ideas on improving our fire-pit to reduce the amount of wood we are burning.

Not only did he make some excellent suggestions he brought the material, tools and pop-rivets to get the job done. I should have taken pictures during construction but was too busy helping. 

Here you see the finished work. Durl cut and fitted a metal strip along the inside of the fire-pit. These were bent to come part way across the top, eliminating the open areas around our evaporator pans.

Another shot showing the metal lined walls. This serves two purposes; provides some protection to the block walls and more importantly keeps the fire from licking up the side of the pan and burning the sap.

Thanks Linda and Durl for the great improvements. Now we should boil faster with less wood consumed. It will be Friday or Saturday before we test out the improvements as the days have turned cold and the sap isn't flowing at the moment.

Once we get everything working again I'll let you know how successful we were.

Living in the north we really appreciate the help from those who know what they are doing.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015


No sap today. It's -11*C out and much too cold for the sap to be flowing. Looks like the same for tomorrow but on Friday we should be back boiling sap. So far next week also looks good.

We do have lots of red squirrels who are not shy and keep us entertained.

Safe travels everyone and thanks for stopping by. Enjoy your morning coffee.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015


We worked until 10 pm last night getting the sap boiled down to the point we could bottle it. I should say Mary worked until 10 as I fell asleep on the couch.

Working outside is great. Our system is very basic and homemade. The fire-pit is made of cement blocks filled with stone, old wire stove racks, turkey roaster and an expensive boil-off pot with a tap.

Collected sap is stored in clean garbage cans beside the fire-pit until needed. Yes, that is sap from our maple trees Mary is pouring into the garbage can. It looks like water because that's what it mostly is. We need to boil off 117 litres of water to get 3 litres of maple syrup. That's about two of those blue garbage cans of water we need to get rid of; it takes a while.

We move the sap from pan to pan as it get hotter and boils down. The big square pan in the foreground is the last pan where most boiling-off takes place.

A good steady flame is essential and we need to keep it going for 10-12 hours. Naturally we have lots of firewood stacked within reach of the fire-pit.

The final boil down is done over a propane burner so we can precisely control the temperature and prevent any scorching of the syrup.

After a day of boiling sap we ended up with a little over two litres of maple syrup. (Remember this started out as two blue garbage cans of sap) Not much for all the time and effort but it is sweet, delicious and homemade. It will be a treasured compliment to our pancake breakfast this morning.

Thanks for stopping by and Happy Saint Patrick's Day to all our Irish readers.

Monday, 16 March 2015


We are doing our first boil off of the season. We started at 8 am and here it is 7 pm.

Up-date 7 pm

We've been boiling sap for 11 hours and still have more to do. We will have supper and hopefully bottle later this evening.

Sunday, 15 March 2015


Snow this morning. YUK!!!

Saturday, 14 March 2015


The sap flow is down to a trickle. The weather has changed and we've had freezing temperatures for the past few days. We are hoping for a change next week but it doesn't look good. As you can see in the photo above our fire-pit is still under tarps and surrounded by snow. 

The sap we have collected is in storage and will have to be boiled off soon. A tough call as it is a lot of work for just one or two litres of maple syrup.

We will see what tomorrow brings.

Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, 13 March 2015


For the sap to flow we need warm days cold nights. Yesterday we had lots of sun but the temperature never got above 0*C; no sap. That's the way it is with maple syrup. One day it will flow, next, not a drop. You just take what comes.

If we get some today we will store it and boil it down when Don and Carol come on Sunday. 

Thanks for stopping by. Hopefully next week we will be enjoying pancakes and maple syrup.

Safe travels Bob.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Forty Litres

Our days are warmer as evidenced by the melting snow. The sap has started to flow, slowly, but it is flowing.

We now have forty litres in storage. That sounds like a lot but remember it takes forty litres of sap to make one litre of maple syrup.

We would like to finish up with 25 litres of maple syrup which means we must boil down 1,000 litres of sap.

That's a lot of buckets to fill.

And we do it all by hand which is slow and physical.

But it's great to be outside, enjoying the warm weather and getting some exercise as we trudge from tree to tree collecting a litre here and two litres there, slowly filling our buckets and storage container.

I think we will try and boil off our first batch of maple syrup tomorrow. {Friday}

Saturday's weather doesn't look very promising for sap flow and we have a seed exchange in Maynooth to attend as well as a birthday party in Gilmour. 

Although our days are busy our maple syrup production is small and we can easily leave the sap in storage for a day or two until we find the time to boil it down.

Fortunately Carol and Don will be here next week to provide some much needed help. Collecting from forty trees using buckets and walking on snowshoes is a job best shared with family and friends.

Hopefully our next posting will be around the evaporator. It  is still buried in snow but I will dig it out today.

Thanks for stopping by and safe travels everyone.