Jim Bragdon, first started making maple syrup as a young man in the back yard of his family's home. At the time, tapping anything he thought might be a maple tree, using one of his mother's kitchen pots and a wood fire to boil the elixir, and with that, his sugaring operations were born. 1987 saw a graduation to his first commercially made evaporator which allowed him to start making syrup in, what was then still a modest volume but with between 800-1,000 tapped, the sap business was beginning to flow. In 2008 Country Maple Farms was born, still a 'small' producer by many standards, but with 2,500 trees tapped and plans of expanding to between 6,000 and 8,000 trees plus, the 'season' is sure to be a busy time. The process is certainly a labor of love and it is also a feast or famine sort of enterprise as the sugaring season tends to only be 6-8 weeks long before the sap, literally, stops running as the evening temperatures climb. When the trees begin to bud, spring has sprung and then what little sap is left to run, delivers a more bitter content that isn't particularly useful in the sugaring process.
While a few of the trees are tapped in the classic, traditional way with collection buckets, more commonly today operators use a series of interconnected tubing, essentially a sugary cardiovascular system, running from each tapped tree to a central tank or tanks, some that are upwards of 1,000 gallons or more, that will then be brought to the sugar house for boiling. It takes between 40 and 50 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of maple syrup so while the 1,000 gallon tank sounds hefty, which it is, after reduction, it only amounts to around 25 gallons of syrup in total. The sugar house is where the magic happens. The main part of any sugar house is the 'arch,' or boiler, and it is here that the many gallons of sap are reduced down, as the water burns off as steam, the liquid gold of the sugary syrup is what's left. Wood fired boilers are increasingly rare with the benefits of oil fired burners. Jim is continuing the tradition of the wood-fired boiler with his new family and wife, Angel, spending as much time getting firewood as collecting the actual sap to boil. After collection, the sap is processed by heating to a boil, typically around 217 degrees, to evaporate much of the water, leaving the concentrated syrup. One aspect of newer technology that Country Maple Farm uses is an RO (reverse osmosis) unit, which before the sap reaches the arch for boiling, it is run through the RO which pre-reduces a good percentage of the water within. This reduces both the time and amount of initial content that will be boiled down to the sap's final product of maple syrup.