5 Pour Saps Maple Products
79 Clearview Drive
Loudon, NH 03307
A Little History of how we got started
A Little History of how we got started.
The fall of 1999, I (Douglas Bruce AKA #1 Sap), purchased a piece of property in Milford NH with the intention of building our home on it, and was happy to see all the trees that were on the lot. I started to see that there were a good number of Maple trees on the piece of property and had seen a gentleman down the road with buckets on the trees and made the connection…… SYRUP! I went out and bought five taps with hooks for the trees and got some empty milk jugs, rinsed them out well, made a hole on the handle of the jugs and hung them on the trees after putting the taps in. That first day I got 3 gallon of sap! I was thrilled!! I took it to our home in Hudson NH and started to boil it on the stove….. I waited, and waited, and waited, and waited. Finally the color started to change. I had boiled off two and a half gallons of the sap…..it was getting sweet! I kept boiling and after 2 and a half hours on our gas stove, I had around 8oz of syrup! I was hooked! It definitely wasn’t cost effective, but who cares….I MADE SYRUP!!!
Being the type of person I am, I can’t do anything on a small scale. So I found a company called Bascom’s in NH and drove over and bought my first evaporator. It was a 55 gallon metal drum laid on its side and cut so that a flat Stainless Steel pan could sit on the side of it. I bought some smoke pipe, got some wood, bought 30 more taps with hooks, and drank a lot of milk, apple juice, and anything else in plastic jugs so that I could hang them on trees. (I didn’t want to spend $15 a bucket). I got a book on how to make maple syrup (I probably should have gotten it first), read the preface and went out to make syrup! I tapped all 35 trees, got them all set up, looked back at my massive Maple Orchard and realized I had tapped a couple of Oaks!... OOPS! Back to the book. Contrary to some peoples beliefs….You can’t get syrup from an Oak! I fixed the problem and finally was in business!
That evening I had over 15 gallons of sap in the buckets at my land in Milford NH. I loaded it up into 5 gallon Home Depot orange pails and drove it home, 30 miles away to Hudson, NH. I was going as fast as I legally could (RIGHT!) to get home and fire up my operation, which was sitting on my 10’x16’ pressure treated deck (no one said I was bright!) I could barely control myself by the time I got home. My two sons were there waiting for me when I pulled in the driveway. My oldest son Beau (AKA #2 Sap) who was 13 at the time helped me drag the pails up onto the deck. My youngest son Josiah (AKA “future Sap”) who was 8 at the time helped me with the heavy load of buckets. We dumped five gallons into the pan, put some wood in the barrel, and started a fire. It was gorgeous! The day was cold, around 45 degrees F. The night air was cooling off and had fallen to around 30F by the time it had started to have the first hint of steam rolling off of the pan. We waited with baited breathe for a bubble…it finally came…we were officially BOILING! The steam rose off quickly, soon the neighbors in our trailer park started to wonder what the heck I was doing and a group gathered. They had never seen anything like it. The sides of the barrel where glowing slightly red, a bluish flame was coming out of my 5’smoke pipe, everything was going great….An hour and a half later I started to get a little nervous because I had dumped in the last bucket of sap and had loaded the barrel as much as I could with wood. All of a sudden the sap started to foam up a little. I thought to myself “I wonder if it’s suppose to do that?” I pulled out my book and started to read it a little and quickly began to panic because I realized that it was almost syrup and I was going to have to pull off the pan from the raging inferno in the barrel. I cleared all of the outdoor furniture, the grill, and anything else that was combustible away from the barrel. Did I mention that I was doing all of this ON TOP of my pressure treated WOOD deck. I took a quick look around and all was clear. Then I started to smell something a little different. I took another look around and the barrel was also glowing on the bottom, 10” above the deck and the deck was starting to smoke…..I quickly ran and got the garden hose, which had been outside all winter and tried to spray the deck down. The hose was frozen! I ran back disconnected the hose and filled up one of the empty pails and threw it on the deck. What a mess! OH NO….back to the syrup….It was foaming 4” up in the pan, it smelt great, I didn’t know what to do so I grabbed two oven mitts and pulled the pan off of the barrel and set it on the decks rail. The fire raged on in the barrel but fortunately caused no further problems. After 10 minutes of my wife looking at me like she wanted to kill me I realized I had grabbed her favorite pair of oven mitts and they were now all covered in soot from the bottom of the pan…..I just smiled and said “I love you Babe!”. Silence!
Well after obtaining her forgiveness and making sure the trailer park wasn’t going to burn down, I poured the syrup into a small pan and brought it into the house and filtered it through one of my wife’s dish towels (I asked her if I could use one first this time.) boiled it a little longer on the inside stove and was thrilled to have my first 46 ounces of homemade syrup.
The next day I bought 10 more taps and increased the size of my sugar bush. Night after night we boiled, and boiled, and boiled. When all was said and done I had made almost three gallons of syrup that first year. I was HOOKED!
We built our house in Milford that next spring. I made sure not to injure any Maple trees and marked all the maples with Blue paint when the leaves were on them so that I didn’t tap any more Oaks. On the property was an old antique shed that I was going to tear down but when I cleared it out I saw a grate on the dirt floor and then noticed burn marks on the walls and saw a smoke pipe hole in the wall….could it be????!!!! YES, it was an old sugar shack/shed. I found out later that it had been used previously by a school that was there almost a hundred years earlier. So for the next 3 years I boiled and boiled, I finished reading the book, bought the basic tools and was having a blast passing the final part of winter away watching the snow melt and enjoying nature.
The fourth year a friend of mine, Bob Stark (AKA #3 Sap) came up and visited, and asked if I could use some help, sure I said.
I taught him the ropes and had someone to help me collect buckets, (still milk containers) and help to feed the beast (the barrel) with wood. By this point I was getting tired of walking through 3 feet of snow collecting buckets and had learned about tubing. I bought a 500 foot roll of tubing, some fittings, and proceeded to try to figure out how to make it work. Fortunately I knew water runs down hill, so I felt like it would be a piece of cake. Well after 5 hours of trials and errors I had my trees all ready for the next season. All 50+ trees now dumping into one 50 gallon drum next to the sugar shed. What a difference. Bob thought it was the cats meow. We celebrated with a “Black Russian” (Vodka, Kahlua). From that point on we started to talk about tapping our friend’s trees and his also. Little did we know that this was going to pull in another of our friends. Chris Philipsen (AKA #4 Sap), who also likes “Black Russians” came up and the three of us would just mellow out (all in moderation) and enjoy the end of winter. Chris one day, said we should start a company and call it 3 Poor saps! We laughed and all joked around saying “sounds great”. Another year went by.
We started to talk about expanding and another friend of ours Eugene Baney, (AKA #5 Sap) who I had been doing construction work with along with my son Beau, came up and helped us watch winter disappear. I was getting bored with the small operation and wanted to expand. I talked about it with the other Saps and everyone was in agreement that it sounded good, and that we should do it sometime. Well that next April of 2009, without their having any previous knowledge, I had gone with a friend of mine named Stuart Page,(who had an actual “real” Maple sugar operation with over 2000 trees, a 3’X 10’ wood fired evaporator with all the bells and whistles in Loudon NH. (He’s just an older Sap)) to Vermont to visit his cousin Keith who has a large operating Sugar Bush. On the way up we stopped at Glen Goodrich’s Sugar Shack “just to look”. We’ll after 4 hours of talking with Glen, who was very helpful, I walked out the proud owner of a used 30” X 8’ Small Brothers oil fired evaporator for an awesome price. I couldn’t contain myself….I texted all the “Saps” and told them that I had just purchased an oil fired evaporator and that we were in business! They almost died. Now I had to go home and tell my wife! It was at this point that Stuart said “You need a Psychiatrist!” I thought he was joking!?
Two months later we had figured out how we could get around 1000 taps in the local Milford area. Meantime we were building a barn for a customer, and we needed an electrician. I remembered what another friend of mine had told me while she was giving me a deep tissue massage.. (You’ve got to try it!). She, Colleen of “Complete Body Works Massage Center” in Bedford, NH, had told me her husband was an electrician and after enjoying putting me through an hour of removing all the knots in my muscles, and helping me with my torn rotator cuff, I sat up, got their telephone number and called him a day or two later. While installing the electrical in the barn we started talking about the evaporator that was stored there and he said the sweetest words I could have ever heard….”I’ve got some land with Maple trees on it….my dad use to tap a few of them”. I, thinking it was a small yard in Deerfield NH, told him I’d love to see it sometime. When I finally made it up there, I almost passed out! He never told me he had 120 acres with 6000 maple trees on it. YES….I WAS SPEECHLESS! (It’s never happened before!)
Thus….our dream was fulfilled! We had a sugar bush. Now I needed to get a book and really learn about what is needed to create a healthy sugar bush.
The book that I got was called “North American Maple Syrup Producers Manual, Second Edition”. Produced by the Ohio State University Extension in Cooperation with The North American Maple Syrup Council. It was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. It covered everything that is involved with managing a sugar bush all the way to bottling and all available equipment and how to install it. What a Book! It will probably be upgraded again pretty soon due to all the recent changes and advancements in taps and new equipment. The holes are so much smaller now then they use to be, so the trees heal extremely fast, with basically no damage.
We all started clearing the front 30 acres of land in Deerfield, and really found out what work was. I’ve never been so tired in my life. We started in August of 2009, and worked every possible moment while still making a living at our regular jobs. Chris got laid off from work, and Beau and I had a light work load due to the economy tanking. We took off the next three months and worked exclusively on building the sugar shack and improving the woods. Gene and Bob came as often as possible while still working their regular jobs, and then when the work lightened up came on full time also. By the time February came….we were ready to tap.
Thanks to Colleen and Russ we were able to get our dream started and at the same time help remove the risk of brush fires, and also improve the forest around their home. Russ has now registered his land as a “Tree Farm” and we are looking forward to helping him get his land to the way he would like to see it.
That pretty much brings us up to date other than all of the first year problems such as defective pumps, a wind storm that took out 60% of our lines, and the huge learning curve involved with this industry. But on a good note we got all of our State of NH inspections completed along with the Dept of Agriculture inspections who does a yearly inspection on our operation along with the inspection of our Grade A syrup. We bushwhacked the State Inspector (Janis L. Conner) when a local TV station WMUR was shooting another episode on us for NH Chronicle. (Airing March 23, 2010) She was about to run for her car when I grabbed the camera man “Murphy” and said….”you want a really good shot…the state inspectors is here!” Gene blocked her rapid exit to her car, and we had her trapped! We ever so nicely asked her in, she reluctantly agreed, and we had them tape the whole inspection process on film. (She DID NOT want to be on TV to say the least!!) It was really good for the people to see that the State of NH is right on top of, and interested in, who is making the syrup, how they are making it, and that it is safe for consumers. The Inspectors make sure the Quality and the Grading is correct and that the facilities are clean and operating within the States guidelines. Janis was very informative and helpful to us with some minor issues and with a lot of questions that we had along the way. It was a pleasure for us to have her stop by and check up on us. As we told her, we wanted to make sure that our product was top notch and that we were doing it correctly, and to the State of NH Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food Department of Regulatory Services standards. (not those exact words…but you know what I mean) It was the first time in my life I was actually GLAD to see a State inspector. We look forward to seeing her again… although she’ll probably ring our necks for the whole TV thing! Let’s be honest though….it was good P.R. for the State too! (Thanks Janis….look forward to seeing you on TV!)
We will keep updating this page from time to time so please come back and see what’s new at the 5 Pour Saps Web site. Please contact us and let us know how we can improve the site in any way, or if you know of a product that you believe we should add to our list of items.
Thank you for your patronage and we look forward to bringing you the highest quality products possible! Take care, and we hope to hear from you soon! Doug #1 Sap!