A very special destination halfway between the White Mountains and the Maine Coast
"Handcrafted Sweetness from Nurtured Trees" Collected, Boiled and Bottled at Oak Hill Farm
The History of High Acres Maple Syrup
Art's son, James, spent a winter with us, and during the early spring when cabin fever was nearing its peak, he noted that our farm had a substantial number of maple trees. He suggested we tap a few and see if we could make maple syrup. In March 1997 James and Art put out 17 conventional taps and hung plastic gallon milk jugs from them. Sue provided a huge restaurant grade cast iron fry pan and during that season we gathered and boiled down 120 gallons of sap to produce 3 gallons of maple syrup. We also visited some of the maple sugar houses in the area to see how the "Big Boys" operated.
One sugarhouse was upgrading their evaporator and, on a handshake, we bought their old unit. In an instant we became the proud owners of a 4' x 12' Leader drop flue evaporator. James could only shake his head and ask whether it was wise to have purchased an evaporator that was capable of producing in an hour what we had labored to do in a season.
Over the next seven years we designed and constructed a sugarhouse attached to our barn. We did a phenomenal amount of research and acquired the necessary equipment to operate. WF Mason Welding of Porter, Maine provided us with tig-welded stainless steel equipment, ideas and encouragement. We ran 12,000 feet of 1" main line up the mountain along with enough smaller lateral lines to accommodate 1000 taps. In 2006 we added a vacuum system to the operation. By adding vacuum we are not, as the name implies, sucking the trees dry. We are instead creating an artificial environment within the tubing that will be our hedge against borderline sap-flow days. In 2010 we added a Reverse Osmosis machine. We run sap through the machine and it removes some of the water from the sap (we call that water "permeate") and the process concentrates the sugars. This allows us to boil the sap down faster, using less fuel and less boiling time for us.
During the fall and early winter of 2012 and 2013 we embarked on a Sugarbush Rehab project. We began by cutting away acres of underbrush, harvesting what we could for firewood and chipping the rest back into the forest. Loads of gravel were trucked in to create access for our tractor, ATV and snowmobile in areas where the brooks make the sugarbush soupy in the spring. Next, we sought the expertise of Sugarbush Guru, Ashley Gerry of Newfield, Maine, to install a new dual-line system to extend vacuum farther into the sugarbush, as well as reroute and replace aging mainlines and laterals. We have also added check-valve taps.
In 2014 we converted our wood-fired evaporator to oil. Not only is it easier to call the oil company for a delivery rather than trudge into the forest to forage for wood, but the enclosed oil fired system provides a more constant flame. Previously we had to fire the evaporator every three minutes by opening the door and heaving wood in. We always lost some degree of boil each time we did this.
Every Maine Maple Syrup Weekend (it's not just Sunday anymore) we put on a pancake breakfast in our heated barn. Our barn store is open and we offer tours of the sugarhouse. Check out our Maple Syrup Weekend page for details and dates.