Category Archives: Food

Trying out the new Sugar Shack for the first time

This week we started boiling in the new sugar shack. There is no instruction manual for building all this stuff from scratch so its always a work in progress.

From the video you will here a couple of things I will change for next year :

  • re-build the manifold out of copper
  • raise the two 55 gallon tanks and put a fill location higher.
  • Add a filter on the input
  • double the number of trees tapped to 40
  • possible have a custom pan made
  • Add redundancy on important tools

King Evaporator

that last one bit us. I have (or should I say had) only one hydrometer which is used for testing the syrup. I dropped it 1/4 inch in the test beaker and it cracked. Without we were out of luck.

Large syrup evaporator

We checked around but did not find anywhere local that stocked them so called a friend around the corner who has a much larger operation and he had one we could borrow.

syrup evaporator

He taps almost 5000 tress and processes 2000 gallons of sap. Next year he is looking to double the size of his operation. I took a couple of photos of his evaporator. It was an impressive setup but like ours you could tell it was a work in progress.

King Evaporator

Back at our place we worked late into the night.

Sugar shack working into the night

Our setup requires we pay attention. We got busy for a little bit and had a boil over on our last pan and lost about a gallon of syrup. In the end we are up to about two gallons and we have only one week left that we can work. So we may end up a little short.

Midnight Sugar
This photo is available for sale here : Midnight Sugar

Thats why I would like to add another 20 buckets next year. I want to make sure we can hit our 5 gallon target. We might hit it this year but I kind of doubt it. Probably will be between 3 and 4.

Guest cabin under stars

Its always a learning process and eventually we will figure it all out… then we will change it and have to learn it all again 🙂

In the video I mentioned I would not be posting a finishing video this year as I had done one last year and the year before. Here is last years video

Building the cinder block maple syrup arch in the sugar shack

After digging out last week we got to work getting ready for maple syrup season. We dug our way in with a little help and inspected the buildings.

We still had to remove additional snow from my father-in-laws place. This week we tackled the roof. Over the next couple of weeks snow removal will be a big part of our chores.

Snow removal

It seems like this winter goes on and on. In order to tap the trees this year (video will be uploaded later this week) we had to snowshoe around. There’s about 3 feet of hard pack snow currently on the ground. We attempted to pack the trails with the snowshoes and go in without them but that provided challenging at best.

guest cabin

This week they are calling for daytime highs to be in the 40’s and night lows in the 20’s. Perfect weather for sugaring. This will also hopefully put a dent in the snow pack.

Sugar Shack

Next week we should get started on boiling so stay tuned.

Building the sugar shack part 2

What a great fall weekend. The leaves are at their peak and there was a nice layer of frost on the ground. We could not ask for a nicer weekend.

One the sugar shack project we progressed nicely. We build a knee wall over the front opening to support the roof and add a little height to the project. We picked up some Amish 2×6’s during the week and used them to frame up the roof rafters. The project is coming along and should be completed in a couple of weeks.

On a side note I mentioned on the the video that after being asked many times I have decided to start selling my photography. I never really wanted to spend the time to take orders, print, matt, frame and ship things so I found someplace that will do that all for me. If your so inclined I have a site setup where prints can be ordered here, Chris Bordeleau Photography. These are not cabin related directly but many of the photos come from our property or the ride to and from the cabin.

Cornbread from long term storage

Cornbread fresh from the oven
Cornbread fresh from the oven

I came up with this recipe based on my existing recipe for cornbread. I swapped out the egg and milk with powdered ingredients so that I can make mixes to leave at my off-grid cabin where I do not run a refrigerator when we are not there. I plan to either use a vacum sealer or mylar bags and hope to get about a year out of them.

This recipe would also be useful for anyone who has long term food stores as all the ingredients are shelf stable for up to 30 years.

This is a real easy recipe (as you’ll find all of mine will be) and is a great way to get your feet wet if you are new to baking.

A couple of notes about the Wonder Mill. I have a manual mill which I have used to make flour. I picked it up used and it works well. It takes a 10-15 minutes per cup of flour and requires a great deal of effort to produce. I found that while I liked the results I was not using it much. I plan to motorize it in the future and leave the manual part for power outages and emergencies.

The Wonder Mill on the other hand is simple. In less then a minute I have cups of flour that required no arm breaking effort. I think my usage of whole grains is going to greatly increase along with my baking.

Also a couple of notes about the ingredients. I am using store bought popcorn. You will want to use the plain bag type or other sources for corn. Microwave popcorn should not be used as the butter will jam in your mill. For the wheat berries I am using a hard white wheat but I think just about any wheat berries could be substituted.

I am cross posting this from my post at the Grain Mill Wagon which gave me this mill to try out. I have to do three recipe posts in two months. My other recipes will also be like this, simple, with ingredients that store for a long time and can be produced into a just add water mix.

You can see the original post here, Cornbread from long term storage. The Grain Mill Wagon is a great site for finding recipes that use hand ground grains.

Now lets get to it


9 ounces of popcorn
4.2 ounces Hard white wheat berries
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 Cups of sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons egg powder
1/2 cup powdered milk
2 tablespoons shortening, bacon fat, or vegetable oil
14.2 ounces (little more then 1 3/4 cups) of water


Corn and Hard White Wheat ready to grind
Corn and Hard White Wheat ready to grind

Grind Popcorn with the Wonder Mill on the bread setting. 9 ounces should yield about 2 cups of cornmeal.

Cornmeal ready
Cornmeal ready

Grind the Hard white wheat berries with the wonder mill on the bread setting. I used a digital scale to measure out 4.2 ounces which from my research would yield about 1 cup of flour.

Place 10-inch cast iron skillet in oven on middle rack and heat to 450°F.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl until evenly incorporated. I used our Kitchenaid mixer to do this but it can also be done by hand.

When all the ingredients are mixed add 14.2 ounces of water. I used a digital scale again to get an accurate measurement but if you do not have one just use a little more then 1 & 3/4 cups of water. I based this off the powdered milk and eggs instructions so depending on your brand it may differ slightly.

Batter being mixed
Batter being mixed

As oven nears 450°F, remove skillet and add fat. Swirl fat to evenly coat the bottom. I used bacon fat but any shortening can be used. At our cabin I plan to use vegetable oil the we keep there (bacon fat requires refrigeration.

Batter in cast iron pan
Batter in cast iron pan

Pour batter into hot skillet and return to oven, bake until top is just golden and edges have browned and pulled away from the side of the pan, 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and serve warm.