Back up and running with the sap
A Dec. 2, 2014 fire completely destroyed the building, equipment and inventory of Cain Creek Maple Syrup, owned by Steve and Leah Duley in the town of Pine River.
Following the fire, Steve was determined to be back up and running by the time the sap was in the spring. With the help of family, friends and neighbors he has done just that. The Duley’s cooked their first batches of this year’s syrup last week.
As soon as the fire inspector was finished – ultimately ruling the cause of the fire as inconclusive – cleanup began and a new pole building was erected to take the place of the one that had been destroyed. The new building was up within a month after the fire.
“We lost everything,” Steve said. “The only thing original is the cement.”
Backing from Lincoln Community Bank helped replace and upgrade the equipment for Cain Creek’s syrup shack. A brand new evaporator was ordered from CDL and arrived from Vermont on a semi trailer just as the sap was starting to run.
“The new stove showed up on Tuesday and we were ready to cook on Thursday,” Steve said.
The new stove replaces a partially homemade unit lost in the fire. The new stove cooks down the sap about three times as fast while using about half the wood of the old one.
A brand new reverse osmosis system also had to be installed, along with an 1,100-gallon water tank for cleaning.
Cain Creek Maple Syrup taps about 2,000 trees, collecting 2,500 gallons of sap for each batch. The Duley’s made about 900 gallons of syrup last year and Steve said he hopes to up production this year. They also buy sap from other people who collect it.
Steve cooked down 2,600 gallons of sap Saturday in about four hours with the help of his dad, David, and his brother, Tim, who regularly assist on cooking days.
“It’s too much for one person to do,” Steve said. “You need three people in the shack when you’re cooking.”
The Duley’s started collecting sap the old fashioned way, with taps and bags on each tree. Once they passed the 400-tree mark, they went to a pipeline system to collect the sap and implemented the reverse osmosis equipment.
Steve is a full-time dairy farmer in partnership with his brother, Mark. David is gradually retiring from the family farm.
The syrup operation is a side business for Steve.
“It’s kind of a hobby yet, but this hobby has to make money,” he said.
The fire that destroyed the syrup operation came 24 years and one day after a fire that heavily damaged the Duley family farm right across the road.