Housing the Evaporator

Last fall Portico was approached by a businessman who was looking to set up a maple syrup business in our area and needed a construction company to put up a building to house his evaporator. We were local; he liked timber frame construction; and he thought the style suited the long-standing craft of maple syrup-making. We were delighted when he asked us to erect the building – with the proviso that it be completed, and the equipment installed, by March 1, 2013, in time for the first sap flow. We eagerly accepted the challenge and went to work getting planning approvals and building permits. These always take longer and cost more than they expected. We worried about the delays forced on us by an overly zealous municipal building department. Construction didn’t start until Dec 15, which was rather late for pouring concrete. We struggled through some harsh winter weather, eventually got the walls raised, the roof on, the doors and windows installed, and the evaporator placed on the concrete floor.

The evaporator arrived one day in late February. It came directly on a truck from the plant in Quebec where it had just been made. It was beautiful, but huge, and I immediately wondered if we made the building too small for it.

Once unwrapped it was apparent that the evaporator was a shining gem of modern industrial art. I refer to it as the stainless steel locomotive and it is a beautiful sight to behold, especially when running. If it is fed a continuous stream of wood pellets via the auger from the silo that stands outside the building, the evaporator hums contentedly, fills the air in the building with a humid sweet smell and effortlessly emits a steady stream of hot maple syrup the size of my finger. Any kid would want to put their mouth under that stream.

Although economics, in the end, didn’t allow our client to use timber frame construction, Portico's experienced crew used conventional framing methods to assemble this commercial facility and had it completed in time for the first sap flow on March 15. It was very satisfying to help a new business get started in our community. Best of all, this new business sits on a hillside lot beside and to the south of our shop. When the sap is flowing, like it is today, I can glance out my office window and see large plumes of white steam wafting into the sky against the background of the tree canopy.

Maple syrup making, an old craft that was once practiced in many bush lots around Dorset, has been revived in a modern form and now sits proudly beside Portico on Hwy. 35. Working with heavy pine timbers or framing with 2 x 6 spruce, Portico welcomes the opportunity to build modern, as well as old, structures. This is another example of how Portico stays “…. on the cutting edge of ancient technology”.