CHARLOTTE, Mich. — There's a road in Charlotte called Maple Highway. Although, it's not much of a highway.
It's a dirt road with one home at the end of the dead-end street.
This quiet, unassuming path, lined with tall trees, eventually opens up to this beautiful, 130-acre property.
On it live two people — Herb and Carol Butterfield.
For two months out of the year (in February and March), this beautiful landscape turns into a maple syrup factory.
"It is a lot of work," said Herb. "You've got to love being outdoors, in the rain, in the snow, in the mud, and in here working. So, it's a passion.”
Herb, a retired jack-of-all-trades as he called himself, started making maple syrup on his 130-acre property seven years ago. However, he fell in love with the process well before then.
"30 years ago, my father and I walked straight back, and at that time, I had never seen maple syrup being done," he said. "We walked back there, and there was this whole family sitting around a big evaporator. I walked into the smell, (and) the sights of people. (I thought), 'That's pretty cool.' So, then I got the taste. That was it. I told my dad, 'I will be doing this someday.' So, we've made it happen.”
In order to make the best maple syrup, you need an ideal weather pattern.
"You have to have a night that's below freezing. So, below 32 degrees, down in the 20s, is better. A good hard freeze. Then, during the day, you need something above freezing, preferably with a little bit of sunshine on the tops of the trees.”
Herb added, "the cold weather pushes the sap (in the trees) down. Then, when the warmth hits the crowns, it brings it up. We just intercept a certain amount of it on the way up.”
Once the sap is collected, it's poured into a gallon tank and fed into a sugar shack, or as Herb has so fittingly named it, 'Herb's Sap House.'
Herb said the sap they obtain is typically between 2%-1.7% sugar content.
Depending on the exact number, it takes a different amount of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.
For example, if your sap comes in with 2% sugar content, you would need 43 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. At 1.7%, you would need 50.59 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.
Once the sap is boiled, it makes its way through Herb's $7,000 evaporator. It then gets poured into a bucket.
At that point, Herb has maple syrup. However, it's unfiltered.
So, he brings it over to his double-filter system, which is basically like pouring the unfiltered syrup through two giant coffee filters.
Once that process is over, it gets heated up to 180 degrees, and then it's ready to be bottled.
It's quite a process that takes hours and hours out of Herb's day during the maple syrup season. However, it's a process that he said never gets old.
"I have fun," he said. "I think everybody in life should work hard for a living and enjoy what they do. Work your goal for retirement and say, 'There's a life after what you're doing.'”
If you're interested in purchasing a bottle of the Butterfield Family Maple Syrup, you can email them at email@example.com or call them at (810) 691-8728.