John Mahoney's Free-fire Zone
John Mahoney
John Mahoney
is editor of the Log Cabin Chronicles.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 03.15.02
Fool's Hollow, Quebec


O mi God, we've got us a maple sap drip controversy

It started innocently enough. Charlie Tetreault, my Newport, Vermont bureau chief, e-mailed a digital photograph of a drop of sap dripping from a spout into a sap bucket.

It's sugaring season, after all, and I had been waiting for him to get his Green Mountain heinie in gear, and get me the seasonal photograph (even though Quebec produces more maple syrup than any other place in the maple syrup world, although Vermonters would say the quality is not quite as good).

He also sent out this question: If 40 gallons of maple sap boils down to one gallon syrup, how many drops of sap does it take to produce a gallon?

Then I received another photograph with this information embedded in the image: 1,817,520 drops to make one gallon syrup.

I posted it early on the morning of 03.14.02.

Well, misterman, I barely had my third cup of coffee when Leigh Flaherty of the New Jersey flatlands said nope, "there are 2,270,400 drops in 40 gallons of syrup. Using the standard formula: 15 drops in a milliliter x 473 mls in a pint x 8 pints in a gallon x 40 gallons."

Well, I fired off an e-missive to the Tetreaults, father and son, sweetly demanding they defend themselves in this potentially sticky situation. And I warned Leigh that he could expect a vigorous defense.

Charlie, however, had cut and run to the health club but his lovely wife, Linda, wrote that "Charlie may be using the standard Northeast Kingdom drop chart, which may or may not resemble any other drop size chart. Hence the discrepancy."

Leigh was quick to fire back this cautionary note:

" If they dispute the results, please refer them to either the Quebec Board of Pharmacy or the Canadian Board of Pharmacy. The Canadian Pharmacopoeia is the legal standard for Canada for drops per milliliter. (I believe the Canadian standard is the same as the ours here in the US). I would hope the syrup statisticians do not put themselves above the law; this could lead to a sticky situation."

Unline his father, Richard did not desertt his post and cut and run. He stuck by his keyboard and whipped out this reply:

"I think the solution to this argument is easy, based on a dilemma that has plagued the world for decades. I was using the US Drop where as Leigh must be using the Metric Drop. I used the following: http://www.remote-control.net/convert/tables/general/index.html

"One Drop/.01666 Teaspoons/drop/5 milliliter/teaspoon = 12 Drops per Ml

"Leigh used the Metric drop, which yields 15 drops per Milliliter. By this we can formulate that One US Drop = .8 Metric Drop

"Therefore, we are both correct -- depending on what drop you are talking about.

"Canadian taps are manufactured to create the Metric drop of sap, whereas the US tap is manufactured to create the US drop. I am not sure if the taps are stamped to indicate what type it is.

"As we discussed last night, Dad, please go out with your US teaspoon today and ascertain how many drops it takes to fill it up. Take into account the rate of evaporation while you are waiting for the teaspoon to fill up. Wind velocity, direct sunlight, and relatively humidity will have an effect on your readings as well.

"Regardless, I am happy to be associated with the other saps in the world."

I thought that was the end of it. But, no, another e-mail came from Richard:

"Not quite, but very close:

"1,804,800 US drops of maple sap for one gallon maple syrup.

"There, I think we are there now, 'cept for your field work which may take less time now that teaspoons are out of the equation and you shall use a small test tube graduated in milliliters. It should only take you a few drops to formulate a field value for drops per milliliter. Please get cracking before the run is over."

And there you have it, gentle reader. Wish you could all have a taste of syrup right this very instant. This Vermont ex-pat says it's some good…