Jay Eagle Makes Maple Syrup With A Masters Touch
Doe Hill, VA – After more than three decades of running his Sugar Camp in Doe Hill, Va, Jay Eagle says he’s still having fun. Though he doesn’t brag about it, Eagle has been named a Virginia Master Folk Artist by the Virginia Folklife Program for his skills in making syrup. And he’s passing those skills on to his apprentice and grandson Tyler Eagle. Eagle explains where he and his crew start at the beginning of the syrup season.
“Well we start at the trees” says Eagle. “I lease 7 other camps clean into Franklin that no longer produce. I lease over a 1000 acres with trees on. And truck the water back. Plus my trees all together is about 12,000 trees that are opened all together here, which is roughly somewhere between 16 & 18 thousand taps.”
Eagle with his crew, taps the trees, and then lays lines at the trees for the sugar water to come out for collection.
“We lay around 32 miles of tubing if it was all in one line” he says. “It takes about a month to get the tubing out, to get it installed and then when we start tapping there’s 8 guys that come here and it takes them the best 3 days to tap all the trees. The lines are there and then they can hook up. Then the next week somebody will go through there again and check them again. You, at least, check them 4 times a season. Cause the first 2 weeks is the prime time that something will come apart.”
The 2011 syrup season has been better than last year’s season. The sugar water has run good for Eagle’s Camp and was much sweeter this year as well. This also helped with the syrup production.
“We’re ahead of last year” says Eagle. “Last year was one of our worst years probably in 15 years. Cause it was just no season at all.”
Last season Eagle did not start his production until the last day of February. This year was a different story.
“This year I started the last day of January” he says. “And we was doing excellent here until that week of high wind come through here. And it dried that ground and it cut it off. If it would have been time to have stayed on the other side of the mountain it might have been unreal here. But I did pull a lot of long hours. I think this season I pulled in 3 straight days and nights in different times, cause you just didn’t know what was coming the next day.”
Eagle produces all three ambers of syrup, light, medium, dark, and Grade B. He does not produce Grade C anymore. He sells his syrup to seven different countries around the world.
“This year, right now it’s going to Sweden” says Eagle. “Put it on their boat in Baltimore and take it to Sweden. And that’s a good feeling that it is going that far. Highland County is going to Sweden. They told me that they run a gift shop. It’s went to Belgium, Germany, Holland.”
Along with his syrup, Eagle specializes in making other maple products for his consumers.
“We have maple cream, maple butter; I have a honey mustard with maple which is new here” he says. “Our maple fudges we run around 4 different maple – Walnut maple, pecan maple, a plain fudge with maple. Then we go into our breads; a maple oatmeal cookie, then you get a raisin oatmeal cookie, or you can get a raisin oatmeal cranberry maple cookie.”
Maple Donuts are also made at the sugar camp. Eagle takes a lot of pride in his camp and fully enjoys producing Maple Syrup.
“I think the most rewarding thing that I get out of the festival is that you’re making something that people come for hours to get’ he says. “And if they didn’t like it they wouldn’t come back. So you know they’re satisfied or they wouldn’t come back.”
Eagle’s Sugar Camp in Doe Hill will be open this weekend both Saturday and Sunday for the last weekend of the Maple Festival.