They put the lids on to keep out the rain and squirrel "presents" and then off to the next tree. Last year some of our buckets didn't have lids and every morning we would find corn in the bottom of the bucket. They finally discovered that a squirrel was nesting above the bucket in the tree and would come down to drink the sap and leave corn behind. Payment maybe? ;-)
Every year previously we would boil it down in the house, but this year Aleks wanted to do it differently. He wants to boil it in the woods instead of walking all the sap the half mile back home. I can't blame him, hauling 20 5-gallon buckets full of sap every day for a month must get tiresome. A sugar house with an evaporator would have been great, but they're so expensive. So, we bought a 20-gallon cast iron kettle and they are going to hang it from a sturdy branch in the woods. We found this wonderful couple from South Carolina who specialize in antique cast iron and we bought it from them. Aleks has been chopping wood for weeks in anticipation, all the boys are excited about it and they've made a lovely, primitive sugar camp. We will still finish it off in the house, but the lion's share of boiling will be outside of the kitchen. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup so that's a lot of evaporation!
All of which brings me to my next point. I'm having my first blogger give-away and the prize is a pint of Maple syrup! All you have to do is leave a comment on my blog and mention it on your blog. I'm not going to check up on you, we'll just use the honor system. I'll draw a winner toward the end of March, good luck!