Thirteen Oaks

Farm and Cane Mill

Don H. Dean, Dothan, Alabama

Don has graciously provided the following pictures and text showing his operation in Dothan, Alabama. Don is very knowledgeable about cane mills and is always looking for information on unusual mills. Here he shares a step by step narrative of the process of making syrup from sugar cane. Don can be contacted at:
  (click on images for larger view)

Stalks of sugar cane are laid in open furrows for planting, then covered. October 15 is the recommended planting date, but cane may also be planted in early spring

In the fall when the cane is mature, it is stripped of it's leaves. Mr. William Howse, a farmer of Cairo, Georgia, invented this type stripper in the early 1900's
Here is a closeup view of the stripper. (sorry about the lack of detail, KKC)
A patch of red "Government Improved" cane, stripped and ready to be topped, cut, and carried to the mill.
Several varieties which I grow on our farm. From left to right: POJ (Proefstation Oost Java), Georgia Yellow Gal, Green Japanese, Green Government Improved, Old Timey Green, CD.P. 52-48, Cayanna, Red Ribbon, and the last two are the same, Government Improved Red (C.P. 36-111, I think).
Carol, my wife, feeding cane into our Improved Columbus, No. 14 mill. Our syrup shed with the kettle and furnace is in the background
A closer view of our mill. The Columbus Improved was built by Southern Plow, a subsidiary of the Columbus Iron Works, Columbus, Georgia.
Once we have 80 gallons of juice, we fire up the furnace and start skimming. Our son, John, is on the right, and I'm on the left.
Perking along at "full steam". It takes about four hours to evaporate 80 gallons of juice into 8 gallons of syrup.
This batch is almost ready.Once we reach the desired density, we kill the fire and start dipping the syrup.
We use a hydrometer to gauge the desired density. A reading of 34 gives a thicker syrup, which we prefer, but a reading of 32 or 33 is still good syrup.

Now the rewards of our labor. There's nothing like a hot buttered biscuit, piece of fried ham, smoked sausage, and a generous helping of homemade sugar cane syrup.

This is a scene from one of our annual Cane Grinding, Syrup-Making days at our farm. It's a lot of fun, food, and fellowship.


Here is my little collection of mills.

On the stand is our Columbus Improved, No. 14. In the very back of the truck is a Chattanooga Plow, No. 11. In the middle is a Columbus Improved, No. 12. The two in the front are both Goldens' No. 2. The one closest to the camera has a plate, "Patent Applied For", which dates to around 1903. I also have a Goldens' No. 4 at an Uncle's house.

and finally, click here for something to bring a smile to your face :-)



Page created by Ken Christison March 5, 2001 (revised 05/22/03)