MapleAcres

Maple Syrup: Nature's Spring Tonic. -- Since 1918

Reflections On Season 105

Variable weather during syrup season is expected. We’ve waited out cold spells or warm spells in past seasons. Rain. Snow. Sleet. Fog. And perfect sap weather. If you do any agricultural activity, you better be an optimist. But this season was still an outlier. Even when we had freezing nights and sunny days with the tree pressure ranging from -10 PSI to 20 PSI, we still didn’t have sap runs. Until the last week in March, it looked like it would be an historically poor season. The frost was deep because there wasn’t much snow cover this winter. When it warmed above freezing we had rain followed by below 0 temperatures, driving the frost deep. The trees didn’t run until the frost came out.

Researchers at the University of Vermont Proctor Maple Research Center site several reasons why sap may not flow even when weather conditions are favorable.
1.) Thermal inertia. Trees are big and it takes time for them to warm
2.) Depleted moisture after prolonged cold. Until there is a good thaw followed by freezing conditions to recharge the moisture in the system, sap flows will be weak.
3.) Uneven warming in trees. Sunny sides warm and produce sap runs while shady sides stay cold.

Point 2 seems most applicable to this season. Any moisture in the ground was frozen and not available to the tree. We got sap March 30 and March 31 as the frost depth receded. The frost came out completely between Noon and 3 :00 PM on March 31. We know this because at Noon when we left the woods there was 2” of water on sidewalk by the syrup building. At 3:00 PM when we returned to collect, the water had soaked into the ground. Big sap run after that on April 2.

Here are pictures of the bottom of flue pan before cleaning and after cleaning.

Bottom of pan before cleaning
Bottom of pan before cleaning
Bottom of pan after cleaning
Bottom of pan after cleaning

Glad we could use the R/O. Feels like cheating especially when we see neighbors steaming away all day for several days in a row. Burned 2.3 cords of wood in the evaporator.

In the end, we had an above average season. With 500 taps we would have had 100 gallons of syrup. We are happy with the season.

Out Of The Woods At Noon

Into the woods by 8:00 AM to finish cleanup. Washed the floor. Brought in the tanks. Took equipment back. Disconnected the propane tank. Brought the R/O into the farmhouse.

At noon we were done. Disconnected the radio. Took down the clock. Out of the woods at noon.

All Pans Clean

Into the woods by 8:15 AM. The evaporator is clean. The pans cleaned easily. We did well with cleaning solution in the flue pan. The nitre brushed off with very little scrubbing. Swept the ash from the evaporator. Put the pans up-side-down on the evaporator base. The finishing pan and bottling pan we also quickly cleaned. Those pans are also up-side-down on the evaporator base.

Washed out the storage tanks and collecting tank.

Nice weather today. Sunny and 60. Too many times we’ve cleaned the pans in the cold and rain.

Tomorrow we bring back equipment including the R/O. And wash out pipes with a bleach solution. We should finish all cleanup tomorrow.

Back to the farmhouse by 3:00 PM.

By The Numbers

From the sap collected and Brix we can project the amount of finished syrup. The projected finished syrup was 39 gallons.

We actually made 42 gallons so we either under counted sap collected or under counted the Brix of the sap. Or a combination of both.

42 gallons is 334 pints giving us 1.65 pint/tap.

Syrup yield is usually expressed in pounds/tap. We think that is left over from when maple sugar was the primary product and producers were paid by the pound for sugar.
1 gallon of syrup is 11 lbs
1 pint is 1.375 lbs (11/8)
1.375 lbs/pint X 1.65 pint/tap = 2.26 lbs/tap = 2.3 lbs/tap

Syrup producers on vacuum typically get between 5 lbs/tap and 6 lbs/tap.

Cleaning And Labeling

Need to clean the evaporator, finishing and bottling pans. Hope to complete this weekend. The season isn’t over until all cleanup is done.

Starting labeling bottles. Hope to complete before returning to DC.

42 Gallons

Into the woods by 5:00 AM to bottle. Cleaned up while the syrup was finishing. Brought unused wood back in the woodshed. Took down the pipes to the storage tank. The heat gun failed and we couldn’t remove two hoses from the R/O. Fortunately all the major hoses were already removed.

Started bottling at 7:15 AM. 4 gallons and 3 pints. That gives us 41 gallons and 3 quarts total for the season. Round up to 42 gallons. If we had 500 buckets out we would have over 100 gallons for syrup.

Still some cleanup to finish. In the end, it was a good season. When you do any type of agricultural activity, you better be an optimist.

Back to the farmhouse by 8:00 AM.

R/O Membrane In

Disconnected R/O hoses this morning. Late this afternoon disconnected remaining hoses and took out the membrane and brought back to farmhouse. The R/O is draining now. We’ll bring it in the coming days.

Plan to bottle tomorrow.

Snow

Snow started around 4:00 AM. No accumulation but everything is white again. Changed to rain around 1:00 PM.

Buckets In Before The Snow

Into the woods by 8:00 AM. Snow still forecast to start before dawn tomorrow morning. Wanted to get all the buckets and covers in because they don’t need to get wet again. Completed by 9:30 AM.

28 overnight. Cloudy this morning with sun and 42 after Noon.

Buckets Down; Evaporator Empty

Into the woods by 7:15 AM. Emptied the evaporator. 15 gallons of sap to finish. Took off and rinsed all the pans. Filled the flue pan with water and cleaning solution while the front syrup pan finished the remaining sap. Pumped water from the R/O holding tank in the pans in place of getting a tank of water from the farmhouse. Saved time. Started the evaporator by 11:00 AM. Done by 4:00 PM. Should yield about 3 gallons of finished syrup putting us close to 40 gallons for the season.

Took down the remaining spouts and buckets. Hope to pick them up tomorrow because tomorrow evening an inch of snow is forecast.

The third wash of the membrane left clean water in the wash tank indicting the membrane is clean.

We also bottled 8 gallons and 1 pint. We have 37 gallons bottled so far.

Cold today. Cloudy. Windy. Temperate started at 34. Up to 42 but with the wind it felt colder. Forecast is 24 tonight.

Back to the farmhouse by 4:15 PM.

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