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

Category: 2009: Season 92 Page 1 of 4

Season 91 In The Books

Season 91 is over.  It turned out to be a great season.  We bottled 8 more quarts from the sap remaining in the evaporator.  That gives us 294 quarts, 73 ½ gallons total for the season.  This actually bests 2008’s crop by 2 quarts.   The week of March 23rd things did not look promising for a good season, but things turned around.  The season was never overwhelming.  Frequently there is a period of 3 or 4 days when we get 1200 gallons of sap.  Then we have long nights to process it all.  But this year all the sap runs were spaced out.  We collected 9 times and picked up 3000 gallons of sap.  So doing the math we get a ratio of about 41 gallons of sap for 1 gallon of finished maple syrup.

We were into the woods by 9:30 am to work on cleanup.  By 10:15 am the sap in the finishing pan was ready.  It helped that we let it boil the night before or it would have been much later in the day before it was ready.  

After bottling  we went into full scale cleanup mode.  The biggest task was to clean the evaporator pans, both inside and the bottom.  The inside cleaned pretty easy as we had it soaking in cleaning solution overnight.  But the bottom is always a chore.   The pan bottom is exposed to the wood fire.  It gets a thick layer of burnt on carbon.  We use oven cleaner, a putty knife for scrapping, and scotchbrite pads  for cleaning the final layers of black burnt on carbon.  It took a good 3 hours of work but in the end the bottom was a clean and shiny as the inside.

By 5:30 pm the evaporator was cleaned, along with the finishing and bottling pans. Ashes cleaned from the evaporator.   All the buckets and covers were stored for another year.  Only a few easy and less urgent task remained: washing the floor; cleaning the spouts, bringing the remaining syrup out of the woods.  

So ends season 91.  We are grateful for the help from family and friends and grateful for the good crop. 

Still Working on Cleanup

Into the woods by 9:00 am to work on cleanup.  Took down the pipes from the storage tanks to the evaporator.  Cleaned the storage tanks.  Emptied the sap from the evaporator, there was only about 15 gallons left from yesterday, and put it in the finishing pan to boil down.  It takes longer to boil on the finishing pan because the LP gas is not as hot as a wood fire, but with such small amounts we don’t have a choice.    Got a tank of water.  Filled the evaporator with water and cleaning solution.  It has to sit for a day before we can really get it cleaned out.  The pans actually look pretty good and should clean up easily.    Picked up the remaining buckets and covers from the woods: they are all in the building now stored away until next season.  

All that remains for tomorrow is to clean the evaporator pans and finish boiling down the last sap.

Progress on Finishing Up

Into the woods by 8:00 am.  Started the evaporator to finish boiling the sap in the storage tanks.   By 1:00 pm we took off a batch and the tanks were empty.  We bottled 10 quarts and now have 285 quarts,  71 gallons 1 quart.   We were running out of bottles and had to scramble to get some.  A week ago we did not think we would have this much syrup so we didn’t make plans for more bottles.  There is still a little more to finish so we don’t know the final total yet.  After bottling went took the tactor into the woods to start bringing in buckets and covers.    And took back from the woods over 15 gallons  of finished syrup.   By 5:30 pm we were done and then it started to rain.

Winding Down

Started taking off buckets and pulling spouts today.  Most are off already.  We take the buckets off, empty them and turn upside down to dry for a day before picking them up the next day.  Its bitter sweet to take down the buckets as it really means the end of the season.  No buckets and spouts, no sap.  There may even be a run again over the weekend as freezing nights return.  But have to move on to other things.  And this has been a good season.  We bottled 23 quarts today again.  We now have 275 quarts total and should end up with 71 or more gallons.  

We got a late start boiling today as we had to clean our syrup pan on the evaporator.  When the niter (sugar sand) builds up on the bottom of the pan it does not heat properly.  It takes about 2 hours to break down and clean, which seems like wasted time.  Except that without cleaning you putz around so long trying to get a good boil that this is faster.

A Rainy Day

It was up to 40, but the rain started about 1:00 pm.  It was cloudy before that.  We spent the day working on yesterday pickup of 425 gallons.  And we did go out collecting around Noon.  We picked up another 200 gallons.  This was mostly from yesterday run yet.  They trees were dripping pretty good yesterday afternoon.  They spouts were wet today, but there was not a new run because it did not freeze overnight.    We plan for this to be the last collection for this season.  Time is running short.  We all have other obligations to move on to next week.  But it turned out to be a good season.   We picked up 2990 gallons of sap.  We bottled another 32 quarts today giving us about 252 quarts, 63 gallons, so far.  With the sap we have to boil down yet we will end up with 70 gallons or so.

A Big Sap Run

Today was sunny and up to 38.  It froze over night and the trees responded.    They were dripping yesterday too.  We went out collecting at 1:30 pm.  We picked up 425 gallons of sap.  And the trees were still dripping well.  We will likely collect tomorrow too.  It is supposed to freeze tonight again.

Start with a Snow Storm….End with Sunset

The snow storm moved in overnight. This morning it was blowing and snowing pretty good. Went into the woods at 7:30 am to start boiling. By 9:30 am the snow started tapering off, but it was still blowing. By 1:00 pm the snow stopped and by 2:30 the sun started to appear. The temperature went up to 39. The sap did start running in the trees. We checked at the end of the day. There will be a lot of sap to pick up tomorrow. By the end of the day the skies had cleared and we saw sunset. We bottled 23 quarts. We have 55 gallons so far. By 8:00 pm we were back in the house. A good day.

10 Degrees Warmer

It hovered between 31 to 33 today.    If it had been 10 degrees warmer we would have had a good sap run.  The sap is moving in the trees.  But when it hits the cold air coming out the spout it freezes.  Some of the trees were dripping well.  Others you could tell the sap was flowing, but it was freezing in the spout and backing up not able to get out.   We did pickup 270 gallons of sap.  Dumped ice too or it would have been more.  Still dumping the ice should make the sap sweeter.  

The wind is now coming from due North at 25-35 mph.  Its not snowing yet, but should start in a few hours.  The weather folks have now settled on a forecast for 4-6 inches of snow for us.

Snow Storm Coming

It was about 37 today.  Froze over night.  The day started sunny. And the sap starting flowing.  There will be sap to pickup tomorrow.  We are planning to pickup in the afternoon as we will need time for the ice to thaw.  It will freeze tonight again.

The big event everyone is watching is a coming snow storm.  This morning we were forecast for 3-5 inches.  Now we are forecast for 8 inches.  It will all depend on the final track of the storm.  It is supposed to start snowing tomorrow evening.  So we want to complete the sap pickup before the snow.

Old Records

Mostly sunny and up to 47 or so.  Sap dripped a little.  We are planning to collect either Friday or Saturday before the storms.  The forecast is still for snow on Saturday late afternoon.  Maybe 3-5 inches but it will depend on the track of the storm moving in from the plains states.  Around Denver, CO they are getting 18 inches and blizzard conditions.  

Came across old maple syrup production records from 1946-1972.   The paper is old and getting brittle.  The writing is fading.  Transcribing the records to preserve them or they will be lost to the ages.   Looking at the records shows that the season has pretty much shifted to start a month earlier.    Even into the 60s the maple syrup season was the end of March and mostly through April.  Now the season starts and ends pretty much in March.   And the production numbers seem suspect.  In the late 60s 100 buckets would be put out and 35 gallons of syrup made.  That seems way too high.  100 buckets would make about 15 gallons.   But the records reflect what they did at the time.   The syrup was likely not made the proper density so they were able to stretch the amount made.

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