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

Category: 2011: Season 94 Page 1 of 5

Season 94: 42 Days of Maple March 2 to April 12

A good season.  Weather cooperated.  We could have actually waited to start tapping until after the March 9th snowstorm.  But the cold weather kept the taps fresh so we were not penalized for the early start.  The clutch problem on the tractor was expensive.  The week of cold weather gave us another two part season, although the cold was better then last year’s warm weather.    March 29 to April 2 was our big run.  We had more long work days this season than in recent past seasons.  About three 15 hour days.  Quite a few 10-12 hour days.  But that’s all part of the season and getting the crop when nature says its ready.  Nothing we were not prepared to do. 

73 gallons and 1 pint is a good season for us. Yet we feel a tinge of let down because we collected 3340 gallons of sap and were expecting 77 to 78 gallons of syrup.  Since we only got 73 1/8 gallons our sap this year was less sweet.  It took 45.7 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup (45.7:1) which is getting high.  Normal is 42:1.

Doing the math using the Rule of 86 , we can determine our sap was 1.88% sugar this year.  Last year we were at 2.01% sugar

3340 gallons of sap from 401 taps yields 8.3 gallons of sap per tap.

73.125 gallons of syrup
293.5 quarts of syrup
587 pints of syrup

587 pints of syrup from 401 taps yields 1.46 pints per tap.

Next up is filling the wood shed for next season.  We do want to be more disciplined about cutting wood to about 3 foot lengths.  Cutting down the wood this season seemed to reduce the amount used and still give us good boils.  Shorter wood keeps the heat in the firebox and not up the smoke stake. 

We go to MI this year in October for annual North American Maple Syrup Council meeting.

We plan to be back here the end of February or early March 2012 for season 94.

Tapping
Date    Taps
2-6      2
3-3      50
3-4      25
3-4      50
3-4      49
3-6      50
3-8      50
3-11    12
3-12    13
3-13    75
—————-
401

Collecting
Date    Gals.
3-8      100
3-11    300
3-12    200
3-15    500
3-16    325
3-19    235
3-29    230
3-31    430
4-2      580
4-6      330
4-8      110
——————
3340

3-16    60 from neighbor

Bottling
Date    Qts    Pts    500    250
3-13    24      3      0       1
3-15    17      1      0       0
3-16    11      6      14     12
3-17    21      10    1       0
3-19    16      0      16     12
3-22    6        8      0      17
3-31    12      11    16     6
4-2     25       11    0      0
4-3     10       20    0      0
4-5     8         11    9      12
4-8     17       20    8      0
4-11    8        40    1      2
—————————————————–
175    141    65    62

Completed

At 4:56 PM we completed the season.  Evaporator, finishing pan, bottling pan, storage tanks, floors all cleaned.  The evaporator was the big item to finish.  Both the inside and outside of the pans are clean.  Stainless steel cleans up well, but still the burnt on carbon on the bottom of the evaporator pans requires some effort to clean.  Scrap with putty knife.  Spray with oven cleaner.  Finish with metal polishing pads.  And the nitre on the inside of the pans also takes effort.

73 gallons, 1 pint.  That is a good total from 400 taps on buckets, but still we feel let down.  We were hoping for 75 or 76 gallons based on the amount of sap we collected.    3340 gallons of sap yielding 73 gallons 1 pint gives us a ratio of 45:1.  That’s quite high.  

Today was sunny and nice so it was pleasing working in the woods.  Started at 9:00 AM.  

Tomorrow we head back to Washington, DC.  After a few days reflection we will provide thoughts on the season.

T Minus 1 Day

Into the woods by 9:00 AM.  Back by 9:00 PM.  The inside of the evaporator pans are clean.   Working on the bottom yet.  Finished all the syrup.  We bottled 29 quarts today.  This give us 293 quarts: 73 ½ gallons.  But something seems wrong with the count.  We collected 3240 gallons of sap.  Even at 43:1 we would have  77 1/2 gallons.  We need to review our numbers again.

One more day to finish all the clean-up.

We Can See The End

A super cell with tornadoes is moving in from the west at about 50 mph.  This could be a long night of storms.  Last night’s storms were non-events.  It rained this morning starting about 7:30 AM and lasted about 45 minutes.  Then became party cloudy and warm. 

Into the woods by 9:00 AM.  Staying late to slowly boil down the sap in the evaporator paid off.  We emptied the evaporator today.  Had about 20 gallons remaining.  We took the big pan off to rinse it.  Got water.  Replaced the pan and filled it with water.   Then we could boil the remaining sap on the front pan. 

Removing the big pan is a challenge.  It is about 4′ x 3′.  Its heavy gauge stainless steel so it weighs over 100 lbs.  Its hard to move.  We actually use ramps to slide it off the evaporator and onto the floor were we can more easily handle it.

By about 3:00 PM we had boiled the remaining sap down.  It should not take too long to finish on the gas finishing pan.  Not sure if we finish and bottle Monday or Tuesday. 

All the buckets and covers are in.  We hustled this afternoon as the weather looked threatening.  Some spouts are still in, but they won’t blow around or get wet. 

We can see the end of clean up now.  The buckets are in.  The sap ready for the finishing pan.  Tomorrow we work on cleaning the evaporator.  We have two days.

Storm Moving In

A two part storm is moving in starting around 1:00 AM.  On the front side of a warm front we get thunderstorms and possible hail.  Then later Sunday into Monday we get the cold front with more thunderstorms and possible tornadoes.  

We are in clean up mode.  A little less then half of the buckets and covers are back in storage.  We hope the storm does not blow around those remaining in the woods.  They are set at the base of the trees.

The storage tanks were empty by 8:30 PM.  We started at 7:30 AM.   We then took two hours to slowly boil down the evaporator.  Just enough fire to boil, but not enough to build a bed of coals.   We have to get the sap out of the evaporator and its faster to boil in the evaporator then over the gas fire. 

Tomorrow inbetween the rain we hope to get the remaining buckets and covers.  And we want to empty the evaporator and get water and cleaning solution in it.  We are down to three days and feel the pressure to finish everything.

Buckets Down

Into the woods by 10:30 AM.  We decided to take down the buckets rather the boil.  There is no temptation to wait for more sap with the buckets down.  We do have to pull spouts yet.  We found good sap in the buckets too so we picked it up.  Got 110 gallons.  More to cook.  This gives us 3340 gallons for the season.  We should have over 75 gallons of finished syrup.   We should get close to 80.

By 3:30 PM we were done with the buckets and stated to work on our milk can of syrup.  Dumped the syrup into the finishing pan.   We ended up bottling 31 quarts.  

Tomorrow is warm and nice.  Saturday evening and into Sunday is rain/thunder storms.

The covers for the bottles did not arrive today.  We have to come with alternative plans for bottling in case the covers do not arrive tomorrow.

220 Down, 110 Remain

Into the woods by 7:30 AM.  Got back at 8:00 PM.  It did freeze last night.  But the trees didn’t drip much.  The season is ending.   This weekend its forecast for the high 60s.  Maybe some rain.  

Cooked down just a little over 200 gallons.  About 110 remain.  Took three batches off the evaporator.   We will try to bottle tomorrow.  Our bottle inventory this morning revealed we have enough bottles for over 80 gallons.  But we are short on covers.  We ordered 240 more which will hopefully arrive tomorrow to Saturday.

Last Collection

The snow is melting fast.  It was up to 50+ today.  Did not freeze.  It was sunny.  We knew we had to collect.  Started out just after 1:00 PM.  We picked up 330 gallons.  This gives us 3230 for the season.  Unless something unexpected changes with the weather today is likely the last collection.  We plan to start pulling taps on Friday. 

One of our trails through the woods had a lot of water and mud from the melting snow.  We avoided it because we didn’t want to get the tractor stuck and didn’t want to create big ruts.  It was  nice  to have a different pattern through the woods.  But it did mean we had to carry farther.

After collecting we stayed in the woods to clean the syrup pan.  This gives us a head start on tomorrow’s boiling. 

We have to check bottle inventory in the morning.  We need enough bottles and caps for about 18 gallons yet.   We should be OK with bottles but need to count caps carefully to verify we have enough.

Playing Hooky

After the last week today was an easy day.  Into the woods by 11:00 AM.  Back by 4:00 PM.  Our only task was to bottle 21 quarts today.  It was sunny and 50 today.  It did freeze last night, but the trees did not drip much.  Tomorrow we plan to collect.  That will likely be the last collection.   By Friday we have to pull taps and get into clean up mode.  The weather forecast seems to confirm our plans.  We loose freezing nights.  The 60s are coming. 

We have 233 quarts bottled now.  That is 58 gallons and 1 pint.  We have at least 2 gallons in the milk can yet.  Plus the evaporator and what we collect.    We are hoping for over 70 gallons.

The Maple Dance Party

It did not freeze last night.  It was mostly cloudy all day although the sun made a few brief appearances. The sky was clear when we came back in from the woods.  The forecast was for rain so again they got it incorrect.   It was up to about 38.

Into the woods by 8:30 AM to boil.  The goal for the day was to empty all the storage tanks.  Made it.  But it was 11:30 PM before we got back the house.  That’s another 15 hour day.  The past seven days have been the season’s rush.  We collected and boiled 1240 gallon of sap.  We did not bottle yesterday.  The focus was boiling.  We did get three visitors.  

We finally found a radio station we like.   We started with  70’s rock/metal.  Not that we really liked it, but it was that or country.   Yesterday we found a more modern rock/pop station.  The station plays current music with a tilt toward the pop side.  Still its more lively which helps the time pass.   Almost makes you want to dance away the time between firing in what we would call “The Maple Dance Party.”   Does the wood fire under the evaporator count as glow sticks?

We will bottle today.  Still not sure when we will collect again.  We are expecting a wind down to the season now.

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