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

Category: 2012: Season 95 Page 2 of 4

Buckets Down

Into the woods by 10:30 AM to start taking down the buckets.  Taking down the buckets is the end of optimism for the season.    Its really ending and the amount of syrup is now fixed as there will be no new sap.   We dumped most of the sap from the buckets as it was quite bad.  But kept about 40 gallons  that looked OK.   So tomorrow we will cook down this 40 gallons plus what is in the evaporator.  Either Saturday or Sunday will pull the spouts and pickup buckets.      Now its on to clean up mode.

Still waiting for the R/O.

Back to the house by 5:00 pm.

When Early March Seems Middle May

The next few days we get temperatures in the high 60s with lows in the 50s.   This is not sappin’ weather.  It seems wrong for this time in March.  The average temperatures for March 15 are high of 38 and low of 24.   Our plan is to collect any sap that looks good tomorrow then take down the buckets.    Over the weekend pull the taps and gather up the buckets and covers for storage.

We bottled 31 quarts today.   Sill have a half milk can of syrup.  Plus what’s in the evaporator. 

Into the woods by 10:30 AM and finished by 4:30 PM.

“ When Early March Seems Middle May” is the title of poem we found in a book titled Riley Farm-Rhymes by James Whitcom Riley published in 1905.    Its a fitting description for what is happening now.

Bottling Day

Into the woods by 8:30 AM.   Emptied one milk can of syrup in the finishing pan.   That was ready for bottling by 11:00 AM.  Bottled 30 quarts.   We were done by Noon.   We still have one full milk can and one half milk can of syrup to finish and bottle.

It was warm today.   Mid 60s.   The warm weather pattern seems here to stay.  We could get a cold spell yet.   Even snow.   But the sap has pretty much moved in the trees now.   The tap holes start healing and the sap flow stops. 

Still waiting for the R/O.

All Signs Point to the End of the Season

Started the day with a water run with the tractor at 8:30 AM.   Needed water to wash our pans before cooking for the day.    There was 21 ½” in the small tank when we started, about 175 gallons.  Pushed hard boiling all day and by 6:00 PM it was empty.  Back in the house by 7:00 PM which is the earliest for the past six days.  Its been a busy few days cooking through these runs.   We still have to bottle.  We have two and a half milk can full of syrup. 

The overnight it was down to the low 40s.  Up to low 60s today.   Not the type of weather we need.  All signs point to the end of the season.     Less sweet sap.   Darker syrup.  No freezing nights.   We have not seen any buds on the trees yet but with the warm weather that can not be far behind.

A year ago today March 13 we made our first syrup.   This year we are looking at the end of the season already.

Large Tank Empty, Small Remains

The day started foggy and ended foggy with rain in between.   The sun even made a cameo appearance around 5:00 PM.   Low 40s overnight.  Up to low 50s today.    Tomorrow’s forecast is low 60s and sunny. 

The syrup is turning darker and the sugar content is now below 2%.   All signs the season is ending.

Into the woods by 8:30 AM.  Cooked all day.    Emptied the large storage tank:  225 gallons.  Got good rolling boils today in the evaporator.  Dryer wood.   Its a sign of good boiling when you can drop 2” an hour on the tank.   Tomorrow we cook until the smaller 175 gallon tank is empty. 

Two milk cans are now full of syrup  and  we started on the third milk can of syrup.  We must bottle soon.

The days measurements, in inches,  on the storage tank.

10:00  22 ¾
11:00  21 ½
12:00  19 ¼
1:00  18
2:00 15 ¼
3:00 13 ½
4:00 11 ½
5:00  9 ¾
6:00  8
7:00  6
8:00 3 ¾
9:15 empty

The Big Run

Every season there is a big run where we get a majority of the sap for the season.    Since last Thursday March 8 has been our big run.    We collected 620 gallons Thursday, 420 gallons Saturday and 300 gallons today.   The 300 today is the tail end of yesterday’s run.  Now without freezing nights we will not have sap runs.   The real question is: is this it?   

Out to the woods by 8:30 AM.   Last night was the switch to day light saving time already so we lost an hour.    It was already in the 40s.   Up to the mid 60s.   Too warm for March 11th.    We will cook late tonight again as we have 500 gallons in storage tanks.  With the warm weather, the sap does not keep and we must get it boiled through.

Sap Ran Today

We got the sap run we were hoping for after the cold of yesterday.   This morning started sunny but very windy.   Got up to the high 30s quickly.   We checked the buckets in the morning.  Not much happening.  The spouts were wet but not running.   It looked like the cold wind would inhibit the sap run.    By Noon the wind quieted down and it warmed rapidly.   Got into the low 60s.    The trees responded.   By 2:30 PM visitors were reporting buckets ½ full to full.   So we got the tractor and set out to collect.   Picked up 420 gallons of sap.   This puts as at 2020 gallons of sap for the season so far.

We also bottled this afternoon.  We had a lot of help so the crew went out collecting while we stayed to bottle.  29 quarts.  

The wind did bring down a “widow maker” from a tree.  Broken tree branches that are caught in the tree and have not yet fallen are called widow makers because if they fall on you then can kill you.     Husbands were the ones working in the woods so the wife would become a widow if one of these branches fell on him.    One tree by the sugar house had a large widow maker.   We have been cautious of it all season and were hoping it would come down safely.   Sometime overnight the wind did bring down most of it.   There is still one branch caught in the tree.  

Tomorrow more cooking.  And maybe collect again.  It will not freeze tonight so the trees will drip all night.

Long Term Weather Forecast Not Favorable

It seems absurd to think about the end of the season already.   Yet the long term 10 day weather forecast is not favorable.    Highs in the 60s.  Lows in the 40s.   It may be cooler here by the lake.  But these temperatures will cut short the season.  We need highs in the 40s and lows in the 20s.   Two seasons ago in 2010 we had a 10 day warm spell too.   We waited it out and finished with an average season.   But with the warm winter this year conditions may be different.   There is no frost in the ground and no snow cover.  Two seasons ago the frost was still in the ground and snow on the ground when the warm weather arrived.    We will watch the trees for signs of budding and watch for other changes to the living plants in the woods. 

Down to the lows 20s last night.  Today only made it up to 30.  No new sap.  We are still working on our 620 pickup from the other day.  Tonight is also cold.  Down to the lows 20s again.   But tomorrow and Sunday its forecast for near 60.   That is unsettling.

We were worried about frozen pipes this morning.   A tank valve isn’t sealing properly so its leaking into the pipe to the evaporator.   We usually drain that pipe because it will freeze if liquid remains in the pipe.   Last night we had to leave liquid in the pipe.  But it must have been warmer in the building as the pipe did not freeze. 

Last night around mid-night the wind picked up real strong and blew away the frosting of snow we received.   It was mostly bare this morning.   The snow looked so pretty last night.

Into the woods by 8:00 AM.  Back to the house by 8:00 PM so 12 hours.   Cooked all day.  Struggled to get good rolling boils in the evaporator.    Couldn’t push through the amount of sap we wanted.   We still have about 160 gallons to cook down.

Cooked All Day

Into the woods at 8:30 AM.  Back to the house at 10:30 PM.  14 hours.    Cooked all day.   Pushed through about 250 gallons.  Took off three batches that are in the milk can awaiting finishing and bottling.  

The day started cloudy, but by 11:00 AM the sun appeared.  Up to about 38.  Rain overnight.  Did not freeze.   We got some lake effect snow starting at 9:30 PM just before came in from the woods.   Everything is frosted white again.

The Pastor came today for a blessing of the maples.   Maple syrup is the first crop of the year and its fitting we give thanks for it. 

We got word the R/O arrived in WI at our equipment dealer.  It should arrive here next week.  But we almost certainly will not attempt to set it up any more for this season.  So disappointing.   But we can’t learn to drive a new piece of equipment while involved in the thick of the season.  

The weather forecast still looks good for sap by the weekend.

Big Sap Run

Picked up 620 gallons of sap.  It was late yesterday afternoon before the trees woke up from the below zero temperatures.   They ran all night because it did not freeze.  Today was up to the mid 50s but cloudy.   And the snow is now gone.   Its been replaced by mud. 

Into the woods by 1:30 PM to collect.  We had two additional people helping.    With three good workers we finished in three hours.  Very glad we did not have to pick up this much sap solo.

By 5:00 PM we started the evaporator.  With this much sap we have to cook as long as possible.  Stayed until 11:20 PM.    Tomorrow will also be a long day.

Our bottles arrived today.

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