Another cold front came through last nite and dropped the temperatures to 20 degrees from a high of 52 yesterday. Todays high will only be the upper 30’s and we are expecting highs in the lower 30’s over the coming weekend. The cold weather is expected to continue through mid April. This means no large sap runs starting this weekend but we should get some to run in the afternoons. Looks like this could be one of the longest running seasons ever. Since we have vacuum the tap holes should remain open until the trees bud out. This year Easter sunday is April 1st - about as early as it can get. Since the temps will be too cold for sap everyone will be able to celebrate Easter with their families. The sap ran good yesterday - the Harmon woods vacuum was started at 9:30 and by 3:20 we had about 2600 gallons of sap in the tank. The Home Woods vacuum was started at 10:15 and by 4 pm we had filled up the truck tank - 575 gallons. After 4pm low pressure was moving in and the sap run lost it’s steam as the cold front moved through. I gave a tour of the operations (Harmon Woods, sapsucker #1 and Pittmans sugar house) to Roy Oscarson of Hudson. He is a hobby sugarmaker and had heard about our commercial operation so wanted to see how we handled 5000 gallons of sap per day. I drove Bruces ATV down to the woods, brushed out the Harmon pickup tanks when Jason and Marlowe drove over the milk truck to pickup the sap and gave a tour of the sugarhouse, bottling room and storage room at Pittmans. As of yesterday Pittmans has made 89 barrels of syrup so they are about 1/2 way to their goal of 200 barrels.
There was about 1inch of snow overnight but the temperature did drop to 28 and the sap had a short run from 11:30 to 4pm today after the temperature raised above freezing but stopped running once a cold rain started. The cool spring continues and we are expecting the sap to continue to run until mid April. As of today we have collected about 28,000 gallons of sap which has resulted in about 800 gallons of syrup. The sugar content is still averaging 2.6% and the taste is exceptional. Pittman started boiling about 4am today since he received 25,000 gallons late yesterday. With today’s smaller run he should catch up this evening. Since they syrup is a very nice medium amber Jim, Roger Gilles and myself bottled 104 gallons of syrup into various sized containers today. The syrup is piped directly from the evaporator to the filling kettle. We always like to bottle this way since I believe the taste and color is better than reheated syrup. On Sunday Kevin started the Harmon sapsucker for the first time. He reported that the sap receiver was filling every 46 seconds which is about 400 to 500 gallons per hour. To date the sapsuckers have all worked great and we continue to check now for small air leaks to keep raising the vacuum level to the goal of 23. Brent and Kevin spent 3 hours sunday checking the Harmon Woods. There is still about a foot of snow on the ground in the woods so there is plenty of moisture to keep the sap running since there is no short term warmup in site.
Sap started running at 11:30 AM today. In 3 hours 1100 gallons had run at the Harmon’s tanks. High pressure resulted in a fast start. Temperatures were 20 and 44. It was a perfect sap day with sun and no wind. Sap stopped running about 7:30 PM and we ended up with 3000 gallons at Harmons and about 750 from the Home Woods. Sugar content is remaining constant at 2.7 for Harmons and 2.4 for the Home woods. I fixed more small leaks in the Home Woods and replaced the star on the east side of the road by Bill Hill. Current vacuum level is about 15 and we are trying to get it to 20. The Harmon vacuum is remaining stable at 23 lbs. Our new vacuum system is exceeding our expectations and now we just need to fine tune it. The maximum amount of sap per tap is about 35 gallons based on research by the University of Vermont Procter research center and we hope to at least get 20 gallons per tap this year. Dave was in charge of sap collection today and drove Jim’s John Deere tractor to pickup the home woods sap and deliver a truck load of sap to Pittmans without incident. The only issue today was that the transfer tank valve was left open when Jim picked up a load of sap from the home woods at 7pm. We lost about 10-20 gallons. Jim drove bus for the Plum City Schools in the afternoon. The short term weather outlook is for the sap to run each day since a large Hi pressure ridge to the NE is keeping storms and warm weather to the SW of us.
The 2018 sugaring season is off to a good start. Before the sap started running again today we have collected about 11,200 gallons of sap which made about 333 gallons of syrup through March 19th. Minimal sap ran the 20th and 21st. The sugar content is averaging 2.57 which is 17 per cent higher than last year and the highest since 2014 which was 2.36. Last Fall and early winter Jim and Dave worked to prepare the woods for vacuum systems to increase the amount of sap collected. We are hoping to increase sap output by at least 25% vs using the previous collection system. All tees with end caps were removed and replaced with sealed red/green tees, new clear spiles installed on all drops, redid the remaining sap lines in the Harmon woods to add in new trees and install shorter lines to the main lines and trenched in 1200′ of double 1.5 inch drain lines from the edge of Patnodes woods to Patnode Lane, Also coordinated projects to have Excell Energy install electrical service to Patnode Lane and for Pittmans Maple Syrup to make custom vacuum systems for the home woods and the Harmon woods. The Home woods vacuum is powered by a one stroke diesel engine and the Patnode Lane vacuum is powered by an electric motor. The vacuum pump is from Jim’s dairy operation. So far we have paid Backwoods Electric $1299.63 to install electrical service and $1200 for trenching the drain lines. We are planning that the vacuum systems will be paid for by the extra sap collected. Both vacuum systems worked when started up - gauges showed 23lbs for Harmons and 15lbs for the Home woods. We installed insulation on the drain pipes where they come out of the ground and also used a milkhouse heater inside the sap wagon when the temperature dropped below freezing so the transfer sump pump would not be encased in ice. We will continue to monitor all sap lines to find air leaks to keep the vacuum as high as possible - the theory is a 5 - 7% increase in sap output for each lb of vacuum difference.
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