SweetWood Maple Products

Pennsylvania Pure Maple Syrup  


Maple Season - 2008

Well, after taking a year off, we are trying to get back into the groove.  The sugaring bug bit hard in December, so we are trying to get ready.

January 2008 Update:  Did some scouting in the woods and decided to add more main line and taps.  About 150 more just west of the sugarhouse.  Another $1000 in equipment down the sap lines, eh?

Also residing the sugarhouse with regular board on board siding.  Too rustic the way it is now.  Also added a door directly in front of the evaporator to get some more room.

February 2008 Update:  Almost done getting tubing up.  Had many repairs in the old woods.  Lots of lines down and new fittings to replace.  Still getting the tanks cleaned and releaser put in place.  ARgh....too much to do.

Tapped February 24, 25, 26th.  My kids helped the whole time, even at night.  Tapped around 450+ in both the new and old sections.

First big run was March 3rd when it hit 60 degrees!  Here's how the day went:

Let's start with the "right"...got about 800 gallons off 450 taps and it's still going, though slow.
Well as they say, what can go wrong...will go wrong. Let's start with the "right"...got about 800 gallons off 450 taps and it's still going, though slow. The bad stuff started with my wife checking the vac pump before noon. She said the sight glass looked white. Told her to shut off the pump and I would leave work. Hated to do that, but did anyway. Got home...oil had some moisture...no big deal. Started the pump back up (mind you, it's 55 degrees and sunny and the pump had been off for 45 min). Bad idea...my releaser does not have a check valve on the vacuum line, so all the massive sap overwhelmed the releaser and I had the pump take a big gulp of water. Soooo....argh....4 oil changes later it still looks a little milky, but ok. Added a moisture trap (thanks Jim) to help be warned in the future of water in the line. (of course, didn't have the fittings to install the trap, so off to the store) Ok, so pump's back on after two hours of being off....eased the vacuum to 10" so as not to overwhelm the releaser at first. Ok, pump starts to make some noise like a loose bolt rattling around inside. Soooo....apart comes the pump. Found out the reed valve was broke. Called to get a new one...no return call. Said forget it...I'll run without it. Pump seemed to work fine. While fooling around getting the pump back on line, sucked in a cap up through the drip leg in the plumbing. My heart sank as the vacuum dropped off. Ok, shut the pump back off and fortunately, the cap got stuck in a pipe elbow and not in the vanes. Ok, pump back together and running. It's now 4:30 pm. Still have to flush the evaporator and pump up 400 gallons of sap. Start pumping sap...one of the suction lines has a decent leak. Said screw it and put it on the inlet line and let it suck some air. 6:30 pm. Finally boiling. Sap starts to foam alot. Realized I fogot defoamer, ran to the house and got it. 9:30 pm. Trying to pump last of the sap. Leak in pump line must be getting worse...was getting like 5 gpm. Said forget it, I'll leave the last 150 gallons in the tank. 11 pm. Said I quit. Still need to boil 350 gallons. Made no syrup (expected that), though I was close. Tomorrow is another day (in like 15 minutes). Hopefully all the bugs are out!!!!!!!

March 4th:  Boiled the other 350 gallons.  Almost syrup to draw off.  Saved some sweet in buckets to start off with next time.

March 6th: My wife had a doctor's appointment today that ran long, so the pump and releaser did not get turned on until 4 pm. It was 42 degrees and sunny by then. Well, between then and 8 pm when it started to freeze, I got 500 gallons of sap. The releaser was hitting every 3 or 4 minutes with 7 gallons. Got a little over half boiled tonight as I didn't start until 8 pm and I had 2-1/2" of sweet in the evaporator that had to get boiled before the new stuff. Drew off about 5 gallons of light syrup.  Have to get a flue brush made up again. I'm down to 80 gph, and that's with forced air!!!

March 8th:  I have 17 gallons drawn off as of tonight. Light amber and clear as glass.  Have about 15 gallons of 40 Brix sitting in buckets. 1300 gallons of sap so far through the evaporator.

March 10th:  Wasn't suppose to be warm OR sunny today, so I didn't set up the heater on the vac pump before I left for work.
Guess what? Warm and sunny. When I got home to turn the pump on at 5:30, the was already 75 gallons that ran in on it's own (up through the ladders).  I turned the pump on and by 8 pm, there was 300 gallons. I think I missed some today by turning the pump on late, but what can I do?  Crazy days.

March 11th:  I have 800+ gallons now waiting to be boiled from the last two days. Got 500 gallons today before I shut the pump off at 8:30.  I had to default to putting 125 gallons in some extra barrels.  Thursday looks like the motherload. I'll have to get the 425 gallon pick up truck tank cleaned for that one. The problem is...I have to boil too!!!

March 13th:  Well, it's been good sap the past few days. Got another 300 today, making a whopping 1100 waiting to boil tonight when I got home from work.  I got through 400 before quitting at 11:30. Had to get more wood thrown in the wood shed from one of my many piles to get ready for BIGSAP tomorrow. Don't want to be getting wood in the rain!

March 14th:  Well, thanks to my Dad coming up last night, was able to multi-task.  I got the front pans scrubbed with Milkstone Remover (good stuff from TSC). Also got the 425 pickup truck tank plumbed in and finally pumped sap into it at 8 pm. So, the vac pump was off from 5 to 8 pm. :-(  Started the fire at 7:30 pm and quit at 12 am. Polished off 400 gallons, but still have 800 left in the tanks, plus another 150 in the woods and still coming. Sap in the tanks is going a bit cloudy, and I'm making medium syrup now. I still can't see the bottom, as Dave Y would say.  Easly cleared 3000 gallons with yesterday's run of 600 gallons. I'm tired...and I still have weeks to go.

March 17th:  Today was a little surprising. Spitting snow showers, but still got almost 200 gallons of sap.
I'm barely keeping my head above water, but gained a little today. Boiled down about 700 gallons. Running about 1.8 or 1.9 percent.  Still have 500+ waiting for me and it looks good for a run tomorrow.  I noticed just a slight green tint to my sap. Ever so slight. So, I did my usual bud test (break one off and smell) and the trees are showing signs of waking up. A few more 50 degree days with no freezing nights and it's commercial syrup. Oh well.  I have about 50 taps on red maples, so I think I'll pull them on Tuesday just in case. Got caught one year when they woke up early and ruined a batch of syrup.  I am suffering with a severe lack of dry firewood. My tarps were too low to the ground, so the wood picked up moisture and stayed wet. Fighting it every step of the way by having to split almost every piece smaller. The way I figure, I have about 4 boils left @ 400 gallons each. I am getting more slabs delivered tomorrow, but they will likely be only 6 month or so aged as they are straight from the sawmill. Not sure what to do...definitely a miscalculation for this year.

March 18th: 
I gathered another 250 gallons of sap today. With my boiling tonight, that means I only have about 700 gallons left to boil. That puts me about 4300 gallons of sap to date. I'm also down to about 1.7%, and that doesn't help my firewood situation. I figure that I have enough for one more good run, so I might be done by this weekend. As long as I clear 5,000 gallons, I'll be content.
I could pay for more seasoned dry wood at $225 per cord delivered. That would be crazy to do that as I pay $300 for 4 cords of unseasoned wood.  I could do $40 a truckload if I go get it, but I don't have that kind of time. I burned up my vacation getting ready for the season.

March 20th:  Add heavy air on top of 1.6% sugar content and wet wood and you have me "wishing upon the thermometer" last night. Just couldn't get cooking....still making syrup, but very slow.  Plus, I'm looking for anything to burn.  Yikes.

March 22nd:  Boiled another 500 today. Scrounging around for wood, but that was ok.  I'm still low on sugar content. I don't see that improving.  I have made 65 gallons of syrup in sealed buckets, plus 10 gallons in the tank and what's in the evaporator.  I have 300+ gallons waiting in the woods. That would make 4,600 gallons YTD.  The season will probably end for me next week as it will not get below freezing. My prediction is another two runs, which would get me to 5,500 gallons and around 100 gallons of syrup. My ratio is usually 50-60/1, so that makes sense.  Funny...never did tap the trees on my property. Just could get the time to do it with boiling 12 times in less than a month.  22" of vacuum made a huge difference this year. Even today, mid 30's and still get a run.

March 23rd:  GRRRRRR...Scorched my pan during startup today. Still recovering with acid and scotch brite. No boiling here this evening, just scrubbing. 3 hours of scrubbing to be exact.  I start out every boil by dumping in some of the concentrate from the previous boil in the syrup pan, but plug the port between the flue and syrup pans.  This is always a risk at the start as the front pan can get away from you but gets the gradient a real head start.  Well, it did get away from me and the back cross flow pan burnt the entire way across the partition. Put a 1/4"+ bulge in the metal, plus about a 1/8" thick coating of sugar.  I also lost about 5 or 6 gallons of dark amber. I was fortunately able to save what was in the flue pan.  Moral of the story...with a D&G cross flow pan, put your thermometer in the middle partition at first startup, then move forward to the normal position. I would have seen the rising temp this way, instead of missing the problem by seeing the low temp in the first partition.  Just collected another 500 gallons of sap between yesterday and today. That puts me at 5,100 for the year.  Needless to say, after scrubbing until 8 pm, I called it quits for this evening.

March 25th:  Turn out the Lights...the party's over. Boiled 500 tonight. Smelled some wood in the steam. Probably my soft maples coming alive.  But, with the wood supply about 20 paces from my sugarhouse and not seasoned (only got 70 gph tonight), rain and no freeze in the forecast, I'll forsake the last run and call it quits.  Just made the 5,000 gallon mark. Would have been close to 100 gallons of syrup if I wouldn't have toasted 6 of it last evening. Probably end up with 90 gallons.  I could potentially run a little more by pulling my reds/silvers.  From years past, I need to be tapped by the end of January to have a full season. I could not do that this year as I was still getting ready.  I'll have to really plan ahead next year as there are TWO "buns in the oven" due in October!

March 27th:  Had to let about 150 gallons of 2% sap run on the ground.  Just couldn't do it...no dry wood and no energy left.  It would have been B or C grade syrup.

2008 Feburary Weather

2008 March Weather