SweetWood Maple Products

Pennsylvania Pure Maple Syrup  


Maple Season 2010

Fall 2009

With lots of help from the kids (and Conor when he was with us), we managed to stack the wood shed full plus a cord or two outside.  Seasoned under tarps for two years, so all it needed was drying.  Hoping to have plenty of wood this year, don't want a repeat of 2008 and scraping for every scrap and overpaying for under seasoned wood!

January 30 - 2010

First trip in the woods (officially) since my burn out in April of 2008.  Lots of trees to cut off lines, broken wires, pulled fittings, etc.  Looks like several days of fixing are in store.  Only got out two hours today, but managed to get all the major chain saw work done.  Releaser appears to be ok as well, but a little warmer day and firing up the vacuum pump will tell for sure.

 Had several offenders like this...you can see the mud still on the line, but it never broke the fence wire.

January 31

Another two hours in the woods today with the kids.  Great having a 10 and 8 year old to do the running up and down the lines.  More repairs from broken 1/2" entry fittings.  Also planning to eliminate all the rest of the 7/16" spiles (probably about 75).

February 1

Took a 1/2 day vacation and worked more in the woods.  The diameter change in the trees really tightens up the tubing!  Also...any nails used to secure the tees are now buried.  Here is a photo of my helpers:

  Andrew, Abby and Toby (our outdoor neighborhood cat)

We worked on fixing some more broken entry fittings, plus more broken fence wire due to heavy branches and trees hitting the lines over the past few years.  Switching over the spiles to 5/16" is proving to be a real chore.  Mainly because I used the older thick Lamb tubing for the drop lines, and the new spiles are made for thin wall. 

You need really hot water and a strong hand to put these on.  If I wasn't so cheap and bought the $90 tool, I could do it without the hot water!

February 4th

Another 1/2 day vacation after Michelle's 20 week appointment.  Got home and as we were eating lunch, the UPS truck arrived with the shipment of fittings from Leader.  The twins eyes lit up, almost as much as Dad's, as the box was opened.

 There's Elizabeth...already dipping into the goods!

  Anna was running with the bag...seeming to know the importance of the contents!

After the lunch fun, I took the kids out to the sugar house (on the way to the woods) and put the ceramic heater blowing on the vac pump.  Also found some more new tubing on the 2nd floor, so took it out with us.  Had big plans as we headed to the woods, but stopped at the first sap ladder and Andrew noticed one of the small lines loose!

   This mainline with the ladder had taken a big hit by a tree and must have pushed the ladder down and broke one of the 6 way star tees.  Back up to the house to get a new one....took close to a 1/2 hour to fix and that was with the kids helping.

Fixed another support wire, cut my hand in the process...another trip to the house (well, actually it was Abby)!  Finally get about 25 spiles switched from the large to the small size.  Also do some more fixing in the process including reworking the end tree connections.  I also discover a few more damaged mainline fittings.  Will this ever end?

Back to the sugarhouse around 4 pm.  Kids go from helping me to playing with Nathan.  I fired up the vac pump....Oil level seems good (but still needs changed), pump sounded good too.  Plugged in the releaser and went down with a bucket of water.  Did some testing....the system seems to work and not have any leaks.  Hopefully another year for my homemade "contraption".  Have to post some photos of it later.

Day ended quickly with Nathan falling face first in the dirt.  Had to wash his eyes out, but otherwise ok.

February 6th

Wow...what a storm.  Fortunately, we got a mere 10 inches...not so fortunate for those in Philly, DC etc.  30+" set some records for those folks.  Spent the morning plowing, then off to Karl Evans in Orwell, OH for some maple supplies. 

We decided to try Sap Sac bags with holders for the trees that are in the yard.  Probably around 25 taps will be done this way.  Not as glamorous as buckets and covers, but hopefullly more convenient and easy to store.  We'll see!  Of course, had to get another $100 or so of fittings and tubing while I was there!

Another few hours in the woods with Andrew and Abby making repairs and clearing more brush on the lines.  Managed to cut myself again on the same hand as the last time while tensioning some 1/2" tubing.  Also ventured into the new section from 2008 that we added (around 125 taps).  Major wind damage...probably at least 1/2 the laterals lines are down.  Did I say days or weeks to fix all this up?

The way the weather is looking, it seems like another week before we tap.  Way too much to do before then, but what else is new.  There is never enough time.

February 10

We had fun this afternoon walking the lines and counting taps.  If we put up the 25 sap bags, that will put us just over 500 taps.  Didn't think we had quite that many!  We could easlily put up about 20 more taps after looking at trees that had grown enough over the last few years to now take two taps.  Found a shattered lower fitting in one of the sap ladders.  It was nice to see it now instead of during the start up of the vacuum when the sap is running full tilt.

Had an idea of putting an extra small gear pump that I had laying around.  I was thinking of circulating the vacuum pump flood oil through a cooler.  Of course, Dad had all the major parts, so I will order the fittings and hose to put the system together this weekend.  I am hoping this will help the pump stay cooler and use less oil this year.

February 12

We received the shipment from McMaster-Carr (fittings) and Anderson's Maple today.  The Lapierre slide fittings look neat, can't wait to try them.  Also have the clear maple sap bags instead of blue, so we are hoping this looks a little better in the yard.

 Here was our work crew from Friday afternoon.  We utilized all the people in the photo (besides Nathan, but his day will come).  We fixed at least 20 lines that were down.  One of us also managed to fall through the ice in the creek...and all of us had snow in our jackets from the trees!  It was a good day, topped off with some very good homemade vegetable soup (thanks Vicki) and Mom's peach pie.

February 13

Today I decided to try and put the new roof ridge cap (from the storm damage back in 2005) and roof jacks that seal the chimney and steam pipes at the peak of the roof.  Of course, installation proved more interesting than I planned on, so it will carry over until next week.

Though I love snow, especially before the sugaring season, it was a pain today.  I shouldn't whine as we have a mere 18-20 inches vs. others who have 5 feet or more.  Anyway, I managed to get the large 15 inch diameter stack pipe off (see Photo 1), albiet by a controlled crash down on the roof.  The greater challenge was getting it back on.  Fortunately, Michelle did not get a photo of that, it just magically appears back in place between Photo 3 and Photo 4!  I also had to move the back of the evaporator over about 2 inches so the stack pipe was plumb.  It was kind of like a slightly crooked picture on the wall, not real bad but drove me crazy looking at it.  With hundreds of firebrick in the arch, it required me lugging the floor jack to the sugarhouse to make the move.

 Kids had a blast outside, here are a few photos of their tunneling fun!


Anyway...a good, but slow day.  I still have the other two steam pipes to go, perhaps tomorrow afternoon.

February 17

Finished the chimney roof flashing today.  I ended up letting the steam caps rest against the roof jack flashing and forgetting the storm collars.  I think it will work fine that way for this year.  I also replaced the ridge cap and hopefully the shine dulls down after a year or so. 

February 20

We started tapping today after the weather people were wrong about the temps.  Got to 40 degrees and sunny.  At least it wasn't frozen wood, but it always makes me feel guilty just letting sap run on the ground.  The tubing also needs cleaned, so the sap helps with that too.  With my Dad helping, we both did about 200 taps each, which leaves about 100 left for tomorrow.  The gas drill is heavy, but nice as it only used about 1/2 a tank of gas.  My Dad managed the same as me on three 18v batteries.

Abby and I also went and replaced the last 50 taps that were the old 7/16" diameter.  Now we can just load the 5/16" bit and not have to switch back and forth.

February 21

Got home from church and went to put the cover back on the vacuum pump and filled with oil.  I added two ports to be used later for the oil cooler, but didn't have the time today as the temp hit 40 and sunny!

After firing up the vacuum pump and testing the releaser with some water, I went off with Andrew to finish tapping.  Took us about 1-1/2 hours to do the final 100 taps.  I then went to start the vacuum and check for leaks.  I really do need to invest in a moisture trap as I keep getting sap in the vacuum pump line when a high volume of sap enters the releaser.  I almost ruined the pump last year with water due to this problem.

Anyway, a few more squirrel chews and a 1/2" mainline fitting to replace.  Gotta love vacuum..so picky.

February 22

Took the day off today with Nathan, Elizabeth and Anna sick.  Made it outside around 10:30 am and started fixing another few vacuum leaks.  I flushed the sap storage tank with the incoming sap.  I used about 60 gallons in the tank to swirl around the debris, then let it out.  That seemed to work well.

Got the vacuum really going about 12:30pm.  From then till the end of the day totaled about 340 gallons.

Then...sugaring challenges began.  A big one!  I decided to rinse the pans to get ready to boil tomorrow.  Good thing, since as I was flushing the back pan, I heard water running on the floor!!!!  The rear pan was leaking!!!!  So....used some ratchet straps and raised the 3' x 7' drop flue pan and found the problem.  The cross over that allows you to drain the pan had swelled from freezing in the past and broken the Tig weld.


 Finally hung up the sorrows about 1:30 am and went to bed.  Have to make some calls tomorrow, I am hoping our friend Dan has a Tig welder.

February 23

Well, after only 4 hours sleep, pumped the final bit of sap out of the storage tank before work.

Fortunately, my Dad and Dan were both lined up to do the repair.  I just had to plow a foot of very wet snow to the sugarhouse and taking another 1/2 day off of work.  My Dad and I got the trailer backed up to the sugarhouse and rolled the pain straight onto the trailer.  Then, off to Dan's for the fix.  Here are some photos:


By 7 pm, we had the pan back on the evaporator and Dad was on his way home.  I am hoping everything is fixed now.  Unfortunately, I'm not able to boil until Thursday.  I hope the weather doesn't get too cold!

February 26

Total collection waqs 340 gallons from Monday and Tuesday, so cleaned the pans and put all the steam hoods on for a boil.  Didn't get started until 7:30 pm and finished at 11:30 pm.  I could have finished a bit earlier, but ran the evaporator too close to empty and had to shovel hot coals outside.  Oh well, doesn't look like another run for a while.

March 3

Small run today...got the vacuum pump up and running along with a water filter and raquet ball to use as a stop float in case the releaser takes a gulp of sap.  The vacuum pump oil cooler was a success...running about 110 degrees after the pump ran for 4 hours!  Total sap that ran from about 3 pm till 6 pm freeze was about 250 gallons.

March 4

Another 250 gallons today with a short run again before it froze.  Have about 500 gallons waiting to be boiled.

March 5,6,7

Had a few hundred gallons of sap all three days.  Shot a video of our operation on Saturday.  Up to about 1500 gallons by the end of the day Sunday.  Syrup is still light/medium.  Vacuum is running consistently at 22-23", but still trees have not fully ran.  Did not get the bags up on the trees, not sure if I will at this point.

March 8

400 gallons collected today, but should have been more since the temps hit 50 degrees!

March 9

Collected 500 gallons of 1.7 to 1.8 percent sap.  Vacuum pump was running 11 hours.  The weather forcast does not look good...no freezing nights.

march 11

Collected another 300 gallons despite no freezing nights for two days.  Sunny and 60 degrees did the trick, but making almost B grade syrup and the sap hasn't even sat one day.  This could be the end unless the weather people are wrong.

March 14

Finishing off the final bit from the evaporator.  Looks like only around 50 gallons of syrup this year.  Had an interesting afternoon.

4:30 pm - Filled the flue pan and started the fire. Kids helped stack wood.
5:00 pm - Got filters ready to draw off...the fire was clipping pretty well.
5:30 pm - Kids continue to stack wood and I decide to split all the pieces to help the front pain boil.
5:40 pm - A nice piece of oak decides to smack me hard in the front teeth while using the thin splitting axe. Blood...so went to the house.
5:45 pm - looked at the large gash in my lip when in the house. While going up to the kitchen for ice...debated on going to the ER for a moment...felt light headed while talking to my wife...lights out.
5:46 pm - came to on the kitchen floor with my wife propping me up. fortunately she was there to catch me as I passed out and slammed my head off the kitchen cabinet.
5:50 pm - Wife got the super glue and used the kitchen floor as the operating table. glued my lip up good but had to wait a while for it to dry.
6:00 pm - back in the sugarhouse just in time to stoke the fire before it went out!

Well, there you go. Always fun sugaring.

March and Season final note:

 Here is the final run down for the temps in March.

A dissapointing season with less than three weeks of running.  Late February tapping seems to be dangerous and this year was not exception.  Need some clean up and start to make maple cream, sugar, etc.  Final total was 3,000 gallons and around 50-55 gallons of syrup.  Most was light/med.

2010 Feburary Weather

2011 March Weather