SweetWood Maple Products

Pennsylvania Pure Maple Syrup  


Maple Season 2021

January 2021

I has been three years since we last made syrup.  I promised I would start earlier, and we tried in December but never materialized.

Major windstorms in June 2020 took down some major trees, including a large branch from our last remaining sugar maple next to the driveway.  Nothing like being away at the Creation Museum and having a call that the power was out and car windshield was smashed.  Oh well, could have been the house, so we count our blessings.

Also lots of trees down in the woods, including a very nice cherry tree.  We had some chainsaw work to do for sure.  We have several large trees down over the last few years, but they are still awaiting either the splitter or sawmill.

Early February 2021

Lots of work in the woods, a little each evening.  The Ultra Flexible Drop line tubing has proven to be a squirrel magnet. 

Also discovered two of the three ladders had cracks in the fittings.  No doubt it was from the many freeze/thaw cycles along with PVC (is brittle).

I think we finally cleared out the old Lamb Tubing from 20 years ago!  It was as hard as a rock, but still surviving.   This was back when aerial lines were the newer thing vs. leaving the tubing on the ground.

 02-19-2021, 6:00 PM 

Spent the afternoon in the woods after it warmed up.  Nathan and the kids are a big help with putting in the final touches on the tubing repairs.  The last two weeks have been very cold.  I am glad we didn't try to tap at the end of January this year!

The weather looks good for this week, time to arrange for some vacation time.  Most likely will be Tuesday and Wednesday. 

 02-22-2021, 12:00 PM

Trying to secure some last minute supplies.  In particular, Milkstone Remover and Vaccum Pump oil.  Unfortunately, Tractor Supply does not carry either one of these locally.  I guess the dairy business isn't what it used to be.   The Milkstone remover is used in the front pans between boils to remove the sugar.  If you do not do this, the sugar and sugar sand will cause the pan to boil over.

Anyway, I guess dairy is "out" and maple syrup is "in" at Tractor Supply!  Here is the display:

 02-23-2021, 12:00 PM 

I took a half day vacation today and all day tomorrow.  Here is the big list that I need to have done , most of which need accomplished before we start tapping.

The first thing is to clean the woods sap tank with bleach and lost of water.  Fortunately, I have a dual purpose pump line and water supply that runs from the sugarhouse all the way to the woods sap tank and releaser.

The evaporator needed cleaning and also the woods sap storage tank needed cleaned with bleach and lots of water.

 02-23-2021, 5:00 PM 

Just came in for dinner after working in the woods and sugarhouse for most of the day!    My hope was to have everything tapped this afternoon, but it took a while to clean the tanks and double check the releaser function.  We also had to level the sap tank since the frost and mud had heaved up.  Things never go as planned!

  02-23-2021, 9:00 PM 

We just came in from tapping about 100 trees in the dark.  Catherine and Paul were a big help.  One held the bleach spray and the other held the hammer.  We use an 2 cycle engine drill for tapping.  Yes, the new LIon drills do well, but I have owned this one for a while, so might as well use it.  You can tap all 250 taps with a little over one tank of fuel.

02-24-2021, 12:00 PM 

In for some lunch and a drink after starting to tap again at 9:30 am with two new helpers.  We got another 150 taps in by about 11:30 am.  We had the releaser dumping on the ground for the first two hours to allow all the mother of vinegar and old sap to clear out of the lines.

Started up the vacuum pump only to discover some very large leaks.  The main one was on the vacuum pump line that goes from the vacuum pump to the releaser.  I nicked it by accident when cutting a large silver maple that blew over about 5 years ago.  Good old 3M Electrical Tape to save the day. 

I split my time between troubleshooting the vacuum leaks and firing the evaporator that was full of water and milkstone remover.  The acid should not be left in the evaporator as it will degrade the metal and welds.  Therefore, the cleaning is done at the beginning of each season.

02-26-2021, 08:00 PM 

We are boiling tonight!  Clear, cold nights make the steam impressive. 


Only had a few hundred gallons to boil, so no syrup draw off.  Just enough sap to "sweeten" the pans so we make syrup tomorrow.  I ordered my Letica Food Grade buckets this week.  Uline is great for quick delivery, so I am ready to pack up syrup. 

I typically focus on just doing bulk syrup in 5 gallon buckets until the season is over, then package in the maple pints/quarts.  There is no time typically for me to do packing and boiling, especially with a day job.

02-27-2021, 08:30 AM 

Some good weather with low temps but not a freeze, so we had lots of sap waiting. 

I got the evaporator flues cleaned with a brush and the fire pit cleaned up.  Fire was going by 10 am.

02-27-2021, 12:30 PM 

Lots of helpers today, which is great news since the sap is really flowing.   We drew off our first syrup and had lots of "samplers" ready to taste the first maple goodness of the season.

We typically use the first 5 gallon bucket of syrup for maple cream (yields approximately 40 lbs).  This is the best tasking stuff, perfect for bagels or toast.  Not low calorie, but worth it.

02-27-2021, 9:00 PM 

We just finished the last of the 800 gallons that were collected between yesterday and today.  A quick start to the season, but it looks like a freeze up is coming, so maybe no syrup boiling this coming week.  It will give us some time to do some more cleanup, and maybe some firewood cutting.

03-01-2021, 6:00 PM 

Got off early today and did some more boiling.  We are up to around 1200 gallons of sap so far.  About 12 gallons of Syrup finished in new buckets

The weather looks a bit colder for tomorrow, which is good because I have a deacons meeting.

03-04-2021, 5:00 PM 

Another shorter day at work so I can get home to boil.  It was warm Wednesday, so we have another450 or so to boil.  The evaporator averages 80 GPH after the first hour.  The first hour is about 30 GPH since everything is heating up.

I ended up taking the back cleanout panels out of the evaporator to get some of the ash out from a few years of firings.  That stuff was a fine as baby powder.  The cast iron rusted around the cleanouts, so that made it a chore.  I didn't get the fire started until 5:30.  No good for sleep.

03-04-2021, 11:30 PM 

As I said, starting at 5:30 to boil 450 gallons was not good.  Fortunately, I had a little help, but older kids had volleyball, so I am dead tired.  This much sap is boderline for getting done in one night.

I also don't like firing when it is so cold.  I had to put up a temporary tarp across the end of the wood shed so I didn't cool the syrup as I was drawing off.  Hot syrup is critical for filtering.

03-06-2021, 11:30 AM 

No sap run today, it will not make it above freezing.  Instead, we cleaned the sugarhouse a bit and cut firewood from just west of the sugarhouse.  All the blow downs plus the dead cherry logs were needing cut up anyway.  We had some good helpers, wheelbarrowing up the wood so we could split and stack.


This stuff was very dry since the log was propped off the ground.  I hope it burns well, as we might need some extra wood this year.

03-08-2021, 5:30 PM 

Came home not expecting too much after such a cold night, but seeing only 50 gallons told me some thing was up.  Unfortunately, a quick walk in the woods showed me the devistation, which was the first and second sap ladders had been shattered by such a deep cold spell.  (our woods sees at least 5 degrees lower temps than what is reported).

03-08-2021, 8:30 PM 

Thanks to Nathan for sticking it out and repairing both ladders, which included reattaching 30 pieces of 5/16 tubing.  I had to run to Busy Beaver to get all the fittings that were shattered. 

I learned a valuable lesson, put a plug at the end of each ladder that can pop off when it freezes.  I tended to drain the system when I suspected a hard freeze, but that wastes sap and make it critical that you close all the valves before the next day.

03-09-2021, 11:00 AM 

I took a half day vacation to keep up with the warm spell coming (that could end the season).  We did lose some sap from yesterday, but still ended up with 175 gallons last night.

I started the fire about 12:30 pm.  I was doing too much at once with pumping sap, firing and getting filters ready.  Got away with it this time.

Firing at this time in the season is hard as the sugar sand quickly builds up and prevents you from fiting the evaporator to get the best boiling rate.  Tonight was no exception.  Have lots of sweet, but not much syrup.

03-09-2021, 8:30 PM 

Wrapped up for today.  Polished off another 600 gallons from the last two days.  That puts us around 2600 for the year so far.  I saw that there still is 125 gallons of sap in the woods (I pumped at 5 pm).  So, we will see after perhaps a cold spell tonight what tomorrow holds.

I also pulled the soft maple taps today.  I do this to prevent the buddy sap from ruining the rest of the batch.  These trees bud earlier, especially seeing the 60+ degrees several times in the last two weeks.

The releaser was dumping once every 6 minutes.  Since it dumps about 6 gallons per cycle, that's a nice even 1 GPM of sap.  Not the fastest, but I am surprised as we have not had a great cycle of cold.  Also, multiple 60 degree days tends to slow the sap quickly due to bacterial in the taphole (natural coagulant).

03-10-2021, 11:00 AM 

Got off work for another half day of vacation as the weather is supposed to be sunny again.  We did have a light freeze, so perhaps thing will run again.  Nathan started the pump before I got home, so there was 225 gallons to pump.

I was concerned about buddy sap and the warm weather, so when I was down to about 60 gallons left to boil, I sampled some sap from the tank (that contained about 150 gallons).  My wife and son said the steam from the sample smelled fine, and the sweet was also good.  Soo...into the head tank it goes.

The wood pile is getting low and we don's have a freeze coming anytime soon.  I am calling it quits with and even 3,000 gallons of sap collected.  Here is my "Maple Wall" in the sugarhouse where I traditionally keep track of the tapping date, runs and dates, and sugar content.

03-11-2021, 7:00 PM

Just hangin out with the boys tonight while kids are at volleyball and dance.  I started updating videos on the SweetWood Maple Youtube Channel.  I am hoping to get these posted later.

03-12-2021, 8:00 PM

For those who tapped late, it does look like the season will continue.  I did NOT hear the tree frogs in the swamp last night, which means things are still going.  I am still calling it quits, ready to start packaging and making Maple Cream.  I just published a very ameture Maple Cream video, but it might be helpful for those who are just experimenting with the process.

03-13-2021, 5:00 PM

Just came in from some hiking on the property behind our house.  (Sap is still running some, but I am out of wood and energy)

Mill Run begins across the road from two lakes, then flows behind us to a marsh pond, then on to the old mill on Milburn Road.

The beavers are back at it again after the culvert washed out about 6 years ago.  It's amazing they have the lake water up about 2 feet from last year.  Check out the size of the tree in the background!

We are hoping the bass/bluegill are restored similar to when we moved here in 1997. 
20"+ Largemouth were common!

Lots of sugar maples back by the pond too, but it's far from the sugarhouse and the neighbor does not want them tapped.

03-13-2021, 9:00 PM

I just came in from draining the sweet from the evaporator into buckets and scrubbing the front pans of any sugar residue.  The front pans now have about 3" of sweet, and about 30 gallons of sweet in buckets waiting to go in.

One of the harder processes of the season is finishing the last syrup in the evaporator.  My evaporator is a Dominion and Grimm 3' x 10' drop flue.  If you do the math, it's about 15 gallons per inch of depth.  You then have to calculate the flues, which are 7" deep and just over 5/8" wide and go the whole length of the 3' x 7' back pan.  The flues are about 15 gallons as well.  So, you are hard presses to be less than 30 gallons of sweet to boil in just the front pans.

03-15-2021, 7:00 PM

No family Bible Study due to sickness, so I filled the back pan with water and began to boil the front pan with the sweet sap.

This is very tricky as you feed sap into the pan and drain as much as you dare before adding more sweet.  Fortunately, I have two partitions in the cross flow pan, so I can add to the back partition and let syrup into the front partition as I draw off.

I also fire just in the front of the fire box to focus the heat.

03-15-2021, 9:00 PM

After the usual hair raising front pain boiling, I managed to draw off all but about 2 quarts of syrup.  I used the fresh water from the flue pan to push out the last remaining syrup.  I got most through the filters, except about 5 gallons.  That will settle over time, and I will use just for our household since it will have some sugar sand.

Also, the wood pile was just finishing up, which worked out well.

Final tally is just less tha 3000 gallons of sap and 46+ gallons of syrup.  15 gallons light, 15 gallons medium and the rest dark.  All tastes good with no metabolism.

Unfortunately, that's over 60/1 again, but that is typical for my swamp trees combined with 24" of vacuum.  I had about 7 runs of sap, much of the volume thanks to vacuum.

Next few weeks will be pulling taps and winding up tubing, cleaning up the sugarhouse, maple cream and packaging syrup.  The work never ends!

03-17-2021, 8:00 PM

Peepers are out in force.  That spells the end of the season.

2021 February Weather

2021 March Weather