A Good Week

by Peter 4/2/2015 8:05:00 AM

Starting on Saturday morning, we were able to make 155 gallons of syrup in four days.  Our best day was on Sunday when we made 65 gallons of syrup.  This was a single day record for us.  The excellent sap flow on Saturday and Sunday was caused by a very cold night on Friday that was followed by a quick warm up during the day.  

The past few days, when temperatures have shot up into the mid-70's, we haven't collected as much sap because we haven't had freezing nights.  To keep the sap fresh we filter it and refrigerate it with our bulk tanks that used to be on dairy farms.  This preserves the sap nicely during warm weather.  Without refrigeration, the sap would degrade quickly with warm temperatures.

An interesting thing that we've observed this year is that the syrup tastes a lot better.  We aren't sure why.  My dad and I tossed around possibilities, including a better growing season last year, a well timed snow fall that allowed the trees to access nutrients from the soil, or the larger diameter filtering aid that we switched to.  Almost every large maple syrup producer uses a filter press to remove precipitated minerals from the syrup.  Essentially it is a small gear pump that pushes the syrup through fine papers.  A filter aid, called diatomaceous earth (DE), is used to increase the capacity of the papers before they get clogged.  The DE that we used to use was one micron in size.  After reading research that four micron DE still took out visual impurities, but allowed for a faster flow rate, we tried the larger size.  The syrup is still just as clear, but we are wondering if there are some other things that can now get through the DE that are adding to the flavor.  We don't entirely know why the syrup tastes even better, but the bottom line is the syrup tastes really good!  

There are still a couple of freezing nights that are forecast for the next week.  However, the 10 day trend appears to show that we are moving well above the freezing point.  We might be done with our syrup season pretty quickly because as soon as the buds come out, the sap tastes different and gives an off taste to the finished syrup.  Our total syrup production at this point in the season is 215 gallons.  Our overall total last year was 435 gallons.  

Taps are in and the Weather Forecast is Promising

by Peter 3/5/2015 2:05:00 AM

Two weeks ago, we marched through the woods and installed all of the taps with the help of family and friends.  After getting the taps in, the work slowed down because it has been too cold to do the next projects.  As soon as we get some temperatures above freezing this weekend, we will turn on the vacuum pump and start looking for the leaks in our plastic tubing.  There are always a lot of repairs to do.  Squirrels, birds and falling branches can really do a number on the tubing, which has to all be connected in order to deliver vacuum pressure to the trees and allow the sap to flow to the tank.

Next week is looking like it will be a very good week to get the season started.  Highs are forecasted to reach the upper 40's, which will hopefully get the sap moving in the trees.  It is always very hard to predict sap flow and I think that early season flows are the hardest to predict because if the ground remains frozen for a long time, it can take a while before the trees have access to some of the soil moisture.  

The Final Flows

by Peter 4/16/2014 3:05:00 AM

The ice on the lake is nearly out, green shoots are emerging from the forest floor, and the buds will start to swell soon.  After a week of warm, comfortable temperatures that have signaled that Spring might finally be here, we have had a series of cold nights.  These few freezing temperatures have been enough to cause the trees to run a few more days.  But looking at the 10 day forecast, the freeze/thaw cycle looks like it is about to end.  This will cause the sap to stop flowing and the taste of the sap to change slightly.

Last night we made 15 gallons of syrup, which put our season total at 406 gallons.  This exceeds our annual production record that we set last year of 394 gallons.  It doesn't appear that we will reach the record for syrup per taphole that we set in 2011, when we made about 350 gallons from 700 taps.  This year we put out a little over 1000 taps, so we would have to make about 100 gallons more to beat that record.  This seems unlikely at this point.