Maple Season is Getting Closer

by Peter 3/1/2019 12:28:00 PM

A lot of changes have happened since we made our last gallon of syrup in 2018.  The most significant change was the removal of our old 4'x12' evaporator and installation of a newer 3'x10' evaporator.  The smaller size still boils the same amount of sap per hour using a more efficient preheating system and more consistent heat source from a propane burner.  While we will miss listening to the crackling fire and and feeling the warmth when the evaporator doors were opened for refueling, we won't miss the amount of cutting, splitting and stacking of wood required to fuel the evaporator.  In addition to being physically easier, the propane evaporator is also safer because it can't throw sparks out the chimney that can start the forest on fire in early April when the leaf layer is starting to dry out.  The propane evaporator also has automatic shut off controls that turn off the burner if the sap level falls below a desired level.  Since the propane evaporator only requires an insulating blanket and not the firebrick that the wood evaporator did, there is less retained heat and a much lower likelihood that a pan can be burned.  

In addition to the new evaporator, we replaced about 60% of the tubing network this year and plan to finish the remaining 40% next year.  The biggest difference in the new network is all of the connections are much tighter due to improvements in tubing technology.  The fittings that connect the mainlines together are now all tight fitting stainless steel fittings instead of PVC and other plastic fittings.  The 5/16" branch lines that connect the tree to the mainline are all "welded" in place.  Previously they were connected by a fitting, but now they are essentially melted to the mainline which eliminates a source of leaks.  The goal of these improvements is to decrease areas where air can leak in, which lowers the vacuum pressure in the lines.  The higher the vacuum pressure we can maintain, the greater the sap flow we can get from the tree.  

Last Friday, February 22nd and Saturday the 23rd we put in about 800 taps.  The remaining 200 taps will go in very soon.  We don't anticipate sap flow for at least two weeks based upon our weather forecast, but we want all of the taps in so everything is ready to go as soon at the temperature rises above 32 degrees.  It seems like this is a very late start to the maple season, but as we reflect back in our records, this year will be close to what a normal starting date was when we started making maple syrup in 1994.  The first five or so years always started around March 15th.  In the past five years, we've boiled as early as February 15th. 

It will be interesting to see how the sap flows this year.  There is a lot of snow in the woods with more on the way today.  Typically the deeper the snowpack, the longer the season lasts because it takes longer for everything to warm up.  The more days we get with day time temperatures above freezing and night time temperatures below freezing, the more sap we will collect.  But it seems that whenever we try to make predictions about how good of a season we will have or how much sap we will get on a given day, we are often wrong!  All we can do is have the holes in the trees drilled, the tubing connected, the vacuum pump on and the tanks cleaned.  If the sap flows, we will boil it!