Well it is starting to get a bit colder these days, November is right around the corner and that means snow is not far away. I use to hate this time of year, the long winter was just around the corner and it seemed there was nothing to look forward to until July and August when you could finally go swimming again.
That was before I caught the maple syrup bug, now I look forward to winter because it means we are only a few months away from spring ( I know I am jumping the gun a bit).
It also means that the holidays are just around the corner which is a busy time for maple syrup gifts of the season. For now I am just waiting until the first snow before I start thinking of that.
Until then I am going to be thinking of having the operation dialed in.
When everything is running just right we call it being dialed in. The wood fire is perfect. The temperature of the concentrate is slowly rising. The flow into the evaporator is set just right to match the steam coming off the rolling boil . The temperature outside is in the magic zone. But best of all someone else is splitting firewood.
Jesse was a great big help this year in the Sugar bush. Mike and I were really happy to have him pull such a long haul. I think Mike was the happier one of the two of us as he had been living in the sugar shack night and day for almost two weeks before we showed up.
Running and evaporator efficiently is no small task, it may seem like nothing is happening but you have to keep things “dialed in” or you loose your fire, flood the pan or burn the syrup. There are also strange things that can happen when you least expect them. Check out this vid of Jesse dealing with something called a steam lock. This happens when the sap in the pre-heater boils causing the pressure to block the flow of sap.
Well we finished up on April 06, the official end of the season for Sap To Syrup’s inaugural year. What a blast. This syrupin isn’t so bad. It went by so fast we didn’t have time to go visit any of the other producers and see how things were in other bushes. But I did talk with Keith Brown and Bill Smith, it seems everyone had the same type of year. Low sugar content and dark syrup. We didn’t mind at all though, we were making syrup! YEEE HA. I still can’t sleep a full night being so acustom to getting up to stoke the arch. I still wake about every hour or so.
I went through the log book and did a count on how much syrup we actually made, 130 Litres is my count. I think it is right on the money.
We had quite the sound track this year as well. The sat radio came in handy. The 40′s 50′s 60′s 70′s and even the 80′s were some of finger snapping melodies we were groving to. If singing to syrup as it boils makes it taste better then we should have the best. The firewood music was supplied by a fellow islander that I used to work with at Thompson’s Maple products, the band is called The BREAKMEN. A real treat and fast becoming favorite of mine. You can check them out at http://www.thebreakmen.com/ They are a folk/Blue grass group. Great music to keep the spirit up while slaving away at the mundane task of firewood.
For our first year we had a few minor problems with getting to know how everything is going to run. Most problems were due to being distracted by the thousand things going on around us. The vacuum pump flooded a few times, over filling the gravity tank was always a fun one when Dave was sitting beneath it, or flooding the pan over the float box, and my favorite, forgetting to close the valve on the sap storage tank and getting excited watching the extractor pump over several times before realizing it haha. Oh well we needed to learn the hard way on some things I guess.
Dave and I would like to thank all of our friends and family that helped and supported us in this endeavor. We couldn’t have done it with out you. Especially our Moms who couldn’t stand the thought of us starving ourselves, and brought wonderful meals on wheels.
Well in closing I must say I miss it already and can’t wait for next year, and I know Dave feels the same. We plan on a few upgrades to the setup so stay tuned for some updates on our progress.
The memories layed down this year will last a life time.
First of all let me apologize for not posting anything sooner. Our first year was so busy I barely had time to blink.
This was an old post that I wrote and just did not publish. I am putting together some videos of this season right now as things have slowed down a bit.
One thing that I can not believe is that it has totally snowed like crazy last night and the temperatures are back down to -5˚ or so. It was only a few days ago when it was like 20˚ out. Now it is winter again.
I thought I would put up this old post because it seems to be fitting again.
We were in short sleave shirts only two days ago and now.
Gearing up for the weekend
Well it looks like the year is coming to a close. Lots of people are saying that this is going to be the last really big weekend and than it’s are all over. It’s going to be great, I can’t wait to get up there.
Lot of stuff has to be done before than. I have to do a little bit a shopping to find some cleaning supplies and industrial storage containers for concentrate. I am also getting the computer system for the sugar-shack prepared which is going to be a feat on it’s own, of course we are going to get a mac.
I really wish that I had more time up north, I had panned on taking some time in late April but because of the early start this year it will probably not last past the April 12. Than again who knows what the trees are going to do.
I had a great idea last night about getting a giant snow making machine an blast the whole sugar bush with a nice blanket of snow to keep the season going. I am sure the trees would be really screwed up if I did something like that.
I’ll leave you with a great picture of Mike and I finishing our very first batch of maple syrup. Enjoy!
It has been a very productive weekend in the bush. We started a very detailed log book to record all the events both good and bad. It is going to take a while to get use to how what to record but It will help us with a lot of our planning and also writing these posts.
We started up the evaporator on Friday night. The pan that we are using is a deep flat pan, not a flue pan. Because I had the most experience with the evaporating I was the first to fire it up. I decided to run the pan with a 1/4” of liquid in it to start, needless to say I burnt the pan pretty bad and pretty quick.
That was not the only problem we had with the evaporator. We also are trying to fuel it with Bass wood. It was pretty damp and really did not burn all that well, because of this we have renamed it Ass wood.
Steam is also one of the big problems that we had to overcome. Our custom hood worked pretty good at channeling the steam but the real problem came from not having it at the right angle. It was blowing steam right into the faces of the operator rather than to the back of the pan an out of the shack. The hood also did not really come down far enough so we draped towels over it to keep the stream contained. We have it dialed in pretty good now.
More to come on how the bush is running and what happened over the weekend.
It is getting so close I can almost taste it, I can’t wait to get up north and start boiling. It turns out this year might start off sooner than I thought. Servers me right for trying to plan my work schedule around the season.
Freshmaplesryup.com says that he was going to start boiling on February 28th. Though he is a lot more south than I am it sure makes me think. Bill Smith at Sugar Island Maple Grove is pretty much ready to go. I just talked to him today and he says it’s time to get our butts in gear. I am heading up north this weekend to start tapping in. I can’t believe that it is happening so soon!
Lots more to come!