Waiting for the BIG flow …

Included video here – When changing the flow direction of the syrup across the pan, we draw off 15 gallons and change sides. Put it back in to the pan for finishing, wait a little bit and Bob’s your uncle …

There’s never a guarantee as to how much sap we’ll get in a day. Big flows are illusive and we’re hoping in the coming weeks it will hit. Temperatures forecasted look conducive!

Slow and steady wins the race …

Since April 1st we’ve been making a lot of Dark Amber – Grade A, and buttery flavored at roughly 325-350 gallons a day.

Sugar Content has been holding at 2.5, which is good. But could be better. The sugar sand has been nominal and our pan cleanings have escalated to an every other day thing.

Here’s the Sap report from Wisconsin, seems they’re on the end run. But we’re doing great here in NE Minnesota

Waiting for the Sap to Hit the Pan

To make today’s update when there is really not much to update, seems silly. However this is farming, and there’s always something that needs doin’, and that’s not silly.

The weather, in full winter glory with excellent temps (teens) and sunny days for enjoying late-late winter, has not been cooperating much in the way of sugaring. It’s been 14 days since we last boiled. We have passed through DST, St Patrick’s Day, and tomorrow Monday the 19th, is the Vernal Equinox – We welcome Spring with open arms and uplifted faces. Looking at our past journals, I see that last season we began our first boil on March 8th. This season, we started February 19th!

So we make meals, clean the sugarhouse, brush the dog and walk the lines. These doings are done in a preseason ritual and because of the hard-hard freeze we just endured, it’s like hitting a reset button (in my opinion) on the sugarbush. And then there were high winds and most recently a six-inch snowfall up here in the elevations.

Double bummer! A very large diameter Aspen, tall and aged, took a blast of wind from the northwest yanking over a healthy maple and it’s roots – Buggering a mainline and pulling out several lateral lines with their accompanying drop-lines.

High winds makes most of us cringe, but to a maple syrup farmer it is down right concerning. Invariably branches tumble on to sapping lines, but worse is to find a large and giving maple pulled up by her roots. Very sad! And then a game of strategy as to what to cut first (see photos below) like a giant Jenga game, you don’t want to be on the wrong side of a tree when releasing the strain.

 

The weather trend however, and at least for the next couple days will be climbing. If the sun comes out, the intensity will trigger a flow … and then there will be more to report as the sap hits the pan.

Here’s the latest Roth Sugarbush report for Saturday March 18th

Click to zoom

Overkill on the photos, but it was an event …

Function restored. That other tree will have to wait …

High Winds and Single Digit Temps

High winds and single digit temperatures put a stop to our production today.  And the colder weather trend may hold for more than a week.

Greg and Marianne spending a steamy day at the pan.

We had a good boil yesterday (Tuesday) that brought our running total to 995 gallons of finished syrup. The sugar content of the sap was at 2.2, a solid 40:1 ratio. We made mostly dark amber and a little bit of medium. The steam in the sugarhouse was ridiculous at times. It just wouldn’t abate and most likely was related to the high winds and down-drafts tumbling about the rafters.

After lunch I poured off a quarter mug of dark amber in to my coffee mug; really excellent taste and a good pancreatic surge for the afternoon.  I also observed very little niter in the draw off buckets which says we haven’t hit the main part of the season yet. And more importantly very little scale if any in the main pan.

 

Radar image of Monday night thunderstorms.

Monday we had weird weather (again) – Rain in the day and thunderstorms in the night – the sap flow was moderate through out, and we collected enough to make five drums worth on Tuesday.

The question of the week by the way, came from Colleen of St. Paul asking if our syrup is Vegan?  Absolutely!  We are certified organic, and that means we use no animal products in our processes like defoamers during the boil. We use safflower oil.

Also Tuesday, we had a nice visit from folks on vacation who just wanted to catch the action at the pan. Thanks for stopping in Peter and Nabeda.

All for now and enjoy this video short of the winds battering the steam a way from the evaporator stack. What an interesting day!

-Greg

Unprecedented Early Sap Collection

… All went well at the evaporator.

Sawtooth Mountain Maple Syrup Company in Maple Syrup Production

It happened, and we were prepared – but it was a scramble and an unexpected thing to start the boiling process on February 19, brewing up 171 gallons of lovely Grade A Dark Amber that day.

Every season we start the tapping process in late January. Our observations in the forest at that time (this season) –  Water was flowing beneath the snow and under our snowshoes. So a sense that there may be an early warm-up rested uneasily at the back of our minds. We finished our tapping in early February and, instead of the customary idle time to put the pan together and connect up transfer lines and fix stuff, we just kept the tasks and farm chores on a steady pace. In fact my plans were to update the web pages during the cold spells; instead we made over 700 gallons of maple syrup.

Here’s some quick data:

Sugar content in February and on:
0219 = 1.7
0220 = 2.0
0221 = 2.1
0223 = 2.1

Over 50% of the syrup we produced was Dark Amber followed by a Medium Amber and finishing the run with a couple drums of Light Amber – all Grade A of course.

Starting with a concentration of 8 brix the first day of boil and gradually increasing to 11 brix by the time we concluded the four day run. Niter was almost non-existent and very little scale was found on the front pan. But we’ll be cleaning the pan within the week regardless and in preparation for the next round.

Panoramic of the sugarbush driveway

Other sugarbush observations and news:

Plenty of snow resides over the roots of our trees (thankfully) with a two to three foot base, snowshoes are required to walk lines but with the hard freeze we are enjoying, one could ride a Fat-Tire bike a top the snow.

Dropline damage

Drop line squirrel damage – A busy season for Red Squirrels who enjoy pestering the sugar makers.

It has been a busy year for Red Squirrels, Pine Martens, and other critters that like to chew our lines – we’ve been going through the electrical tape like we own stock in it. Scotch Super 33 is the best by far for all weather patching. But sometimes there is little other option but to replace drop lines and laterals all together. Grrrr!

 

 

 

 

 

February 20, 2017 weather radar screenshot

In recent weeks it had been sunny and mild here on the farm. But on the FEB20 we got hammered with rain, and the sap kept filling our collection tanks. >

 

 

We’ll be on standby for the duration of the cold snap which is expected to last in to the second week of March – but that could change.

Until next update, enjoy your late winter outings. – Greg