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After my late start

When I had to wait on the biopsy I ended up being too late to tap as many trees as in my plans. I have only tapped the woods around my sugarhouse. That gives me about 175 taps instead of the 850 I was going for. The other woods is a lease and is 7 miles away so going to pump the sap from the woods tank into tanks on my 16′ HD trailer takes at least an hour’s time.

This weekend, I will be expanding the taps at my woods. I will need to pull the sap up one tree, pass over the driveway and back down a tree on the other side, but doing that I can add 17 taps on sugar maples (hard maples) and about 12-20 on red and silver maples (soft maples). I’ll run those as 2 separate lines because the soft maples open bud earlier than the hard maples do. As that happens I’ll just remove them and continue getting sap from the hard maples. The difference can be extremely variable, some years there might only be 6-8 days between the buds opening on the soft maples than the hard, last year it was 3 weeks difference. Once the buds open (at the very first sign of green emerging from the buds) the season is done for those trees.

I also, if time permits will be running one other line out towards several other maples, all in that soft maple type, maybe 15-20 taps worth, maybe more. Also, from back in my early days before I had vacuum at the sugarhouse and I drove my tractor to collect the sap from remote tanks in other areas in the woods, I have about a 8 tap potential on hard maples in one spot and 30 more in another area (mostly  soft maples) While that is not all of my potential around the sugarhouse, the time will likely run out before I can get more in this year.

All of those extra areas will be an experiment using 3/16 tubing and vacuum assist. Generally 3/16 is used where there is enough slope to the land for gravity to generate some vacuum in the lines, you get about .88″ of vacuum for every foot of drop in elevation. However all but the 8 tap and the 30 tap areas will be below the mainline they will connect to, so I’ll be testing in way to see if the vacuum pump can pull sap thru the 3/16 lines, and those two exceptions are only about 5-6′ above the mainline they will connect to. The benefit with 3/16 is that the sap does not pool, as sap leaves a tree there is both sap and gas bubbles, with the 3/16 they remain separate, the gasses do not pass over the sap leaving pooling of the sap. If I use the old standard tubing (5/16) from tree to tree I lose that feature.

Last year I tested just 3 lines using the 3/16 tubing in this woods, to pull sap from lower areas to the mainline and they worked well, but the longest was only about 125′ and the lift was maybe 3-4′ max. These new areas I’ll be testing will be 250-600′ long and a lift of about 6-7′ on some. Friction in the lines will become more of an issue, but if it doesn’t work, I’ll need to install some more mainlines which must have a pitch to drain and then I’ll need to build some sap ladders, a method we use to lift the sap to a higher elevation using vacuum, in order to tap those areas.  If the taps with vacuum using the 3/16 tubing prove to work OK, I can eventually expand my tap count around the sugarhouse to about 300 taps in the future, maybe even more, but most of that will be in soft maples. Soft maples make great syrup, the issue is just the shorter season they give. Both hard and soft start at the same time when on vacuum, but the soft maples are done sooner.

I envy those who can run all of a large number of taps directly to the sugarhouse, I could do it with diaphragm pumps but I’d need 5 or more such pumps and power to run them, either extend 120V lines a distance or 12V batteries. Even then, mine would not be a large operation. But then I have no visions of being a large producer, this is just my retirement work.

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