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Good temperature to bottle

The outside temperatures have cooled so it is much more pleasant to pack more syrup. In the hot weather it gets extremely hot packing more syrup in the sugarhouse (no air conditioner). This week we have at least a few days cool enough to get more syrup put up. When boiling syrup we only pack enough in jugs to meet our sales needs for 4-5 months out and the rest gets put in stainless steel barrels (SS BBLS), then in May we top the inventory off so we don’t need to do much additional packing in the heat of summer. This is because, when we take a SS BBL we pump the entire barrel of syrup into a finisher (a 2′ x 6′) pan with propane tube burners to heat it up to 205-210F, then we filter it and pump it to the bottler. In the bottler (it is water jacketed) the electric heating element brings the syrup back up to 185-187F by heating the water surrounding the syrup and holds it there while we dispense the syrup into the jugs and bottles we need for retail sales. This work is far more enjoyable when the outdoor temperatures are under 70 or 75 max than when it is hotter out.

This week we are expecting temps of under 70 on 3 of the days, and some rain too, making it a good time to work in the sugarhouse.

Aside from maple work, my wife Joan, and I are busy harvesting some of the fruit we grow, for us, family and many of our friends and neighbors. We are still picking straw berries (day neutral), and lots of Asian pears. We recently picked the last of our peaches, we had a great year for many of the fruits we grow. With 3 varieties of peaches we harvested them from the first week in August and finally finished picking the last variety last week. Asian pears spread out longer than that. I’m not sure how many varieties we have but the earliest was picked in early September and out latest will be sometime in November.

About our peaches, I’m sure glad Joan refused to believe we could not grow peaches in Oneida, NY (according to our local Co-operative Extension fruit expert) back in the 1980’s. We have had bumper crops many years since. The biggest issue is that the trees only survive about 8-10 years, as they get that old, even though I brace and prop up the main branches and thin the fruit heavily, the weight of the remaining fruit eventually breaks the limb off, one by one until the tree dies. Thus we plant another tree or more each year. In our front and back yard we have 19 fruit trees, plus 2 fig bushes. The first fig finally got harvested yesterday, and my wife came into the house saying she was sorry. When I asked her what she was sorry about, she said she picked a fig and it was in her mouth so fast she had eaten it all without saving half for me. That’s OK, another looks like it will be ready tomorrow, for me (on my birthday). We have likely about 80-100 more coming, maybe more, as long as they have time to ripen before a hard frost. Figs are new to us, the one Joan ate yesterday was our first ever. It looks like figs start as the bush grows, rather than all of the fruit starting about the same time. Looking at the bush (planted in 2018) there are figs in all stages of development, from almost ready to harvest, and some are still just starting to show. No way we will get all of them, will just get the earlier ones to have gotten started. We have no frost forecast yet, but in the past our earlier frosts have been in the 1st and second week in September, out latest first frosts have been in December. However usually a frost comes around the full moon in October, from there we get warm spells and then more frost, back and forth before winter takes hold.

In our blueberries, we had what looked like it was going to be our best year ever (the bushes were planted in 1982, ’85 and ’87. As harvest started we had more berries on the bushes than ever before but just 3 weeks in we had to close. It seems the extreme heat of the summer over ripened the berries faster than pickers could keep up with them. when we closed the bushes were still heavily loaded but the berries had gone to mush. This is the first year we’ve ever experienced that.

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