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Cooler weather ahead, thankfully

Have I ever told you I don’t like hot weather? Well, I do not like it at all. I realize moderate summer temperatures are necessary for most crop production, and I truly do enjoy eating, but the heat does me in. I will be glad as our daily highs start falling. My favorite weather is what I call Flannel shirt weather. In that you wear a flannel shirt to be comfortable and when you work hard, remove that shirt and the temperature feels right again.

As cooler weather returns, I get a chance to bottle more syrup while comfortable, packing syrup in 80-90F + days and high humidity is necessary but very uncomfortable to do. When bottling syrup, if below about 70F I need to heat the syrup to about 90-120F in the SS barrel, pump it into the finisher where it gets heated to 175-180, then it gets pumped thru the filter press and sent into the water jacketed (WJ) bottler. There I verify density (adjusting if needed) and grade it (how light or dark is it). To pack it into retail containers I heat it to 186+/- 1 degree F, then I begin filling containers. The WJ bottler is heated electrically and maintains the syrup temperature within this temperature range. As I fill containers, I’m only about 18″ or so from the WJ bottler, which is shinny stainless steel (and at about 186F), it feels good when cold outdoors but gets uncomfortably warm in hot weather. Maybe someday I may build a heated and cooled room around the bottler, filter press and the finishing pan (a 2’x6′ propane fired unit which can hold up to 80 gal of syrup, but I generally only fill it with 26.5 or 40 gal batches, those being the 2 sizes of stainless steel (SS) barrels I use.

The full SS barrels set on the concrete floor in the unheated/cooled sugarhouse, and in cold weather I need to heat the barrels (using an electric “band” heater), which takes 3-4 hours to bring the contents up to 90F+ to make it easier to pump. If I try to pump it without heating it when at about 20F, it still pumps but does so very slowly. When heated it pumps 40 gal in about 25-35 minutes, when heated to 120F+ it pumps in about 15 minutes, if at 20F pumping a 40 gal barrel can take 6 or more hours. The pump is an air powered diaphragm pump, so when using it I need to run the compressor too.

I sell lots of syrup most months, but Sept-Dec. are by far the fastest sales period. That works out good, because the cooler weather makes filling containers far more pleasant.

Costs, no surprise, the cost of jugs and bottles have skyrocketed, to where jugs are 2 and 3 times what they were just 3 years ago. Another issue is supply, back years ago, I never went to my supplier to buy several cases of jugs only to find they were not in stock, now it can at times take months to get an order filled. Luckily, I ordered several cases 3 years ago, to help hedge against rising costs, that is still paying off. In fact, last week I was able to finally bring back the last of my order from 3 years ago from my supplier. He agreed to hold them for me at no charge when I paid for them back then. I finally used enough to have room to load them all into my sugarhouse and storage barn. This was I believe the 3rd time I hauled more back from that original order. Those were paid for shortly after a significant price increase and before an even larger price increase. From here on, when I need more the cost will be about 2- 3X what it was just 3 years ago. At that time I’ll be forced to raise my selling prices. I do have enough of th older priced jugs to last me into the 2023 and maybe into the beginning of the 2024 season. As my sales continue to grow, that remains to be seen.

I actually use 2 different priced jugs in just one size, the half-gallon size. The reason is that in online orders one brand jug allows me to fit 2 half gallon jugs into one USPS medium flat rate box, that jug last I bought a case, cost me 60 cents per jug more than the other brand jugs. Thus I only use the pricier jugs for mailing orders of 2 HG jugs (and by far most online orders are for 2 HG jugs, or multiples of 2, if someone orders just 1 HG it ships in the other brand which fits in fine going in facing the wide way, the other brand fits 2 facing the short way. For all of my local sales in HG I use the slimmer, taller jug which costs less. All other sizes are packed into the lower priced jugs, lower priced in no way in this case means the jugs are inferior, they are of equal quality, it’s just that the one brand that is shorter and slightly wider in HG charges more.

Soon I’ll be packing more syrup, my ready to sell dark syrup is getting low in some sizes, but don’t worry, I have more in SS barrels. Hopefully I get a day with temperatures in the mid 40’s to mid 50’s ideal for bottling.

I hope everyone is doing well, and have a great Fall!

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