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Heat wave here soon


As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t do well in temperatures over about 70F, maybe 75F if the humidity is low. This week the forecast for us is several days in the mid to high 90’s and maybe even a 100 is possible with high humidity. With this I will definately not be packing any syrup. If this becomes the norm for us, I may need to get an AC for the sugarhouse. The big issue for that is that the sugarhouse is far from air tight, it is designed to ventilate well, for when I have a roaring fire going in the evaporator. If I were to tighten the ventilation, the sugarhouse would get too hot during the boiling sessions. I guess, I’ll just work early mornings and then do some work in the cellar once the heat climbs to very uncomfortable.

When I say it’s well ventilated, I mean extremely well ventilated. First, the cupola on the roof, even when closed (when boiling it has a wide flip down door on the east and west sides) it has 2″ vents on each corner as well as a 2″ space between each rafter on the cupola. Then the roof, it is 1″ rough cut boards spaced every 12″ but the boards are 6″ and 8″ wide alternating. Thus 1″ spaces before the next board. Then the roof, the trusses are 16″ on center (except where the smoke stack goes up which is a 30″ space) with a 2″ space between each, and only about 2/3 of the board and batton siding (vertical boards with 3″ wide batton covering the seams) has batton on the seams. The boards were put up fresh off the sawmill, and shrunk in width to leave a space of 1/4-3/8″ between each board. That helps with the ventilation. The only part of the sugarhouse that is heated is a small room (about 5.5′ long be 36″ wide) where to reverse osmosis (RO) machine is kept, that room has a propane wall furnace in it to prevent freezing of the RO. The entire rest of the sugarhouse is specifically designed to ventilate and when boiling it does that quite well. Even then, if I’m boiling on a day when the temperatures outside reach into the 60’s I need to open the doors for better ventilation. Keep in mind that when I’m boiling I have so far always burned wood, and to keep the boil going fast I add a full arm load of wood every 7-9 minutes. It was every 7 minutes before I added high pressure air under and over the fire, that made the burn so much more efficient that i was able to change to every 9 minutes. Either way, that’s still a lot of fire. In addition, my last evaporator was 3 feet wide and 8 feet long all with rapidly boiling sap to syrup in it, thus loads of super hot surface to radiate the heat, plus it had a 3 foot wide by 8 foot long steam hood over it which then channeled the steam up and out thru 2 steam stacks each 15 inches in diameter. That was a lot more super hot surface to warm the sugarhouse. I say, my old evaporator, because I sold that one as I lost my helpers and I will now be boiling using a 2′ x 6′ evaporator, with a full hood. Where I used to boil for up to 1320 taps of my own plus I processed sap from 4 other producers, so on the busiest days I was boiling off from up to about 2500 taps. I will now only be boiling my own sap and I’ll have from 200 to maybe a maximum of 500-550 taps, all from my woods around my sugarhouse (plus a few from my neighbor, if I get to over 425 taps. This new evaporator is smaller , the smoke stack is smaller as is the one steam stack, thus I’ll have fewer square feet of hot stainless steel to radiate the heat. While my plan for the new evaporator is to switch to oil, that may not happen until after next season.

Oil fired,

The advantage of oil is not only to not need to handle the firewood (both while boiling and in preperation for the season to have enough wrist sized split wood fully dried, but the boil itself is better. With wood, if I add new wood every 7 minutes (the new evaporator will not have high pressure air under and over the fire, because when it’s switched to oil there’s no advantage for it) the wood has a super fast boil for maybe 2/3 of each cycle, and it tapers off the rest of the time. As the boil first starts to slow, I open the door to add wood, with the door open, the boil either stops or slows considerably, I add a full arm load of wood and close the door, then it takes maybe 60-90 seconds to get back to a full rapid boil. With oil the fire is always perfect, thus the boil never changes. Another factor is that with wood I need to watch closely as my sap is running low, on my previous evaporator I had a gauge line on a sight tube indicating how much was left in the tank feeding the evaporator, as it got to the line (18 gallonsw left) I added no more wood. But then as the boil slowed I still had to wait until the super hot coals burned down. That took at least an hour and up to an hour and a half. With oil, as I run completely out of sap (or more precisely concentrate, because the sap was concentrated using the RO) I can just flip a switchm the boil stops instantly, cover all openings ( I make SS covers for every opening on the evaporator, the syrup pan, 3 float boxes and the hood covers the rest of the pans.) Then I shut off the lights, lock the doors and leave. When I boil using wood that has to wait until all of the coals have burned out or a hot spot could cause some burnt syrup, which is a huge problem to say the least.

Other things

We have sold our 4.5 acres of blueberries, which took up loads of time, pruning (and I never kept that like it should have been), mowing the aisles as well as the open fields. In my spare time I’m getting ready to saw some lumber (I have a basic manual bandsaw mill) to build an addition on the side of my shop. The shop is now 14×28′ and I want to add a 14×32′ addition. The extra 4 feet in length will be for an hallway into the addition. Then in the addition I’ve wanted to dabble in blacksmithing for several years. Back about 6-8 yrs ago I bought a 165# anvil, a coal forge, a hand crank blower several tools and a bunch of blacksmith coal as well as several bags of lump charcoal to fire the forge. Roughly the back half of this addition will be a blacksmith shop, the front half will be just enough to park my tractor in to park it under coverr and build some storage shelves on one side. In preparation for the sawmilling and necessary logging (I’ll cut down several hemlock trees on my property for the lumber) I had to reserrect my excavator. It quit running about a year ago. I’m not a mechanic, but my brother in law worked on it for several hours and then said he was giving up. He’s an excellent mechanic, but the issue is the starter. He had to lay on top of the hood, after removing an access cover of about 10×10″ and then reach down the full length of his reach to try to figure what the problem is. He was working blind because he could get 1 hand on it, he could not see what he was doing. Yesterday I decided I need the excavator, (it has a hydraulic thumb) both for the logging and for loading the logs on the sawmill. So I started removing everything necessary so I could remove the whole hood on the excavator. I removed a front guard rail, a few attachments that control the thumb, removed the seat, removed the instrument panel, labeled many of the wires connected to the back of the panel, labeled the hoses that operate the thumb because they will need to be removed, and I removed some of the bolts holding the roll bar and roof on the excavator. I still need to remove all remaining bolts and lift the roll bar/roof assembly using my tractor with pallet forks and set it out of the way, to be reinstalled after the excavator is operational again. Then I need to unhook those hydraulic hoses that I labeled, remove the rest of the hood mounting bolts , unhook any under hood parts mounted to the underside of the hood and finmally lift the heavy steel hood off (it’s all made of 3/16″ and 1/8″ thick steel, the forks on the tractor will lift that. Then my brother in law can get to the starter. This is a 1989 8000lb class Mitsubishi excavator. If the starter needs to be replaced I think I’ve located a starter for it, at $1295.00. Or I could buy an aftermarket one for $300 less, but on one of my tractors a few years ago, I did that and just 2 months later it failed, but fortunately my brother in law was able to swap parts from the after market starter to fix the original starter on the 1981 tractor. As for other parts for the excavator they seem to be non existant. I’ve never found any dealer even on the web for this size Mitsubishi excavator, as I understand it Caterpillar carries parts for 12,000 lb and up but not for 8000 lb ones. If I can’t get the excavator operational, I may need to get a grapple for the tractor. But that would run at least $3000, about $2000 for a basic grapple and $1000 to add additional hydraulics to the tractor. We’ll see, I’m hoping for a miracle.

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