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Turning over a new leaf


My oldest son pointed out something I do that would be better if I changed from doing it. The issue is that in my posts I tend to repeat myself.

From now on, I’ll try reading my previous post or two, prior to writing a new post. That practice should help me not to repeat, or at least not as often. We’ll see if that helps. After all of the years I’ve been logging entries about what I’m doing and what I’m planning or something that has happened, my son finally chimed in. Hopefully his advice will help make my posts more interesting.

Good bye for now.

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More syrup ready to ship


Update 3/21/24, the syrup is now on my shelves and ready to ship

I have packed more amber syrup, as I add this post, it is still at the sugarhouse, was too hot to handle yesterday. After cooling it will now be brought home and added to my shelves of syrup, ready to ship. The counts I add today will be here later today and can be shipped tomorrow for any orders that are placed. Thank you for your patience. I was filling jugs I bought up to 2 years ago as I bought out the stock from a dealer who was switching brands of jugs. I found, too late that I’m low on quarts of amber, unfortunately I will not be packing more until I sell down on other sizes. That will allow me to keep fresher syrup in all sizes because syrup lasts perfectly when in stainless steel barrels, even up to 20 or more years, I never keep it more than 1-3 years, once packed in jugs it does have a sort of shelf life. It doesn’t actually go bad but it very slowly starts losing flavor, that loss isn’t able to be detected at 10 months, but at 15 or more it is minimally detectible. Since some customers do keep syrup at times for a year or more, I do my best to always have my syrup as fresh as possible that I sell. If I were to pack another batch of syrup now in order to have more quarts of amber, I’d need to pack a whole barrel worth, adding more in all sizes and trying to guess what my sales will be in 4 different size jugs I pack in. That would make it so I would not always have real fresh syrup before the syrup would all sell and it’s not possible to pack only some out of a barrel, once the vacuum seal is broken it must all be packed, doing a partial barrel is asking for problems down the road.

My sales have grown tremendously in the last 5 years, but the balance of size containers bought seems to be very much all over the charts. While by a long shot, 1/2 gal is my best selling size, the quart, pint and half pint sizes vary considerably. My guess is that half pints are frequently for gift giving since many sales in that size are for multiple jugs, then pints and quarts maybe to test the syrup to see if they want to start buying half gal jugs, or another thought is that pints and quarts take up less room in the fridge, or maybe single folks just don’t use that much syrup to keep a half gallon fresh as long as it would last. Anyway, that’s why I’ll be low or out of quarts for a while this year, in both the Amber Rich and Dark Robust grades.

I have sold my 3×8 evaporator and ordered a 2×6, I’ll be getting that in the next couple of months. It is going to be converted from wood fired to oil fired, after burning wood in 4 different evaporators for over 20 years, at age 77 I’m slowing down. An oil fired evaporator however has some advantages, first, the boil does not change every 7,8 or 9 minutes, like woodfired does as an arm load of wood is added. The oil fire is always perfect for the fastest boil. The faster the boil the better the syrup. Another advantage is that while boiling, I can wait until I actually run out of sap, actually concentrate because I use an RO (a reverse osmosis) which removes about 75% of the water in the sap before it goes in the evaporator to boil, I can with oil just turn the burner off. When boiling with wood, I had to gauge it so I stopped adding wood when I had 20 minutes worth of sap left, then the fire would burn down enough not to cause problems as I ran out of sap. Then I had to wait until the coals under the evaporator were almost all burned out before I could leave. During the roughly 1 hour that took, the boil slowed then just simmered the rest of the time, but the faster the boil all of the time, the greater the chance the syrup will run lighter color, (grade). So if I had less sap for that boil my fast boil was a smaller portion of the total time the syrup was boiling rapidly and as a result, a smaller portion of my production was in a lighter grade (color). While my best selling grade is dark, robust, amber rich is not very far behind. For years I had very low sales in amber but the trend in the last 3-4 years has changed from by far more dark, to now, more dark, but amber gaining every year while dark remains about constant. Another advantage is that I won’t need to cut and split as much wood, wrist size for the evaporator, I will still be burning wood most of the colder time at my home, I usually only use the natural gas furnace at home when the outside temperatures are rather mild, because I don’t like burning a wood fire very slow, it causes chimney problems. The only down side is that I’ll need to buy oil, but I do value my time that I would have spent falling trees, pulling the limbed tree out of the woods, bucking it into 21″ lengths then splitting it all into wrist size pieces to burn as hot as possible under the evaporator pans. I have plans for the new found time. I have a sawmill, I’ll be felling a bunch of my larger hemlocks and sawing them into lumber for building an addition onto my shop. The shop is a 14×28 shed, Amish made, I’ll be adding another 14′ wide and 32′ long addition onto one side of it. The extra 4′ length is for an hallway across behind the existing shop into the addition. That was planned a few years ago, when I ordered the shed. I had a man door put in the center of the back wall. The addition will just be crushed stone floor in the front half and and packed stone dust in the rest. I’ve been interested in blacksmithing for several years. About 6-7 years ago I bought a large anvil (165 lb), a post vise, a hand crank forge blower and a forge. Additionally I’ve added some hammers and a few various tongs to use and a few other items. I also bought about 1/4 ton of blacksmith coal and for about 2-3 years, as the big box stores marked their lump charcoal way down for clearance at the end of their season, I bought about 15-20 bags of it. My original plans were to build a separate blacksmith shop maybe 12×14 or 12×16, something in that range, then after I got the shed 3-4 years ago I decided to do an addition rather than a separate shop. 3 years ago when I ran power from the sugarhouse to the shop I ran a 100A 240 breaker. ( at that property I have a large solar array, almost 7000 watts, it is grid connected and net metered).That way I’ll be able to have all the power I might need in the shop and the blacksmith shop. In fact, I’ll not need power in both at the same time except maybe the small compressor and lights in the shop while I’m working on blacksmithing. The front of the addition will be 2 wide doors, so I can drive my tractor in and keep it out of the weather with an implement attached in some cases. I will likely also keep a few implements for the tractor in there too. Thoughts have also been to maybe add a lean to roof cover over the opposite side of the shop to park other implements but that is not set in stone yet.

Now I have a compressor in the shop and a 3/4″ air line from it to the sugarhouse. I use a filter press for getting my syrup filtered to crystal clear and it is powered using an air powered diaphragm pump. I just leave the compressor turned on in the shop and turn the shop power on as I need to filter or pump syrup from one place to another, such as from the evaporator draw off tank to the finisher, or from the finisher to the filter press and into the bottler or into a barrel. That way I don’t have the noise of the compressor in the sugarhouse. When finished I simply shut off the shop breaker.

May everyone have a great year, and God bless you all!

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More syrup almost ready


I packed more amber syrup, but it was too hot from bottling, I will get it tomorrow and bring it home, at that point I’ll add it to my inventory in my storefront, ready to pack and ship. Once I finish bottling the amber I’ll then bottle more bourbon barrel aged syrup. The last time I bottled that I had more than I wanted to dedicate to a specific size bottle, (I sell 3 sizes) so I put the extra in gallon jugs. Now I’ll pack some from those gallon jugs.

I have the next batch aging now, it should be ready about late November or early December, just in time for Christmas gifts. That is a 30 gal barrel, which is larger than any previous batch, most have been 15 gal or 20 gal, this time I bought a recently emptied 30 gal. bourbon barrel, Likely much of that will be put into gallon containers until I know which sizes need re plenishing. The sales for those seem to vary. I sell more 100ml for Christmas gifting and more of the 375ml the rest of the year.

Also, I just ordered a new evaporator which will be online for the 2025 season. In the last 21 years I have burned wood to boil the sap into maple syrup, this new evaporator will be oil fired. This makes a few things easier as I get older. Of course, no wood sawing and splitting (into wrist size pieces) and secondly the fire will be 100% steady, firing exactly the same through the entire boil. With wood fired I had to add an arm load of wood every 7 minutes for years, then I added high pressure air over fire, that then burned more of the wood gases under the pans rather than at the top of the stack (chimney) thus changing my wood firing time from 7 minutes to every 9 minutes, still adding an arm load of wood each time, efficiency was up. With oil it will get even better. One other factor, when I burn wood, I need to stop adding wood when I get down to 20 gal of sap remaining in the tank, giving the fire time to burn down as the sap was gone. With oil fired it stays at full fire until the sap is gone and then I’ll turn the switch off. At that point I’ll only need to cover the syrup pan, cover the 3 float boxes and drain the water heater and go home. With wood the shut down took an hour to an hour and a half, before I could leave. I hope this oil doesn’t spoil me.

I also ordered a new hood, a new head tank and a new draw off tank, the old ones were all sold with my wood fired evaporator. It is said that oil will boil about 5-8 gph more than wood too, just a side benefit. For three of my last 4 evaporators I made my own hoods, finally on my last evaporator I bought a factory made hood. I was planning to make one for that evaporator, but when I picked up the evaporator at the factory they asked if I had made the hood yet. It turned out they had a demo unit the right size for my evaporator that had gotten a minor dent. They took $1195 off the their original quote of $1995.00, I got it for $800.00, I could barely see the dent that saved me almost $1200 dollars, but I took advantage of it, in fact I couldn’t find the dent about a year later as I was telling a visitor at the sugarhouse, and not because I had dented it more, just because it was so minor. I had not put any dents in it,

I’m really looking forward to next season already. I’ll be just like a kid in a candy store. Now I’ll need to buy some oil, rather than spend a few weeks cutting wood and splitting it to wrist size for a real hot fire. I’ll even consider getting 2 oil tanks rather than just one, or getting a larger tank.

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some new stock has been added


I’ll add more as I pack more product, but I added a few of each that got packed today, in a few days I’ll add more, in the meantime I’m adding some to my stock at The Eclectic Chic, my local outlet. Once I finish the barrel of Amber I’ll then have just 1 more barrel of amber likely until next season. We are in far too warm weather and that’s not good for making amber syrup, it gets the sap too warm and then it produces dark or even very dark syrup. Luckily dark is still my best selling grade, but it seems Amber is gaining on it locally.

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We got hit hard


My previous post said I’d be packing more syrup today, that won’t happen. We got hit with 17″ of snow from mid evening on Feb 28th thru early morning on the 29th, then in the evening of the 29th into the morning of March 1st we got a few inches more. Today, March 1st as I type this the temperature is up to 39F and it’s forecast to go up to 45 mid afternoon. Then the forecast is for mild temperatures for the next few days, including mild over nights. Our snow will be either settled enough or be mostly gone by Sunday or Monday. I’ll pack then. My partner who makes the syrup is boiling now and will as long as the sap continues to flow.

Once I can again bottle, likely Sunday or Monday, I will resume and get that finished for now. I will need to pack again in about 8-12 weeks depending on sales most likely. Locals who shop The Eclectic Chic will see more stock about Tuesday or Wednesday March 5th or 6th and online shoppers will see new inventories on March 4th or 5th., most likely