Today I finished repairs that were needed on the mainlines at the woods around the sugarhouse. Tomorrow and Sunday I’ll check all of the lateral lines and replace all taps (everything gets a new tap every year), about 1/3 get a new drop line. Then, when that woods is finished I’ll start doing repairs at the leased woods. Once that is finished, I’m adding a few more lines to the far north end of the hill, picking up maybe a hundred new taps. Those two things will require a few days at best.
After that I need to service the vacuum pump at the lease and clean the tank. Then I’ll begin tapping, which if the snow does not get deeper than it is might get done in 4-5 days, if we get a lot of snow, making it necessary to use snowshoes, the time needed roughly doubles, sometimes even triples, depending on the amount of snow, especially on the steepest parts of the hills.
But, at any rate, the new season is getting close.
Yesterday I finished improving the mount for my vacuum releaser at my sugarhouse woods. Last year it would sometimes dump sap, and then lock closed and not dump the sap the next time it filled up. A releaser is a piece of equipment that allows the vacuum to be shut off from the sap collection chamber so the sap can be drained and flow into the sap tanks. In my case it is a double releaser meaning there are 2 collection chambers, as one gets full, the vacuum is switched to the other chamber and last season one side sometimes got stuck closed. After talking with the manufacturer it was determined the unit was not level enough. My new mount addresses that, the level can be fine tuned during the season if necessary.
Yesterday, also my brother in law (BIL) checked my leased woods to see how much damage had happened, since we have had lots of high wind events this year. Surprisingly there was only a little damage, far less than last year. There were some limbs on the on the lines but none large enough to require a chainsaw, he said I can just use my pruning saw to get those off.
Today, I’ll be cleaning the sugarhouse in preparation for the maple season and tomorrow I’ll check the lines in the woods around the sugarhouse and make the necessary repairs. I should then be ready and start tapping Saturday and Sunday. Then next week I’ll be doing repairs and then starting to tap the leased woods. If all goes well and the weather is right, I may be ready to start boiling sometime the following week.
Last year my BIL tapped and worked with me all season, unfortunately he is in surgery today and will be on very limited lifting orders for at least 6 weeks, so I’ll be alone this year for the harder work until early March. It will then seem good to get his help back because historically mid to late march has been the busiest time for sap and boiling. It’s always a rush to get the last minute work done to start the new maple season, and very enjoyable once the boiling begins.
Also, we are opening our sugarhouse for Maple Weekend on March 17-18 & again March 24-25 from 10 AM til 4 PM. That would be a madhouse without his help. Going back to 10 years years ago, we had a crowd all day for the 4 day event, with 12-15 visitors in the sugarhouse at a time (no more room) and lines waiting of 20-40 more outside. A 1 man band could not handle that alone.
It would take too much time and make this topic too long and thus not get read by many, I suggest as you are placing an order, try experimenting to see what you can fit in the box that my shipping program puts your order in. For example, I got an order this morning for 1 qt. of maple syrup. Because of the height and diameter of the jug, it had to be put in a medium, flat rate box at the current rate of $13.65. Had the customer tried some options, they would have found that 2 qts ship for the same cost, or 1 half gal or even 2 half gallons, all of those choices fit in that same box. Now its very possible that customer only wanted one qt., but maybe they would have gotten a qt. for a friend too if they had checked.
I won’t attempt to list all of the packing combinations that fit in each given size, but I’ll list a few here: In the smallest box I can fit 1 or 2 bourbon barrel aged maple syrup bottles and still protect it from damage in all but the extreme instances. While that is not a flat rate box and postage is based on both weight and distance 2 BB syrup costs far less per bottle when sharing the same box. In the medium flat rate box, 1 qt, or 2 qts, or 2 qts plus 2 bourbon barrel aged maple syrups or 1 half gallon and 3 bourbon barrel aged maple syrup or 2 half gallon, all of those choices will fit in 1 medium flat rate box all for the same flat rate. Going to the large flat rate box I can fit 3 half gallons, or 2 half gallons and 1 qt, or 4 qts and 1 bourbon barrel aged maple syrup, for the current flat rate of $18.85, there are other combinations also that will fit in each of the boxes. For those who like to get the best bang for the shipping buck, try different combinations as you are making an order. After you have done so, be sure to cancel all except the item or items you do want.
I hope this helps some customers to get the lowest shipping cost by filling any of the boxes I use.
For those who want gallons, for shipping purposes I only ship half gallons, because I can get 2 half gallons to a customer for less than what a single gallon would cost by several dollars (shipping plus the product cost). Thus, I don’t ship gallons, but I do offer gallons locally.
The shelving I got recently has all been put to use in my new shed. I have benches placed along all wall space, with one double stacked. The bench height ones each have one shelf under the bench, then the double stacked one has 5 shelves total. This will be improved this summer, but for now it gives me the storage space I need until after the maple season. Now I need to concentrate on maple.
My pneumatic driven diaphragm pump which is used to both move syrup from one place to another (from an evaporator draw off tank to the finisher, or from the finisher thru the filter or from a barrel to the bottler) has failed. I suspect it’s just sugar built up on the check balls that force the syrup to go where it should. I’ll need to try filling it with hot water and operate it, if that doesn’t work, I’ll open the pump to check for the problem. I have spare parts for all of the common issues. Tomorrow I’ll disconnect the pump from the filter and the inlet and outlets and then bring it home to check it where I can be warm doing it. Right now the inside of the sugarhouse was 9 F today when the outdoor temp got to 18 F. I prefer working on it where the temp is about 62 F. Hopefully I can get enough hot water into it to get some flow, and once flow starts any sugar built up will dissolve. If that fails with the pump apart I can see if check balls are stuck, or if one or both of the diaphragms are damaged. In either case I have spares.
I’m just glad this didn’t happen in the busiest part of the season.
Right now, at 8:57 AM it is 59 F outside, will get to 61 mid afternoon, but then by this time tomorrow the forecast calls for 8 F. That’s over a 50 degree drop in about 18 hours. Tough on the trees, and me.