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Almost out, temporarily

Dave Klish

I have recently had a flurry of sales which while welcome, have left me very low in stock. At present, the only regular syrup I have is a few half gallon jugs of Dark (which also happens to be my best selling regular syrup). I also have a good supply of bourbon barrel aged maple syrup, but actually less than I’d like. I will likely sell out of that before my next batch is ready about mid October 2021. My bourbon barrel aged syrup has been my best selling syrup ever since I first introduced it in August 2017.

For the regular maple syrup, I do have more stock in a stainless steel barrel, actually 2. I will pack more as soon as the weather permits. This morning, according to my temperature recording thermometer at the sugarhouse, I had -6.5F, the high today is forecast to get to 17F. I won’t be able to bottle more until I get temperatures in the mid-upper 30’s for long enough to get water to my tankless water heater and then clean the equipment needed to pack more syrup. Once that is re-cleaned I can pack syrup when the temperatures outside are in the 20’s, I just need to have it warmer to wash equipment. The good news is that next Friday, (7 days out), the forecast is for 40F+ at least part of the day. If that proves to happen I’ll then have all sizes of dark syrup back in stock within a day or 2 of that.

Shortly the new season will be upon us. For the season to start we need warm days and cold nights. Days in the 40’s work best and nights of 27F or colder help considerably. I can however get some flow with temperatures as cold as 34-36F, but as cold as it has been for so long, the trees take a few days to thaw before the sap begins to flow. Once that happens and I’ve made enough new syrup I may well have some Amber syrup also for those few who prefer Amber, maybe even some Golden.

Here’s to maple season weather, 40-45 every day and 25-27 every night, may it be long lasting. 4-6 weeks is nice, 8 weeks even better.

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Getting ready for the 2021 season

Dave Klish

While at the moment, I’m very low in inventory, I’m preparing for the 2021 maple season. All of my taps are connected by tubing to my sap storage tanks. I have done some repairs on that tubing, any trees or limbs that fall on the tubing needs to be removed, and any damage from those limbs or from wildlife must be repaired. I will have repairs finished by mid February. Then as the forecast shows that the sap will start running I’ll tap.

After 2 or 3 days of sap flow, if I get at least 400 gal of sap, I can start processing. For the first boil of the year I need at least 400 gal, after that I can boil smaller amounts, such as 200 or more. As the season progresses I start to get larger quantities of sap. On my 400+/- taps I can get as much as 1000+ gal if the sap flows good, if marginal it may only give me 50-100 gal in a day. Most of the difference is caused by the temperatures. If it goes down to 27F or colder overnight, then up into the mid 40’s I will get a lot of sap. If it only goes down to 30F and then only up to the mid 30’s during the day, or for only 2-3 hrs I get very little. The best sap flows are when the temperatures were well below freezing over night and then pleasantly mild during the day. It also actually helps if the weather is rainy, meaning low atmospheric pressure. The greater the difference inside the tubing to the outside pressure the greater the sap flow if the temperatures are in the right range.

Having vacuum on the taps actually does no harm to the tree, in fact it helps, let me explain. Before the days of vacuum on the taps, the tapping guidelines were different. Back then we tapped a 12-17″ diameter tree with 1 tap, an 18″ to 27″ tree got 2 taps and a 28″ or larger got 3 taps. Now, using vacuum we tap a tree from 10-24″ with just 1 tap, 25+ gets 2, no matter how big it is, never more than 2. The only physical damage is from drilling the tap hole. The tree senses it is losing sap, and eventually it seals off and compartmentalizes the small area. Sap will never again flow in that exact spot. If you were to look at a board made from a maple tree that had been tapped for many years, you would see narrow, dark stained columns in the wood. The compartments will be starting up to 2 feet below the tap hole and up to about 2′ above it. The stain will be up to about 2″ wide at the tap hole (that healed back up) and it will go to a point both above and below the tap hole. That will not be dead wood, just wood that carries very little sap. As the tree grows and adds about 1 1/2″ of new wood, we tap again. We use a tapping pattern that keeps new wood available every year to place a new tap (or 2). With vacuum, we also tap a wider band around the tree. Years ago, before vacuum, guidelines called for a tapping band (the area we should tap) of up to 15-18″ around the tree, typically just above waist height, now we tap over a band width up to about 3′ above the sap tubing and as much as 2′ below it. That gives us up to 4 times the area to tap in. Thus we tap a 12″ tree this year, our tapping pattern uses up that band width by the time the tree has grown to 15″ and we tap in all new wood, going around the tree again, in a specific pattern.

I’m a first generation maple producer, having started in 2003. Actually about 25 of my trees were tapped back in the early 1980’s by my oldest son and 2 of his friends. They asked if they could camp out when they had a week off from school in late February that year. All 3 were boy scouts. We got written permission from the parents, letting them know that the 3 boys, then 14-15 would be alone, no adult supervision. They set up camp and tapped trees on the Saturday, that vacation began. They collected the sap in jugs and boiled it over an open fire. On Sunday, 8 days later they had made 6 quarts of maple syrup for each of them, along with having had some on their pancakes each day for breakfast except the first Sunday, nothing had been finished to syrup at that point. Counting what they likely ate that week, the 3 had likely made about 5 or 5 1/2 gal of maple syrup. It was a little smoky tasting but in all a great success.

We still boil using wood, but we boil in a 3′ x 8′ stainless steel evaporator which has stainless steel hoods over it. We have high pressure air blown into the fire, both under the fire and above the fire. The under fire air make it burn hotter, the over fire air burns the smoke and gasses more completely. When we added that feature we boiled about 10-12 gal per hour faster while using 15% less wood. We also use a reverse osmosis machine that removes enough water that we boil 8-12% concentrate rather than about 2% sap. At 2% sap, it takes 44 gal of sap to get 1 gal of maple syrup. At 12% concentrate we make a gallon of syrup by boiling just 7.33 gal of concentrate down to 1 gal of pure maple syrup.

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Happy New Year

Dave Klish

This past year certainly has been a rough ride for the whole world. With the Covid 19 vaccines now rolling out I sure hope things can return to more normal in a few months. Guesses are maybe 6-8 months for the US. In the meanwhile, forgo the big family get togethers, learn to Facetime those you love or some other non contact method until this all passes. Stay at home, or go for a long walk in the woods. It will give you a peaceful moment. If you are in snow country, try snowshoes or cross country skiing.

We will be in the woods a lot, starting next week we will begin making repairs on our tubing system. We need to replace all taps and fittings in the lines, remove trees and downed limbs from the lines and then start tapping. We try to be tapped by late Jan or very early Feb. Then we will be ready for the sap to start flowing. The sap flows when the weather conditions are right. First we need freezing weather, followed by a warm day. The best flows seem to happen when the temperatures fell to 27F or colder, then 40-45F during the daytime. If the temperature stays above freezing for overnight, sap will flow for 2.5 or 3 days. Then we need another freeze thaw cycle for it to flow again. The more freeze thaw cycles we get in succession the higher the sap sugar % gets. Our long time average is between 2.0 and 2.1%, a few years ago it was the lowest we ever had, the season’s average was 1.25%. Since the finished sugar % in pure maple syrup is 69%, the lower the sap sugar % the more sap it takes to make a gallon of maple syrup. At 2% it takes 43.5 gal of sap, at 1.25% sugar in the sap it takes 69.6 gal of sap to yield 1 gal of syrup. Thus it not only needs to boil longer which also consumes more firewood. We do use Reverse Osmosis (RO, pronounced R-O) too. The sap goes thru that first, to get it at least 8 and up to 12% sugar then the rest is done by boiling. The characteristic flavor of pure maple syrup is developed on the bottom of the pan, as it caramelizes.

The length of the season varies widely. In the past years, since 2003, when we started to make maple syrup for more than just our immediate family the seasons have been as short as about 15 days and as long as 7 weeks. Generally the later in the year we get first sap, the more likely the season will be shorter. Our latest first boil was March 28, and it ended April 14th that year. As a general rule however, our greatest period of sap flow in usually the last week in March and the first 4-5 days in April and the average length of our season is between 3 & 4 weeks.

Time will tell what 2021 will bring. I do have help fixing lines from generally 3 people, first my brother In law (BIL) and my oldest son (ROB) along with his significant other (RO pronounced row). Since they work during the week, their help is usually a Saturday or 2. All 3 also assist with the boil, my BIL most every day and Rob and RO on weekends.

When Covid first started moving in in March 2020, I told all help to stay home and I did all boiling, finishing, packing in SS barrels or in retail jugs and bottles by myself. I could not risk getting Covid and bringing it home to my wife who since she had Chemo and Radiation for cancer back in 2008, has had an extremely low white cell count ever since.

This year I’ll repeat the same. Helpers will work different areas of the sugar bush (maple woods) but I’ll boil solo. Hopefully this will not be necessary in 2022. The boiling etc. goes much smoother and faster when 2 are working together in the sugarhouse.

Right now my inventory is very low, I finally sold out of the 38 gallons of Amber I made in 2020 but I still have 1 barrel of dark left, out of the 7 barrels made in 2020 (each SS barrel holds 26.5 gal. In addition to those 7 barrels I also packed about 25 gal into retail containers during last season. In 2020 I ended up with no Very Dark. Most of my dark was on the lighter side of that grade. I had batches of 47%, 43%, 39% and 35%. Those are % of light transmission %LT) thru a very specific test vial. 49% down to 25% is dark as long as it had good flavor. Regardless of % LT it is commercial if the taste is not appropriate for that grade. Commercial can never be sold retail. If I ever get commercial it can only be sold to re-processors in bulk. Fortunately I’ve made no commercial in years.

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Dave Klish

As the Christmas season rapidly ascends on us, let’s all pray for those less fortunate. To all from those sick with Covid 19, to the health care workers, the first responders and to all who desperately long to get together with friends and family. This is the season we all want to be comforted with family, but we have realized we must remain with our immediate household to help slow the spread of Covid 19. While we don’t want to stay apart, we realize it is the only way we can all get together with those we love in the future. If we all adhere to the medical adviser’s guidelines we will get together again, in good time.

God, we pray you help all in need and send your Son to enter the hearts of all who need Him in this very troubling time. While the whole earth is suffering this pandemic, we must realize all God has done for us who have not fallen to this disease.

I hope you and all your family do well, stay safe and healthy. May 2021 become the year Covid 19 is put to rest once and for all.

My immediate family and my extended family have so far escaped this disease, I hope everyone reading this is well and has lost no one close to them in the year we are rapidly saying goodby to. We pray that even more vaccines become available and that the whole world’s population can get a vaccine that truly works wonders.

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Down to the wire

Dave Klish

It is close to the last day for ordering to be relatively sure the order will arrive before Christmas. I will need to get the order by 12/13 or 12/14 to be able to ship the next day. Orders after that may or may not arrive by Christmas. Sales have been real good all year and I’m very low on stock. I have run out of all Golden syrup, only have a few half pints in Amber, I’m out of quarts except a few in Dark and I have no very dark.

Year to date my sales have far exceeded all previous years, likely because of Covid 19. With far more people working from home, and not having to commute, they are making breakfast at home and many use maple syrup with that breakfast. I’m eagerly looking forward to the 2021 season and hope it starts early or I’ll be out of all my syrup except the bourbon barrel aged. While that is my best seller, it is not what some people want. While some use it like traditional maple syrup, most only use it to sweeten coffee, as an ice cream topping, to baste meat while cooking, to add flavor to recipes in cooking and other uses but not as a pancake, waffle, french toast or other cereal or fruit topping.

Order soon to get your order in before I run out until the 2021 season. That could start as early as mid February or as late as the tail end of March or even early April. It all depends on the weather. For the season to start I need freezing nights and warm days. Once it starts it can run for 2 or sometimes 3 days without a freeze, but that is somewhat rare to get real good sap flow for over a day and a half until mid season. The season then ends when the trees open their buds. A season can be any where from just over 2 weeks to over 6 weeks and a couple have lasted 7-8 weeks. 3-5 is most typical. Mother nature is in charge of that.

I still have a good inventory in my Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup. It has proven for the last 3 years to be my best selling syrup and that is partially why I’ve run out or very low on my other syrups. I used them to make more bourbon aged.  That is a process I need to start 6-9 months ahead depending on the size of the bourbon barrel I can get. A 10 gal needs 6-7 months to age and a 15 gal needs 9-10 months to age in order for it to attain the degree of flavor my customers have shown they like. To date the largest barrel I’ve used has been 15 gal and I far prefer 10 gal. However the 10’s are hard to find, most distilleries use 15, 20 and all the way up to 53 gal. I can only use a barrel once, because the flavor has been diluted too much for a second batch. Each time I start for example a 15 gal batch (my last one was 15) that is 30 half gallons or 60 qts that are not there for regular syrup sales.