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Packing more soon

Over the next few days I will be bottling more dark syrup. I have surgery scheduled for a week from tomorrow, which will likely put me out of commission for 5-8 weeks depending on how it goes. In order to attempt to have enough dark syrup I’ll be opening my last 40 gal stainless steel barrel full of dark maple syrup (I do still have 3 more 26.5 gal barrels full of dark and 1 40 gal barrel of amber), and then processing it into retail jugs. I used to bottle a full 40 gal barrel worth of syrup in about a day and a half, but I was younger then and had no health issues slowing me down. I’ll start tomorrow by washing the equipment again with hot potable water. Then I’ll pump the 40 gal into my finisher pan (a 2′ x 6′ propane heated pan). Next I’ll heat it to 180-190F, pump it through the filter press and into the electric water jacketed bottler (WJ) and verify grade (color) and density. Next I’ll turn on the WJ and the syrup will automatically be heated to 185F +/- 1 degree at which point it’s ready to start filling retail jugs. Because the WJ only holds 16 gal max, I have to refill it 3x to empty the finisher pan. These will likely take me 3 or more days. Hopefully this will be enough syrup to hold me through the Christmas season (along with what I have bottled already plus all of the amber I have ready, because if I run out, I may not be able to pack more at that time if my surgery recovery takes too long. I’ll need to follow my doctor’s orders. My wife or one of my daughters can restock my local retail outlet and they can also fill orders for my online sales, but I would not even ask them to pump another barrel and pack it into retail jugs. That will need to wait until I’m again physically able to help if not do it all by myself.

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Get the most for your money

I often wonder why people buy the quantity they do, and I’ve been known to add a note for “next time”. For example, I sell lots of orders for one 1/2 gal jug of maple syrup which then ships in a medium flat rate USPS box. For the same cost to ship I can fit 2 jugs 1/2 gal each in that box. Another example, I just sent out a shipment for 1 bottle of bourbon barrel aged maple syrup (200ml), again, in a medium flat rate USPS box, I could have fit 6 such bottles in that box without increasing the shipping cost or maybe you would like to give someone special a gift, I could also pack an assortment of sizes and/or products in a larger box.

Plan things out, even if you only want one, how about ordering in a group. Maybe you can find someone who wants a half gallon too, you can split the shipping cost or maybe several friends each want a bottle of bourbon barrel aged maple syrup.

If you ever want to find out how many of a certain size or combination of sizes I can pack in any of the box choices I offer, just email me and ask the question, I’ll answer within 24 hrs and then you can work up an order.

I almost always have more than I show on my inventory count in my store, for example, I may have 5 shown in my store of the particular size bourbon barrel aged maple syrup. In most cases that means I only have 5 ready to ship, but I likely have a case or a few cases all bottled, just they might not have the wax cap coating I put on. In most cases I could wax a dozen or more and ship them in 2-3 days, maybe sooner. Again, just email and ask.

To take advantage of this way of saving on shipping cost, it just needs to be one order, shipped to one address, you just do the math and collect the cost from the ones participating in the group order, then order it all on one order and I’ll ship it to your designated address.

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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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Bottled more syrup

This week, even with the extremely high heat I actually packed more syrup. In the next few days I’ll pack more. Yesterday I emptied a 40-gal stainless steel barrel of Amber syrup. So far, I’ve packed some of all of the sizes I carry, half gallons, quarts, pints and half pints, but I’ve not yet finished the entire 40 gallons. It gets too hot working with 185-degree syrup, filling containers when the outside temperatures are in the high 80’s and low to mid 90’s. For that reason, i only pack up to 15 gallons and then I need to cool off. I did 13 gallons yesterday, and about 10 gallons today. I think I’ll skip tomorrow and do more on Friday and finish on Saturday or Sunday. When It’s cold outside I generally do bottling of 40 gallons in 2 days, when I was younger, I did 40 or more gallons a day when needed, but alas I’m no longer young enough to do that much.