Evidently it did not freeze last night until 3 or 4 am so the sap ran most of the night. We have a full tank of sap which was a welcome surprise when we opened the camp this morning. We will be boiling on the big evaporator today.
We had enough sap to produce a small quantity of syrup. The taste of the fresh syrup is something we look forward to each year and it was particularly good at breakfast this morning. However, its cold again this morning and we don’t expect any more sap until Tuesday at the earliest.
We are now open for the day until 5:00 pm. The Shanty Men will be boiling today but the Kettle boys will not be here until next weekend. We have taffy on the snow and fresh syrup to taste but the trails are only passable with snowshoes.
Finally the temperature rose to 7 degrees C overnight and the sap kept running. We will have enough sap for the first boiling this season. Hopefully this is a sign of a change to more seasonal weather.
Another sign of spring is the return of the crows to our sugar bush. We expect the red shouldered hawk will also arrive shortly.
Some visitors to the camp really enjoyed their taffy on the snow being served by Emma Boysen. The camp is now open until 4:00 pm today.
Another day with only a dribble of sap. We’re hoping that things warm up tomorrow to stimulate the first real run of sap.
We’ve spent the last two days turning on all the pumps in the four pump houses for a total of six sap pumps and two large vacuum pumps. Typical problems occurred with blown fuses and one circuit breaker not working. Everything is now on and ready to go. We also filled the evaporator with water and successfully tested its operation. Still to go for tomorrow is the annual assembly of the reverse osmosis machine.
In the camp we have made fresh batches of maple butter,maple candy and maple mustard. We now need some fresh syrup to stock our counters.
In spite of the cool weather some visitors came by to check on our progress and to enjoy some taffy on the snow. They seemed to be as anxious as we are for the season to start.
We’ll be open tomorrow from 10.00 to 4.00
Tapping this year was more challenging than usual The deep soft snow for the first two days was very challenging and then lots of buried lines needed to be dug out. On one line a large tree had blown over before the snow came and almost 200 yards of pipeline (180 meters) was on the ground and had to be restrung. The leaks we have missed will show up with the first run of sap
The weather may finally warm up on Thursday, March 14 and Friday, March 15 and we can finally open the camp. The Kettle Boys and Shanty Men also hope to open on Saturday and Sunday 22nd and 23rd but once again this depends on the weather.There will be an update in this blog each day on our progress.
The first step each at the start of a new season is tapping the trees. Its necessary to make a new hole each year for each tap. The old tap holes are in the process of being sealed off with new wood and no longer will run sap.
The snow in the sugar bush has accumulated to about 75 cm or 3 feet and very soft which has made it very difficult to move about even on large snowshoes. The brief mild spell with rain showers earlier this week has been a blessing. The crust is now firm enough to support a person on snowshoes and tapping is now much easier. We are about 40% completed and should finish well before the expected first run of sap sometime after March 10.
Eric Boysen, one of our helpers, is tapping one of our trees with an electric drill. Over the 46 years we have been tapping we have progressed from manual tapping with brace and bit to tapping with a modified chain saw. Then to a lightweight gas powered tapper followed by an electric drill with NiCd battery and finally to an electric drill with lithium ion battery as shown. This is the perfect outfit as it is lightweight, powerful and the battery is long lasting. It’s almost fun on a nice sunny day like it was today, not too cold and with a crust to walk on over the deep snow.
We are looking forward to that taste of fresh syrup.
We are having a traditional Canadian winter this year. With 3 feet (76 cm) of snow in the sugar bush snowshoes will be necessary for tapping which will begin next week. Based on the long term forecast we do not expect the first sap run until the second week of March, also the traditional start date for this area.
This year we have had some squirrel damage to our tubing system. For some reason, in one section of the sugar bush, the squirrels clipped the spile adapter from the end of the drop line as well as the pin on which it is connected to seal the tubing system between seasons.The photo on the left shows the damaged drop line missing the adapter and pin. Also shown is a drop line without damage and the drop line pinned for storage.Somewhere the squirrels have stored these pieces of plastic and will be disappointed when they try to salvage them for a lunch this winter. About 100 drop lines were damaged and they have been replaced. There is always something new and interesting in the sugar bush but it also adds to our annual work load
As usual at this time of year we are in the process of getting ready for another season. This will be our 46th year of making maple syrup and there have been many changes in the sugar bush and in the production process over that period. Many of our older trees have died in part due to damage from the ice storm but are quickly being replaced by younger trees. We are fortunate that our two sugar bushes have a good understory of younger trees ready to grow rapidly when there is a break in the canopy.We have kept up with the evolving production techniques which have improved our efficiency and reduced the amount of fuel required and the green house gas emissions.Some things never change which is joy of working in the sugar bush and the taste of fresh maple syrup.
When you visit our camp this year you will find a much enlarged parking lot. Wolf Grove Road was repaved this year and it was convenient to have the road crew widen our parking lot at the same time.
We have been reflecting on the past season and the length of eight weeks is the most significant aspect. Usually the season is four weeks with more intense runs of sap. This year the sap ran in smaller batches but steadily, with only a couple of breaks, for the entire eight weeks. Also the sap ran several days when the temperature hovered around 2 degrees C which is unusual. Normally 4 or 5 degrees is needed to produce a good run of sap.In any case we had an excellent year and we are very grateful.
Lots of people came to visit our operation and we particularly enjoyed talking to several groups from overseas. This was their first experience with a maple syrup operation. We would like to thank all our customers for their patronage. Some have been coming since we opened in 1973 and have supported us through all our ups and downs. We have a Wall of Honour in the camp with the names of people who have been coming for 10 years or more. We may have missed some people so if your are a regular check the list next time you are at the camp as we would don’t want to overlook anyone.
So now its time to rest a bit then look ahead to next year. There are always repairs and improvements we can make to the operation that keeps us busy year around. We keep syrup on hand all year long so if you run out or need a gift for a special occasion give is a call.
We are open this week and on the weekend and then thereafter by appointment.
The sap stopped running yesterday so we are shutting down. We had a very good season. It lasted eight weeks which may be a record for this area.
The next step is washing up which will take a week or two. The lines need to be flushed with water then the spiles will be pulled, isopropyl alcohol injected in the tubes and the system sealed until next spring. The alcohol sterilizes the tubes and it is flushed out with the first run of sap. We also need to wash all the tanks, rinse the reverse osmosis system and clean the evaporator.
Our camp will be open this week and next weekend. After that we may only be open by appointment or by chance when we are working at the camp.
With the warmer weather the sap is running well but not as hard as earlier as some of the tap holes in the smaller trees on the hillsides have stopped producing. We made enough Dark and Very Dark syrup today to fill our back orders. These syrups have a strong flavour mainly due to the fructose sugar in late season sap that breaks down during boiling mainly to caramel.We expect a strong run of sap tomorrow and to continue for a few days as some areas in the sugar bush are still covered in snow and are slowly thawing out.
Another migrant bird, our resident phoebe, appeared today. The bluebirds are back at the bird house and seem to be building a nest. The winter birds are very busy at the feeder as food seems to be scarce after such a long winter. Birdwatching has nothing to do with making syrup but we find it very enjoyable to take time from our busy schedule to note the comings and goings of our feathered friends.
Our equipment has been working well but we had an outage today when a relay in the control system for our vacuum pump stopped working shutting off the cooling fan. We were able to bypass the relay and get back in operation. Not the best arrangement but better than not being able to use the vacuum pump. Vacuum helps to stimulate sap flow and also keeps the lines free of sap. A new relay is in the mail.
We are in the process of phoning or emailing those people who ordered Dark or Very Dark syrup. If you don’t here from us for some reason send us a reminder or call at the camp and we will fill your order. We will be open from 10 t0 5 daily.