2017 January – Deep Winter, So What?

Central Boiler firebox after a 12 hour burn; overnight low 8°F

The wheel barrow full is about a 12 hr load-out at current temperatures

I suppose we all have those periods of time, when we are losing sleep because we have so much going on in our lives that it seems incredibly daunting to even consider what needs to be done to satisfy all of the needs.  So it has been for me in recent days.  It helped to put together the 2016 Year in Review post, and the goals for 2017 that it documents.

And then the day starts, time as they say, waits for no man.  At this time of year, the first thing to do in the morning is to re-load the boiler with enough fuel wood to burn for 12 hours; it is a daily reminder of how much more closely we are connected to our subsistence needs than just one short year ago.

Next, I like to spend a few minutes to a half-hour, planning out my day.  For some reason, simple, as in “simple life,” or “simple living,” seldom comes to mind.  Maybe that’s because that in addition to simply living, we are also starting up three businesses.  Oh well, the reasons are neither here nor there.

Today will be most consumed with putting up firewood, for both our home heating needs (including a bit for the ambiance of  the fireplace), and for the upcoming sugaring season.  As I look at the look at the goals for 2017, one of several that jumped out at me this morning was “Make and sell 1,000 1 C. bottles of maple syrup.”  It sounds easy enough.  It is certainly “simple” on its face, which is not to say “easy.”  But … a maple syruping rule of thumb is that one tap will produce one quart of syrup (10-15 gallons of sap) per sugaring season … I have 100 taps … 100 quarts … 400 cups … hmmm.  Where will the other 600 cups come from?  A neighbor approached me about processing some of his sap last summer, and I will start by investigating that possibility.  In their family, and in our immediate vicinity, are close to 100 acres, much of that acreage is woods.  I need another 150 taps … 10-15 gallons of sap / tap … 1,500 to 2,250 gallons of sap … fifty to seventy-five 30 gallon barrels … or six to eight 275 gallon totes for storage.  Okay, let’s say that solves the sap issue.  Our “Half Pint” evaporator will evaporate 5-7 gallons of sap per hour; remember, we need to evaporate 42 gallons of every 43 gallons of sap collected to obtain one gallon of syrup.  Hmmm … 1,000 C. of syrup … 62.5 gallons of syrup … 2,687.5 gallons of sap … 2,625 gallons of sap to be evaporated … ~6 gallons/hr evaporation rate … 437.5 hrs of evaporator operation … four to six week season … let’s assume 5 weeks … evaporating every day (not really, but will give us a low end estimate of hours per day) … 35 days … 12.5 hr / day.  Uhhhh, no.  First of all, the sap will flow probably fewer than half the days; I need to document that this year.  So, we are already at 25 hrs / day on the days when sap flows, if that latest assumption is anywhere close to correct.  It’s just not doable.  Since I cannot process all of the sap as it flows, I need to store sap … sap flows when daytime temps are above freezing and nighttime lows are below freezing … sap contains 2 to 5% sugar … sap wants to ferment … quickly … and does … spoiling it … therefore I need cold storage for 2,625 gallons of sap … I need transport to and from storage … in short, I need to extend my capability to evaporate high quality sap beyond the normal season limits.

So, this relatively simple goal, “Make and sell 1,000 1 C. bottles of maple syrup,” now includes:

  • Establish agreement with neighbor, or others to be identified, for the acquisition of 2,250 gallons of sap, approximately 150-200 taps
  • Find and establish agreement for cold storage of 2,625 gallons of sap
  • Get use/control of eight 275 gallon totes, or something bigger, to leave in place at the cold storage facility
  • Define and satisfy transportation needs to/from cold storage
  • Put up enough, let’s just call it “a lot,” of firewood for the evaporator
  • We need more bottles, caps, hang tags, and labels for the syrup
  • We will probably need help with sap collection, since I will be operating the evaporator at least 10 hrs / day when the sap flows, and 10 hrs per day with stored sap when the sap is not flowing, come to think of it
  • Make ready for our own production from 100 taps, and all that that entails

And of course that’s just the high points; I really need to review the maple syruping process flow diagram and walk through it step-by-step to see what impact this production increase would generate.

Thank you for being my virtual sounding board while I mentally put this plan together.  Seriously, please comment if you see something(s) missing, which undoubtedly are there, in my many blind spots.

Now I am off to that most therapeutic homestead endeavors, the production of firewood.

Yours sincerely,


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2 replies
  1. Mike
    Mike says:

    I know the feeling of too much to do while starting a stream of businesses. I’m also behind right now on launching and promoting some of our 2017 programs and products. But if feels good to be in control, working for myself, setting and meeting my own goals. Keep at it. I’m looking forward to buying some syrup this year.

    • John Newell
      John Newell says:

      You are absolutely spot on regarding those benefits, and we will stay in action. And I am happy to put you on the list for some of this year’s maple syrup; I will keep you posted.

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