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2019 Maple Syrup Season Planning

Primal Woods Our Purpose

Michigan Maple Syrup, The Making of

If you like knowing not only where your food comes from, but also the “why” of decisions made regarding its production, read on for the unvarnished, inconventient truths.  Primal Woods exists to achieve The Purpose, it is a vehicle for achieving The Purpose.  Decisions made need to be consistent with and support achievement of The Purpose, though maintaining that consistency may at times be inconvenient, which is to say, maintaining consistency to The Purpose may make profitability far more challenging.  I want to take a moment here though, to write about what will not change.  To change some aspects of the Primal Woods Pure Michigan Maple Syrup business would, in my opinion, run counter to the business’ “reason for being,” as documented in “The Purpose.”  Since I have repeated myself so often, I’ll stop trying to drive home the importance of The Purpose. Read more

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2018 Post Season Update from the Sugar House

pure michigan maple syrup

Jonah, Sheila and Carl; kick-ass humans being

2018 Primal Woods Pure Michigan Maple Syrup | Year in Review

And what a Primal Woods Pure Michigan Maple Syrup season it was!  It probably included the biggest changes we will ever take on in the Sugaring business; production was up roughly 8X on 2017, and virtually everything in the process was new, or dramatically scaled up from prior years. If you have read this blog for any period of time, you know that I “reflect” fairly regularly on “what went well” and “what didn’t go so well,” with a keen eye on the latter, because the problems represent the bulk of the opportunity for future improvements.  This post will be no exception.  Having said that, without question, the most fulfilling, satisfying, and fun part of the 2018 season, was that we were able to involve a lot more of our local community in the process.  Before I get to the details, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the contribution of the people who helped us so greatly. Read more

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Late Season Update from the Sugar House

syrup pan - primal woods pure michigan maple syrup

A look into the Leader Evaporator RevMax Syrup Pan

Primal Woods Pure Michigan Maple Syrup – Late Season Update

And what a year it has been so far! We just surpassed 1,000 Half-Pint bottles produced; of the Amber, Dark, and Very Dark varieties.  Check it out in our Shop.  But even better than that, is the experience gained in the process, and the ability to include so many of our Community in the making of those 1,000 bottles.  Virtually all new equipment, the Sugar House conversion project, getting the help we needed in collecting the sap, putting up the necessary firewood, bottling, dressing the bottles, and the list goes on.  All of that with only a few hiccups, none of which could stop us.  I’m convinced we can pull off another big expansion for 2019, perhaps our final expansion; we’ll see.  For more on what we’ve been up to this season, read on. Read more

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Mid-Season Update from the Sugar House

Primal Woods Pure Michigan Maple Syrup – In the Making

I’m hoping and praying we are a little shy of the mid-point in this maple syrup season, at least as regards maple syrup production, but I think it’s likely that we are at about that point.  I plan for sap flow for 4 to 6 weeks from initial tapping, and we tapped February 16-18; gee whiz, now that I look at it we just passed the two week point.  Seems like it’s been a lot longer than that!  Okay though, I’m grateful for at least the possibility of more sap flow in front of us than behind us.  There is a little break in the action here, no evaporation today, and it looks like we are nearing the end of Sap Run 3; I will evaporate the last 400 gallons from Run 3 tomorrow, and that should yield 9-10 gallons of syrup.  And, this break gives us a little time to make some additional process improvements, and to reflect on, naturally, what has gone well, and what hasn’t gone well.  Let’s get to it.

maple sap collection

Joey and Carl collecting sap; 2018 Feb 23, Sap Run 1

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Sugar House Roof DIY

Bringing the Sugar House Conversion to Completion

There is one big project left for Primal Woods Sugarers, and a myriad of smaller details, in the completion of the Primal Woods Sugar House conversion; that being the roof penetrations required to allow for exit of steam from the Leader Evaporator Revolution syrup and flue pans, and smoke from the Inferno arch. The “arch” is basically the wood-fired furnace that heats the flue and syrup pans to make our Primal Woods Pure Michigan Maple Syrup.  Let it be said, I’m no carpenter, and I’m no roofer.  But again I think I am going to be pressed into service, this time as a roofer.  Read on to see what this project involves.

Sugar House hip roof structure, showing Inferno arch in place

Sugar House hip roof structure, showing Inferno arch in place

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Planning to Tap: Sap to Maple Syrup

Maple syrup: forecasting temperature conditions for maple sap flow

Long-range temperature forecast for Hartford Michigan

Maple Syrup Season is Upon Us!

This is a big, big year for Primal Woods Pure Michigan Maple Syrup.  As I have documented previously, we are in the midst of an almost 10 fold increase in production, which will probably be the largest increase in production we ever take on, at least in relative terms; 60 taps to 500, 15 gallons to 125 gallons of syrup.  If all goes well, we should produce the equivalent of 2,000 half pint bottles.  Every step in the process requires attention, from tapping to bottling packing and shipping.  I walk step-by-step through the process and necessary improvements in the post Planning for 2018 Maple Syrup Expansion.  Today though, the subject is Step 2: Tap Trees.  Read on for more information on how to decide when to tap your trees! Read more

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Planning for 2018 Maple Syrup Expansion

Improvements will be built upon the foundation of the current process, as defined in the “Process Flow-Maple Syrup” diagram

It is is mid-June, and already I feel a bit late in putting together the improvements necessary to significantly scale up maple operations in 2018. This is my first pass at identifying what needs to be put in place to increase production by a factor of 8x to 10x. The number of taps will go from 50-70 in 2017, to 400-500 in 2018.  What will stay the same, and what will change? Read more

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Revisiting the End of Maple Sugaring Season – Based on Growing Degree Days

Sugar Maple buds, iPhonography through telescope 2017 Apr 04

Of course our maple season ended some time ago, the last sap was evaporated on March 21st; the end having nothing to do with Growing Degree Days and reaching budbreak, but having everything to do with the trees healing the tap holes to the extent that sap flow was stifled. As I looked out the window yesterday though, it was clear that the two mature Red Maples in our backyard were in the process of leafing out, and with the naked eye it looked like the Sugar Maples on the south side of the house were budding out, if not yet flowering or leafing out. Read more

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Predicting the End of Maple Sugaring Season – Caveat emptor

Back to the Growing Degree Days (GDD) calculation, and “knowing” that Sugar Maples budbreak between 30-50 GDD°C base 10 (54-100 GDD°F base 50), how then does that help us?  Even predicting the end of the season is of dubious value I suppose, but it seems like a good exercise.  So, I’m just taking a relatively uninformed shot at this prediction; I have not tested the results against “real life” as recorded in prior years, nor have I used records from real life in prior years to inform this prediction.  In other words, caveat emptor. Read more

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Estimating the End of Maple Sugaring Season – Based on Growing Degree Days

 

Not so much

Today’s lack of sap flow, in the face of a 50⁰F daytime high, after a low in the mid 20’s overnight, has me concerned.  It certainly seems as if the sap should be running from the taps.  So, I thought I would revisit the issue of Growing Degree Days, and perform the calculation using data from a bit closer to home.  A couple of “revelations,” if you will: there are Celsius, or Centigrade GDD, and there are Fahrenheit GDD.  It is often not specified in literature, and I tripped over this distinction, or the lack of a distinction, in my earlier post on the subject, “MAPLE SYRUPING SEASON – STARTING, ENDING, OR BOTH?”  In the wikipedia entry on the subject of Acer saccharum, aka Sugar Maple, it is written that “flowering occurs in early spring after 30–55 growing degree days.”  GDD Celsius or GDD Fahrenheit not specified, naturally.  Since the units in the balance of the entry are in metric units, with English units noted parenthetically, I finally made the connection that flowering will occur at 30-55 GDDC (Celsius).  If GDDC is then multiplied by 1.8, the result is a GDDF (Fahrenheit) range of 54-99.  Okay, so now that that’s cleared up, where are we now? Read more