maple syrup

Maple Sugaring Improvements 2019

The Maple Sugaring Improvement Plan

The original plan for 2019 had been to go to 1,000 taps from 500 by adding the Steam Away AND reverse osmosis (RO) to the sap concentration and evaporation scheme. RO can raise the sugar concentration in the sap very significantly, but for starters my plan was to raise the concentration from nominally 2% to 8%. It doesn’t sound like much, since syrup is 66% sugar, but if you give it some thought you will see that it is in fact a lot. For example, to double the concentration from 2% to 4% we would have to remove half the water in the sap, and to get from 4% to 8% half of the remaining water would have to again be removed, leaving just one quarter of the water originally present in the sap. In other words 75% of the water in the sap has to be removed to get from 2% to 8% sugar concentration in the sap; that’s a huge reduction in the amount of wood-fired evaporation required. You can read all about the plan in our post 2019 Maple Syrup Season Planning. I discussed our reasoning for not employing the now industry-standard RO in the post I just mentioned.

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Maple Sugaring Season 2019: False Start?

Against a goal of 150 gallons of syrup for the year 20-30 gallons is significant. So what’s there to be worried about?

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2019 Maple Syrup Season Planning

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.

Primal Woods Our Purpose

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2018 Post Season Update from the Sugar House

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

Late Season Update from the Sugar House

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

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.

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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.

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Planning to Tap: Sap to Maple Syrup

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

Raw Honey – Natural Beekeeping: 2017 Season Update

A Brief History of Our Beekeeping Experience

With a vision of making raw honey for our own consumption, we began beekeeping in the spring of 2014; so far, it has been the proverbial “tough row to hoe.”

raw honey definition

The Warré hive type was chosen, a top bar hive, without the frames and foundation typical of the Langstroth hive.  The Warré is a hive used in natural beekeeping circles, and that’s where we wanted to be.  It has its advantages and disadvantages to be sure.  An advantage is that the hives are relatively easy and inexpensive to build.  This was detailed in two earlier posts, WARRÉ BEE HIVE CONSTRUCTION – PART I and WARRÉ BEE HIVE CONSTRUCTION – PART II.  I have only made three modications in contravention of Warré’s original design.  In the spring of 2016 I ventilated the “quilts” with two 1 inch holes.  And, this spring, I modified my hive floors to include a screened bottom board, and  raised the hives from the ground about 18 inches.

The first year installation of new bee packages did not go so well, and feeding the new colonies also did not go well.  Frankly, I made of mess of things.  You can read all about it in a post I made that spring of 2014, LATE SPRING UPDATE FROM THE HOMESTEAD, PART I.  You can find all of our posts regarding the making of local honey and beekeeping here.  Since that first spring we have made improvement to the process and equipment year by year, and this spring we harvested our first raw honey, put up by the bees in 2016. Read more

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