maple syrup

2016 Maple Syrup Season Lessons Learned

This season was disappointing in some ways, and a grand success in others.  On the disappointing end of the spectrum, is the low yield this year.  This low yield was due to a confluence of factors, some within our control, and some not.

  1. We got into the woods late, we tapped late, as our process was not yet ready for sap.  We started tapping, and collected the first sap, on the 28th of February, all 100 taps were not in until March 3rd.
  2. The weather did not cooperate very well.  We had a couple of decent snows, but it warmed up so quickly that the snow melted in a couple of days.  In prior years we had used snow to keep our sap cool until we could get it processed; no such luck this year.  The result of insufficient cold storage was that some sap never made it to the evaporator.
  3. By March 13th I was evaporating the last of the sap, and there was no sap flow favorable weather in the 10-day forecast.

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Assembling the Leader Evaporator Half Pint – Parts 3 and 4 of 4

In this installment will be documented the moving of the bricked arch to the sugar house, leveling the arch/evaporator, installing the stack, and the first (test) boil using water and baking soda.

To see how we got to this point, see:

Part 1, “Assembling the Leader Evaporator Half Pint – Part 1 of 4,” can be found at, and Part 2, “Assembling the Leader Evaporator Half Pint – Part 2 of 4,” can be found at

We knew that moving the arch from the house to the sugar house would be “challenging.”  Unfortunately the controlled environment of the house was necessary to facilitate the curing of the refractory cement used in the process of installing the firebrick.  Getting the sheet metal and cast iron shell of the arch into the house was no real problem, Geri and I accomplished that in less than 30 minutes, using only the garden cart as a simple machine. Read more

Maple Syrup Process Flow Diagram

A short post today, simply to provide something that might be of value to anyone consider the production of maple syrup, on any scale.

Final version for 2016 preparations

I have found that mapping out the process helps me to ensure that we have everything we need, in place, to perform the task at hand, maple syrup production being no exception.  This flow chart is simply a thought-starter, no doubt it is not perfect, nor does it incorporate every possible detail.  However it might be of use to you, I certainly hope so.  You can find 11 in. x 17 in. pdf version at this link: Process Flow-Maple Syrup.  As this process is refined, so will be the pdf. Read more

Assembling the Leader Evaporator Half Pint – Part 2 of 4

Part 2 involves assembly of the Reservoir Pan and the Boiling Pan, which are relatively simple and easy tasks, as well as installing firebrick in the sheet metal structure of the arch, a seemingly simple but very tedious task.

Draw-Off valve and thermometer at right front corner of Boiling pan

I assembled the pans first, which only involved the addition of draw-off valves and thermometers ( 2 each) to the Boiling Pan, and the addition of what I am calling a “make-up feed valve” to the Reservoir Pan.  The only tool required is an adjustable wrench, and aside from the parts supplied with the evaporator, the only item required is a roll of teflon tape to seal the pipe-threaded joints.  Pictured is the draw-off valve and thermometer installed at the right front of the boiling pan, there is an identical set of valve and thermometer at the left rear of the boiling pan.  Having draw-off capability at opposite corners allows the flow through the Boiling Pan to be reversed, which minimizes the build-up of “sugar sand” in the Boiling Pan.  A “solid, sand-like material in the bottom of the syrup pan … is sugar sand (commonly calcium malate crystals containing varying amounts of sugar).  Excessive amounts of sugar sand on the bottom of the pan can burn, giving the syrup an unpleasant strong caramel or bitter taste, and possibly damage the pan.”¹  In our first two years as hobbyists we did not experience trouble with sugar sand build-up in our boiling pan, probably because we did not take the sap all the way to syrup in the boiling pan; we drew off the final 3-4 gallons from the boiling pan and reduced it to 12-16 cups of syrup on the range in the house.  I will have more to say on sugar sand and the operation of the evaporator in a later post. Read more

Assembling the Leader Evaporator Half Pint – Part 1 of 4

This year our plan is to put 100 taps in 100 trees.  By Leader Evaporator‘s account, in their on-line catalog, processing the sap that is produced by those 100 taps may be a bit of a stretch with the Half Pint.  My supplier assures me that they have at least one customer managing 100 taps with the Half Pint, and with the Flat Pan at that, while we chose the newly introduced Supreme Pan for increased capacity and efficiency.  We shall see.

Leader’s Hobby Evaporator Buying Guide (accessed on-line 08 Feb 2016)

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It is Tapping Time, And That Means Spring!

Here we go, in southwest Michigan!  The 10-day forecast includes what appears to be an almost picture perfect start to the maple sugaring season.

10-day weather forecast for Kalamazoo, Michigan

Starting on Saturday, 7 March, you can see that the daily high and low temperatures will bracket the freezing point for six days in a row; that dynamic is what causes maple trees to develop a positive pressure when the temperature rises above freezing, pushing sap out of the tree.  I will plan to tap at least some of our trees on the morning of Saturday 7 March, and I would bet that they will start flowing that afternoon. Read more