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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

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

The Quarter-Sawing Process, and Problems, Oh No!

The best image found representing the process being documented. “Steps taken to quarter saw a log, a quarter sawn log and a quarter sawn board (clockwise from top left).” Image attribution: https://www.domain.com.au/news/diy-working-with-timber-at-home-20120322-1vllr/

The first step towards improving any process, is to understand the current state of the process, and in my opinion formally documenting that process in words and pictures is a solid foundation for improvement efforts.  It’s important to keep in mind that this process is not the “be all and end all” just because it is documented; it is though the process currently in use. Read more

Fruit & Nut Tree and Shrub Walk-Around July 2016

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I did a walk-around the yard to record in pictures and words how the fruit and nut trees and shrubs are doing. It should be noted that since planting these trees and shrubs, and watering them in,  almost nothing has been done.  The Peaches and Pears were planted June 5/6, and the Plums on June 27, 2016.

O'Henry Peach Tree - Primal Woods

O’Henry Peach

The O’Henry Peach is doing quite well, this is the eastern most peach in the front yard, immediately adjacent to where I cut down the Star Magnolia. I did find what appeared to be either a Mason or Potters Wasp on the O’Henry. Slight damage from leaf eaters of some sort, and lots of new leaf growth; the plant looks healthy. <That is a Mullein, aka Velvet Plant, at the corner of the house (upper left of image), identified by our friend Kerry.>

 

 

 

 

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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 https://primalwoods.com/assembling-leader-evaporator-half-pin-3/, and Part 2, “Assembling the Leader Evaporator Half Pint – Part 2 of 4,” can be found at https://primalwoods.com/assembling-leader-evaporator-half-pin-2/.

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