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Maple Syrup Business Analysis 2020

If you are interested in a little of the philosophy behind Primal Woods, our Purpose, and an introduction to how this maple syrup business analysis was put together, have a look at this video. I’m not saying that this is how you should do it, I’m only saying that this is how we do it.  […]

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

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Adventures in Traditional Soap-Making

A Brief History of Traditional Soap-Making

Then Almanzo was left alone in the kitchen, to take his bath.  His clean underwear was hanging on a chair-back to air and warm.  The wash-cloth and towel and the small wooden pannikin of soft-soap were on another chain.  He brought another washtub from the woodshed and put it on the floor in front of the open oven-door.

He took off his waist and one pair of socks and his pants.  Then he dipped some warm water from the tub on the stove into the tub on the floor.  He took off his other pair of socks and his underwear, and his bare skin felt good in the heat from the oven.  He toasted in the heat, and he thought he might just put on his clean underwear and not take a bath at all.  But Mother would look, when he went in the dining-room.

So he stepped in the water.  It covered his feet.  With his fingers he dug some of the brown, slimy soft-soap from the pannikin and smeared it on the washcloth.  Then he scrubbed himself well all over.

Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Chapter 7 Saturday Night)

That “soft-soap” is what we are after.  I’ve called it “man soap,” or “kick ass soap.”  The traditional methods of making soft-soap go back literally thousands of years.  The basic process involves leaching ashes in water to produce “lye-water,” and then mixing the lye-water with a fat, or fats, usually over heat, to “saponify” the fats.  In Almanzo’s case the soft-soap would probably have been made from cooking and heating-fire ashes, saved from the previous winter, and left-over fats from cooking.  Soap-making was springtime work, and it was work, without question, and usually the responsibility of the woman of the house.  In a perfect world, the resulting product contains neither fat nor lye, but only soap, the two ingredients having been totally consumed in the saponification process.  I’ve called it “man soap,” or “kick ass soap.”  It’s real, it’s natural, it was traditionally made from waste products, and it does the job.  And, the devil is indeed in the details; more on that to come in this post. Read more

The Making of Milling Memories

Portable Sawmill Service and Lumber-Making: What Does it Take?

I suppose it’s a combination of things: the milling itself must go well for starters.  I have written fairly extensively on the preparations necessary, and the further from home you are, the more important is that preparation. I have written about the customer’s part in “How to Find and Work With a Local Sawmill Service.”  I have written about my preparations, in “The Quarter-Sawing Process, and Problems, Oh No!,” and in “Portable Sawmill Service Load-Out.”  You might say those preparations are necessary, but not sufficient, in the creation of a truly memorable experience.  Which brings us to the complement to preparation, the thing that in combination with preparation is sufficient for creation of the truly memorable.  That thing is People. Read more

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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