The 2019 season was short and sweet. Sugar content of 2.7% was the highest since 2006. Sap was collected for 24 days. Tapping started with 30 inches of snow on the ground and was the first time I remember seeing snow drifts after the season was over. This was the second season using the Leader Vacuum systems and we collected the most sap and syrup since we started in 1991. Pulling taps with vacuum results in all sap being removed from lines to reduce bacteria growth and is quicker. You can also determine where improvements are needed in the future. The longer the drop is from the main line the vacuum is less. . This year 8 year old Vince Cognetta and 9 year old Dylan Olk helped pull taps. Using the 2 foot long aluminum spile pullers they pulled the taps and then Vince’s dad Vinny and Dylan’s grandpa Dave would cut off the clear spile from the drop (we bought the Husky flexible hose clipper from Home Depot) and attach the drop to the nipple on the tee to seal the system. This is the first year we used the red plugs to seal the drops if there wasn’t a nipple to attach the drop. The red plugs were 6 cents a pc and worked great.
Sap stopped running Tuesday 4/16. We were hoping for it to continue after the rainstorm but it wasn’t in the cards. Jason confirmed with us this morning that Pittmans were not processing any more sap. I put out the notice to the WW owners that we need to detap and clean the tanks. Today Jim and I picked up the 3 Harmon tanks and cleaned them. We also cleaned the homewoods transfer tank and delivery tank and put them away in the lower level of Jim’s shed. I then pulled the spiles and cutoff the clear spiles for all taps that were on the bill hill / south hill 3/4″ drain line. Probably about 200 taps and most were already dried up. Tomorrow Quinn, Brad and I will finish pulling the Homewoods taps. Saturday we will pull all of the spiles in the Harmon Woods.
Beautiful sunny weather, no wind and a high of 65 yesterday changed to a steady temperature of 50 and thunderstorms today and forecasted to be cloudy/showery tomorrow with highs in the 40’s. Jason picked up 881 ga11ons from Harmons yesterday so we now have 2,019 gallons of syrup. Jim turned on the vacuum today so we’ll see if we get more sap or have the frogs signalled that the season is over. The frogs started croaking yesterday in Jim’s manure lagoon that faces south. When the frogs in the Harmon Woods pond wake up then we know for sure the soil temperatures have risen and the season is over.
We have now collected about 63,000 gallons of sap and 1,988 gallons of maple syrup which are WW records. The syrup quality and color improved today so we will be collecting more sap this week so we will go over 2,000 gallons. Today’s run was only about 1.000 gallons of maple sap as a south wind brought in low pressure and clouds despite a low of 24 and and high of 51. . The frogs have not been croaking yet in the Harmon ponds so there still should be good sap this week despite no freezing temps in the future. The sap run has been steady since the first sap was collected March 23. The only break was from the super storm.for a two day break. There has been no large sap runs (running more than 24 hours) now for the last two years.
Hi 39 and low of 29 today & cloudy. The sap started running about 10:30 and we collected 4000-5000 gallons again. The sap coming yesterday and less today had white strings/pieces in it. This is from the bacteria that had grown on the inside of the lines during the warm spell before the storm. The two days of hard running will clear out the white junk. After emptying the tanks we let the final 20-30 gallons that contained most of the white junk (it sinks to the bottom of the tanks) run out onto the ground. The sap is hard to process with the white strings since the filters plug up quicker, there is more foaming on the evaporator and it’s harder to maintain a constant temperature. After today this issue should be gone.
We received about 10 inches of snow plus sleet/rain and 50-60mph winds on Wednesday and Thursday. The ground was covered with many small branches. The snow had a brown tint from the Texas dust storm that was sucked in the super storm. A large tree was blown over at the old Harmon farm and the power was off at the Harmon bins for about 3 hours. The sap started running about 11pm Thursday - at 9AM the homewoods tank was filled to the brim and the Harmon tanks had run about 2200 gallons. This all ran without the vacuum systems being on. On Thursday evening Jim drove his tractor down into the homewoods and discovered that a large tree on the south hill had snapped off and fell within inches of hitting the vacuum wagon. It knocked down but did not break the 3/4″ drain lines connected to the vacuum exchanger. The 3/4″ line from the SW hill was laying under the tree. I unhooked the line from the exchanger and was able to pull it out and reconnect the line to the exchanger. The sap had continued to run despite going uphill and the tank was running over when we got there. On the way in we thought we might have been in trouble since the 3 sap pails hung by Bill B. were dripping. The temperature only got about 35 degrees today and the sap ran very well. It should be an extended run over the next week since the weather conditions will be ideal.
The snow arrived today - Hi 32 and low 25. We are expecting 6 inches today and then for snow to redevelop tonite and snow all day tomorrow. An additional 4-8 inches are expected. No sap today. We need this storm to pass and if the conditions are good we should have a great run of sap. Probably the last big run of the year.
REPORT FROM SCOTT VALITCHKA- APPLETON WI. FIRST COUSIN TO THE WEISS’S
Thanks for the sap update! It sounds as if the sap is running well on your side of the state too.
Although we only have around 480-500 taps out versus the Weiss 5,000 and never see the big numbers that you guys get, we have done well.
Peter and my Dad reported that they just collected nearly 500 gallons on sap today. That came on top of 565 gallons that they collected last Thursday.
This is turning out to be a nice steady season for us. With snow forecast by mid-week, we should get another good run or two.
My Dad is enjoying his time cooking the sap and watching spring return in slow but deliberate fashion to the woods.
We had a nice visit from Galen and Byron Radle during the last week of March. They were both a big help as we collected sap. Byron enjoyed driving tractor and collecting with me. We teased Galen that he was a sap athlete as we collected 400 gallons one day or about 3,200 pounds of weight. (He was the one who hoisted and poured nearly all of the five gallon pails into our collection tank.) That was impressive for someone at 88 years. And although tired, Galen still had the wits and energy to soundly beat us when we played cards (Estimate) in the evening.
I always think that Grandpa Radle has to be smiling from heaven at the wonderful family tradition that he fostered and supported through our families with syrup making. It’s great to reconnect in this way each spring!
Yesterday’s high was 68 with a low this morning about 36. Tomorrow the major storm starts with rain in the afternoon after freezing tonite. After that we are to get 7-15 inches of snow through Friday with highs in the 30’s. It will be ideal sap weather through the weekend and then it warms up a little. There is no big warm up in site so the trees will still give up sap till that happens. The pond in the Harmon woods still had some ice in it.so the frogs won’t be coming out yet.. Even though it hasn’t froze for the last four days we continue to get sap at about 1/2 to 2/3 of normal or about 7500 gallons of sap. The only people getting sap over the last four days are the ones with high vacuum systems. If we hadn’t switched to vacuum last season we would probably be done like Rip Gilles.
Today was a low of 34 and high of 50 - cloudy and foggy all day. Despite the weather Jim turned on the vacuum at Harmons at 10:30AM before he went to the doctor for his Bell’s Palsy checkup. By 7pm there was 1700 gallons of sap in the tanks so it turned out to be a decent sap day. Rain is supposed to start at midnite and continue for the weekend. Usually when the rain starts the sap stops. This should get the remaining frost out of the ground. A large storm is forecast mid next week with 5 days of freezing weather after the storm. Jim says that fellow sapper Roger Gilles believes his woods is done running. When he turned on the vacuum this AM there was no sap.
Brad took off work Tuesday afternoon to work in the woods with me. We put in the last sap line in the west section that we started reworking last fall - Brent and I had put in two lines the week before. To eliminate the air bubbles coming back at the booster we needed to check the drain line to ensure it always was in a downward angle. Armed with a level Brad and I headed down the 2800′ length of the line - adjusting it up or down as needed as we inspected the entire line as it dropped about 200 feet along it’s length. After circling back along the far east 1″ line (finding a few small vacuum leaks) to the booster we observed that the sap was all being sucked by vacuum into the drain line so it was a job well done.
The day was cloudy and cool. low 28 and high 44 - below normal again. THere is still a lot of snow on the north facing slopes. This resulted in another high volume sap run of about 5,000 gallons. When I turned on the vacuum it was pouring in - pressure went to 23 and increased to 25 when I took the pressure off of the vacuum hose from the pump to the exchanger. Downward pressure was causing the fit to not be tight. The exchanger was cycling at 36 seconds or a volume of about 500 gallons per hour. When the sap started the cycle was at 18 seconds. At 10:30 I helped Marlo Bauer load up the tanker (2.980 gallons) and at 5pm Jason and visitor Cory Grape picked up about 3,100 gallons. The sap is still running at a rate of about 250 gallons per hour so we should get a good amount before it stops running tonite. Forecast is freezing temps the next three nights so it probably is the last big sap run as the temps start to warm after this date. Jim delivered 582 gallons from the homewoods and has another 250 gallons ready for tomorrow. We now have about 30,000 gallons of sap and 1,000 gallons of syrup.
We are able to keep increasing the vacuum pressure. I found 3 trees not tapped in the far east side of the Harmons woods - a bee was sucked into one of the spiles. After tapping these then I heard a another vacuum leak - a line close by was almost cut in two so completed cutting the line and put in a connector. As we keep fixing leaks the pressure goes up and exposes other leaks. We are now close to the 24lbs of vacuum at the Harmon vacuum wagon. Now we had to solve a few issues with the new booster - the sap wasn’t draining as fast as it should and air bubbles were coming up through the 1/2 filled with sap cylinder. First I walked the entire new blue drain line to make there were no sags and that the line was on a downward angle for the entire 2000 feet so there would not be any air locks. . There were some areas that needed attention so that was a good thing to do. After walking back up the hill to check the booster there was still air bubbles in the cylinder - probably there was a small leak where I had hooked up the blue drain hose to the cylinder. To solve this we need to put a flexible milk hose from the cylinder to the blue drain line. Brad and I put in a 4 foot milk hose section to the cylinder connector yesterday by cutting out a section of the blue drain line. This should seal the connection plus there should be better drainage from the cylinder since there is now a downward angle instead of it looping down and then up. Vinny and I inspected the homewoods yesterday and found a few minor leaks - once you seal the leak the sap that is upline gets pulled down. The vacuum pressure was up to 15 in the home woods.
When Pittmans were picking up sap on 3/27 the transfer pump we purchased in 1997 finally ended its service to pump sap from the Harmon Woods to the tanker truck. over the last 5 years it had pumped 210,000 gallons of sap and before that probably another 400,000 gallons since we put it into service. We had purchased a backup pump in 2011 so all we had to do was switch the fittings from the old pump to the new one. The new pump started up right away and will be a nice improvement over the original pump since it has more pumping capacity.
with a low of 20 degrees and high of 50 yesterday the maple sap ran at the highest volume of the year. The vacuum exchanger at Harmons was tripping every 25 seconds (highest ever) and the 1.5″ sap line was full coming off the hill. The new booster in the west section was filled with sap since it was running at maximum flow. The sap ran hard for about 6 hours and then fell off as the pressure dropped. The frost is almost out of the ground. I was able to drive a pipe into the ground that was needed to hold up the new slough 3/4 line. I then went down to the pickup tanks and helped Marlo Bauer pickup a tanker of 3000 gallons at 1pm. It didn’t freeze overnight and the high today is in the mid sixties with a strong south wind. Jim turned off the vacuum last night about 8 and turned it back on at 10am. The sap is running at a slower rate today but with the vacuum we still should be able to get a good amount of sap.
Yesterday I helped Jason Pittman pickup another 3000 gallons. The milk truck was filled to the top and there was still 400 gallons left in the tanks. The vacuum exchanger was dumping sap every 43 seconds - the highest I’ve seen. The sap ran hard till about 3pm and then slowed down and stopped at sunset. The weather was classic sap weather, sunny, high pressure, low of 24 and high of 42. The weather is to be the same today so we will get another tanker. Jim has a bus route to take the baseball team to Elmwood from 2:30 to six and I have bowling tonite so with a bit of juggling we should make it through.
On Thursday morning Joel Kannel used his heavy duty equipment to open the final stretch of the road to the homewoods collection tank. The snow was too heavy and deep for Jim’s JD tractor. Friday Dave and Dylan started tapping about noon and Brent & Kari came after work (3:30) to tap. Dylan and his grandpa Dave used snowshoes to get around. Dylan used his hammer to set in the spiles and also tapped his first tree. We got about 2/3 done and then Dave/Kari finished on Friday. On Saturday we picked up about 850 gallons of sap so the hard work walking through the snow was worth it. On Saturday AM Dave/Jim started up the diesel engine that runs the vacuum and it chugged to life. The vacuum started but the floats weren’t tripping the exchanger so we shut it down to figure it out. After talking with Greg Pittman we determined that JIm had put the exchanger cover on backwards after he cleaned it last year. Dave unlatched the cover and turned it 180 degrees and we were back in business. A simple solution. The sap ran hard until a low pressure system started approaching mid afternoon. Jim took down the first full tanker from the Homewoods - 589 gallons of sap at 2.8.
Jason and Deb picked up about 2,900 gallons of sap today with Dave’s help from the Harmon Woods. The weather was sunny and about 46 degrees - the best sap weather to date. It was a quick startup - the tanks and vacuum wagon was set Friday - woods tapped Saturday to Monday and first sap pickup Tuesday. Warm weather is to continue so should be a good week. The sap was clear and cold - should make a golden amber. This is the second year of using vacuum and running the sap 1200′ through underground lines for easy pickup on Patnode Lane. We are lucky we setup this new system since it’s easier to setup. If we used the old way to pull a hose over 1200′ to the woods and set the tanks in the creek area we would not have gotten setup this week. The valley and creek were flooding due to the snow melt/rain. Today Jim attempted to clear the road to the homewoods but it’s too slippery and snow too deep. So the homewoods is still not tapped since we won’t be able to pickup the sap. He’s now calling some neighbors with different equipment to see if they can clear the road. Today Dave put on his snowshoes and went down the hill to make sure the vacuum booster was working and the drain lines were all in good condition. The main 1″ line had a small tree on. He then noticed a large tree had fallen on one of the 3/4″ drain line to the booster. He found a small leak in the outlet hose - shoveled snow off of 30′ of the two 1.5″ lines from the booster to where they go underground at the edge of the woods. He then checked the drain lines from the west and made sure there were no leaks and sags. Lunch at the camper and then back down the hill with the chainsaw and snow shovel. The hills are 45 degree and about 250-300′ high through 2 feet of snow so it was difficult travel but I made it no worse for the wear. Shoveled snow off another 50′ of drain line before heading to the Patnode Lane tanks. The pump was filled with gas and started easily - we’ve had this pump at least 15 years and still runs great. An adjustment was made to take pressure off the hose leading to the exchanger which had a small leak. After fixing we got two pounds increase in vacuum. We still need to check the woods over the next two days for leaks or taps missed
At the end of today we had about 100 gallons of sap in the Harmon Woods collection tank. When we tap the trees and it’s above 32 you will alway get a little bit of sap. The snow is still about 18 inches deep but due to the cold weather (20 degree low and mid thirties high) the surface is strong enough to hold your weight if you are wearing snowshoes. Dave tapped 125 Friday, Greg S., Brent, Quinn, Dave, Liz and Kari tapped about 2000 on saturday and Dave, Brent and Quinn tapped about 1600 Sunday. Looks like one more day and we’ll have the 4300 taps done at Harmons. The weather is to warm up by midweek so we will be ready to go. The vacuum wagon and sump pump are all working so all we need now is sap. Jim still needs to clear the road to the Homewoods tank. It’s quite slippery and the snow is deep. We won’t tap the 1000 taps there until the road is cleared to the collection wagon.
We’ve decided to start tapping the Harmon Woods this Saturday, March 16th. A low pressure system has brought temps into the 40’s and rain over the last 3 days which should wake up the trees from their deep winter slumber. This will also reduce the snowpack 50% and make it easier to snowshoe on top of the snow instead of sinking into the powder. The weather forecast is predicting perfect sap weather starting early next week. On Tuesday Jim cleared the road into the Harmon woods with his John Deere tractor where it had drifted shut from last weekends storm. 4 deer were standing in the cleared area by the memorial sign where we had previously removed the snow and they were reluctant to leave it to go into the 30 inches of snow. There were many deer tracks on the roads we had cleared as the deer are trying to survive till spring. Jim also cleared 2/3 of the the road into the Homewoods until running into slippery conditions. He’ll finish up Friday after the snow melt. Dave snowshoed to the collection tank and cleared the snow from the wagon. The snow depth was as high as the floor of the wagon - the highest we have ever seen. He also connected the drain lines to the vacuum exchanger and made sure the drain valve on the 500 gallon collection tank was closed. The homewoods is ready to tap. Dave went back to the Harmon Woods, put on snowshoes and carried a short roll of 3/4″ drain line to the inside dam. He then connected the 3/4″ drain line from the dump tanks to the 3/4″ line that comes from the slough trees after disconnecting it from the Y connector by the inside dam. After sealing up the 3/4″ line at the Y with a 5″ pc of the sealed end of the 3/4″ line he only had to add 20′ to connect the two lines together. The new line will add more capacity for vacuum and sap flow from the slough trees. The new line is connected to the main 1″ line that goes to the vacuum booster. On Friday Jim, Dave and Greg will setup the vacuum wagon and collection tanks on Patnode Lane. IF we get done early we’ll start tapping some trees that afternoon. Spring is here.