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March 2019
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Optimizing the Vacuum
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 7:58 am

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. 

Yesterday was cold and breezy - the high was about 35 and the sap ran from 1:30 to 6:30 so we got about 1300 gallons before everything started to freeze up.  Dave and Brad put in the seven tap “Brad” line in the Harmon woods so he could sap he tapped trees this year. . Vinny, Vince and Brad turned on the homewoods vacuum about 10:30 and the  Harmon vacuum for the first time.  Jim was out of town this weekend so Dave and Vinny picked up 2 tankers from the homewoods in the afternoon and Dave drove the loaded sap truck down to pittmans at seven - 482 gallons at 2.7% sugar. .  I turned off the harmon vacuum at 7:15 since nothing was coming in since it had already froze up in the woods. The weather forecast is for freezing temps for the next 5 nights so should be a good sap week.  The temps will stay below average so the trees will remain dormant.  We currently have collected about 23,000 gallons of sap which has made 740 gallons of syrup.  Well on our way to the goal of 2000 gallons of syrup. 
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Pump Failure
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 7:45 am

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. 

The last two days were slow sap days since there was no freezing temps - highs were 65 and 51.   We ran the vacuum during the day but it only runs about 25% of a normal run.  Last night it dropped to 25 with a high of mid forties with sun so should be a good running today and the forecast shows freezing temps for the next 3 nites. 
The pressure gauge in the new booster was at 11 yesterday so we are now getting good vacuum in the west section.  I was able to find the small leaks in the far west section - when you fix one leak you usually find another since the vacuum has increased. The snow in the harmon woods has finally gone down -  it is only in the far north sections.  I was able to take Bruce’s ATV throughout most of the woods for the first time.  It’s much easier to check for broken sections of line.  You drive a short distance and then turn off the engine and listen for vacuum leaks.  After checking lines I went to the Harmon Pickup tanks and helped pump out about 2800 gallons of sap using the new pump.  It started quickly but Jason’s pump on the truck didn’t work.  Maybe next time both pumps will be working.   All the tanks were brushed out and emptied to keep them clean so the sap quality is excellent.   Sam Milliren drove up in his tracked gator to check on things with Jason and I.
After this I went to homewoods since Jim had to drive bus for 3 hours.  I checked bill hill, south hill and the lower road section for leaks.  I tied off the 3/4 line to a large maple where it bends around the creek to take the pressure off of the line.  I found a few minor leaks and then turned off the vacuum pump about 6pm and then headed to Beav’s for dinner with Jim. There was about 225 gallons in the tank.  We had the Thursday special - turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes and along with a couple of spotted cow draft beers. 
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Ideal conditions
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 10:57 am

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. 

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Another Tanker
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 8:08 am

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. 

I found out why we had zero pressure at the new booster.  Heading downhill from the booster I found that the vacuum dry line had come apart in a location we had previously described as being damaged by a werewolf in years past. I had to walk back up the hill and head to the milk house to pickup supplies to fix the line.  So back to the woods and down the hill - the line was fixed and then I headed back up the hill.   Booster was only only registering 1 lb but that was caused by an old manifold hole being open further upstream on the old black line.  We finally have consistent vacuum on the west side now.   You can hear whistling caused by any leaks. so I fixed a few of those.  I’ll go back again today to check it again. Also yesterday I replaced a star manifold at the end of the slough black line.   We are finally getting everything up to 100 percent efficiency and having the highest possible vacuum by minimizing leaks. 
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Homewoods Road Opened
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 1:16 pm

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. 

Back at the Harmon Woods Pittmans had picked up a tanker of about 3000 gallons Saturday morning and by the end of day there was 2000 more gallons ready to be picked up on Sunday. Vinny and his boy Vince checked the woods in the AM and found 2 drops not attached to the tap holes, a few other leaks and one manifold not attached. It was very quiet so to find a leak you just stood still and listened for the whistling of a vacuum leak.  Brent and Dave started about noon and we inspected most of the woods.  All lines were pulled out of the snow and leaking manifolds were tightened.   The pressure gauge on the new vacuum booster read zero so Vinny and Dave removed the remaining 8 manifolds from the dry line and attached them to the new 1″ drain line.  They had to head down the ravine to ‘killer hole’ to change the manifolds and then climb back out.  We believe the dry line had too much sap in to to allow the vacuum to reach the booster.  We’ll see what happens the next time we turn on the vacuum. we will have to inspect the far east and west lines on Monday to complete our post tapping inspection. 
With the snow in the fields finally retreating the animals are out in droves to find forage.   Driving down to the HArmon tanks yesterday we saw about 30 deer and 15 turkeys.  They made it through the winter. 
After today we should have gotten about 9000 gallons of sap and 250 gallons of syrup.  Hopefully we can get 2000 gallons this year .  
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First Tanker Pickup
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 9:06 pm

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  

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First Sap
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 8:41 pm

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.  

Tapping weather is perfect.  Not too warm and cold enough overnite to put a crust on the snow.  The tappers are all wearing snowshoes and are able to stay completely on top without breaking through.   This makes it easy to tap and with the hi speed Makita drills and sharp bits you can keep moving quickly.  
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Time to Tap
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 11:00 am

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. 

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Save the Shed
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 8:56 am

Yesterday Jim and I went to the Harmon Woods to see how everything looked after the record February snows.  On Tuesday Joel Kannel used his 200hp tractor and 12′ bucket to make a road across 40 acres and into the woods to the sugar shack.  15′ mounds of snow are now standing intermentily  along the road..  We found that there was 30 inches of snow on ground in the woods and also 30 inches of snow on a shed roof (about 28′ x 72′).   The roof had collapsed about  8-10 yrs ago and even though we increased the load bearing strength we didn’t want to have it collapse again.  6-10 inches of heavy snow was forecast for the coming weekend so it was time to act.  Dave was up on the roof using a aluminum scoop shovel to break off 30″ chunks of snow which slid down the roof.  Jim stayed on the ground and used a roof rake to move the snow off of the roof.  After 3 hours we have removed most of the snow.  Looking out over the sugarbush from the shed roof the sap lines all  looked in good shape due to our repair work we completed before the polar vortex came in late January. There was also deer tracks seen in the cleared areas so they are surviving so far.  As of now we are looking at tapping March 22-25th at the earliest.    Looks like snow shoes are needed this year.   Thanks to Joel for getting us access the woods.  It was a great help.  

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Eric Weiss Passing
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 2:12 pm

Eric  passed away February 25th of a pulmonary embolism.  A partner of WW since 2014 his big heart and spirit will be missed.  Eric just turned 27 February 9th and had many good years ahead of him until being struck down in the prime of his life.  He was one of our young members that we were looking forward to keep WW  a viable business as the original six brothers grow old.  WW was started in 1991 by Jim, Doug, Dave, Bruce, Kevin and Brent Weiss with the help of their father Gene and mother Evelyn.   Doug retired in 2014 due to physical issues and Bruce passed away in 2017 so the transition has already started.  In 2014 we  added Vinny Cognetta, Brandon Clare and Quinn, Brad Eric and Mike Weiss to position WW for the future.  Despite Eric’s death we will continue to keep WW in business to honor him and all of the other’s that have been members of WW.   May his soul rest in peace and that he will look over us to keep us safe when we are in the woods.   

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