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April 2019
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Season wrap up
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 9:15 am

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. 

Pulling taps on Saturday was Vinny, Mike, Dave, Brent, Kevin, Vince and Dylan.  All of the taps were pulled by 3pm.  Earlier in the day Jim had to take his air compressor to pump up a flat tire on the homewoods vacuum wagon.  He brought it to his farm and cleaned it up.  Unfortunately when cleaning the vacuum exchanger he dropped the top and cracked a PVC pipe.  Jim and Vinny then brought the vacuum wagon home from Patnode Lane after the taps were all pulled so they could arrive for the Easter Egg hunt in time (4pm) at Jim’s farm.  It took awhile for Jim to drive the 5 miles since he only goes about 10MPH with the 50+ year old spreader.
Late Easter Sunday Dave and Jim cleaned the vacuum wagon and put it away in the hay mow.  Dave changed the oil on the pump and vacuum motor and cleaned the two boosters.  He then took Bruce’s ATV and did a final drive through the woods. It was a beautiful sunny day - about 78 degrees.  Everything looked great. All taps were pulled and drops sealed to the tees or plugged.  All done and ready for summer. 
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Season Over
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 7:31 pm

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.   

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Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 9:55 am

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 scheduled removing taps/spiles from the trees in the homewoods on Friday.  The sun will return by then and the rain will have woken up the plants.   Quinn and I will start Friday morning and be joined by Brad in the afternoon.   If there is no sap running at Harmons the next two days we’ll start detapping that woods on Saturday. 
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Record Year
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 8:31 pm

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. 

Today I finished checking the woods for damage from last week’s super storm.  Two trees were snapped off and killed.and two with major damage.  There were other miscellaneous things - drops knocked off by branches,   main lines knocked out of line and branches on running lines. .   I also redid another 3/4″ line in the north part of the harmon woods to tighten and ensure a downward angle and did an inspection on the 3600′ lines from the west section to the booster.   Everything is in good shape for the final week of the season.
Yesterday Kevin, Mike, Jim, Verna, Lexy, Brent and myself attended Pittman’s appreciation breakfast.  It was the first time Kevin and Mike were in Plum City since Eric passed away in February.  We had a good visit with other sappers and left at Noon to pickup sap. When Jim shutoff the Harmon vacuum last night he saw a large black bear plus the usual 30 deer. 
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Cleaning Up
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 6:53 pm

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. 

Today Brad Jim and I redid the 3/4″ drain lines in the homewoods that connected to the exchanger.   We used a tree on the south hill to anchor the lines.  The goal was to make sure there was a downward angle to the exchanger and that it would be easier to hookup and unhook the lines each year.   The sap was running already which made it more exciting but we got it done.  We also fixed the drain line from the pickup tank.  The drain hose and come apart - probably from being flexed so many times over the years.  Heading out from the woods we could see that we accomplished our goal  The sap was coming in as a steady stream.  Vacuum systems work the best when the lines are not completely full of sap.  The vacuum can move air quicker than liquid so is the lines are at the correct angles the vacuum gets further into the system. 
Brad and I then checked the Harmon woods to make sure everything was ok after the storm. .  Brad go temporarily stuck on Bruce’s ATV since there were large drifts around it near the camper.  The previous snowless woods now was covered in a thick blanket of  about 6″ of compressed snow.   We found a few drops pulled off due to branches falling on the lines and found a few leaks.  You drive the ATV for awhile,  turn it off and then listen for whistling.  You then place 3M vinyl flexible electrical tape over the holes to seal them.  By the inside dam two trees had their tops snapped off which fell and knocked down lines. Brad got them all fixed since I had to leave at 3:15 for River Falls.  I think we are now ready for the big run tomorrow which should break the Weiss Woods one year record for syrup.  We also will be going to the Pittman’s appreciation breakfast tomorrow morning. We now have about 1,770 gallons of syrup made from 56,000 gallons of sap. The record is 1883 that was collected in 2013. 
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After the Super Storm
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 7:17 pm

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. 

Jim emptied the tank within 2 hours and had a truck load by 1pm.   While Jim emptied the homewoods tanks I drove through the slush to the Harmon woods to check on the vacuum wagon.  The only thing that happened was that the two step ladders had been blown over. I turned on the vacuum and everything was okay.  Drifts 2-3′ high were around the pickup tanks. Jason picked up 2800 gallons about 1pm since Pittmans wanted to startup the boiling process.  This sap should be better than the sap that made about 5 barrels after the 70 degree weather.  This syrup had an off taste due to the sap being to warm.
Greg P. advised me the bottling process was setup and ready so I said we’d be right down so we could replenish our inventory.  We ended up bottling 64 gallons with Marlo’s and Angie’s help. 
Jim picked up his final load of the day at 5pm - The drain hose from the tank broke off so it will need to be fixed before we can unload any more sap.  We’ll get that fixed tomorrow. 
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Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 4:00 pm

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.  

To date we have 1,562 gallons of syrup made from 49.492 gallons of sap.   Sugar content is remaining higher than last year at 2.72%.   Sappers without vacuum are done for the year.  This is our second year on vacuum and this is the type of season that a vacuum system is required to have a good year.  That’s why we put it in - for years like this and to make it easier to operate. 
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Valitchka Maple Syrup Report
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 3:51 pm


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!

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Storm Coming
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 6:56 am

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. 

Yesterday I was back in the woods after taking 3 days off to go to Green Bay for a bowling tournament.  I checked the bill hill black line with a level to make sure it was all in a downward angle. The vacuum can move air quicker than liquid so if you can get keep the line from having any upward slope you get better performance, I found 2 leaks - one on a main line joint which was fixed by tightening the clamp and a small cut on the far end tree by Zielinger’s tank
Then I was off to the Harmons to check the woods.   On the edge two small dead trees had fallen on lines.  The pressure was still good on the new booster at 16 lbs with sap coming in so no issues there.  I then started to check the black drain line from Vinny’s woods.  I fixed  a manifold leak (wire was broke) and tightened the line so it was a consistent downward angle.  I’ll head to the woods today to finish that line and help Jim pickup the sap in the homewoods and Pittmans with the Harmon tanks.  
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Fog and Rain
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 6:58 pm

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. 

Brent is going to see if we can setup a wifi hot spot at the harmon tanks this weekend.  The goal is to have a constant video feed of the sap coming into the exchanger so we can determine when to start or stop the vacuum and to also keep an eye on the collection tanks.  Quinn has a verizon hot spot that costs $22 per month that we can use. 
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Project Complete
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 8:46 am

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.  

We also made sure the new slough line was also draining correctly at a downward angle.  Along the inside dam we pounded 3 fence posts to hold the line before it passed over the top of the dam.  By doing this the vacuum will work more efficiently to the far end of the slough section. 
The sap ran until Jim shutoff the vacuum wagon about midnite.  About another 5,000 gallons collected. 
On Wednesday the sap ran very good again - 27 low and 48 high -  from 9:30 to 10:30pm so about another 5,000 gallons. I tapped the final tree that Brad found untapped on Tuesday on the NE slope at Harmons. 
The homewoods (1000 taps) ran about 900 gallons as the north facing hills started to run hard.  At the Homewoods Jim and I used his extension ladder to tighten and ensure the drain line off of the SW hill was at the proper angle.  It’s about 12′ high and looked good after completing.  We also noticed a dead maple near the collection tank so took out the drop and replaced it with a connector.  I think we are finally at full optimization for collecting sap.  The vacuum pressures are good (25 at Harmons / 17 at Homewoods), all trees now tapped and no major leaks. 
As o today we have about 1200 gallons of syrup and 35,000 gallons of sap.   The next 3 days should be warm but then a strong cold front is coming.  The forecast shows freezing temps for 5 days in a row starting next Tuesday.  Hopefully with our use of new clear spiles installed each year and using vacuum the tap holes will remain fresh.
Jim is doing a bus run this afternoon so I’m in charge until he gets back tonite.  I’m then off to Green Bay friday to sunday for the KC bowling tournament.  
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Two Tanker Day
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 7:27 pm

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.

After picking up sap I drove up to the Harmon woods to check on things. Found a few air leaks and noticed the new 1″ drain line in the west was having surge problems.  The vacuum gauge was at 16 so we had good vacuum.  This years there are no lines apart, drops disconnected from spiles or spiles out of the trees.  Our plan to insert the new clear spiles for the entire length of the drain line and making sure the spiles are pounded in securely are working. 
Yesterday Brent and I put in two new sap lines by his deer stand that hook into the new blue vacuum line.Only one more line to put in and the big project to increase sap flow in the west is completed.  Brent and I started the vacuum pumps at 1:30 and they ran till almost 10pm since clouds moved in late afternoon to delay the freeze.  A dusting of snow fell overnite - the first precipitation since the season started.   Pressure was dropping in the afternoon and this caused the trees to give up their sap.  It was the highest running day of the year. We also took a load of sap from the homewoods to pittmans and Jason picked up a tanker at Patnode Lane. After delivering the homewoods sap we checked on the harmon tanks - right before the tanks the deer started running across the road - about ten of them. 
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