February was, for many sugar makers who got tapped early, a record breaker. Record high temps made for our record high syrup production for the month. To put it in perspective, including the first two days of March, we are at 45% of our goal of a half gallon per tap. That comes to 2.4 lbs/ per tap. Looking back on last season, which was our best, we have made double what we did last year at the time and will almost triple that after this weeks run (it didn’t run until March 8 again last year). The reality is that comparing year to year is pointless, but still fun just the same.
Last weeks run was pretty good for us making about 17% of our crop in two days worth of sap. It was the first time all of our trees ran good this year. While we got decent amounts of sap in the previous warm up, it took all of that warm weather to melt our snow, thaw our ground, and get all of our trees even high on the mountain ready to really run. When we got a freeze and then a nice warm up last week they all broke loose. While no records were set, it was a good run that we usually don’t see until later in March or April, but since we are so far ahead in terms of temperatures, we are seeing those conditions now.
We have been pleased with our evaporator, a CDL Master 4×16 and have found it extremely easy to boil on. We are getting about 90-100 gallons of syrup per hour right now, which is lower than expected, but CDL is changing nozzles in it Tuesday which should bump us up considerably. The efficiency is great only burning 18.5 gallons of oil, which will be bumped to 20.4. That puts us at about .2 gal oil/ gal syrup. We got the new RO up and running last week as well and that made life much easier on a big run. W did narrowly avoid a disaster by a day when our feed pump housing on the big RO failed at the tail end of last weeks run. Sap was spraying out of the end of it and we could not use it. Had it happened the day prior it would have been tough. That is why we have two RO’s now though! Thanks to my cousin David Wilcox who welded it for us that night and for all the other help has has given us this year.
We continue to battle our new releasers and have found the 1.5 HP pumps that we were told by the manufacturer would do 40 Gallons per minute at 28″ actually do between 12 and 20 GPM. We had one pump run for 30 hours with out shutting off until the sap slowed down. They are supposed to be replaced this week with 2 HP pumps.
Looking ahead this week looks to run very well. It will take a long time to thaw out Monday after these extremely cold days, but when it does I expect it to run very well. I just hope those releaser pumps handle to flow, which they should unless I have one go down. I was hoping those new pumps would have been installed this past week.
It looks to me like this will turn out to be at least a decent year. After this week we should be near 2/3 of a crop. After that who knows what will happen with the crazy warm temps we have been experiencing. I would not be surprised if we see an early end to the season this year. I am hearing that in places like Ohio and PA and even Southern New England, that people are either done or about to be. Trees have begun budding in many of those places and producers are making commercial syrup. Some of this producers have done OK, but those who waited have only gotten a few days of sugaring. I feel bad for those guys for sure.
Ill check in next week and let you all know how its went and we will have a better idea of what March weather will look like at that point.