We tapped trees 2/26 and 2/27 - About 5,500 taps. We thought it was going to be a late season since we have a two week cold snap of temperatures staying below 9 degrees from Feb 5 to the 19th. The first sap was hauled into the Pittman processing facility on March 3 and as of March 14th we have about 30,000 gallons of maple sap delivered with a sugar content of 2.1%. Temperatures have been above normal which has helped us get off to a good start. This is the second year in a row of the sugar content being on the low side of the scale. New items we added this year were 2 new WiFi camera's to watch the vacuum system and collection tanks for the Harmon Woods, launched a new website, added 1100' of 3/4" blue mainlines - extend/expand to 2 lines in slough, inside dam straight west, ,extend east side of slough to woods south edge. added 150-200 new taps, reworked about 650 taps in slough and SE sections west of black line from dam, Harmon Woods Sap Wagon was painted by Jim, Rachel & Kevin and purchased additional diesel 6 gallon fuel tanks and covers for the Homewoods sap wagon.
Tours have started - yesterday Dan and Jeanette Klasen & friend of Hudson, Today Dave Laufenberger, Spencer and Hunter Bauer, next Saturday Roy Oscarson and Randy Geissler.
3/15 - spring snowstorm today so the sap flow is down for a day. Usually after a spring snowstorm the sap flow and sugar content rises so it should be a good week coming up. Last night Jim shut down the Harmon vacuum at midnite and twisted his knee when he slipped off the ladder at the homewoods vacuum. Got to be careful - Greg S.'s mother fell last week at her son's cabin and broke her hip. Luckily a neighbor spotted her dilemma and saved her. Nancy S. is recovering from COVID so is unable to work in the woods this spring. Greg S. and Dave are setting up meetings with six new restaurant accounts in the Twin Cities for 3/19. Will be also delivering 8 gallons at the same time.
3/18 - have made 1040 gallons of maple syrup from 45,000 gallons of sap. Overall sugar content is lowest we ever seen 1.97%. The sap run slowed a bit today after 2 days of maximum sap flow. Pittmans picked up an emergency 2200 gallons of sap last night about 3AM - all 3 tanks were full and about to run over. . High today 49 and low 28. It's going to freeze the next two nights so we are expecting a lot of sap - probably enough for 3 - 400 gallons of syrup. Things were going smoothly until today. Dave was checking the Harmon Woods and found a 3/4" main line disconnected. A nice stream of sap was just running onto the ground from about 3-400 taps. I believe it just happened sometime over the last few days. Dave was able to fix it plus also removed one of the old Pittman manifolds that was leaking and found a short lateral line that was plugged at the star - just east of the old sugar shack. Always need to check on things. Sister Nancy was at the farm today - she's recovering from bad case of the COVID. Her mother -in-law Janice S. broke her hip earlier this week and is recovering at the Plum City Care Center. Brent W. has been unable to help in the woods this year - torn bicep muscle - no lifting for 6 months.
3/19. Hi 55 and low 25. Another good sap day. 2 tankers from both the home woods and harmons for a total of 7000 gallons. Dave and Greg visited six new accounts in MPLS this morning that we took over from Roger Gilles. We sold 8 gallons and 9 pints and the visits all have good opportunities for growth except the Hen House which is situated in downtown MPLS where the customer traffic is way down due to workers working from home because of the pandemic. Dave then went to PC and picked up sap and went to Beav's for a fish dinner with Jim and Verna. Dave checked Bill Hill and found about 6 leaks. We also need to check on the oil level in the homewoods diesel engine. With a low tonight of 29 tomorrow should be another good sap day. After that we have unsettled weather for a few days before it cools off again. If the trees don't bud out we should be on our way for a record year.
3/21 Hi 61 after low of 41. Ran vacuum at Harmons last 36 hours - picked up 3000 gallons today and have another 1500 in the tanks. The sap flow goes to about 60 gph at night and up to 200 gph during the day. Jim handled the sap monitoring today. total sap collected is 62,000 gallons and 1400 gallons of syrup as the sugar content stays below 2. We are hoping to survive the rain starting tomorrow afternoon and ending with snow on Wednesday. Yesterday I gave tours for Roy and Dan plus Brad's family. Dave gave grandchildren Emily and Claire a ride in the tractor to pickup a tanker of sap. Brad finished getting the camper ready to sell - the bumpout slid back to the body perfectly. Greg spent all day checking the Harmon Woods - you always find a few issues but nothing major this time.
3/23. Hi 59 after low of 40 with light rain. Heavy rain expected later this afternoon and tonight. Dave and Jim monitored the sap yesterday and Greg/Jim will handle today. Hard Maples on north facing slopes are not budding out yet so the sap keeps running. Picked up a tanker yesterday and will get another one later today. Yesterday we sold our WW Headquarters camper to Vanessa Harrison of New Auburn. This should clear the decks to build the WW Visitors & Education Center later this year. Yesterday we pumped out the tanks but left 20-40 gallons in the tanks to clean them. We then pumped out the sap onto the ground. Due to the warm stretch of weather white bits and pieces started appearing in the sap. These white pieces settle to the bottom of the storage tanks and need to be cleaned and washed out of the tanks. The sugarhouse filtering systems will get plugged up if it's not removed from the tanks.
3/24. Rain and cooler. Had 1.3 inches of rain and expect freezing temperatures the next two nights. Harmon vacuum has been running continuously for the last 4 days so needed to add more oil to the vacuum pump. Another tanker of 3000 gallons was picked up today by Marlo and Dave - 1.6% sugar. They syrup is dark robust due to the warm temperatures the last 4 days. There have been some reports of peepers starting to sing which usually means the end of the sap season is close. The next few days will determine that - if there is no buddy taste we will continue to collect sap.
3/27. 47 - 34 low with light rain today. The sap ran good yesterday after an overnight freeze so the season continues. We have made 1721 gallons of syrup from 78,000 gallons of sap with an overall sugar content of 1.88%. We should break the sap record of 82,000 but the low sugar content this year has effected every producer. Last year we made 2,188 gallons of syrup on 82,000 gallons of sap. Only producers with vacuum are still collecting sap. Yesterday we shut down the homewoods. We need to improve the lines for vacuum collecting so bacteria doesn't get into the tap holes. Greg and Dave pulled the taps (1,085) in 5.5 hrs. We had 150 gallons of sap in the tank which we gave back to the woods. Dave disconnected the main lines from the exchanger and today Jim and Kari pulled the vacuum wagon up to his yard. Jim pressure washed the 500 gallon stainless steel tank and with Verna's help put it away into the hay mow. Once he cleans the exchanger it can be reassembled and put back onto the top of tank. Dave will change the engine oil next week and we should be good to go for next year. We also bought 2 new belts for the vacuum since they are special cog belts.
3/29. 68 - 35 low and very windy from the South. Another 2000 gallons of sap picked up today which broke last years record. We are still getting 120 gallons an hour but it could be the last day of collecting sap since the syrup has started to lighten in color. It will be cold the next 3 days with freezing overnight temps but it might be too late. We will see what type of syrup is made from the sap being collected today. Jim and Dave changed the oil, replaced the belts and reassembled the cleaned exchanger on the homewoods vacuum. All set for next year. Greg checked the homewoods to make sure all of the trees were untapped (found none) and then headed to Scott's in MPLS to hang some new doors. Dave pressure washed the 550 gallon truck tank and Jim put away with his skid steer. Jim and Dave then helped Marlo load up the record breaking load of sap, cleaned the tanks and then headed to Beav's for a lunch of roast beef, potatoes and gravy.
3/30. 42 - 32 low and very windy from the west. 1500 gallons of sap picked up today by Marlo and Dave. Dave cleaned out the tanks and shut off tank #2 and #3. The high winds yesterday broke one of the door hinges - the wind today was from the west so it was blowing 20-30 mph down Patnode valley. Exchanger rate was only 28 gph so I shut down the vacuum. It's expected to drop to 23 tonite so we will see what happens tomorrow. If not much sap runs then the season is over. We are planning to detap Friday and Saturday either way. Dave inspected the Harmon woods - found 6 spiles knocked out of the tree by branches hitting them and a large dead elm fell onto a mainline in the west section. All items were fixed so we are ready for the final sap run.
4/1 42 hi - 17 low and sunny. Season over. Despite freeze not much sap was running so will start to remove taps tomorrow. A good season despite a low sugar content. 1,830 gallons of syrup made from 84,273 gallons of maple sap.
4/3. A Warm 72 degrees sunny day and quiet. The ground is dry from the windy and low humidity weather we've been having. Finished pulling 2000 taps in Harmons - Jim, Vinny Cognetta Family, Brandon, Mason, Dave, Dylan and Kevin. Jim, Dave, Dylan and Vinny picked up the sap wagon and hoses from Patnode Valley. This was Dylan's first year of pulling and clipping spouts on his own. Verna had lunch of chili, poppy roll and raspberry dessert. After Lunch Dave and Dylan went pack to the Harmon Woods and took the ATV through the woods to do a final check plus picked up some long length wood pcs for Dylan's firepit. On 4/2 Brandon, Jordan, Brad, Kari, Dave, Mason and Greg pulled 2500 taps in Harmons. Dave, Jim and Mason picked up all tanks from Patnode Valley on 4/2. First Legion fish fry was held. Greg, Dave and Verna all picked up takeouts dinners for $10/each. Jim was frying french fries.
4/5. Record Hi of 85 in Eau Claire - windy and dry. Final cleanup day. Dave & Jim pressure washed vacuum wagon, three 1500 gal tanks, cleaned harmon woods boosters, taped ends of the 1.5" pipes at harmons, changed oil on transfer pump, ATV and wood splitter. Everything put away and ready for next season.