The 2019 season has come to an end here in Underhill, VT. Our last boil was on April 18, the day before it really warmed up again. We ended up with a crazy last month of the season boiling everyday but 2 and surpassed our goal of a half gallon per tap and then some making a bit over .56 gallons of syrup per tap. The flavor, which I thought was excellent, and actually above average, from the second boil throughout the entire season, took a turn for the worse after that 72 degree day in April but we kept chugging along making processing grade syrup for a while. The good news is that the sap boiled and filtered well right to the end and our packer is in need of additional processing grade syrup. It was also an easy end to the season as we could see the end was all but guaranteed by another warm spell that was forecast. Thats a lot easier than trying to process marginal sap on marginal days and grinding out to the end.
Overall the season saw good volume and low sugar for us. Many times we have seen that in low sugar years we make up for it in volume. As usual, our biggest week was the first week of April and runs stayed strong through the middle of the month. Aside from fighting weather all winter, it was not too bad of a season as far as major breakdowns, in season weather events, or strings of really late nights. Regardless, once the season ends we are all run down and both mentally and physically drained. The vacuum sensors once again proved their weight in gold as we were able to keep things extremely tight with just Matt in the woods daily and myself and to a lesser extent my dad, heading out to find leaks when we weren't boiling.
This year was interesting as my wife was pregnant and we knew the baby would come any day. Well my new son Nolan was pretty smart because he came the day after the season ended. A huge relief, but man did I get unbelievably tired jumping from sugaring into parenting without a day break.
We will finish pulling taps this Tuesday and then have plenty of cleaning in the sugarhouse and pump houses to finish up.
We've certainly got a few things on the list for improvements next year. We loved boiling at 24% this year as we save a lot of time and were able to start boiling earlier and finish between 5-10 PM vs day after day of 12-4 AM boils in the past. We were able to process 1000 gallons in a day and have the evaporator broken down and everything cleaned up by 10:30 PM one day. I looked back at some other 1000 gallon boils from previous years and we boiled almost twice as long and finished between 3-5 AM. Thats a big deal right there. We did find one issue however that we need to take care of. Since we were not processing sap until midnight or later this year we had much more time for our storage tanks to fill, so even though we were done boiling we were still having to stay up all night switching tanks over as they filled and starting RO's at all hours of the night. One of our big purchases will be a new 28'x7'x7.5' storage tank that is just shy of 10,000 gallons. That, along with a little tweak in our plumbing, will alleviate some of those issues. As is usual with boiling, you change one thing and it affects everything else, so to make room for the tank we are losing barrel storage so we will get a 40' container and store syrup in there. That way it will be secure and out of the elements.
Some other projects are to rip out some cracked concrete in the back of the sugarhouse, and install grate drains and pour new concrete. This will be a big help as far as washing barrels, presses, and the evaporator and take care of the uneven floor. Elsewhere in the sugarhouse we are going to get another syrup draw off tank, get an auto defamer for our flue pan, and maybe get some tank level sensors and a camera or two installed that we can access from our cell phones.
In the woods we are tearing out 2,600 taps worth of tubing, having our neighbor thin the woods and then re installing new tubing, as well as replacing 5400 drops in another section. We may add 1000 taps on the neighbors land as well. Lastly we are going to remove two boosters that were giving us trouble this year with stainless fittings and Y's. These two boosters were always freezing up and the lines had trouble thawing each morning so we definitely were losing sap everyday. I'll be glad to have those out of the woods for good.
Thanks for reading and thanks to all of our customers who have bought syrup in the past year.