Robin's, Black Birds, Blue Heron's, they are all back here in the Champlain Valley. Of course 8 miles away and 1000' vertical feet up at the sugarhouse it still looks and feels like winter. The good news is that the trees seem not to care and when possible they are ready to run. That looks like it will be Wednesday. Right now its only in the upper 20's but the sun has enough brightness and warmth to get the sap to trickle in this afternoon and tomorrow I'm sure, until we hit the 40's mid week and I expect things to take off.
We had a decent run the end of last week with Thursday and Friday getting into the 50's. It was a bit of a disappointment on Wednesday and Saturday however as we failed to get warm enough to get much measurable sap. Saturday was actually pretty strange. Sap ran decent over night and was running fairly well until about 8 when it stopped. Then a few hours later it began to run for a second time, until a snow squall came through and stopped the flow again. A couple of hours later it began to run once again. The temperature the whole time was between 26 and 32. It really seemed as though it never should have run a drop, but as I mentioned above, the trees want to run. We ended up making 29 barrels over three boils on Thursday-Saturday. The flavor was outstanding and we filled a lot of our own barrels for our customers. Grade was Amber Rich. There was no niter, and the syrup did not want to filter all that great. Sugar content of the sap was 1.7-1.9 to start, dropped to 1.3-1.4 and then went back up to 1.8 and then back down to 1.6. Thats a little unusual for a continuous run with no freeze to vary that much. I was getting a bit discouraged because I was hearing reports of 2-2.5% at the beginning of the run and I was at 1.3. I know we could have made a lot more syrup with the previous numbers!
We have been working with CDL to get our new RO dialed in. Its been a little bit of a battle learning what the machine can and cant do. We have found that to get it to the concentration level we want to boil at with the machine (22-25%) there is a relatively narrow window of sap we can run to get it there. Below 1.6% we cannot get there in one pass without removing too much water and plugging the high brix membrane, form 1.6 up to maybe 2.5 we can get where we want in one pass and the machine chews through an incredible amount of water, and then we tried to double pass sap bringing 4% into the new machine and does not work, there is not enough water to remove from the sap to keep a sufficient flow over the last membrane. This is definitely a bit of a bummer. It seems we will have a narrow window of sap from maybe 1.2-1.6 where we will not be able to get it up to 23-25% as a single pass will not get there and a double pass will make the sap too sweet to run. Under around 1.2 we can run through the old machine and take half the water our brining it to about 2.4 or less and then run that through the CDL. Overall it works but is not exactly how we wanted it or were told it would work. Im keeping an open mind for the time being though because its new technology and we have not really learned all of the machines capabilities yet.
We will be delivering syrup to stores and businesses over the next few days so once we get crazy busy we will not have to worry about getting syrup delivered. Its also nice to get full barrels out of the sugarhouse to make room for the rest we will be filling in the next month.
We have made 14% of a crop thus far which is far behind last season but not out of the ordinary. Lets hope for good weather, good syrup and full crops!