The 2014 maple season is officially off and running. The warm spell over the last week got the sap flowing and at Sapsquatch, with the help of some wonderful new volunteers, we were able to tap about 1/3rd of our sugarbush and collect enough sap for a small boil before everything froze up again during Polar Vortex: Part II.
The first boil is the most crucial of the season. Usually a smaller batch, the first boil is an opportunity to ‘discover’ new or recurring issues and problems that may have developed during the long off-season of inactivity. How is all the equipment working? How is everything flowing through the new sap lines? Do I still remember how to do this?
On Friday, January 17th I set out to the sugarbush for what was to be my earliest boil to date. I began the day with tapping and got to enjoy the last warm sunny day for a while out in the woods. Intending to get started on boiling by 1pm, I had my lunch while priming the evaporator with fresh sap. That’s when I discovered problem #1; the connection between the front and back evaporator pans was leaking profusely and upon loosening the valve, discovered that the connection was still not meeting up properly after being resoldered. I got in touch with Teo the blacksmith over at Durand’s Forge (at Carmen Road Artist Quarters aka the CRAQ Barn http://centralny.twcnews.com/content/news/622330/mecklenburg/
about 5 minutes away and alerted him to the issue. He told me to bring the pan over and he got to work on the fix immediately.
Two hours later I have everything set to try again, this time with addition of a temporary makeshift gasket inserted in the connection to reduce the leakage. Great, everything seems to be working and the leak has been minimized. Time to boil…but wait, here’s problem #2; the valve regulating sap flow between the pans does not close all the way. Without being able to control sap flow into the front pan, sap will keep mixing with more finished stuff and I will not be able to finish any syrup tonight. Best to keep things boiling, get all the sap I have boiled and sterilized and sweeten up the pans for next time.
Luckily, it looks like the weather will give me at least another week to sort out these problems so that next time when I have a whole lot more sap to deal with, I will be ready.