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Thread: Maple Syrup in Preston County at the Heasley Homestead

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Bruceton Mills, WV

    Default Maple Syrup in Preston County at the Heasley Homestead

    I have been reading all of the posts from West Virginia with great interest this year, but felt too busy (or too new) to post my activities.

    But now that the season may be over, I have some time to provide a summary.

    My initial goal this past summer was to stop using propane to boil the syrup and switch to a wood (that I cut myself) fired evaporator to be more cost efficient. As, I started looking at upsizing the syrup production, it kind of snowballed. Originally, I figured I would keep using gallon jugs that had worked well for me in the past, and slowly expand the number of trees that I tap. But then, I read a lot of great things about the 3/16 tubing natural gravity. I liked the idea of the “natural” (no motors or electricity), and my property (50 acres in Bruceton Mills) has some good gradient around my maple trees. Once you go to tubing, then you need to collect in larger containers, and once you use larger container, you might as well fill them to be efficient. Also, I read about reverse osmosis and this seemed to be a very efficient way to initially process the sap and minimize my wood cutting. Well, with even a small commercial RO machine, you need a minimum of a couple hundred gallons of sap to run the machine.

    Well, to make a long story short,
    I now have (in two stalls of my 3 car garage):
    A 2 X 6 Next Generation Maple Products (NGMP) evaporator with a 2 X 6 divide flat pan (originally, I was try to save a little money with an inexpensive pan)
    A Deer Run Sugar Bush (Ray Gingerich) 125 GPH expandable reverse osmosis machine
    A bunch of IBC totes, barrels, pumps, hoses, tubing, propane stoves, pots, pans, filters, etc.

    I ended up with 258 taps on 3/16 and 71 on jugs. This is all a mixture of Red and Sugar Maples. Some are open field, but most are in dense woods.

    As of today (3/12/16) I have collected about 6,150 gallons sap and processed it into approximately 70 gallons of syrup (not finished bottling yet). (A few times I overflowed and lost some sap.) For season totals, I collected 6.7 gal/tap on my 71 jugs, 15.7 gal/tap on my (21 taps) with 10-15 ft. drop natural vacuum, and an average of 22.6 gal/tap on the (237 taps) full natural vacuum, for an overall average of 18.7 gal/tap. One collection tote with 54 taps averaged 25.8 gallons per tap. As you can see, my sugar content has been pretty low. Somedays I thought that the 3/16 vacuum was working so good that it was sucking water from the ground up through the tree.

    I had 4 runs: 2/7-8/16 with 600 gallons (rights as I installed taps), 2/18-25/16 with 2000 gallons, 2/28-3/1/16 with 1460 gallons, and 3/6-9/16 with 2100 gallons. My used RO was working sub-par and I was always waiting on it, so mid season I obtained a new MES membrane which improved throughput by at least 300%. Still, I felt I could use a faster RO, so for next year, I am planning on upgrading to the 250 gph capacity. (Did I say that I say that I was maintaining a 50 hr per week job at the same time I was trying to haul, RO, and boil the sap each day?)

    Also, I was hauling sap with a tank on the front and back of my tractor, about 100 gallons functional total capacity. This worked well enough, but took about 45 minutes round trip and really tore-up the trails in the woods. I am considering some type of pumping system next year, but I am about 1500 ft horizontally and 125 ft vertically above my collection points, and I have a road in-between.

    It has been a rewarding year.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2003


    Great job this year Keith and especially from going to a small backyard setup to a RO and small evaporator. Really glad the 3/16 performed very well for you.

    CDL dealer for All of West Virginia & Virginia
    Les Cruchon Jugs and Sugarhill for WV & Virginia
    3x10 CDL Deluxe oil fired
    Kubota M7040 4x4 Tractor w/ 1153 Loader
    2,320 taps on 3/16 CDL natural vacuum on 9 properties
    24x56 sugarhouse
    CDL 1,000 2 post RO

    WEBSITE: http://danielsmaple.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Bruceton Mills, WV


    Well the season is wrapping up.

    I was rinsing tubing and cleaning everything this past weekend.

    I tapped on February 5th, pulled my 225 red maple taps on March 5th, after the warm weeks. I re-drilled the 225 Sugar Maples from 1.5" to 2.25" after the cold week on 3/10-18/17 and made another 20 gallons of syrup from just the Sugar Maples.
    I added another 100 Red Maple taps on 3/16 tubing this year, to bring my tap count up to 450. Also, I upgraded my pans from a flat 2x6 to a 2x2 syrup pan and 2x4 drop flue pan. I upgraded the RO from one 4x40 to two 4x40 membranes. I also added a 7" short bank filter press and a 15 gallon water-jacketed bottler. With the new equipment, I could finish the sap every day in 6-8 hours. With the filter press, the final syrup is always very nice and clear.

    Overall, I had 6 good runs. several days I had 800+ gallons in the early season.
    Last year I hauled 6300 gallons of sap and made 75 gallons of syrup. This year I hauled 9300 gallons of sap and made 87 gallons of syrup (about 0.2 gallons of syrup per tap).

    (Somedays, I am afraid that I will put the hydrometer in the sap and it will sink. But, you have to love the RO, since I only boiled 10+% concentrate.)

    The 3/16" tubing worked well. The new lines pulled 25 gallons of sap per tap, and overall, I averaged 22 gallons a tap on the tubing.

    That was the semi-depressing production statistics, but on the other hand.

    This was our first Open House for WV Maple Day, and I did not know if we were going to get 2 or 200 people, especially with cold rainy weather.

    Wow, what a turn out. From 9 am to 5 pm Saturday and 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday, we had at least 1 or 2 groups and sometimes 4 to 6 groups at the house on the tour. Both the 4H and Girls Scouts showed up. We had 100+ visitors a day and considering that the weather was cold and rainy, that was great. My wife and I did not even get any time to eat lunch. We had a scavenger hunt for the kids (with a maple candy reward). We had coffee and hot chocolate, and samples of maple candy, maple walnuts, taste tests of the different color grades. We had samples of maple cookies, maple cinnamon rolls and maple bacon little smokies (you have to love bacon and maple sugar). We sold about a third of our production that weekend.

    We already have ideas on how to improve the open house for next year.


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