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.