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Thread: One generation sugarmaker?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Oneida NY
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    11,122

    Default One generation sugarmaker?

    I made maple syrup as early as 1975, but only for family use, tapping 1 large sugar and 3 multi-stem box Elders. We repeated that as a family about every 2-3 years. Then my son who was active in Boy Scouts (I was the scoutmaster) asked if he and 2 scout friends could camp out in my woods where there were several sugar maples during winter break in 1985. I said yes, but they would need to get letters of permission from their parents acknowledging that they understood it would not be a scout function and that all three would have no adult supervision (2 of the 3 are Eagle Scouts). I then gave them permission. That week, (last week in February) the set up camp on Friday late afternoon, and put out 25 taps and buckets. Each day and into evening they boiled the sap over their camp fires. By the Sunday following 9 days of collecting sap and making syrup, each came home with about 1.5 qts of rather smokey tasting syrup. That was their final syrup adventure.
    Then in 2003 I got the thinking I needed something to do that time of year, so I bought a used Half Pint, bricked it, and set up my sugar operation on my concrete slab patio next to my house. I assembled a canopy (10x10) over the evaporator and leaned the stack back about 30 degrees from vertical and held it in position using 2 lengths of 1/2" EMT, bracing up from the ground. That year my wife and I started with 29 taps. After the first sap flow I tapped more. Adding 5-8 taps each time as I kept saying "I can do more". Then when at 78 taps, the sap really started to flow. I soon realized I needed to boil longer hours. (Having sold my business 3 years earlier and started driving school bus) I decided we needed to boil 24 hrs. I had the boiling going as I left to drive bus, while my wife tended the boil. When I got home shortly after 9:00, I went to gather the sap. After that I tended the fire until I had to go drive bus again about 1:40 and my wife again took over. After the P.M. run I again collected the sap. Then we boiled all evening, then slowed to fire, added about 2" extra sap and set a timer to get up every 2 hrs, fuel, draw off any if ready, add more sap and set alarm again for 2 more hrs. Doing this we managed ok but 3 days of that really got hard. During the day times we were evaporating about 6.5 gph, over nights averaged about 2.5 gph.
    I then pulled about 30 taps and at that point we could boil from 5:30 AM til about 11:00 pm, shut down, add extra sap and sleep until 5:30 again. We were glad when the weekend arrived.
    That season we made 10.5 gal of necter of the Gods. We kept about 4 gal, gave some away and sold the rest. I was hooked. That summer, 2003 I decided to get a bigger evaporator. We bought a used Leader 2x6 drop flue which was 2-3 yrs old and it had labels saying "lead free", the owner was moving to a 2.5x8. That summer I also started cutting hemlocks on our property. As I got a trailer load, I hauled them about 3 miles to a guy who had a Wood-Mizer sawmill. I gave him a cut list and in 6-7 days he called saying it was ready. I hauled the lumber back, unloaded the lumber and put another load of logs on the trailer, hauled them to be cut.
    The next day or 2 I went to get a building permit (not realizing at the time that farms in NYS do not need a permit to build a sugarhouse). They refused, saying, since I had no principle structure on the property I had to get a variance. This all started in mid May, 2003, by the time I jumped thru all of the hoops, I finally got the OK and the permit on the Tuesday (2 days before Thanksgiving). I called a neighbor (the sawyer again) who came that Wednesday and dug a trench for the perimeter of my 16x24 sugarhouse and a pit where I was going to pour a concrete base and set concrete blocks to support the evaporator. Planning to continue to grow, I made the base large enough to accommodate and evaporator up to 3x10. I then started setting poles and erecting the walls, to be 10' tall. Starting in early Aug. it began getting hard to get my lumer cut when I needed it so I ordered a Sawmill. I then constructed trusses and recruited enough family and friends to set the trusses in Dec 31, 2003. At the time I only had a 20 HP tractor with no loader. I built a lift on the 3 pt hitch with a long arm made of 2 rough cut 2x6 and with that I was able to raise the heavy (all rough cut, full 2" hemlock, 2x6 top cord, 2x4 bottom cord 3 2x4 webs and 3' overhang on each side) trusses enough that we got them somehow up on the top plate. From there we moved each to position, starting at the far end, and attached them to the double top plate, added cross bracing and repeated. At lunch we had a quick picnic lunch and went back to work. Before sunset we had all trusses up, attacked and cross braced. I then asked my oldest son (the Eagle Scout) if he could return to help me put the roofing steel up, he said yes. By the time Saturday came I had all of the purlins attached and we attached the roofing. Had I known then what I later learned I'd have added plywood , tar paper, then roofing, because I learned how cold rain from the cold roof steel is cold down you neck.I still left an opening, the cupola was not yet built.
    My sawmill arrived From then on, I worked every day, from between bus runs, and then into the evening, often until 10:30 or 11:00. Sometime in Mid February my wife suggested I finish that summer and boil starting in 2005. I refused to wait. I was hooked. I didn't want to wait. Even though my pit was still empty (4' deep) and I had no finished floor, I sawed lumber to support a wooden floor, with big chunks of old sidewalk in the pit, I built a 16x12 platform in the middle of my 16x24 space, favoring towards the man door end. Under the platform I added support posts for under the arch. I set the arch non a layer of 8x8x16 concrete blocks with a large apron of blocks in front. I capped that with a sheet of 24 ga galvanized sheet metal, and I built a ramp in to get up to the platform, That year I filled around 3 sides using pallets and it became a Sugarhouse.
    Along with the above, I built a 2.5 x 6 cupola, roofed it and had a large door on each long side, hinged and made it so I could open and close it from floor level by ropes. That method remains to this day.
    I soon learned I needed a hood to get the steam out, so I made my second hood (I had made one for over the first evaporator, just for overnight, with a steam stack) to get the rain to quit. I made it out of aluminum flashing and pop rivets. It had a gutter system out of aluminum C channel, welded together, 1x1x1 and the hod was pop riveted to the channel, it had a drain spout which dumped into a bucket on the floor, It gave me some hot water.
    Dave Klish about 400 taps, down from much more. Retired from collecting and boiling in 2021. Mostly because of a bad hip.
    2012 Mahindra 36 HP 4x4/ loader/cab/heat/AC:-)
    3x8 raised flue evaporator
    250 GPH converted to electric, RO by Ray Gingerich
    6.32 KW solar system, 1.48KW is battery backed up, all net metered
    website: www.cnymaple.com

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Oneida NY
    Posts
    11,122

    Default

    The one generation journey continues"
    That year I got up to about 140 taps and the evaporator did about 23-27 gph depending on how small I split the wood. I added more taps the next 3 years, then in 2007 I read an adv. in the local "pennysaver", a free reader ad paper, businesses paid for their ads. The ad was for a 3x8 and had only been used 1 season. I called, drove the 20 some miles to look at it and I bought it. The story was that the owner used it in 2002 after buying it new, but then hurt his back bad at work. His back was so bad he had a pain killer pump to dispense morphine as needed. He could no longer lift anything over 5 pounds.
    By this time I had gone thru steps, back in 2005 I removed the original partial platform and built a full platform floor, then in 2007 right after the season I removed that floor and poured a concrete floor.
    Back to the 3x8, I bought it, and set it up on my newly poured concrete floor and I made a hood. Both earlier hoods were made of aluminum flashing, this one I bought 3x8 sheets of heavier ga. aluminum. In fact it taxed my aluminum trim brake. To bend metal I had to make auxiliary clamps, to strengthen the big C clamps that were on the brake. Then as I bent each angle, I had to add the auxiliary clamps, lift the handle to bend, and move the handle 2 times to get it all bent at the same angle. When I got done, I added a sliding door for access into the rear (flues pan) portion of the hood on each side. I'm not sure, but I don't recall if I made a elevated hood over the syrup pan or not, I'm thinking not.
    I kept adding more tapsw, dropping smaller leases as I added much larger ones until at one point I had 1320 taps, all on 2 leases, one at 7 miles and up 1 very steep hill, and a second 3 miles past #1 and on a side road. I then had 3 good helpers, one grandson who had been with me since 2003, another who I hired to help starting in 2014 just for tapping and repairs, and a friend of the first grandson, all 3 were at the time in collage and I got their help as their schedule allowed. It worked well. Then in 2017 they graduated and before 2018 I realized I couldn't keep up with both leases with no help. I hired a high schooler, who it seemed I had to retrain every day, the next year I hired his younger brother, pretty much the same story. Then in 2018 my brother-in-law started helping. He was on permanent disability but could still help some (he'd had a life altering vehicle accident, not his fault).
    He helped until this year (2021), we started doing line repairs on the 400 taps I was still doing, but now all were at my sugarhouse, no leases. We fixed and repaired about 30 taps worth, and between him needing a second knee replacement and my bad hip, I finally decided to quit tapping and boiling, this year. I called to tell him, he said good, he's decided it was time for him to quit after that 1 day we'd worked.I then told my wife and she said good, you work too hard.
    Dave Klish about 400 taps, down from much more. Retired from collecting and boiling in 2021. Mostly because of a bad hip.
    2012 Mahindra 36 HP 4x4/ loader/cab/heat/AC:-)
    3x8 raised flue evaporator
    250 GPH converted to electric, RO by Ray Gingerich
    6.32 KW solar system, 1.48KW is battery backed up, all net metered
    website: www.cnymaple.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Oneida NY
    Posts
    11,122

    Default

    Now about the one generation, back while my grandson had been working with me all year, on blueberries and on maple, I'd offered the business to him and he showed some interest. But after graduating college he got a real good job and that flame went out. I do have 2 grown sons and 2 grown daughters, none of them are interested. I still have one grandson who could decide maybe, (he's 12 now) and if he wants we could still start up ,just at my current sugarhouse location. It has 400 taps and could possibly have 500, plus one neighbor has about 75 trees that were planted adjacent to my land about 35 yrs ago, about half are 10" or more, most of the rest will be in a few years. That planting has now grown wild, and it could add about 70+/- more taps. I also have about 50 sugar maples on my land that will be at 10" + in a few years. However, this all remains just a dream, he may or may not want to make syrup.
    This is why I sold most of my production equipment. I'll continue buying bulk and packing then retailing the syrup as long as I'm able.
    Dave Klish about 400 taps, down from much more. Retired from collecting and boiling in 2021. Mostly because of a bad hip.
    2012 Mahindra 36 HP 4x4/ loader/cab/heat/AC:-)
    3x8 raised flue evaporator
    250 GPH converted to electric, RO by Ray Gingerich
    6.32 KW solar system, 1.48KW is battery backed up, all net metered
    website: www.cnymaple.com

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Vermont
    Posts
    68

    Default

    Dave,

    Thank you for sharing the beginnings and growth alone the way. My fingers are crossed your youngest grandchild will want to take over. Passing on the traditions are talks my wife and I have everyday (especial this time of year) as she is an 8th generation sugar maker on the same property and really wants to get kids into it.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    UVM Proctor Maple Research Center, Underhill Ctr, VT
    Posts
    5,658

    Default

    Dave....nice to read your story...thanks for posting it. Hope you are willing to remain on the site and keep offering your great advice for a long time to come.
    Dr. Tim Perkins
    UVM Proctor Maple Research Ctr
    http://www.uvm.edu/~pmrc
    https://mapleresearch.org
    Timothy.Perkins@uvm.edu

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Oneida NY
    Posts
    11,122

    Default

    Thank you Dr Tim, I hope to stay as long as I can. I'll still have my hand in syrup (so to speak) because I kept my finisher, my filter press and my WJ bottler. I'll buy barrels of bulk and package it. In fact I've bought enough already to meet my expected needs until the 2022 production starts. If I guessed wrong, I'll look for more.
    Dave Klish about 400 taps, down from much more. Retired from collecting and boiling in 2021. Mostly because of a bad hip.
    2012 Mahindra 36 HP 4x4/ loader/cab/heat/AC:-)
    3x8 raised flue evaporator
    250 GPH converted to electric, RO by Ray Gingerich
    6.32 KW solar system, 1.48KW is battery backed up, all net metered
    website: www.cnymaple.com

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