The thaw set in on Thursday, slinking to 40 on Thursday, spiking to 50 midday Friday before settling back into the 40’s. Both days, the forecast predicted temps of ten degrees higher. Little sun, no freezing nights. Saturday morning starts at 35 and might stay there, with snow and/or rain. Tonight we’ll see a hard freeze. There’s been a flood watch, but news of flooding has not trickled up to Nebraska Knoll.
HOW’S IT RUNNING: Night and day. Poorly on Thursday, fairly by late Friday. The run picks up when the sun comes out.
SAP SWEETNESS: A paltry 1.3%. (2% is average.) Others report similarly weak sap. Typically the season starts with 1.6-1.7% sap.
BOILING STATUS: Day One was Friday. On the first day of boiling it takes several hours to sweeten the pans and finally draw off that first pail of hot syrup. Now that they’re sweetened, today we’ll make syrup soon after the fire roars.
WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG? Good thing that sap was weak on the first day since it took the pressure off managing the first crisis. It was the filter press, of course, always the filter press.
The syrup after being filtered was cloudy not shining clear, but why? There are ridges along the side of each plate. These must be lined up on the left. If one plate is flipped around the press goes phooey. Yesterday, in training Sam how to set up the press with the filter papers, we lined the ridges up. Only thing, the end plate, a bulky heavy thing, didn’t seem to have a ridge. No one could recall whether it had a ridge last year. We couldn’t see a ridge on either side. With all the other plates, you can mistakenly flip the plate around so the ridge is on the right. We decided the end plate never had had a ridge.
You can’t keep making syrup when it can’t be filtered, so we turned off the blower, opened the door to the firebox – essentially shut down. Pails of unfiltered syrup lined the wooden deck by the arch.
Skipping ahead an hour now, after Chief of Operations changed the filter press pump (separate issue) and tinkered with the press, the syrup was still coming through cloudy.
A cry from the Blog Editor –I know what’s wrong! The end plate is on upside down! She bent down and felt for the ridge which was there on the lower right side. Of course! Whoever put the press together last May during cleanup had put it on upside down. [The Blog Editor feels smug since it’s the rare day she solves a crisis.]
This story may sound confusing or trivial. It is, though, typical of first day boiling when we must relearn how to boil. Every single detail matters.
This particular misstep was NEW. A new crisis! One we couldn’t have imagined!
MACRO: Three people hovering over a hunk of metal in the corner of the sugarhouse.
MICRO: One holds a hose over a small tank (the dumping station). One reaches under to fill a small bottle from the hose, getting her hands and the bottle sticky. Another says, “Is it clear yet?”
MUSIC TO BOIL BY: Rewarming some of the classics.
The Maple tape. Yes.
Rubblebucket. New, mixed reviews.
Graceland. Always, during cleanup.
MEANWHILE, the woods crew repaired squirrel and bear chew, etc. until dusk.