Posts Tagged ‘labor of love’

Greetings again from Sweet Brook Farm where we are in the process of making our gourmet maple syrup.  This is the next installation in our story of how we get the best tasting maple syrup available today.  When you read these posts, we hope you get the feeling of how much TLC goes into this process.  This is truly a labor of love for all of us here at Sweet Brook Farm.

As we’ve mentioned in several prior posts, one key aspect that makes our maple syrup here at Sweet Brook Farm special is that all our sap is pumped automatically to our sugar house for immediate processing.  Our pump house is designed to keep the maple sap cool and deliver it with a bare minimum of hold time.  Our sap never sits around or warms up in collection tanks or buckets so it yields the purest syrup possible.

The almightly pumphouse!

Sap lines, vacuum lines, and our main pump-up line are all are tethered to the pump house, which is a small 8’x10’, well-insulated structure that rests at the low point of our system.  All the sap drains to it by gravity via the underground lines so it never warms up in tubing that is heated by the sun.

Mulitple lines are tethered to the pump house

Inside the pump house, the sap is never allowed to freeze.  A small ceramic heater, shown at bottom left, maintains the temperature around 35°F inside.  The main vacuum releaser and a 1.5 hp sap pump are mounted above a 300-gallon stainless steel tank.  During periods of peak sap flow on warm sunny mornings in February and March, the sap will be flowing in from 3,500 taps at about 30 gallons per minute.  Since the working volume of the tank is only 100 gallons the average residence time of our sap is only 3 minutes!  The remaining 1,000 taps in our system flow to an electric releaser housed on another part of the property.  This will be the topic of a future article.

Sap pump and heater

The black plastic tubing is connected to the vacuum manifold on the releaser with clear “tiger flex” tubing.  In total there are 11 lines bringing sap and vacuum to the main releaser which will be dumping its 19.2- gallon load of sap about every 40 seconds during a good sap run.

Tiger Flex Tube Connections

Each line enters the main manifold through a ball valve which allows us to isolate each line from different areas in the sugar bush and to check for air leaks in the system.

Sap lines are isolated to simplify checking for leaks

To inspect a line, we simply close the valve for a few seconds and then open it and observe the flow of sap through that line.  If a big blast of air comes in we know where to look for air leaks.

Checking for leaks

The sap drains from the manifold section into the releaser tank.  As the tank fills, a float valve rises in the tank.

Float valev in releaser tank

The float valve shuts off the vacuum to the releaser for a brief moment and the sap dumps into the storage tank below.  As the sap empties, the float falls inside the releaser, and vacuum is restored.  This is an entirely mechanical apparatus, and all the moving parts must be lubricated on a daily basis to keep it working smoothly.  A vacuum gauge on the manifold allows us to set the vacuum in our sugarhouse for the best operation of the releaser.  We target 24” of vacuum in the pump house.

Vacuum is lost briefly and sap dumps into storage tank below

When sap is flowing into the tank, the pump is controlled by a float switch in the back of the tank.  In the front is where the sap is suctioned into the pump.  A pump strainer on the bottom prevents any foreign material from entering the pump head.   A check valve on top of the strainer prevents the 90 gallons of sap that fills the pump-up line from flowing back into the tank when the pump stops.

The pump is controlled by a float switch

The main control panel in the pump house allows for smooth automatic operation.  The thermostat, shown in the upper left, senses the outside temperature.   When it warms up in the morning, power goes to a magnetic starter coil that allows the pump to operate.  The magnetic starter provides protection for the pump so it can never operate if sap were to freeze in the pump-up line.  At night when the temperature drops, the magnetic coil shuts off, but power is supplied to the heater and a solenoid valve that opens to allow the pump-up line to drain back to the sap tank.

The main control panel

When temperatures drop below freezing, we need to drain the sap from the pump- up line so it will not be clogged with ice when sap begins to flow the next morning.  The solenoid valve shown here will open automatically when freezing begins to let the line drain.  This high-tech automated system will allow Pete and Beth to spend most of their time in the sugar house making syrup and not out collecting sap!

Solenoid valve opens automatically when below freezing to drain the line

Well.. that is all for today, but we are getting closer to completing the puzzle.   Make sure to come back for our next post!

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Welcome to our blog for Sweet Brook Farm located in Williamstown, MA.  We are going to share all of our progress  with our maple syrup production, vegetable growing, and raising of alpacas.   For us, this is more than just a farm…it is a labor of love.

We are currently working hard on getting our state-of-the-art maple syrup production system running, and we are going to share it with you right here on our blog.  We should have the first batch of our gourmet maple syrup available in mid February or early March, depending on the weather.  Aside from maple sugaring, we also grow the freshest vegetables you have ever tasted so if you are in the area, be sure to stop by and say hello.  When you are here, don’t forget that we also raise prize-winning alpacas, one of the most unique animals on the planet.

We want to extend a special thanks to all of our friends who supported us this past summer at the Williamstown Farmer’s Market.  We truly appreciate it and hope to see you again next summer.

Well…there is much to do, so check back soon for our next post.

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