About Me

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I am an artist working in Water Color, Oils, Glass and wood in North Central Indiana. I enjoy Plein Aire work the most but often find myself in the studio during the winter when the weather is less than desirable for working on location. I have always been an artist, memories of drawing are some of my oldest. My early influence came from looking at old magazine covers done by Norman Rockwell. Later I discovered the photography of Edward Curtis as he had struggled to capture the American Indians of the Southwest before that culture completely disappeared. then I found Andrew Wyeth and knew what I wanted to paint. The Egg Tempera and Water Color Paintings of Andrew Wyeth were simply wonderful and I was forever committed to painting the rural landscape and those that live there. It was then I realized I would never again see the land as I had before I painted it. Soon after it was Winslow Homer and his Water Colors that kept feeding my interest in this medium and a traditional approach to my art. While I left the life as a professional artist for a time I find my return to it at this point in my life refreshing. Life is a journey and I am turning towards home. Mike Yazel

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cooking Syrup

  Here are some pics from today around the sugarhouse. Thought some might find this interesting.

  This is a shot of the syrup pan with fresh sap in it right after I flooded the pans for the first time this year. You can see it is as clear as water, as the season goes on it will continue to darken as it  comes out of the trees as they push more nutrients up the tree in preparation for leafing out. 

  This is shot of the floatbox that controls the incoming sap into the sap pan. The sap comes from the holding tank outside through the preheater in the in the steam hood which uses the outgoing steam to preheat the incoming sap raising its temperature as much as a 100 degrees which increases the efficiency of the evaporator by 20-30%. Today it was running 25-30 gallons of sap an hour but it was an ideal day for cooking. 

This is the front floatbox which controls the flow of sap into the syrup pan, both of these floats are adjustable and require some attention throughout the day. Notice I have a plug in place here restricting flow into the floatbox which will be removed as I flood the pans with fresh sap. 

   This is the view everyone with a sugarhouse wants to see when they open the big door at the beginning of the sugar season. I will use between 2 and 3 cords of wood to cook off the water each year.  A cord of stacked wood measures 4 feet wide by 4 feet high and 8 feet long. These things are hungry, very hungry! 


Here is a shot down the float side of the machine showing everything in place right after I lit up for the day. I put all of this together this morning getting things ready to go. everything will stay in place until the season ends. I might pull the the syrup pan if we get a break and clean the sugarsand that builds up on it and reduces its heat transfer abilities. I use vinegar to break down the buildups on the pans and will let it soak with vinegar in it for a couple of weeks after the season ends to make cleanup easier. 

Here you can see steam coming out of the cupola and if you look close can see the heat coming out of the stack. That is a 10 inch diameter stack running wide open so you can see why we need so much wood. My sap pan is what is called a raised flue pan which means it has 5 inch tall corrugations in its bottom to increase the surface area for heat transfer. When I flood the pans it takes about 25 gallons of sap, from the time I light the fire it will bring all of that cold sap to a rolling boil in 15 minutes so you can see these things are well designed for their intended purpose. I try and run my stack at 600 degrees which is about all she will do and is controlled by fuel load and an air damper at the firebox. 

This is the syrup pan at the end of the day and you can see the color change as the sugar is concentrated. This will make syrup right after startup in the morning and then I will pull off syrup about every 1 1/2-2 hours until we quit in a few weeks. I pull just under a gallon each time if everything is going right. 

   This is a shot of the magic thermometer on the outlet side of the syrup pan. You notice it starts at 0 then has a 7 and then on to 50. These are adjustable which makes them even more interesting! What we do is boil this in the morning before we start and set it at 0 when we reach a rolling boil for 5 minutes in plain water. Because the boiling point of water changes with barometric pressure and we have to have a true 0 to know where we are with the syrup we do this with any change in the ambient pressure. Then when it reads 7 we are at the correct concentration of sugar to have syrup. I will show this tomorrow when I have syrup so you can see what it looks like. To make sure things are right I also use a Hydrometer which tells us the specific gravity of the syrup at 220 degrees F. I will try and get a shot of that also. 

Here is the sugar house at quitting time. The cardboard on the floor helps save the knees when shoving wood in the firebox which you have to do about 5-7 minutes. Hope you enjoyed the tour of my syrup operation! 

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