Even though there is between four and six feet of snow on the ground, signs of spring exist. After months of cold, many days dipping below zero, finally, usually in February, the temperatures will rise above freezing. This signals the time to tap Sugar Maple Trees. Today, Saturday February 18, 2017, my partner and I stepped into our snowshoes and we trod through the sticky warm snow to choose the trees and to place the taps. The trees are at least ten inches in diameter. Many are beginning to show signs of decline, with lichen attached to trunks and branches, signaling that these trees are on the declining side of their life cycle.
I carried my pruners and folding saw, a plastic garbage bag full of recycled gallon water jugs, and a shovel. My partner carried a plastic five gallon bucket containing the drill, hammer, taps, and wire. We would choose a tree, then I would break the trail and prune any branches that blocked easy access to the tree. My friend followed and completed the tapping process, drilling about two inches into a tree, hammering in the tap and wiring up the jug while I cut a small hole in the top of a plastic jug, then prepped the next tree area.
A tiny bit of sap did fall into the jugs, confirming our timing.
Tomorrow is Sunday, and the weather forecast is mostly sunny with temperatures between 34 and 44 degrees F. That means the sap will flow. In the morning, we will attend the local Quaker Meeting, and then we will return home and start collecting sap. We will collect it once or twice daily throughout the week, depending on the weather, and next weekend we will begin the rendering process. That entails a long slow boil over an outdoor wood cook stove, with a lot of attention paid to the pot at the end to avoid burning the batch. Approximately 30 gallons of sap make one gallon of maple syrup. The price, and the flavor, is worth every bit of the effort it takes to produce it.