Maple Syrup

Blog, Sweet, Trees

The wind chill factor temperatures at our maple syrup farm have hovered at around 30 degrees below zero. While we all realize that it does get cold in winter, these extreme temperatures are caused by climate change. Without the unique cycles of warm days and cold nights sap will not flow. Without sap runs, there is no syrup to be made.

We can’t keep doing ourselves in with climate inaction and expect future generations to enjoy maple syrup. Of all farming activities ‘sugaring’ is by far the most weather sensitive—and you can’t do it indoors in a greenhouse.

The maple sugaring crew will be heading into the woods in the next couple of weeks to start tapping the trees for the upcoming maple syrup season. Rolly & Ricky start tapping the trees in their sugarbush in early February (late February is usually the start of the season), hoping to be ready in case it warms up later in the month – which stops the sap flow altogether A good season lasts but a very few weeks—4 to 6 is usual, 4 to 8 with some luck and the right conditions. The majority of maple syrup is often produced the last two weeks of March- when we expect to have many good runs of sap and produce your excellent-tasting syrup. We will tell you whether March treated us well in the second Progress report.

Maple syrup makers abide by the “Rule of 86” — the number 86 divided by the sap’s sugar percentage equals gallons of sap needed for 1 gallon of syrup. A sugar content of 2.5% requires 35 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of syrup, while a sugar content of 1.5% requires 58 gallons. 2% is normal (i.e., it takes 43 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of syrup).

The good news is the industry has managed to cope so far by using new technology—shifting from sap buckets to small tubing connected to each tree and applying a vacuum to remove sap. This prevents bugs from entering an otherwise open hole in the tree, and when the tubing is removed the smaller hole (3/16th instead of 7/16th for buckets) heals faster. As an analogy, think of doctors drawing blood with a hypodermic needle rather than a garden hose. We had to give up the iconic and nostalgic practice of hanging buckets for the sake of the trees and to increase production.

We still use wood to fire the ‘arch’ upon which large pans are supported to boil sap. It’s trickier to manage and control than using oil-fired rigs, but ever so much more pleasant and avoids fossil fuels…and who does not like the smell of a good wood fire? We see using wood as sustainable agriculture, especially since we recycle trees that have fallen or died in the sugarbush. Our farmhouse is totally heated with wood stoves so using wood for sugaring is a natural extension, except those pieces are 48 inches long and split into 3 or 4-inch diameter for rapid burning.

It is sometimes worth getting wet and cold (collecting sap) to get warm and dry (boiling the sap down to maple syrup).

Your Rent Mother Nature® team

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