Today I tapped the maple trees. Bright sun, mild breezes and a temperature around 44 F made the sap run strong and steady. I hiked down to the woods through knee deep snow, hitting a few drifts that came up to my thighs. It was so warm I didn’t need a coat!
The drilling of the tap holes I do with an antique hand-operated bit and brace. The hole is fitted with a metal spile, a spout to guide the sap from the tree into the bucket. Once the trees are tapped, the maple orchard is filled with the sound of sap dripping into metal buckets. I love collecting sap in this old-fashioned manner. Makes me think of my ancestors, the hardy New Englanders who toiled in much the same manner.
There are 23 taps, enough to make a gallon of maple syrup a day if the sap runs well. One gallon of syrup requires about 40 gallons of sap. Some days it doesn’t flow very well due to weather conditions. High winds or a daytime temperature below 40 F can slow the sap.
This year’s season is late. January, February and March were all colder than normal and very snow filled. We had a couple days here and there in the past two weeks when sap would flow. All the maple syrup producers in the state are complaining. The season sometimes starts in early February.
The next week to ten days will be our season. After that, the temperatures will go too high. Once it doesn’t freeze at night, the trees begin to bud. The sap turns dark and bitter, signaling the end of the season. In the next few days I hope to make three to four gallons of maple syrup. We’ll see how it goes.