So this winter was great for most people. No shoveling, no power outages, no schools closed. There were days in January and February where one could wear no jacket and pretend it was May. But not everyone enjoyed our little winter that never was.
The maple trees we love didn’t get their well deserved rest. They didn’t go into their winter slumber that usually happens as New England slips into its long deep freeze. The ground never froze and we only had a few daytime temps in the 20s. This means the sugar reserves in the tree didn’t build up, which is proved out as we have done numerous tests on trees in our area. Typically at the end of February just before tapping, we would see the likes of 3.5% to 4.0% sugar in the sap. But now we are only seeing 1%. Using the “Rule of 86” that means that rather than needing just over 21gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup (86/4=21.5) at the beginning of the season, we are starting out with needing 86 gallons of sap to make that same gallon of syrup (86/1=86). And it only goes downhill from there as the season progresses. The earliest we ever set taps was February 27, and that was in 2008. But there are many producers today that are already 2 or 3 weeks into this strange season. It feels odd that we are near the end, when we shouldn’t have even started yet.
So with all of this, Kathy and I had to make a hard decision. With all of the labor and costs and preparation it takes to setup lines through the woods, tap trees, collect through the season, clean up the lines after season and take them down and store them… it just wasn’t worth all of that for 100 gallons to 1. So this year, 2012, for the first time ever we are doing the unthinkable… we are not tapping trees. There will be no 2012 syrup production.
But that is where the bad news ends, so keep reading…
During our thought process, we did consider not opening the doors at all, but it just didn’t seem right to break all traditions. So we are going to do tours, we are going to teach, we are going to do samples and we ARE GOING TO HAVE FUN!!
You may be asking yourself how we can do tours without sap. Well, we hate to think we have to do this but in the vein of full disclosure, we are going to boil water in the back pan (sap pan) of the evaporator and we will boil sap in the front pan (syrup pan). Sap? What sap? Well, if you think about how we get to syrup by taking the water out, we get to sap the exact opposite way. By doing this, when you walk into the sugar house you will get the same steamy sweet smell to refresh your senses. And we will still be able to do all the math and science.
Our tours will be the same as always. Roughly 50-75 minutes depending on crowd participation and how much enthusiasm I can drag out of you. We will cover the history of maple, importance of agriculture, the role sap plays in the tree, tapping, tubing and collection, evaporation and all the math/science around that, finishing, filtering, bottling. And then a primer on making maple cream, candy and sugar. And in case you were getting nervous, we will still do 7 samples along the way.
Our tour times will be a little more structured this year. We will do tours every Saturday and Sunday during the month of March. Tours will begin at 9:00am and run every 90 minutes. So to be clear; 9:00am, 10:30am, Noon, 1:30pm, 3:00pm. If you get there a little late for one tour, no problem, just jump onto the one going and then catch the part you missed at the beginning of the next tour.
As far as product, we have everything. Maple syrup in all grades, maple cream, maple candy and maple sugar. Thanks to the great yield we had in 2008, we are still able to satisfy our customers with all the sweet goodness.
We wish the winter had been different but lets make lemonade out of lemons. We are very excited to see all the regulars and a bunch of new faces this year. We will still have all the old jokes, but I will try hard to come up with a new one. And we want to thank everyone for supporting local agriculture.