After an extremely early beginning to sap flow this year, we at Sapsquatch have finally managed to catch up with all the various tasks it takes to make a go at maple sugaring. Our strategy has been to extend what could be a very long season by tapping 50 or so trees at a time staggered over three weeks beginning on January 25. Taps dry up and begin to heal after about 8 weeks, so our 1/25 taps will be closed by the end of March, while the ones this week will stay open until the bitter end. A long season could take us all the way into mid-April.
We rebuilt our mainline into bush one, lowering it several feet so we could catch sap from trees on flat ground adjacent to our sugarshack. We also extended the same mainline farther up the hill into a new area of sugarbush allowing us to tap another 60 trees. By weeks end, we should have all of these new trees on lines and if all goes well, this will result in our biggest syrup yield ever.
A few years ago, I had a plan to fell a willow tree leaning over Seven Mile Creek which runs about 100 feet from the shack. The plan was to use the log as a bridge allowing us to hang sap buckets on about 30 trees on the far side of the creek. My plan was golden until I felled the tree and it snagged in the branches of a monster black locust tree. For two years, I waited for the willow to dry out and it’s upper branches to break. This fall, I managed to dislodge the but of the log from the stump and a few weeks later it finally fell. Since then, I have begun to saw a flat surface into the top of the log making it a breeze to balance your way across the creek and collect firewood and sap.
Last week, we had two groups of youth from Ithaca visit for a few hours and assist with some tasks around the sugarbush. The first group was 9 home schoolers on their weekly Primitive Pursuits adventure. They helped gather firewood and tapped several trees and hung sap buckets. They even got the evaporator lit using friction fire! We also had 3 sixteen year old girls from GIAC’s (Greater Ithaca Activities Center) Conservation Corps, a green jobs training program. The also hung buckets, but also got to get up on ladders and tap some trees and put them on drop lines. It’s always fun to see how kids who have never seen maple syrup production interact with the sugarbush.
We have boiled three times already beginning on Groundhog Day, February 2. By our last boil, we had produced almost 30 gallons of syrup on the day that just happened to be our first boil last year. Some of this syrup is already claimed, but we are now in full on marketing mode and will be attending a March farmer’s market organized by Stick and Stone Farm. We will be at the Space at Greenstar on Saturdays in March from 11-2. We are also gearing up for New York State Maple Weekends on the last two of March. We host visitors, guide tours of the sugarbush and usually sell a fair bit of syrup.
On a final note, we had the first waffles ever in the sugarshack last weekend! I also made Local Andoulli and Black Bean Chili with maple syrup for dinner the other night. Looking forward to more culinary adventures as the season progresses.