The maple syrup season here in Maine is underway. Well, some people actually tapped their trees as early as the end of January, early February this year. It has been a very different winter throughout the country and we are no exception. We never had any really cold temperatures. There were a few nights below zero but those came and went rather quickly.
So, I looked at the forecast and it looked like we were in for a streak of below freezing temperatures at night and 40-50 during the day. This is perfect sap weather. I came home from work and tapped the trees. By the time I was finished I was using the headlamp to see but you have to do things when you can.
My dear husband was off work the next day and he got the cooker set up. Right now we are using a propane outdoor cook stove that we got on sale at Cabala's a couple years ago. Eventually I want to build a rocket stove system to do this. We have so much small twigs and other wood scraps around here that I could boil the sap without paying for fuel. For now though this is the easiest for us to manage.
I get the sap boiled down to almost ready to put up and then I bring it into the house to finish. We are not a fancy operation and I don't have a hydrometer (measures the amount of water in the sap) but I probably should invest in one. I just go on the color and taste to determine if the syrup is ready to bottle. We don't actually like it too think or too dark so ours is probably bottled a little earlier than the big guys who try to be very consistent with their product. Ours is only for our personal use and it is what we like. The biggest reason we like it a little thinner is that it soaks into the waffles and pancakes much better. We also get more since we are not boiling it down as much.
I have a total of 11 taps in this year. This is the most that I have done but having the outdoor cooker will make this possible. I could have tapped many more due to the fact that there is no snow on the ground. This makes it much easier to get to the maple trees that are around the house. Every tap that we have is out and I guess I need to buy some more. We do it the old fashioned way with taps and jugs hanging on the taps. Many producers use a tubing system which works really well and if set up correctly will direct all the sap into one very large collection container which makes picking up the sap for transport back to the sugar house very easy for them. Some small producers use the tubing in a different way. They tap and just run a length of tubing from the tap into a five gallon bucket that sits at the base of the tree. Since I use one gallon jugs it means that I need to collect at least twice a day when the sap is really running so that my jugs aren't overflowing and the precious sap is landing on the ground. Having a five gallon collection bucket allows for once a day collection. I have a lot of gallon jugs and not many five gallon ones so for now we will continue to collect twice a day.
Making maple syrup is not hard work but you cannot neglect it. The season is relatively short and like most things on the homestead, it is so worth it.