In our initial year of a joint operation, we’re running behind…way behind. Paul and I were in a twisted state of delight and panic as we watched tap numbers 61-166 drip onto the snowpack this weekend. We’d placed these taps on Saturday and then worked feverishly to sundown both Saturday and Sunday to assemble the tubing that carries the sap to our collection points. The dripping crystal droplets taunted us with their sparkles throughout the forest as we worked from tree to tree with our rolls of tubing, tools and collection containers. Thankfully the temperatures will stop the flow this week as we finish the installation and set up more taps.
Quality ahead of quantity is what we’re working for, and so we’d like to get five hundred taps in this year. That amount should give us enough maple sap to produce a quality small batch of spring syrup, and also have some to market (which would be lovely)!
From the tree to the sap house–it’s a longer journey than you’d imagine! Thankfully collection is no longer by bucket. As romantically nostalgic as the sap bucket is, it is a heck of a lot of work. Tubing is a system that gained a strong foothold in the 1960s, and continues to evolve. At basic level, the tubes connect to taps, and drain into a collection tank. Several trees can be strung together on one line or series of lines, thereby making collection from a larger number of trees much more manageable. Contemporary tubing systems often include a vacuum component that applies suction pressure to the sap lines, increasing the amount of sap collected. We’re taking a more natural approach and not intending to utilize a vacuum pump, at least until we’re satisfied that it won’t unduly tax the trees. With the more extreme weather and very droughty summer we recently had, we want to make sure we’re focused on the long-game for the welfare of the trees. At the moment, the large majority of the forest is completely unscathed.
As the temperatures drop back down below 32-degrees all week (and sometimes below zero), we’re ordering more line, tools, connectors and taps. Despite all of the hard work, the delight of seeing the crystal droplets sprinkling the forest floor was worth every bit of effort. It’s the pleasure of the project that will protect us from becoming tapped out—although we’ll likely continue to experience sap stress until the season is over.