A lot of people know what it’s like to visit a sugar house, particularly if you live in New England. But the real work that goes into making maple syrup begins in the woods several weeks before any sap flows from the trees.
Today we spent another day in the woods. It was a beautiful day for it, albeit a little windy. At times it felt like we were transported into the middle of the Disney story of Winnie the Poo and the Blustery Day. (https://youtu.be/p60buJnFUuI) Our son actually was a little scared by the trees swaying and creaking in the wind. I didn’t admit it to him, but I was too! The warm January thaw temperatures today made working barehanded tolerable. It’s amazing how 47 degrees Fahrenheit can feel balmy in January but downright frigid in September.
At one point in time, folks used buckets hanging on each tree. We still keep a few of these around the house for the kids to gather and for nostalgia, but mostly we use tubing. It is certainly more efficient. Like many maple producers, we use a combination of different sized tubing to get the sap from the tree to the gathering tanks. We have thousands of feet of tubing, or sap lines, weaving through our woods to carry the sap from the trees to the gathering tanks.
Today we reworked some of our sap lines, pulled off any limbs or branches that had fallen on them, and added new taps–160 of them to be exact! Each year we have to fix lines. The biggest issue in the woods, however, is not limbs or branches. It’s squirrels! Those nutty little furballs are destructive. They chew holes in the lines, which you can imagine is not super helpful. We have a whole new appreciation for Carl Spackler.
While some folks sit down on their couch in the evening to watch TV, perhaps Caddyshack, and eat popcorn, this time of year we sit on the couch and make “drops”. Drops connect the tree to the line that goes to the gathering tank of sap. We assemble them at home, prior to heading into the woods, because January days in New Hampshire are short and it is important to make every moment of daylight in the woods count. Clearly, we know how to have fun!
Each year we learn a little more, grow a little more and make a few improvements over the year before. And for us, it is a family event. It gives us the opportunity to spend time together, out in the woods, without distractions. (Other than the chatty squirrels running around eating acorns. Squirrels are certainly a distraction.) And at the end of the day, we are rewarded with a beautiful sunset. Today, we just caught the last glimpse.