“Sugaring season” is a relatively short period of time (anywhere from six to ten weeks, depending on Mother Nature), in the early spring when we process the sap from the maple trees into our wonderful “liquid gold,” maple syrup. So what do we do the rest of the year when the sap isn’t flowing? There is still lots of work to be done!
Preparing the woods
During the off-season in the fall, we have been working in the woods, checking the many miles of pipeline that runs from tree to tree and transports the sap from each tree down to the sugarhouse when spring arrives. We remove any trees, limbs, branches, or other debris that has fallen onto the pipeline. We also fix damage caused by moose and other large animals, who walk right through the pipeline and knock it down. Rodents such as squirrels, chipmunks, and mice like to chew holes in the pipeline. All of this needs to be checked and fixed, and the pipeline has to be cleared of debris before tapping begins.
Tapping the trees
Right after the hubbub of the December holiday season, in the deepest cold of the winter, it is time to begin installing taps in the maple trees. Each year, although the pipeline stays in place, new taps have to be installed in each maple tree. Tapping is done by drilling a small hole in each tree and setting the tap into the hole using a small hammer. At Rock Maple Mountain we have about 20,000 taps, so it takes our tapping crew 6-7 weeks to get all the taps installed, depending on the weather and how much snow we have in the woods. For example, if there is a lot of snow, it takes longer to tap because it is more difficult to get around in the woods. In this situation, snowshoes are worn by the tapping crew to make it easier to get around. If it is really cold (sub-zero), we are unable to tap because the wood is brittle and the drill can split the tree. If we have a wind storm, we sometimes have to go back and check areas we have already tapped to check for pipeline damage and debris.
Our goal is to have tapping completed by mid-February because quite often temperatures warm up enough for us to get a sap run by mid-end February. Stay tuned for more information on making maple syrup!!