This time of year, when cabbage curls in the remnants of the fall garden, the silent production of sap by sugar maple trees is evidenced on the farm by so many bottles and jugs collecting the precious, sweet liquid. Indistinguishable from water to the eye, the refreshing taste is like drinking nature's sweet tea, right from the tree.
The trees were tapped on the new moon, January 12, and we have been collecting sap ever since. The weather regulates the sap flow, and the trees quit when it's either cold or warm both day and night. But when it's cold overnight, then the mercury rises and the sun warms the trees, we're collecting and cooking sap day and night from all over the farm, into a 35 gallon tank strapped into the Gator. When conditions are right, we have harvested 84 gallons from 84 taps in one day, enough to make 2 gallons of maple syrup.
Our sugar shack is a converted corn crib. Inside are two 25-gallon stainless sinks converted to cooking vats. We run a wood fire that give the syrup a unique flavor. Asked to describe sugaring in a nutshell, Barry says it's 5% tapping trees, 15% collecting sap, 25% finishing it off, and 55% splitting firewood!