By Richard DeVries
Last Friday I thought I could ease into the Maple Syrup season and get organized for the volunteers to come on Saturday. Apparently everybody has Friday’s off, and dedicated as the volunteers are, they all came on Friday morning.
We started with installing the tubing on our south facing hill above the Sensory Garden. First we had to make some changes to the main tubing at the bottom of the hill because we changed the location of our sap collecting tank. Last fall we installed a permanent post to secure the bigger blue tubing that brings the sap to the tank. Unlike other years I am pretty sure that this particular post will not tip over when the tubing fills with sap and the ground starts to thaw.
Another change we tested this year was to keep the droplines on the tubing. In previous years we would detach all the droplines from the tubing at the end of the season. The dropline is a short length of tubing that connects the sugar Maple to the network of tubing that brings the sap from the Sugar Maple to the sap tank at the bottom of the hill.
We were prepared to deal with a big tangled ball of tubing in the middle of the woods but everything went smooth.
The plan we came up with involved two teams stretching the tubing from tree to tree and one team following behind tapping the trees.
On the south hill we have thirteen lateral lines that we stretch from tree to tree going higher and higher up the hill. All the trees are marked to remind us where we should be headed with the roll of tubing. Every year the same trees get connected to the same tubing so we don’t have to make too many changes. By lunchtime all the tubing was stretched criss cross between the trees and the tapping crew was already done tapping the trees from line one through line eight.
In the afternoon we had two crews tapping the remaining trees on the south hill. We use cordless drills to drill a small hole in the tree. With a hammer we gently tap a spout in the hole. In previous years we had to connect the droplines to the tubing by pushing it on a little connector that is installed at every tree in the lateral lines. Without the proper tool It is impossible to push the cold stiff tubing onto the connector. We would always warm up the dropline in a thermos with hot water to make it a lot easier. Because we left the droplines on the tubing we could skip this step and the actual tapping went a lot faster.
While the two crews finished tapping the hundred Sugar Maples on the south hill, one crew inspected the tubing on our north hill. On this side we have a more modern vacuum system setup. The tubing stays up year round, which was also something new to us.
I’ll describe the vacuum system setup in the next post.