Making Maple Syrup is not just hanging a bucket on a tree and cooking syrup on a wood fire anymore. The Maple Syrup industry has evolved and has been modernized just like other industries. Research is being done and every year new gadgets are invented.
Last year we decided to take a step back in time by adding the old buckets to our Sugarbush. The buckets are just for looks and nostalgia, it would have been less work to run some tubing down to the Sugar Shack. But I love how the old buckets look on the big Sugar Maples, and I will be happy to empty them by hand. Visitors can find the old trees and old buckets at the beginning of the three mile drive. This is also the starting point of our self guided Maple walk.
Last year we also took a step in the other direction. Not quite into the future, but to what modern Maple Syrup producers use. With a donation from the Auxiliary we purchased a vacuum system. The vacuum system allows for increased sap yield and some producers claim they doubled their production of Maple Syrup.
When the temperature drops into the twenties at night and rises to the forties during the day the Sugar Maples build up pressure inside their trunk. When the pressure inside the trunk is higher than the barometric pressure, sap will start to drip out of any fresh wounds in the tree. Wounds like broken branches and frost cracks but also our tap hole.
The vacuum system allows us to lower the pressure inside the tubing. Now the tree will give us sap when the pressure inside the trunk is higher than the pressure inside the tubing. We still need the temperatures to bounce up and down, but when it’s an average day for the sap to flow, the vacuum system will make it a good day. When the buckets, bags and gravity tubing stops dripping, the vacuum lines will drip for a while longer. When it’s a great day for sap, the vacuum system doesn’t make much difference.
The University of Vermont has done a lot of research on vacuum systems and their effects on wound recovery and tree health. When the vacuum guidelines are followed, research shows that there is no negative effect to the tree’s health.
We limited our vacuum system to a hundred trees. For us it is more about education and showing visitors that there is more to sap collecting than just buckets. With these new additions you can find four different ways to collect sap. We have the old buckets, gravity tubing and the vacuum system. Next week the school groups will start their field trips and they use the blue sap bags. I think this makes us the most diverse Sugarbush in the midwest.
You can find the vacuum system next to the Sugar Shack. Feel free to stop by and say hi, most of us Sugar makers are rather friendly.