By Richard DeVries
As you have probably noticed, spring has arrived early this year. It was exciting to see the Snow Drop flowers appear as a sign of spring on March 10. It was less exciting to see that the buds on the Maple trees were starting to swell two weeks later. We would have
liked to see sleeping buds for a while longer but the warm weather awoke them. When the leaves on the trees are starting to grow, the Maple syrup season comes to an end. The sap changes, it turns bitter and milky, and it can not be used to cook into Maple syrup any longer.
We stopped collecting sap from our south hill on Sunday, March 17. The sap in the tubing was not moving down the hill and the warm weather made the sap unusable. That same Sunday the sap started to flow more on the north hill. Some buckets that had been empty the whole time filled up to the top that one day. The one hundred trees connected to the tubing and the vacuum system filled up the collecting tank two days in a row. Wednesday, March 21, the sap turned milky on the north side as well and we stopped collecting sap for the season. A season can usually last six weeks but this year we collected sap for about two weeks. Even with small amounts of sap in the collecting tanks we had to pump it out and clean the tanks every day.
We collected a total of 700 gallons of sap and we cooked it down to 15 gallons of delicious pure Maple syrup. On the south side we have already cleaned and removed the tubing. The only things left behind are the small tapholes in the trees. A healthy tree will close the hole and heal itself in one season. On the north side the tubing is still winding through the woods. The spiles are removed from the trees and the tubing has been cleaned. The tubing is sealed and will stay there so we can tap the trees again next year.
It’s time to enjoy spring now, the excitement and motivation for Maple syrup is fading. Next season we can talk about: cooking down the sap, how to make candy, school programs and more Maple syrup. In the summer months, I work in the native areas at the Arboretum. Numerous wildflowers are in bloom and it’s time to burn the prairie.