By Richard DeVries
The return of the colder weather is a sensitive subject. Therefore I won’t tell you that I am rather excited about it. The Maple syrup season can end in two ways and they both involve warm weather. When it warms up the trees want to leaf out. When the buds are as big as a chipmunk’s ear the sap will turn ‘buddy’ and the season is over. The exact size of a chipmunk’s ear is not scientifically proven but that is what a visitor told me last week. I have been keeping a close eye on the Sugar Maple buds and on the chipmunks and I think we are still good.
The other way the season can end is when the tap hole dries up. People used to think that the tree was closing up the tap hole as part of the healing process. We now know that bacteria like the sugary tree sap and they can seal up the tap hole as they grow. The warmer it is, the faster they grow and the sooner the season is over. It is good practice to keep spiles, storage tanks and equipment clean throughout the season.
Besides the potential of ending the season early, a limited amount of bacteria doesn’t hurt anything. The sap will get cooked for hours and the bacteria will just add to the flavor. It is one of the reasons we get a darker, stronger tasting grade of syrup towards the end of the season. To limit the effects of bacteria we cook down the sap as fast as we can. When I finished the cooking last week I cleaned and scrubbed all the storage tanks, buckets, pumps and pans. So far we evaporated about 1500 gallons of sap and cooked it into 50 gallons of Maple syrup.The colder nights and cooler days this week should give us some nice fresh sap that we can collect in our sparkly clean tanks so it can be cooked down into more delicious syrup.
I don’t want to sound like a warm weather hater, I usually don’t get grumpy until July or August when the deer flies are out. I have to admit that I enjoyed last weeks weather very much. Spring wild flowers are starting to break through the leaf litter. Snow Trillium, Hepatica, Dutchman’s Breeches, Bloodroot and Trout lily can be found in the wildflower garden. Birds have returned in large numbers. I saw a pair of wood ducks high up in an old Maple tree looking at a cavity for a possible nesting site. My favorites were the Sandhill cranes flying overhead, they look like prehistoric birds, making the weird noise that they make. Chorus frogs can be heard in the ponds and wetlands and I found my first Garter snake.
The Maple Syrup season just got extended and spring is on hold for the rest of the week.
Spring can go fast once it is here so I want to encourage everybody to go outside and enjoy it while you can.