Maple Syrup: Nature's Spring Tonic. -- Since 1918

Category: 2004: Season 87 Page 1 of 3

2004 Final thoughts

The only consistency with maple syrup season is that every year nature gives us something different. The 2004 maple syrup season at Maple Acres proved that again. Final production numbers: 2345 gallons of sap collected. 52 gallons (208 quarts) of finished maple syrup. Doing the math: it took about 45 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of finished syrup. That’s more than is considered “normal.” The “normal” figure is 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of finished syrup. When more sap is needed it means the sap is less sweet. Our tests during season showed about 2.2 Brix which is a little low. (Note for next year: in January we will have to spread more sugar around the tree roots to get sweeter sap. If only that were true. Nature does all the work and we have no control over it.)

In 2003 we made 75 gallons of maple syrup. 2003 was by all measures an outstanding season. Our production targets are 60 gallons of finished syrup from 400 taps, so at 52 gallons for 2004 we were a little short, about 13.5 % less. But we take what nature gives us. We are still happy with 52 gallons.

The season was marked by three major sap runs with nothing in between. That is unusual. We would normally expect to collect 100 gallons to 200 gallons of sap most days, with one major run toward the end of the season. 2004 gave us runs on March 10-11, March 19-20, and March 23-24 with almost nothing in between. We did most of the tapping on March 10. If we had tapped a few days earlier, we would have collected more from the first run and likely hit the production goals.

It was short season at only 18 days. Tapped on March 10. Pulled spouts on March 27. Most seasons are 25 days to 35 days.

Everything is pretty much cleaned up now and stored. At the end of a season, you are glad its over. Heavy lifting. Long nights. You get tired and vow this will be the last time. Summer comes and goes. In autumn its back to making fire wood. Then the annual North American Maple Syrup Producers meeting comes in October. You meet with other producers from across the maple belt — New England to the upper Mid-west — and swap stories and ideas. But January the buckets start calling you to be cleaned. You know you will be back at it because once you have caught the aroma of the sweet steam rising from the evaporator, you are hooked for life.

See us here on the web at next year starting end of February or early March for reports on the 2005 season.

A day of rest

A day of rest. Next up: clean-up and storing everything. And finishing off the last of the sap and bottling the syrup.

And just like that…it ends

Pulled the taps and picked up the buckets and covers. Its just too warm too fast. Next week we may get freezing nights again, but still. People are getting tired. Its hard work boiling through 500 gallons of sap. Still some sap to boil through. And there is still clean up. When the final production numbers come in we will post them.

Reaching the end of the season?

Too warm today. 55 degrees. Rainy. Low only about 40 degrees. No sap. The end of the season may be fast approaching. We are up to 197 quarts, 49 gallons and 1 quart.

Slowly the production increases

250 gallons of sap today. But it was too warm. 65 degrees and no frost over night. A school group came today. First and second graders. About 22 people total. They picked a good day to visit as we collected, boiled and bottled so they got see pretty much the whole operation. We are at 165 quarts now. Slowly climbing toward our goal of 240 quarts. Here is picture of the sugar shack. That’s steam from the evaporator coming out the top of the building.

500 gallons of sap…and a little math

Another big run of 500 gallons. But this was not as sweet measuring only 2.2 degrees Brix. Typically we expect 2.5 degrees to 2.8 degrees Brix. Sap sweetness is measured on the Brix scale. Brix is a unit measuring the concentration (density) of solids in a sugar solution. 2.5 degrees Brix means that 2.5% of the weight is from sugar and the remaining 97.5% of the weight is from water. Water weights 8 lbs to the gallon. So in 10 gallons sap at 2.5% Brix only 1/4 pound of the total weight is sugar. The rest is water that will get boiled out. When more of the weight is from sugar it takes less boiling to get syrup.

Unpredictable March weather

Dripped a little today. But still a cold North wind. There might be enough to collect tomorrow. Weather forecast for the rest of the week is highs about 50 degrees, but no freezing nights. That’s not good sap weather either. Of course the weather forecasts have been wrong much of March already so the only real way to know what the weather is like is to go outside that day and experience it. We did clean the evaporator pans today to be ready for more sap.

About half way

Cold last night. Down to 10 degrees. And only about 30 degrees today. No sap. There are now about 31 gallons, 124 quarts, of finished syrup. We should be about half way through the season. We expect about 60 gallons, 240 quarts, of finished syrup during an average season from our 400 taps. So 31 gallons is about half way. Of course, nature has a way of changing things so its never certain how much we will get.

Catching up

Cold North wind with highs only in the 20s. No sap today. But that’s OK because we needed a chance to catch up. With 970 gallons of sap collected over the weekend we need a little time to boil that through. There are now 113 quarts bottled with another batch still to be drawn off tonight. Here is a picture of Ned firing the evaporator.

470 more gallons of sap

A busy day. The trees worked overtime again and dripped all night. This is unusual. Nights cool off and the sap stops flowing, but if it doesn’t freeze at night the sap will drip all night. This afternoon we collected 470 gallons more of sap. Definitely a good two day run. Later this afternoon the wind shifted to the North and clouds moved in. Then the sap stopped dripping. But there is still lots of sap to boil down. In the last 24 hours 52 quarts of finished syrup were bottled. There will likely be another 40 quarts or more in the next 24 hours. Another long night ahead.

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