Sugarmaking Tips and Tricks

| 4/16/2015 8:34:00 AM

Tags: Minnesota, Julie Fryer, maple tapping, sugarmaking, maple syrup, sugaring,

Well, we’ve finally put a cap on this maple tapping season! All-in-all, I’d say it was a success . . . we had some weird weather, though, in Minnesota and parts of the upper Midwest that really wreaked havoc with the sap flow. First it was below-freezing well into the normal tapping season and then about 10 days after we finally tapped trees, we had a full week of above 65 degrees F+ temperatures! This heat wave all but shut down the sap flow for that week, proving that we really do need that freeze/thaw cycle. The third week of March was more cooperative with normal temperatures and we were getting a lot of sap from each taphole BUT that previous warm weather caused the trees to bud out, ending the season for good.

Beyond the weather we can’t ever control, I did learn a few things from this season. I guess you can teach an old sugarmaker new tricks! I thought I’d share these with you in my blog so you can learn from my experience (and hopefully not make these same mistakes yourself).

Lesson No. 1: Mark your trees in the fall. I look out into the sugarbush and I think I’ll remember exactly where my favorite trees are but once those leaves fall off (and it’s freezing cold or windy), all the trees start to look the same. Last fall when each tree was in full leaf, we took a roll of marking ribbon and tied it around the trees we’d tap in the spring. This is especially helpful if you’re tapping on a new piece of property. You can find this inexpensive, brightly colored, and weather-resistant marking tape at just about any home center, hardware store, or online.

One caveat: This tape is also used by surveyors and each color represents something they’ve marked (for instance, blue indicates a water line). So, if you happen to be marking trees in areas under construction or about to be surveyed, your ribbons might confuse contractors working in that area.

Lesson No. 2. Buy a backup thermometer. It only took me three years to figure this one out! Maybe I’m the only fumble-fingers out there but I can count on dropping my thermometer into the pan at least once during the season. And, surprisingly those digital thermometers don’t work very well once they’re submerged in boiling sap. Last year, I was only about 6° away from my target when it happened so I had to stop my boil, drive to town, and pick up another thermometer. Well, fool me twice and I’ll finally get smart. This year I bought two thermometers and, guess what? I ended up needing it during our last boil!

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