We have approximately 900 taps in our sugarbush located at the feet of the Green Mountain in Starksboro, Vermont.
Sugaring season begins in March or April, when the nights are still below freezing but the days are warmer. This shift in temperature promotes the pumping on the sap from the roots, where it is stored during freezing temperatures, to the branches where it reaches the new buds and feeds the young, developing leaves. As the sap moves from roots to branches and back, we collect a little bit through a hole (the tap) we place few feet above the ground. We usually collect 15 to 20 gallons er tree and select only adult trees s the tree is not damaged from our tap. The tap is connected to a plastic pipe (sugarline) that uses gravity to bring the freshly harvested sap into a large container in our sugarhouse. Our lines are quite long so we use a pump to facilitate the work done by gravity. As the sap comes in we use a special large pan heated by wood (the arch) to slowly boil the sap and make the water in the sap evaporate so that we can collect the precious syrup.
The color of the syrup is used to determine the quality (golden, amber, dark and very dark) and it depends on the concentration of sugar in the sap, which changes with the weather when the sap is harvested. Not one type is better than the rest, it all depends from your preference. Golden is the one with the most delicate taste and very dark has the strongest.
The boiling down of the sap (sugaring) is a long and laborious process, especially if you use wood, like us. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. Once the arch is activated the fire needs to be kept alive until all the sap is reduced to syrup. During this period of time, sugarworkers are attending the fire, checking for holes in the sap lines (red squirrels are our worst enemies), and bottling syrup around the clock. In Vermont, this is the time of the sugaring widows. The length of the season varies and depends exclusively on the weather. In 2014 we had a very short season with only 2 weeks of good sap flow. Fortunately it was a sap very rich in sugar so we did not need as much to make our syrup.
MAINTAINING THE FOREST
As you can imagine, there is a lot more to sugaring than just tapping tees, collecting sap and boiling down the syrup. During winter we lay down new sugar lines, decide what new trees to tap and maintain the roads that are covered in snow during sugaring (and during winter). In summer we clean up the sugarbush from dead trees, fallen trees and identify new maple trees that need space to grow stronger (we clear the area around them from other trees). Fall is usually busy with collecting, blocking, splitting and stacking the wood that we need during sugaring.
COME TO VISIT!
By adopting a tree you support not only the making of the syrup but the maintenance of the sugarbush. As a patron of the sugarbush, you are welcomed to join us for free for one of the guided nature walks, snow walks and special events (pancake breakfast, moonlight walks in the snow, maple dinners) that we host throughout the year. Please check out the events page for a list of the upcoming (and past) events.