For weeks now, it's been the topic of conversation at the feed store, at the gas station and from the rolled-down windows of the pick up trucks passing by. You tapping yet? The question itself a harbinger of the end of winter days. There's a short window of time - 3 weeks or so - once a tap goes in before the hole begins to close up and the tree begins to heal. Trying to predict precisely when those best three weeks are going to be - when the nights are below freezing and the days above (so that the sap fully cycles through the tree and 'runs') - is everybody's guess. A careful survey of the weather forecast, a little bit of watching to see what the neighbors are doing and saying....and then you just go for it. Or at least, that's the "science" behind our tapping date.
We got a start this weekend, in a light snowfall, on our own trees. With a new (to us) evaporator to step up our game a little bit from years past, more taps in than we've ever done before, and a good winter behind us, we're hopeful about a good run this year. I am mostly proud to report that (so far) I did not tap a single oak tree. Ahem. Still learning, I am.
We'll put the rest of the taps in over the next couple of days, and then...then it's on. We empty the buckets each day on a walk through the woods that gets our blood pumping (that's a lot of sap to lug). When the storage drums are full, the boiling begins - which involves friends, warm fires, popcorn and cocoa while watching the sap boil. At the end of all of that, there may just be a decent stash of maple syrup on the shelves to last us through the seasons to come (or at the least, until honey harvest time). There's a whole lot to love about maple sugaring time!