At CWF we are tapping our maple trees and collecting the maple sap to make our delicious maple syrup.
Last year we noticed the sugar maples ran first and the hard maples brought up the end of the very short season. This year not one of our sugar maples is running very much but oh those hard maples you barely get the hole in but the sap is spewing out everywhere while putting the tap and the bag on.
We have noticed a lot of wind and storm damage to the trees this year, lots of widow making branches and trees uprooted and leaning against other trees. We try to keep up with down trees in our woods but some of the woods we tap we do not own and with today’s wind advisory we must be very cautious while we tap and collect.
Mark & I still tap the old way we are not like some who run plastic tube lines from tree to tree and vacuums through the woods. Not only do we tap our woods and trees but we tap my aunt & uncles woods, and several of our friends woods in south west Marion county with one woods in northern Marion county. We spend 3-4 days tapping and hanging bags last year we had 750 taps we hope for more since we picked up a couple more woods this year, our goal is to have about 1400-1500 taps. It will keep us very busy.
Mark & I walk the woods with our mid size wagon we pull behind us. We carry five gallon buckets to collect in and then take it back to the road where our truck is parked and fill a large tank with the sap. It is a long and tedious process and you’d think with all that physical work we would manage to shed a few pounds. After we fill our tank up we then haul it to a friend who has an evaporator and we help boil the sap. Running the evaporator is a lot of work also, with stoking the fire box every few minutes and making sure we have lots of wood to burn. Then running from one end to the other to check gages, steam output, boiling, and of course to keep the foam from boiling over, again you’d think with all that exercise we would shed a few more pounds.
Having married a city slicker I have found it difficult to persuade my husband in to acquiring a team of horses. I have shown him at some of our friends farms how instrumental a team of horses are and he enjoys watching them however he is not convinced we should have a team of horses. To get my point across I allow hubby to do most the pulling of the cart through the woods when it is loaded with full five gallon buckets of sap. I generously offer to pull it when the buckets are empty after all I am no dummy. I figure he will more quickly see the reality of a good team of horses if he has to pull all the heavy loads himself. The older he gets the more he appears to entertain the thought as he asks me about horse breeds, wagons, harness and the cost associated with care. Of course I tell him it all evens out in the end and as my grandparents, and my parents always said while growing up -“ there is nothing so good for the inside of a person as the outside of a horse”. I remember many times burying my head in the neck of our horses growing up, hours spent brushing, choring, training, riding, driving showing and just plain having fun with our horses. How calming and enjoyable it always was.
I think Mark was turned off of horses by my Arabian stud Kojie. When we first started seeing each other he was in the barn while I was choring our horses. Kojie had his head over his stall door making faces at Mark. Mark thinking he wanted attention obliged him only to be met with a quick nip and pinch on the shoulder something Kojie was famous for with strangers. Needless to say it made Mark quite shy of horses not that he needed much persuasion in that regard. The stories I could tell about Mark’s first visits to my parent’s farm would keep you in stitches. I save those for another day.
We will be boiling sap probably tomorrow and I can’t wait to smell the sugar shack with maple sap turning ever so slowly into that sweet brown amber goodness. Ever since I was a little girl I have loved to smell the steam from boiling maple syrup as it boils in the pans of the evaporator. It fills your nasal sensory and that is all I smell every where I go all season and my mouth waters for the taste of waffles or pancakes with melted butter and fresh warm maple syrup.
We hope this year will be good to us and afford us a longer maple season. Last year we started tapping around the 10th of February and the season was done by the 3rd of March not quite 3 weeks. One of the shortest seasons I can remember. We hope syrup season goes through the end of March this year. Even though our maple sales were very good we are getting down to our last few gallons of syrup. We did cut back making a lot of our maple candy and nuts this past year to save some on our maple so we could continue to offer our syrup and maple cream.