Maple Syrup is made in the springtime when the sap begins to flow from the trees as the weather gets warmer. Our work continues throughout the year to keep our sugarbush healthy.
Tapping Our Trees
We have 5,000 Maple trees on over 106 acres. Our trees are connected by a pipeline which carries the sap from the trees to our sugarhouse. Technology allows us to use vacuum in the pipeline which maximizes the sap volume we get from our trees — this means we can make more maple syrup! In 2012, we switched our trees that were set up with traditional sap buckets to pipeline. The traditional way of making maple syrup with buckets is an important part of maple sugaring history, but is not as efficient as pipeline in today's standards.
A month before we expect the season to start, we put little holes in the trees with small devices called "taps" and these connect to the pipeline for the sap to run into. We use Precision Tappers which allow us to create a perfect hole in the tree, so that no air can get in the tree. This reduces the risk of bacteria getting in the tree and ensures we produce a high quality syrup!
In the Sugarhouse
When all the taps are in the trees, we wait for warm days and cold nights, which will cause the sap to start flowing from the trees and the work in our sugarhouse will begin!
When the sap enters the sugar house it enters a holding tank. Next, it goes into a reverse osmosis machine which extracts 80% of the water from the sap, which leaves roughly 20% of concentrated sap to boil and make syrup. This process saves energy because the sap doesn't have to boil as long to become syrup. Prior to using the reverse osmosis system, we were making between 4 and 5 gallons of syrup per hour. Now, with the reverse osmosis system we make 40 gallons of syrup per hour, which allows us to make our syrup faster while using two-thirds less fuel.
After the sap goes through reverse osmosis, it goes into a big evaporator where the sap boils to the correct density of syrup. It takes on average 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. In the beginning of the season, the syrup is lighter in grade, as the season progresses the syrup becomes darker.
When the syrup has boiled long enough, it enters a tank with a filter press to remove the impurities and sand that were in the sap from the tree. What's left is a pure and delicious maple syrup!
After the sugaring season is over in the spring, we take the taps out of the trees and wash them. The taps need to be removed from the trees after the sugaring season is over to maintain the health of the tree. It is also important to keep the pipeline that connects the trees intact. Weather and animals can damage the pipeline, and we do a thorough check of our lines regularly. We also have a forestry management plan that helps us keep our woods healthy.
The sugaring season lasts on average just 4-6 short weeks, and we need to make as much syrup as we can in this short time. Leaks or damage in our pipelines, caused by weather or animals, can hurt our maple syrup yield by reducing the vacuum pressure, and the flow of sap to our sugarhouse. That's why we recently installed a system called Tap Track, which detects any leaks in our pipelines while the sap is running using wireless satellite technology.
The pressure of the sap flow is displayed to us on a map immediately on our laptop or mobile device. Instead of searching for the problem when our sap flow slows down, Tap Track tells us exactly which sap line to fix and saves us time and sap loss. Maximum sap flow happens within the first two to three hours of a thaw when the weather warms up, which is why it's so important to correct any issues with our pipeline quickly!
Our syrup has been Certified Organic by Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF). That means that we manage our sugarwoods sustainably so that we maintain tree health and ensure long-term preservation of the sugarbush as an ecosystem. Our syrup is made without chemicals or pesticides and everything that comes in contact with our sap and syrup conforms to the rigorous standards of VOF.
Collecting Sap Buckets in 2009
We made a short video of the process of collecting sap buckets in 2009. As you'll see it requires a big crew of people to collect sap buckets.