The 2017 maple sugaring season at Frost Valley has recently come to an end. This season was an interesting one. The sap flowed at a slow and intermittent pace, but the season endured for longer than usual. The season got off to an early start with sap collection beginning in mid February. We fired up the evaporator for our first boil on February 22nd and concluded with our last boil on April 5th. By the end of the season we had boiled 14 times and produced a total of 290 gallons of syrup.
This type of season is in stark contrast to the season we experienced last year. The 2016 season started with our first boil on Feb 22nd, the exact same date as this year. The end of the season, however, came on March 10th, almost a month earlier! In addition to being a shorter season, 2016 saw much faster sap flow. In that short time we only boiled 7 times and were able to produce 259 gallons of syrup. Compare that with this year’s season length, number of boil times, and total syrup production. The difference is remarkable.
What caused such a drastic difference in the length of the last 2 seasons? The answer is, simply, the weather.
- The weather warmed up so quickly in 2016 that the trees began to leaf out earlier than usual. Freezing temperatures cause sap to travel out of the treetops and back into the roots. When the temperature stops dropping below freezing on a regular basis, the trees keep more of their sap in their crowns. This sap provides nutrients needed to produce the leaves. After a few days in a row without a freeze, much of the tree’s sugar starts going to the leaves. This causes the sugar content of the sap to start to drop. In addition to the sap getting less sugary as it gets warmer, we also start to get less and less sap actually coming out of the trees. Without constant freezing and thawing, a tree doesn’t experience the pressure differences needed for sap to flow as rapidly through the trunk, causing a decrease in the amount of sap a tree will expel from a tap hole.
- Alternatively, the 2017 season saw a much longer period of freezing and thawing. This gave us a much longer window of time to collect sap. However, our average daily sap collection was much lower. Many of our days this season would rise above freezing for a few hours in the afternoon before dipping back down below freezing in the early evening. We even had an 8 day cold snap in the middle of the season that completely halted sap collection!
All in all, it was great season. We had a lot of fun and made a lot of delicious syrup. Making maple syrup is certainly a lot of work, but the sweet smell of boiling maple sap filling the sugar house and the finished product drizzled over a warm stack of pancakes makes it all worth it. Maple sugaring is a great way to welcome spring after a long winter!