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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Budded or Not - When to Stop Tapping Maple Trees

     This year, 2012, has been unseasonably warm for winter.  It's almost time to stop tapping the maple trees though there may be another week left from the looks of the weather.  I could kick myself around the proverbial block for not setting the taps in the trees in January.  January was ideal sugar weather - days in the fifties and night in the twenties.  I did not tap the trees, however, because there was always the risk that our winter here in the Northeast U.S. would have finally come in full force.  The trees might have stopped running and the taps holes might have started to heal over.  So I waited until mid Frebruary, the time we usually tap trees in Pennsylvania.
     So far I have three quarts of maple syrup in the refrigerator.  It will keep for a year or more if refrigerated.  We don't usually have to think about that too much, though, becauese we use it up.
     We have several varieties of maples trees on our property - some better than others for syrup, but they all drip sap and all that sap is good when boiled down.  Unfortunately, I haven't really paid attention to the types of trees we have.  This summer when the leaves are on, I'll come back and edit this post with the names of the types of maples we have.  But here is what I know on observation for how they give sap, when they bud and when it is time to pull the taps and plug the holes.
This tree on the right hand side of this article, sits in the front corner of our yard.  It's always the first to bud.  It actually started looking "nervous" in January but it always gives the sweetest sap - tastes sweet right out of the tree - so I tapped it anyway.  By March 1, 2012, the buds had started to open.  I had pulled the taps the week before.  Also, the sap it put forth was taking on an amberish tint.  When that happens I always pull the taps.  The syrup would not taste sweet then.  It would taste woody or "buddy" as the pros call it.
     The tree branch pictured at the left has just started showing some buds.  It's dripping very slowly now.  It gives a decent sap, not so sweet as the front yard tree, the one that buds early, but earlier than the trees down by the creek.  It's still running clear sap, but had slowed down considerably.  I'll probably pull the tap on this one tomorrow.
     The trees down by the creek are still dripping sap and have not budded, nor do they show signs of budding yet.  These may hold out for the rest of the week.  We still have days in the fifties predicted with cold nights.  I might be able to get another quart out of them.
     This year would have been a banner year for syrup had I tapped in January.  I feel like the calander is slipping sideways.  Maybe it's better just to stand outside, feel the air and the sun, and be more instinctive about tapping trees than to watch the calendar these days.
     Anyways, I'll be boiling some sap down tonight - I just don't know how much.

    

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Comments on this blog are welcome. Ask questions, post your own experiences about the subject, post recipes, helpful tips, stories. Thanks! ~Bev