As a farmer you have to take each season as it comes. The challenges faced often differ with each passing year, but some things never change. There’s an expectation of being left to the whims of the weather patterns. Coping with certain annual pests is always a part of the routine. And, you know something is going to break at some point, that’s a given. It will break, and then break again. But what should be taken into account, but never seems to be is how the season always comes sooner than expected.
With that introduction, we declare Pietree Maple Sugar Season officially begun. Before you get any crazy notions in your head, we won’t be tapping trees or boiling syrup any time soon. But, there is a lot of interesting goings on in the woods right now. Leaf peeping is just as vibrant in the sugar bush, and allows us an opportunity to confirm the species of maple that were flagged for tapping the previous winter. It gives us a better look at canopy growth (that’s the tops of the trees) to do selective thinning of competing species- such as beech, hemlock, and birch. Leaving a mix of species is still important, because it encourages biological diversity in the woodlot and reduces the spread of pests and disease.
We also use this time of no snow and comfortable temperatures to cut and trim out new transport lanes. These are simply passageways that will be utilized during the maple season to hang tubing and for crews to travel along. Marking out the lanes and hanging wire is not as simple as it first sounds. The goal is to have our transport lines channel the sap that’s collected from the trees along a 2-5% downward grade towards the collection site. That means a 2’-5’ drop over every hundred feet traveled. Not wanting to regularly hang wire and 1” plastic tubing over 25’ up in the air, this becomes even more of a challenge because our sugar bush is actually bowl shaped. It might difficult, but having the lanes makes it immensely easier.
Closely following the cutting of lanes is hanging wire; then hanging pipe; then hanging the clear tubing people more commonly associate with maple sap collection. All the while we are cleaning blow downs and repairing damage to existing tubing. And in case you were wondering, squirrels are not our friends. There is still a lot to do before the sap runs.
That’s just a brief glimpse at what Pietree Maple Crew is up to right now. Maybe the seasons sneak up on us here at Pietree because as farmers we are always looking ahead and prepping for the next season before it arrives. Even though the cold of winter is only starting to look our way, fresh maple syrup is around the corner.