Maple Life, A Note from our Naturalist, Phil Miller
The first third of winter is usually the darkest and coldest part of the year. We are used to days without temperatures reaching above freezing. It is the dormant season, but by early February, the engine of nature that will bring forth life begins to stir.
As the sunlight increases a few minutes more each day, the daytime temperatures creep above freezing. This causes the frozen sap in the sugar maple trees to run up and down the sapwood layer, just under the bark, from the tips to the roots and back. Sweet things are rare in the natural world. In our part of the world, this is the native sweetener, maple syrup.
The trees are very productive. We drill a small hole into the sapwood, and we can hang a bucket and lid on it, to take some of the great excess energy in the form of watery, sweet sap. We boil the sap in our stainless steel wood fired evaporator to remove the water via the steam it becomes, and when finally reaching the proper temperature and density, we have maple syrup. We then put it through a woolen filtration system to remove sugar sand, and we grade the finished product by color. Each successive batch is slightly darker than the previous one. This is a reflection of how the trees are utilizing their own production.
Sugar farming is fun, and it is also a lot of work keeping the sugarhouse going. Because sap flow is predicated on weather conditions, you can become an intense weather observer, noting changes in temperature, cloud cover, barometric pressure, and moon cycle, among the many factors which affect the flow.
We will have several open houses at the Bushy Hill Sugarhouse on Saturdays, February 17th, February 25th and March 3rd, from 10:00 to 2:00. The first hour will feature outdoor cooking demonstrations by naturalist Phil Miller.