There are 2 signs that your sugar season's over:
1. the trees don't give you sap, either because they just don't, or you don't have weather conditions conducive to sap flow
2. sap/syrup quality: sap collected after the trees have budded will not make good-tasting syrup.
Yesterday's sap journal post expressed the eternal optimism of the sugar maker, based entirely on the weather forecast at that time.
However, by the end of the day Easter Sunday, it was pretty obvious that the trees had very much enjoyed this warm spell.
You may not be able to see it in the picture, but these sugar maple buds have not only plumped up, they have elongated. The bud scales have separated, indicating that the trees have shifted into growth state. This is what's referred to as "budding" and it signals the end of the sugar season.
Once the trees reach this stage, there is no going back.
So even if this cold snap brings on a sap run, we know based on bud development that we can't make good syrup. The season's over.
We just have to wait til next year.
We find it both fascinating and humbling that no matter how you go about maple sugaring, whether you're on buckets, or gravity-fed tubing, or high-efficiency vacuum sap collection system, everything comes down to the trees and the weather - forces that remain, ultimately, mysterious.
Maple syrup really is a gift.
We began collecting sap late February and did our last boil on April 12. It was exactly the same as last year, only our production was a little less.
We end our season at almost 80% of an average crop, but we remain incredibly grateful.
So the forecasted cold snap hasn't happened yet. (originally predicted for this Easter Weekend).
But...they are calling for below-freezing temperatures the middle of this coming week, and then warm-enough temps during the day. This week will tell the tale.
We're going to see what the trees think of that. We'll keep you posted!
The trees, so far, say it's not over. We've been collecting sap over the last couple of days.
We'll be doing another boil today.
The first boil was Feb 25 - this is an unusually long season!
We'll just see what the next few days bring.
There's still a fair bit of snow on the ground. Bud development looks like it's started but still early. Once the buds have swollen, at some point, the sap chemistry changes and the syrup you make isn't great anymore.
Remember, up here at Sugar Moon Farm, we're "behind" places at a lower elevation. Snow in the woods, trees just beginning to bud, versus trees already flowering in some parts of the province.
Spring takes its sweet time up here and we love it.
Almost everybody's really happy with this week's forecast of warm temperatures...except your local maple producers.
This week of mild weather has the same impact as the cold weather in March: no sap.
The temperatures have stayed above zero for the last three days, so the run has faded to a trickle. We need another cold snap to prime the trees for another run.
The syrup we made yesterday doesn't give any indication that the season's over. Both colour and flavour are one would expect to get right in the middle of a sugar season, not the end.
So we're not going to call it a season just yet. We'll wait for a couple of cold snaps and the trees should run again.
Next weekend, Easter, we're open Fri-Sat-Sun-Mon 9 to 5. Sounds like good sugaring weather that weekend - we'll keep you posted.
It was great working with Bob yesterday. Made delicious mid season syrup.
Well the sap ran enough over the past day that we have tankful ready for boiling on Saturday. Yay! We'll be firing up late morning.
Extra special is that Bob Williams, our mentor and original owner of the farm, will be working with Scott on the boil, firing the evaporator, just like old times.
Bob moved to Earltown from Vermont in 1973 and bought this 200 acre farm with the intention of turning it into a maple syrup operation.
He built the first sugar camp up behind our existing one and a timber-frame house and barn. Raised two boys here. Built the existing sugar camp in 1986 and opened a little pancake house in 1987.
When we met Bob in 1994, he was ready to move on to another challenge and was looking for the right people to take over.
Scott and I had met at Ranger School in 1986 and had been looking for some land since then.
Our meeting was timely and memorable. We were the right people at the right time, and entered a two-year apprenticeship with Bob, learning the crafts of making maple syrup over a wood-fired evaporator and horse-logging.
Ever since March 15, we've seen only dribs and drabs of sap interspersed with freezing temperatures.
Finally, after two days of brilliant sunshine and 5 degree temperatures, we've got enough sap for a boil today.
The warm-up forecast for Friday onward ought to be interesting. Scott expects that we'll continue to get some sap, but how much will be up to the trees.
Now our concern is that we are going into above zero temperatures for an extended period with no sub-zero temperatures predicted. That, of course, will move the trees ever closer toward budding, and the end of the season...IF the weather forecast holds.
And we all know how accurate the long-range forecasts have been this year!
The "dry" spell continues.
Despite the beautiful sunny weather, the temperatures still haven't been able to get above zero.
We're just watching the long range and waiting for spring to break again.
For what it's worth, in 2004 the season kicked off at the beginning of March and then shut down for 23 days.
We're nowhere close to that yet.
Luckily the difference this year is that we've alnmost 1/2 an average crop.
We have lots of yummy maple products available up here and are open Friday-Saturday-Sunday. Fridays continue to be the quieter day, if you're looking to avoid a wait for the dining room. And we still recommend visitors coming before 11 am or after 2 pm for a shorter wait for a table.
It's a winter wonderland out here. We got LOTS of snow with this past blizzard. A little sap before it started, but not enough to boil
Again, it's a waiting game!
We're not alone, of course. Anyone else making syrup in these parts is waiting for warmer temps!
Sweet Scott. What would we do without you?
Hope the day is calm and the sap plentiful.
We love you!!
Scott and Christopher are finishing up a boil right now down at the camp.
Beginning late morning, we collected sap all day and by 4:30 we had close to 3/4 of a tank and a steady stream of sap. We had to process it.
It's been snowing lightly since around 5.
The temperatures tonight are already minus 3 and dropping.
I looked at the NS Highway Webcams when the snow started- something I've been doing more often lately - and as usual, we had weather going on when no one else did.
Mind you, I bet it's pretty snowy up in the hills of Southampton where Dickinsons were tapping today. And Wentworth Ski Hill's in great shape. These Cobequid Hills are awesome for snow-lovers.
We did get a boil in on Thursday, firing up at 11 am and wrapping up by supper time. Made some great syrup. The boil cleaned the tanks of sap, before the return of sub-zero temperatures.
Now we're back to winter. Last night was around minus 20 and this morning, although sunny, is very cold still.
Next warm spell should be sometime next week, according to some weather sites. But will a temperature spike be enough to wake up the trees? We'll see!
Sometimes people come here to visit at this time of year and are disappointed that we aren't boiling. Hopefully they learn while they are here that we can't control the sap flow and that we boil when conditions allow. When it's too cold, we can't make syrup. We also can't keep sap very long and process it later- the quality of the syrup is impacted.
So sugar season is this crazy mix of hurry up and wait. Hurry up to get tapped in, to get the evaporator and sugar camp ready. Hurry up to line up and train 20+ staff, to keep up with group inquiries and social media. But inevitably, we are not in control of the very product that is the heart of our business.
So we learn patience. And we appreciate this incredible time of year when the deep cold of winter gradually lets go, the trees gradually wake up and rehydrate, the pussy willows begin emerging, the Canada geese come back, the foxes mate and the owls sit on their eggs.
Samara says that at this time of year, the sun "turns more golden and gets warmer.|" And it does feel different. And just like that, we're grateful.
So after several days of wintery cold, the temperatures are creeping above zero - right now it's raining and about plus 3 here at Sugar Moon.
Waiting to see what the trees do.
Because the sap is 97% water, we need warmer temperatures for it to run. There are several forecast sites that aren't calling for it to go below zero tonight - that bodes well.
Scott came home at 1 am this morning. They left a full tank and a half and the sap still running. Today though the temperature's supposed to drop by late afternoon. The sap will stop. And then it'll be a waiting game again and the next few days are going to be super cold.
All went reasonably smoothly last night. There are always a couple of glitches at the start of the season...like a malfunctioning thermometer, things like that. The syrup is awesome. Took a little more time due to the sap being a bit lower in sugar content.
Scott was interviewed for CBC Information Morning this morning - should air tomorrow. Just looking for a season update.
Truro Daily News did a sweet little article about us on Shrove Tuesday that includes the recipe for our award-winning buttermilk pancakes. Check it out!
For me (Quita) it's the usual activities: schools are now clamouring to book their field trips - should be a full, fun season! Lining up staff for the busy March Break. Making sure we have supplies coming in.
Will check in later after the boil's done!
Boiling tonight! Started around supper time with a full tank. Woohoo!
Come on up this weekend! Our Sugar Season hours begin: Fri-Sat-Sun 9 to 5.
Scott and Christopher will clean up the little bit of sap left from a thin stream over the past couple of rainy days.
Sounds like we will get more sap this week. The plan is to process it all before the temperatures drop on the weekend. We'll be back to winter temps Saturday and Sunday. Then more sap coming mid March, it appears.
Other parts of Nova Scotia have seen sap for a while now. Producers have been making syrup. Spring is definitely here!
Happy spring! Sap trickled all night. Depending upon what happens today with sap, Scott will either boil tonight or tomorrow.
We've got just barely enough for a "priming boil".
What's a priming boil? It's when we put around 150 gallons of sap into the evaporator, light the fire and boil for about 4 to 5 hours. At that point, the evaporator is ready for the season and we'll start making maple syrup.
Sugar season's here at last!
Today was prep day!
Scott spent a few hours picking up supplies in town and then getting things ready in the camp.
The trees are trickling and we're still collecting.
This evening is bringing freezing rain/drizzle, into the morning and minus one. Then not much below zero for the rest of the weekend.
We'll see what we get and plan our first boil!
9:30 pm Thursday Feb 23 2017
Happy Spring! The sap's started running!
The trees are awake and we're collecting sap.
FEBRUARY 17 2017
Quita here. In Earltown, we are in the midst of a very snowy February. We're just digging out of what is storm #3 this past week. The snow is a few feet deep. it's beautiful! Hard to believe that the sap will be running soon!
Lots to do first, though. Scott just finished repairs in the sugar woods last week. Next week he hopes to begin tapping, weather permitting. Don't want to tap in colder than minus 5 - too hard on the trees, the gear and of course the tapper.
We'll be posting throughout the season! Wish us luck!