This week, a brown envelope arrived from the USDA bearing the annual survey for sugarmakers. Twice, a USDA person left a message regarding technical problems with completing the survey online. In a couple of months, the survey results will arrive in another brown envelope and will be summarized in maple industry publications along with similar data from Canada.
In case you are curious, here is a bit of an overview:
The regional trends we’re aware of from hearsay are:
“Short and Sweet.” The trees gave less sap but what they gave was sweeter than usual.
Very light Fancy syrup, in part because the sweet sap boiled quickly into syrup.
No gusher runs. No overflowing tanks this year.
Nebraska Knoll stats:
TAPPING: February 9 – March 6 on select days when the temp was above 12 degrees. Due to the frigid weather, it wasn’t possible to wait for 20-degree days.
LENGTH OF SEASON: 37 days from first to last boiling day. March 11 – April 16.
NUMBER OF BOILING DAYS: 17 out of the 37. The other 20 days were waiting-for-it-to-warm-up days. After a negligible boil on March 11th we waited until March 26th. Waiting was the most taxing aspect of the 2015 season.
MARCH VS. APRIL: March 20% of the crop, April 80%. We missed those prime weeks in March again this year. The heart of the season spanned April 7-16.
SUGAR CONTENT OF SAP: It ranged from .9% to 2.9% sugar, following the typical arc of weak to strong to weak.
SYRUP YIELD PER TAP: .37 gallons of syrup per tap. We were one-and-a-half boiling hours away from making three pints per tap. In the six years since upgrading the tubing system, the range in yield has been .29 to .55 gallons per tap. This year surpassed just 2012, the year of the March heat wave.
SYRUP GRADE: 61% Fancy, 17% Amber, 22% Dark.
CORDS OF WOOD BURNED: About 18 cords, out of 40 in the wood shed.
FAVORITE MEAL: Bowls of chili doused with hot syrup.
BOILING CHIT-CHAT: On a long late-season afternoon, a couple of us got to speculating on how we’d do our lives differently if we could start over. A 40-something crew member said firmly, “I have no regrets.” Then in the next breath, “Well, maybe my thirties, the whole decade.”
BOILING SUBJECT OF CONVERSATION NEEDING SOME RESEARCH: Structured water. (What do YOU know about structured water?)
MUSIC TO BOIL BY: The new crew, when invited to bring in favorite music, replied, “You won’t like my music,” so we listened to old CD’s that previous crew members had discriminatingly burned just for boiling. Their music legacy includes Yonder Mt. String Band, Hank Sr. Gold, Twenty All-Time Greatest Hits of the Lauvin Brothers, Texas Sheiks, William Elliott Whitmore (my favorite), Sugarhouse 2012 Volumes One and Two (popular) – and many, many more.
TURN, TURN, TURN, TURN: Apple blossoms, dandelions, and the turn into preparation for Season 2016. Yesterday, the now-functioning truck (Old Blue) was backed into the wood shed with the first load of freshly-cut wood.
New in 2015: The blog door stays ajar. Anticipate monthly missives.
You are invited to vicariously explore the wilds of Vermont and Newfoundland with Lew at http://lewcoty.tumblr.com/. (It’s not necessary to join Tumblr.)
And, if you “do” Facebook, please visit the new page, contributed by our far-flung elder son who is not able to be in Vermont during sugar season. https://www.facebook.com/nebraskaknoll
But really, as I said last May, “Turn off those marvelous digital devices and get outside!”