If sugar season and the blog were running a road race, sugar season would have lapped the blog twice by now and the blog might consider dropping out.
The week has felt like a 500-page novel. The setting is 2016 at Nebraska Knoll of course; the main characters are the weather and the maple trees, developed with attention to the slightest nuances. The humans merely react, but among them dramatic sub-plots play out.
Here is a partial plot outline:
3/24 Just below freezing all day.
3/25 A late morning thaw, but there will be no sap run until a hearty run between 5-8pm. Impatient sugarers make faulty predictions.
3/26 Nighttime low 24, takes awhile to warm up, doesn’t run well until late afternoon, then frozen by 10pm. Crew anticipates a stronger run and starts boiling too early. 203 gallons of fresh syrup.
3/27 Drops down to 26 overnight but the sap runs all night anyway due to an inversion. Sap positively gushes when the mainlines thaw in the morning, filling releaser with slush that clogs submersible pumps. When both of these pumps are triggered, the sap overwhelms the transfer pump. A 3″ overflow pipe saves the day. Sunny all day, temp in the 50’s. Sap sweetness 1.9. Crew will make 245 gallons of syrup.
3/28 Upper 30’s at night, high today low 40’s with steady rain. Filter press dumping tank drain breaks off, C of O works all night soldering it and also screwing fire brick left side arch door. 313 gallons.
3/29 Mild freeze just before sunrise, sap run never quite quits overnight. High today 33, 2″ wet snow on the ground, sunny, will be a cold night. Poor run today. 148 gallons.
3/30 Down to the 20’s overnight, sunny morning, high upper 40’s. Starts running well late in the day so crew fires up the arch at 7pm. Not a happy hour. Arch door hinge breaks, not good. 114 gallons.
3/31 Boiling cannot gain on the full tanks of sap and concentrate. In the 40’s overnight, near 60 today and all night. Miserably hot in the sugarhouse despite all doors open through which a south wind roars. Sap starts to ferment. Sap sweetness 1.8. 354 gallons.
4/1 Still in the 60’s. Sap in the buckets turns yellow. There will be another long boil today as the tanks are still full.
Possible topics to develop: Severe sleep deprivation and decision-making; consequences of regularly delaying breakfast until 2pm while suffering sleep deprivation; calling around to a dozen suppliers in search of more storage drums but to no avail: Many, many sugarmakers are running out of drums, jugs, RO pre-filters, clean RO cloths (known as diapers here), glass sample bottles, coffee, possibly wood (but not us).
I’ll repeat what Howard Russell, a Hinesburg dairy farmer and sugarmaker, once said at the end of sugar season. Standing with his head turned toward his team of work horses, he said, “They’re looking a little rough.”