Almost as important as knowing when and how to start tapping maple trees, sugarmakers need to know when to stop tapping maple trees as well. This week on the farm, just as we are finally getting all the syrup-making supplies put away (it’s a many-week process for us), we’re flooded with the green, vibrant, melodious signs of spring as well. Scroll down for a little peak into the stinking adorableness of spring on our New England farm.
While syrup season plowed into us before we were ready this year, it seemed to halt just as suddenly. So how did we know when to stop tapping maple trees? There are just a few basic things to look for. . .
Can You Collect Sap Too Late Into the Spring?
There are different factors that tell you it’s time to stop your daily collection, clean up your buckets, and pull out your taps. I made the mistake last year of assuming we could keep on tapping until the sap stopped flowing.
I’ve since learned that the later you get into syrup-making season, the more bitter and less sweet your syrup will be. The fact is, if you collect and process sap too late into the spring, you very well may wind up wasting precious money and time on syrup that no one wants to eat.
Consider These Factors to Know When to Pull Your Taps.
1. What’s the weather like?
One reason you can’t keep tapping late into the spring is the sheer lack of volume. While sap is always “flowing,” it slows down to a much slower pace when temperatures become more spring-like. That’s because the whole reason the sap flows so dramatically in the late winter is the sheer fact that the temperatures are alternating between freezing and thawing. That daily change in temperatures creates a pressure in the tree, which causes the sap to flow freely when you tap into it.
Sap runs best when temperatures drop below freezing at night and rise into the 40s during the day.
Once the days rise above the 40s and/or the nights no longer reach a freezing point, you’ll find you’re gathering a lot less sap, if any at all, in your buckets. Once exception to this might be trees in very shaded areas of the woods, where the tree stays colder longer. We find that our trees that have very little sun exposure start providing sap many days later than the ones that see some sun; they also keep providing sap for many days after the warmer trees slow down.
2. Does it look like spring?
Keep a close watch for signs of spring buds if you really want to know when to stop tapping maple trees. As soon as you see buds, regardless of the weather forecast, it’s time to stop collecting sap, unless you like the idea of wasting precious money and time on bitter syrup that destroys perfectly good blueberry pancakes.
3. Are your buckets empty?
But, by all means, do not let empty buckets be your gauge for when to stop tapping maple trees. Just because your buckets sit empty for many days in a row, do not assume the season is over. Instead, let the weather and the appearance of the trees themselves be your gauge. If the forecast calls for more perfect conditions (freezing at night followed by temps in the 40s in the day) and if the trees show no signs of buds, by all means, leave those taps in. Most likely, there is still some sweetness in your near future.What Else Does a Sugarmaker Need to Know?
Of course, knowing when to stop tapping maple trees and close up your syrup making set up for another year isn’t much help if you don’t first know how to mark your trees that you want to tap and start gathering supplies, how to drill your taps, if you live where you can tap for sap, 7 questions you should know the answer to before you tap your trees,how to save hundreds with your backyard syrup making and the step-by-step process of making syrup.
Take a Second to Save These Posts for Later
I know I come across helpful pointers online all the time that I plan on coming back to, only to realize later that I didn’t save the information, or I saved it but don’t remember where I saved it. So I wanted to save you the 20-minute heartache of floundering around for this muli-part DIY syrup series when you need it. You can PIN each post right here, then keep reading…
PIN Part 2, about when to tap maple trees and how to drill your taps. This post also covers how to know if you live where you can tap successfully and 7 questions you need to know the answers to before you tap your trees.
PIN Part 3, about a reverse osmosis filter–what it is, how to build one yourself, and how it can save you hundreds a year in your backyard syrup making process.
PIN Part 4, the step-by-step guide to boiling your sap. This posts walks you through every important detail you need to know when processing your syrup, from tree to pancake.
PIN Part 5, about how you know when it’s time to stop collecting sap and start removing your taps for the season.
It was a cold, difficult winter for me, and I’m not even talking about the weather… So I’m not sad to be packing away our sweet, magical, syrup-making equipment. Spring on the farm is, indeed, a much needed joy to my heart.
Future posts will offer some updates on our spring cuteness overload. But for today, here’s a few barnyard scenes that’ll make you coo…
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