Our Maple Syrup Fail: Lessons Learned

By Julie Sews - 10:18:00 AM

Image from River Bend Nature Center via Minnesota Prairie Roots
I just finally finished making our maple syrup for the season a couple of days ago.  We only produced a half of a pint.  Ekk!  I even did 100% of the cooking down on the stove because it was so little of a batch.  Good thing I'm on a low sugar diet.....   I had high hopes after producing 5 and a half pints of maple syrup last season (after we threw out a bunch of sap in the garage we didn't cook down soon enough) that we would produce at least 7 pints this season.

Why Did We Hardly Produce any Maple Syrup this Year?  
The main reason is the weather.  And no, I'm not complaining about our beautiful weather.  I'll trade it for maple syrup any day.  If you look at the picture above you'll see snow on the ground.  Usually sap is collected at the end of winter soon to be spring time.  It's when you have alternating times of freezing and above freezing temperatures.  This is typically the end of Feb here in MN.  The problem is we've had weather like that all winter, even January.  I thought about tapping our trees early in January, but didn't thinking the next blizzard or deep freeze had to be around the corner.   I think all of us Minnesotans we're hesitant to let our guard down and not be prepared for the big one of the season.  It's hard to imagine that a winter in MN could be mild and pleasant?  But I think it's safe to say now that we're almost into April with temperatures in the 60's and 70's for highs (normally it should be 40's), it was and still is much warmer than normal.  Who would have thought this heat wave would last months even into spring?   Ironically if I had trusted my gut and tapped our trees in January we probably would have out produced last year (at least that's my theory).  

What We Plan to Do Next Year
  • Tap our trees by the first week of Feb regards of weather (we figure there's no harm in tapping it early)
  • We plan to kick it old skool and try to buy metal sprouts and buckets (we've been using plastic sprouts tubing and buckets and are worried about possible xenoestrogens in the plastic)
  • We plan to make sure our drill bit fits out tap.  One of our taps never went in right this year and instead of going into the bucket all the sap went down the trunk of the tree attracting flies.
  • We plan to start boiling off sap as soon as we collect enough and finish boiling off all of it by the end of March (or earlier if the weather is really warm).  Like I said last year we had to throw out a lot of sap away because we didn't know if it was safe due to the warm weather.  Last year we finished boiling sap in the fist week of April.  I also learned from the year prior to that that if you wait to long to boil it, you might not be able to due to burn restrictions (if it's a dry season).  
Did you produce any maple syrup this year?  If so I'd love to hear how yours turned out.

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Check Out Our Maple Syruping:
Maple Syrup in Your Backyard: Part 1 Tapping Your Tree
Maple Syrup in Your Backyard: Part 2 Boiling the Sap

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