2009 Maple Syrup Season

sap-mastersThe 2009 Massachusetts maple syrup season is over too soon for Joe and I. Our crop this year was down 20%, mostly because the temperature did not fluctuate enough for the sap to flow. The nights need to be below freezing and the days warm for the best production. If it just stays cold night and day (which happened at times) or just stays warm (which also happened) then there is no flow. We simply had less sap running than past years. The last boil of the season for the Hardwick Sugar Shack was Sunday, March 29th.

Well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles. We’re lucky, in fact. Some maple producers did not even tap this year because of the ice storm damage. Although we did have some damage to our maple bush here at the house, all our other trees were fine. No problemmo.

Pictured here are the sap masters! Al is a friend that lends Joe a much-needed hand during the season. And Richie is another local maple producer. He and Joe are always comparing notes and helping each other.  

Joe already has grand plans to expand production for the 2010 season. There’s no doubt our equipment could take more taps (remember, Joe bought that fancy reverse osmosis machine), and that we could sell more syrup (every drop we produce is purchased). The only two factors that need closer examination before expansion is Joe’s ability to handle a larger workload during sugaring season and the funding of additional equipment. Running a small family business always is a juggling act!

When you order your maple syrup here online, you’re buying syrup that was just made this season. We don’t sell syrup that has been stored for long periods of time.

More to come on how we are growing as we progress through the year. Wait a minute! As I write this, I realize Joe came home today with a 1000 gallon stainless steel tank. I guess he’s already started the expansion…

Really, I’m working!

2-9-09-029Joe snapped this incriminating picture of Pearl and I resting in the sun as he left to go collect sap. Really, though, I was working! What’s a girl to do while she’s waiting for the maple syrup to heat up for bottling? Yeah, I’m earning my keep…this maple stuff is exhausting work, you know!

We are in the middle of a sap run now, so we’ll be boiling and making syrup on Sunday during our open house.

Joe thinks this run is the last one of the season. You can tell the trees are almost done when both the sugar content in the sap and the volume of sap decreases. Sunday will be the last open house, and it looks like it may also be the last boil of the season.

Even though the weather looks less than stellar, we hope you can join us for the last hurrah of the 2009 sugaring season! Our open house is Sunday, March 29th from 11-4 at 572 Jackson Rd, Hardwick, MA.

Flat Stanley Visits from Texas

flat-stanley-photoToday we had a very special (and thin) visitor at the Hardwick Sugar Shack. Mr. Flat Stanley came all the way from Texas to see sap flow out of the sugar maple trees. God may bless Texas, as the song goes, but there’s not a maple tree in sight in the grand state. That’s why Mr. Stanley is awe-struck in this picture as he watches the sap flow from the tree into the bucket. 

Along with our Texas visitor, we also had a group from Providence, Rhode Island stop in. And we had the girl scouts and the cub scouts stop by. Luckily they came at two different times! It was a very busy day…

I was happy to have my childhood friend Linda stop in with her husband and two children. Wish I had more time to chat! We also recruited my two nephews to help out on the farm. 

Next Sunday is the last open house of the season. We are behind production for this year, so we’re hoping that this a banner week for sap flow. Occasionally Joe boils into April, but usually at that time the buds start to show. As soon as that happens, we pull the taps because the buds affect the flavor of the syrup–and Joe is rather particular about his syrup!

New land for the sugar bush

In January, Joe and I bought some land near Moose Brook in Hardwick. It’s a beautiful spot…the river flows through the property, there’s great hiking, and of course there’s lots of sugar maple trees!

The video below shows Joe and I last weekend at the new land, before our first open house of the 2009 season. I was working really hard (not!). This weekend, the second open house of the season, the weather looks fantastic. What fun it will be to have bright blue skies and warm temperatures.

We just went to check the trees, and, as you would expect, the sap is flowing. We need warm days and cold nights for the sap to flow. We will definitely have the evaporator fired up on Sunday to make the maple syrup.

There will be lots of mud, of course, when that snow from earlier in the week starts to melt. Looking forward to seeing you if you can make the trip out…


Tapping has begun!

2-9-09-007Yes, its been a long winter here in the Northeast. In fact, we still have these huge icicles hanging off the front of our house. Nonetheless, I know spring is right around the corner because Joe began tapping trees this weekend!

We have about 1000 taps at this point, and adding more every year. I still remember when we used to tap a few trees around the house and boiled the sap for hours and hours on the stove. I miss that humidifier in my house, even though it made for a messy kitchen.

The collection tanks are still sitting in back of the sugar house. Joe will start putting those out this week after he’s done tapping (he has only about 300 taps left to go). Cindy Fitzgibbon of Fox 25 news is forecasting another nice warm up Wednesday and Thursday of this week, so it’s conceivable that Joe could be boiling this week. Yippee!

Cleaning up the ice storm, getting ready for maple season 2009

This is the time of year that Joe shifts gears from construction and spends more time in the sugar bush setting up lines, cleaning up tree debris, fixing damage from little critters, and doing all the things that get us in good shape for February tapping.

This year he’s got his hands full. That nasty ice-storm two weeks before the holiday season not only messed up our holiday sales (bah humbug) it also put a damper on season preparations. We had major clean-up from down trees–and still have lots more to go.

Below is a video of what we woke up to the next morning.

The night of the ice storm sounded like a war zone. From 1:00 a.m. until dawn, we were kept awake and on our toes with the popping, cracking, and busting of trees as tops snapped. In some cases, whole trees toppled. Joe had to chain saw our way out of the driveway.

We were lucky. Our house was spared and with the generator and wood stove we kept warm, out of the dark, and could take a hot shower. Best of all, we could flush the toilet (Alleluliah!). Some people had power outages up until Christmas.

One never knows what Mother Nature will provide. And that’s the same story for maple syrup production. People always ask us how we think the season will be (in fact, we just had the question today at the post office). No way to tell, we always answer. Joe likes to say that as soon as he thinks he’s got the season figured out, Mother Nature shows us otherwise.

Our plan is to finish clean-up, add vacuum to the 150 taps around the house, and start tapping in February when the weather is just right (when the trees are not frozen).

We’ll keep you posted on how our 2009 maple syrup season unfolds.