It's a beautiful 67 degree day here in Western Maine, and though the sap is still running in the sugar bush, the season is definitely winding down. Last year there were snowbanks well into May, this year you have to look hard to find the remnants of one and it's still early April. Two winters in Maine are never the same, and neither are two sapping seasons!
A beautiful April day in Western Maine
Since our earlier blog post we made a really big improvement to our operation. We were considering buying a reverse osmosis machine after the season, but it became apparent as the sap came pouring in, that it might be wise to purchase it sooner rather than later! Our local CDL dealer made us an offer we could not turn down, and suddenly things got a lot more "technical" in the sugar house.
The new Reverse Osmosis (RO) machine
In order to explain what a reverse osmosis machine (or RO for short) does, I need to go back to the basics of maple syrup making. The sap from the maple trees has very low sugar content. 2% is considered pretty good. With sap that has 2% sugar content, you need to boil 40 or so gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of maple syrup. Sugar content varies throughout the season. We've seen it down around 1% at different times. Usually the lowest sugar is at the very beginning of the season, and then again at the very end. The RO machine takes the raw sap as it comes from the sugar bush and takes out a bunch of the water, concentrating the sap until the sugar content is 4 to 8%, depending on how long we process the sap. Not only does this cut down our boiling time, but it means we use far less firewood, which means we have to spend far less time getting that firewood! So it will not only save us time during sugaring season, but year round. There has definitely been a learning curve with the RO, but we are getting more used to the process all the time, and we have wondered what in the world we ever would have done without it this year!
Figuring out how to use the thing...
So far we have made 150 or so gallons of maple syrup in 2021. That's nearly double what we made last year, and the trees don't seem too anxious to stop, though this really warm weather means we are in the last throes of the season. We're still hoping to get a good supply of Very Dark syrup, as we have a steady demand for it and at present are sold out. If the trees shut off all of the sudden, we may not get any, which would be disappointing.
Is there anything prettier?
We opened to the public in a smallish way on Maine Maple Sunday. It was our first time participating, since last year was shut down due to COVID. We had such a good time visiting with the people who stopped by and sharing our love of maple with them. We are already making plans for next year! Make more maple cream, and more maple nuts! And probably some new things as well.
A bit of a break in the action on Maine Maple Weekend
There has been plenty of work to go around this season. We are blessed to have many hands to help share the load. Sometimes this time of year it feels like "make maple syrup, eat, sleep, repeat", though often the eating and sleeping even get pushed to the back shelf as things get busy. Even with the RO, we have had some nights where we've had to push right through to get the sap boiled while it is still nice and fresh.
....make light work!