April 5th-20th

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Taking the job into your own hands (or paws).  This red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) is harvesting sugar from the underside of a sugar maple (Acer saccharum) at the begining a recent sap run.  The “sapcicle” above tells the story of how this season has gone for many of the human sugar makers in Vermont.

The season has ended for several more operations but is still plugging away for others, mostly in the colder areas.  Reports from north of the border are similarly varied.  According to one report the majority of producers were between 0.5-2.0 lbs. syrup/tap with perhaps the overall average standing at 1.0lbs./tap as of 4/17.  By some accounts it has been the “coldest season in a very long time”.  Despite the cold temperatures, the fear of Buddy syrup is very real for producers in Quebec as many expect this off-flavor to arrive with less than ¼ of a normal crop having been produced.   Sap flow has generally not been very strong for most producers over the last period.  This is despite what appear to be fairly ideal temperatures for stimulating sap flow.  The forecast for the week ahead looks like there will be a significant warming trend with the addition of sunny skies.  This may end the season for all but the coldest operations as tap holes cease to be productive or the quality of syrup fails to have enough value to justify its continued production.

A Bennington County producer reports at least one operation still boiling as of 4/16.  The operation has just surpassed last year’s total syrup production.  Much of this year’s crop was lighter grade syrup.  Sap sweetness appears to be close to or higher than last years.  Given the forecast and sap quality being collected, this operation will likely be done by this coming weekend (4/20-4/22).  Reports of buddy syrup are coming in.

A Windsor County producer reports last boiling on 4/4.  Some neighboring operations have called it quits while others are holding on for a bit longer.  This operation is at 1520’ elevation and will see if this week’s weather cooperates and enough quality sap is gathered to boil again.  Total syrup production has reached 0.44 gal syrup/tap.  This represents about 75% of the yield from 2017.

A Rutland County producer reports exceeding the expected crop by ~10% and climbing.  So far the tap holes have been open for 8 weeks at this location and are still producing.  Sap sugar content has dropped from 2.0% to 1.5 and some readings as low as 1.3 have been recorded.  The syrup quality has been ”wonderful” including some Very Dark with “exceptional”.  No off-flavors have been detected.

A Washington County producer reports reaching about 75% of last year’s crop.  This operation remains hopeful for some quality sap/syrup to come.  The sap ran well by mid-afternoon on 4/10.  The sap sweetness continues to drop from its high of 2%.  The breakdown of syrup grade so far this year has been Golden (10%), Amber (45%) and Dark (45%).  This producer has observed that the retail market seems to favor the darkest syrup grades.

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Pure maple syrup must meet the minimum standards in four areas of grading (Color, Clarity, Density and Flavor).  Tasting each batch of syrup will ensure that customers get the high quality product they expect and deserve.

A Chittenden County operation reports reaching and exceeding 0.5 gal. syrup/tap as of 4/15.  The additional (modest) sap flow over the past week combined with the forecasted temperatures will push that yield close to 0.6 in the next week.  Syrup quality has been good.  Sap sweetness overall has been average to slightly above average.  Recently the sap has followed the expected downward trend, now averaging around 1.6-1.7.  Over all, Nitre has been “moderate” this season with no major difficulties filtering.

A Lamoille County producer reports finishing the season on 4/6.  This operation ended the season with roughly 0.4 gallons of syrup/tap.  This represents approximately XX% of last year’s yield.  The breakdown of syrup grade was 60% Amber, 35% Dark, 5% Very Dark at this location.

Another Lamoille County producer reports season going well despite not receiving much sap from the main woods between 4/4-4/11.  This operation hauls sap from several locations and has seen varying levels of production between these woods.  One property in Chittenden County has produces 2.25lbs syrup/tap.  One property in Franklin County is at 2.69lbs syrup/tap.  A third property (Lamoille County) has reached 4.25lbs syrup/tap.  This producer reports making some of the best flavored syrup ever this season.  This operation is hoping to get “a bunch more” this week and into next.

A third Lamoille County producer in a historically cold location reports getting very slow sap flows this season with almost none since 4/3.  Sap sweetness has remained steady at 2%, “there just hasn’t been much of it.”  This producer guesses there is another week left to the season and expects to end up with about 4lbs syrup/tap.  This is not considered a “banner year” for this operation.

An Orleans County producer reports the biggest runs of the season occurring on 4/3 and 4/4.  The syrup produced was Amber and Golden (69-78% LT).  The weather turned cold and windy following the big run and no boiling has happened since then.  The ground is still covered with snow and the trees are still locked in with no “tree wells” appearing.  Sap has tested at 2.0%.  This operation has reached 50% of a crop as has most of their neighbors.  This operation has heard that a few sugarbushes at higher elevations have had “very poor seasons so far.”

An Essex County producer at 1500’ elevation reports not having a good run since 4/4.  This operation stands at about 50% of a crop.  The woods still have a fair amount of snow cover in this area.

 

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Bonus Bulletin (end of March-April 4th)

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The first US patent for plastic maple tubing went to Nelson S. Griggs of Montpelier, VT in 1959.  Although it seems outdated by today’s standards (tubing was laid out along the ground) this innovation elevated the “time consuming drudgery which accounts for a major portion of the cost in the production of maple sugar…by reducing the tedious task of periodic tree-to-tree collection.”   

A few reports of producers ending sap collection have begun to arrive.  Operations with northerly facing aspects have remained strong with sugarbushes facing south seeing diminished sap flow.

A Massachusetts maple operation about 25 miles south of Bennington reports they are still producing syrup as of 4/4.  The sap has dropped to 1.5% but “still running good”.  All syrup has been Golden and Amber with just a small amount of Dark.  Flavor has been good until recently.  Total production has been average or slightly above average this season.

In Bennington County one producer reports being done after making “a full crop”.  Another producer reports last boiling on 3/29.  There was modest freeze the following night that only produced a “weak run” on 3/31 and 4/1.  This operation is just over an average crop in terms of syrup production.  A third producer in Bennington County reports boiling 3/31-4/2 and reaching 80% of last year’s total.  This operation taps a high elevation sugarbush and expects to be boiling “several times more”.  There have also been no reports of off-flavored syrup to date.

A Windsor County producer reports having an excellent season so far.  Total syrup production has reached 4.5lb/tap at this location.  Most the syrup has been Golden and Amber.  This producer saw good runs of sap in February and early March.  The previous five days were 3/30-4/3 have been disappointing from a sap flow perspective despite what would seem like idea sugaring weather.  The sap sweetness has also dropped from 2.0 to 1.6%.

A Washington County producer reports reaching about 50% of a crop as of 4/2.  This operation has suffered from vacuum issues, labor issues and health issues, all of which have contributed to lower than expected production.  Sap has been around 2%.  The distribution of syrup grade so far this season has been 45% Amber, 45% Dark and 10% Golden.

In Lamoille County a producer reports reaching about 60% of a crop as of 4/2.  Syrup has been mostly Amber (70%) with some Golden (30%).  The syrup flavor has been “outstanding.  Sap has remained steady at 2%.  There has been very little niter and no issues with filtering so far.

A second Lamoille County producer reports purchasing sap from a variety of locations with a range of production levels.  A property in Orleans County has had issues with low vacuum and high snow and the season production has reached 1.75lb/tap.  A property in Franklin County has also struggled with low vacuum and has reached 2.35lb/tap.  A third property (Lamoille County) has reached 3.6lbs/tap.

A third Lamoille County producer reports making a “full crop”.  Sap flow has slowed down significantly on the southwest facing trees.  Trees with northern aspect are still running.  In terms of flavor there has been some “early bud detected”.  This producer is about done for the season.

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Thermal and visual image of six different spouts.  The top two spouts are black nylon, the middle two spouts are green and white nylon (left to right) and the bottom two spouts are clear polycarbonate spouts.  The air temperature in the shade at the time the images were taken was 14F.   

An Orleans County producer reports sap running about average and steadily over the past week.  Sap has tested between 2.0-2.2% over this period.  Nice flavored Amber syrup is being produced currently.  This operation was at about 1/3rd of a crop as of 4/1.

A Caledonia County producer reports that 3/31 was the “first good run of the season”.  All syrup this season has been on the light end of Amber (70-74% LT) except for the first two runs in February.  Sap has been between 2-2.2% all season.  It has been a very “low niter year” with very little pan cleaning necessary.  As of 4/2 there was still 12018” of snow in the woods and the snow has just begun to pull away from the trees (tree wells).

An Essex County producer reports reaching about 50% of a crop as of 4/4.  A lot of snow remains on the ground and no significant warm temperatures in the forecast.  Syrup filtering at this location has not been difficult to date.

 

 

March 16th-April 2nd

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The 2018 Vermont sugaring season has had a bit of both sap and snow.  Here a Lamoille County producer gathers sap with 3/16″ tubing and a diaphragm vacuum pump. 

The 2018 sugaring season has so far been divided into two distinct seasons as illustrated by the graphs below.  Producers who were partially or completely tapped in late February were able to make syrup before the big freeze up in the middle of March.  Those that produce syrup in the historically coldest sections of the state saw little if any sugaring weather.  As a result, operations in the far north and eastern counties are tracking behind in terms of syrup production.  With what looks like good weather in the forecast and no call for excessively warm temperatures it looks like these areas will likely catch up to historical averages.

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A Bennington County producer reports a “great sap run” or eight consecutive days of gathering finishing up on 3/29 after two nights in a row without a freeze.  Sap started out at 2.2% and ended at 2.0% by the end of the run.  Syrup produced was mix of nice Golden and Amber.  As of 3/29 this operation has produced 100% of an average crop, almost 50% of that total was made in just the last week.  Some producers have seen their wood supply run out on account of low sap sweetness.  Snow is holding on in the woods.  “All tired but happy sugar makers around here”.

Another Bennington County producer reports reaching 40% of last year’s crop as of 3/24.  The sap sugar content is down a bit from the five year average (~1.6).  This season the sap has been averaging between 1.3-1.4.  Syrup grade has been Golden with no off-flavors detected so far.

In Windsor County a producer reports having a “super year” so far.  As of 3/26 total syrup production had reached 80% of an average crop.  All syrup has been Golden and Amber grade with excellent flavor.  Sap flow was reported as “very fast” before the big freeze with more modest runs occurring around 3/23 and into the weekend.  Sap sweetness has been “on the low side” for this operation with sap testing at 1.6 before the freeze but rising somewhat after.  This producer notes that some of the rise in sugar content might be an artifact of having ice in the sap tanks at the time of measurement.

A Washington County producer reports no sap flow from early March to 3/24 and a good run of sap on 3/26.  Sap has been low in sugar content and had just reached 2.0% by 3/29.  Total production at this location is now 33% of an average crop.  Syrup flavor has been “consistently good…although on the dark side”.

A Lamoille County sugar maker reports “an excellent season thus far-very pleased.”  Syrup grade has been mostly Amber or Dark.  The sap has been running very well.  The weekend (3/23-3/25) produced another good run.  Sap sweetness was not considered “great” and has been between 1.5-2.0.  Syrup flavor has been very good and no off-flavors detected.

Another Lamoille County operation reports reaching about 35% of an average crop by 3/26.  Syrup grade has been mostly Amber with the color anticipated to lighten to Golden with subsequent boils.  Issues with drops falling off spouts during a recent cold spell has hampered vacuum at this location.  There has been “no niter to speak of” at this location.

An Orleans County sugar maker reports that sap “started trickling in 3/22 and had enough to boil by 3/26.  Sap has been testing at 2.3, which is considered average for this location.  So far the total season production has reached just over 15% of an average crop.  Syrup grade has been solidly Amber color (65% light transmittance) with good flavor.

A Caledonia County producer reports a few poor quality sap runs (likely just stimulated by sun) between 3/22-3/25.  There was a good sap run on 3/26 (the first since the long freeze).  All sap since the freeze has been between 2.0-2.2% which is close to historical averages at this location.  Total production is at 20%, “which seems to be pretty average for other sugar makers in the area”.

An Essex County producer reports making only about 10% of their annual crop as of 3/26.  Sap flow is reported as being “very slow”.  The sap that has been collected has been sweet however, almost 3% at last check.  Syrup grade has been darker than is typical for this operation but no off-flavors have been detected so far.