Making maple syrup is a major enterprise at THB Farm. Like many agriculture enterprises, making maple syrup depends on the weather. A successful maple season requires cold nights and warm days. This February, the warmest in many years in Southern Ohio, shortened the season dramatically. The syrup season in Ohio generally starts in late January/early February and lasts until the weather is too warm.
Ben spent many hours this fall mapping and setting up the sugar bush at THB Farm. The maple trees are connected by a system of tubing that allows the sap to travel from the individual trees to a bulk collection tank in the barn. The taps do not hurt the trees but do allow the clear sap to be collected without hanging buckets on the trees.
Each tree receives one tap, which is connected to the clear tubing that takes the sap to the main (blue) line.
The sap then flows from the blue tubing into a bulk collection tank.
When a sufficient amount of sap is collected, it is pumped from the collection tank to an overhead tank, referred to as a head tank, positioned so that the sap can be pumped directly into the stove.
From the head tank, the sap gravity fed into a reservoir on the side of the stove.
The boiling process is as much of an art as it is a science– knowing when the sap has fully cooked to syrup requires careful attention to detail and watching the process to prevent the syrup from scorching.
After several hours of boiling, the sap is cooked down to the thickness of syrup. To ensure consistency, the conversion of sap to syrup is determined by a hydrometer. If necessary, the syrup is finished on a the precise heat of a gas stove and then bottled.
When the weather begins to warm, the season must end. The taps are removed from the trees, which will heal over several weeks. While we maple lovers don’t think of maple syrup as a seasonal item or enterprise, it very much is. Enjoy your syrup in season and while you can. When it’s gone, it’s gone!