A quick trip into town yesterday made one thing blatantly obvious: Spring is coming and sugaring season is upon us! On the way to Bristol, it seemed like every other pickup truck had a 300 gallon tank in the back with Vermont Maple sap sloshing around as they shuttled the sweet stuff from the tree stands to their boiling location. The mountains around us have a faint fog of wood smoke mixed with the sweet aroma of sap steam as it reduces to Maple syrup.
The more intense producers around here have 2,000+ gallon sap tanks sitting at the bottom of their hillside tree stands and will come around daily with their transport vehicles and ferry the sap off to be produced. Then again, when you run 13,000 taps as one producer near us does, you need fairly large storage tanks! As humble beginners, we run a few less than that.
Vermont has an interesting history of cultivation of its forests and farmland that we see hints of even today. When white settlers first arrived, the land was mostly heavily forested. Land clearing proceeded and sheep herding and wool production became the mainstay of Vermont settlers. By the 1840’s, Addison County (where we have our Bed and Breakfast) was the leading wool producing area in the United States (Agriculture in Vermont). Many of the towns nearby still show their history, with mill buildings set along the river ways that once powered their fabric production. During the second half of the 19th century, sheep farming began to decline and was gradually eclipsed by the dairy industry. (What Ceres Might Say) For the places that aren't farm land, the northern climate and abundance of Maple trees makes Vermont a perfect location for syrup production.
As recently as 20 years ago, our property and all the acreage around us was used primarily for farm land. The land was clear cut and used to graze dairy cows and support other farm operations, which opened up beautiful views to the mountains along all sides of our Bed and Breakfast. Since the farmers sold their cows, the trees and forests have started to fill in but we still have an amazing view of the Green Mountains.
As a Vermont Bed and Breakfast, we serve up a lot of Maple syrup to our guests. A weekend getaway in Vermont isn't complete without a breakfast menu item with that maple sweetness cultivated across the hills of Vermont. We’re now in the process of planning and cultivating our land to support our goals for the future and for our BandB. We would like to make all of our own sap but given the fact that it takes 30 years for a Sugar Maple tree to be old enough to tap, the pickins are slim for working the trees. We have planted some new saplings and hope to be producing more and more over the years.
This year we have about 15 taps going which, as of yesterday, have given us about 15 gallons of sap. We have the capacity for about 30 more taps but because of the historical land clearing, our maple trees are so spread out we really haven’t discovered a good way of collecting the sap yet. (Don't worry, I've been looking at ATV's and Tractors... that problem will be fixed soon!) So for now, we are perfectly content sticking with tapping just the couple of trees close to the house and using our little 50 gallon mobile collection tank set up.
Given the fact that it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, the 7 gallons of sap I boiled last night yielded just a few cups. We’ll need to make some time over the next few days to boil all 15 gallons. Boiling 7 gallons from last night took the better part of 6 hours to reduce in our little turkey fryer. We’re still learning and perfecting our set up. If everyone around us is working with thousands of gallons, and we are only working with tens of gallons, does that make our Syrup artisan? I like to think so... It just tastes better local!