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How Do We Know When Sugaring Season Ends?

The first sap run kicks off a sugaring season, but how do you know a sugaring season is over? The sap doesn’t just stop as if someone turned a faucet off. There are a few factors that signal the end.

Before we dive into how we can tell the season is over, it’s important to understand the basics of when sap flows. Generally, for maple trees to produce sap, the nights need to be below freezing and the days need to warm to above freezing. Weather plays a significant role indicating when to call it quits.

However, it’s not always the temperature that tells us when to end a season. Reasons differ per year and are unique to each sugar maker’s location. But we can all rely on our senses, as well as equipment, to let us know when a sugaring season has concluded.

SIGHTS & SOUNDS

You might be able to tell the end is near from the amphibians of our northern Vermont forest. The tune of frogs and the appearance of Eastern Newts are signs of a warming spring. Hearing a cacophony of ribbits is a hint of slowing sap.

We can also tell by looking up at the trees. When we see the trees begin to bud, the season shutters. This means the temperature has warmed up enough to welcome spring and halt sap production. It may also lead to off flavored syrup.

Other ways to sense the season’s end? We can see that the sap may appear cloudy, and the sugar content changes. When we see that the sugar content is too low, and the weather forecast isn’t favorable, it’s time to pull taps. Consistent warm temperatures tell us that the best sap runs of the year may be behind us.

TASTE

You can taste the end, too. Maple syrup produced with this end-of-season, tree budding sap can be referred to as “buddy”. It’s an off flavor often described as chewing on a green twig. Not too appetizing. It may also taste like bitter chocolate.

EQUIPMENT

Some years our crew goes until the sap can’t be processed. That’s when the equipment tells us that the season has wrapped. When the sap doesn’t process properly through our Reverse Osmosis (RO) machine, it could do damage, and that’s when we call it.

Other years late season sap can make it through the RO but bubble over in the evaporator. If it makes it through the RO and the evaporator without causing a stir, we can tell it’s the end if it isn’t able to be filtered.

We don’t want to damage our equipment. If sap is having trouble making it through any steps on its way to becoming syrup, the season is over.

THE CALENDAR

Banner years, like our 2022 season, can run into May. When that’s the case, sometimes it’s up to us to decide when our season is finished. This could be when we have hit our goal for the year, or when we don’t want to risk burning the pans.

In previous years, glancing at the calendar can also indicate our end date. In the past, a week or two after Easter is when the season has ended. But that also depends on when Easter is. If the holiday is later in the month, we can count on cold weather up until that point, and perhaps stretch the season a week or two longer. But if it’s earlier in the month, that’s not always the case which speaks to the uniqueness of each season.

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While ways to tell our sugaring season is finished may vary, one thing throughout the seasons remains consistent: the effort and work the farm crew puts in is always amazing. They handle early season equipment challenges and navigate the ups and downs of weather with ease. Though we can’t count on accurately predicting the exact start and end date of sugaring, we can always count on our crew to make the most of what the season sends our way.

The guesswork is all part of the fun in producing pure maple syrup.