News from the Sugarbush: February 2023 Update

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David Aronson, woods crew lead posing with a tapline


From David Aronson, Bolton Woods Crew Lead

We are around 4,000 taps left from being done on the Bone Mtn section of Bolton. That will bring us around 44,000 taps out in 7 weeks of tapping, in what I can only define as a backcountry maple forest. It’s not a traditional idyllic sugarwoods. It’s deep rugged creek beds and steep cliffy mountainsides. It takes 45 minutes by UTV to get to the bottom of our highest lines.

With the onset of our traditional February thaw, we’ve been very busy leak checking. This arduous task occurs after taps have been put in trees and the vacuum is on. Vacuum is a closed system, there is no air in sap tubing, if there is, then we have to find where it’s entering in order to keep our production up.

February Sugarbush update photos: repaired tap lines, vacuum pressure gauge, woods photo

This process, which becomes an obsession for the most seasoned sugarmaker is a sick and twisted battle of man vs. nature. Squirrels, moose, bobcat, deer, coyote, sapsucker, and bear (see photo with pink flagging tape) are all interested into sinking their teeth into our lines. The other issue is leaky trees. There are always trees that aren’t perfect, trees that never found their space in the canopy that are just limping along and have odd seams and rotten holes from losing limbs. We still try to tap these. If a spout doesn’t find a perfect home, it pulls in air reducing the overall pull of the vacuum.

three members of the woods crew out on the mountain

Some of the hardest to find are what we refer to as micro leaks. They can be like small pin pricks and tiny chews that sometimes are only perceivable in the right conditions.  Yesterday we had a crew of 8 folks walking every main line and reading sap flow to look for air; we had a superb day of it and were able to get our vacuum up from 21.5 hg (high gravity) to 26 hg as of this morning. So we gained 4.5 points on the gauge which equates to about a 40% production increase.

Our crew here has taken well to the obsession and we hope to achieve perfect vacuum (27.5-29 hg) across much of our system. That comes with time. And in the meantime we’ll continue to enjoy the beauty of this place we like to call our office.

News from the Sugarbush: Cambridge Update

From Nehemiah Wood, Cambridge Woods Crew Lead

The Cambridge sugarbush has 61,683 taps in with 4,785 to go. Sap has been consistently running for the past four days and will likely continue to do so. Undoubtedly, our biggest challenge physically, mentally, and to our safety is the weather. Just last week we needed to get off the mountain just passed midday because the wind, rain, and snow posed too much danger to the crew to continue working. Here are two videos of those weather conditions with a few nice pictures, one of which has an owl in a tree if you zoom in.


While we do our best to be prepared for every variable that the woods and weather may throw at us, there are some things we have no control over. Such was the case in the winter of 2018 when four feet of snow sent us into a tailspin. It wasn’t that we couldn’t handle a big storm, but when the temperature shot up the next day and the sap began to run, frozen lines and exploding taps resulted in absolute mayhem in the woods.

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