If the sugaring season is winter and spring, what goes on in the sugarbush during the rest of the year? It depends on the size of your operation but for a larger outfit like ours, the summer and fall are for maintenance. We have over 700 miles of tubing snaking throughout the woods and the elements and critters take their toll on it. There are always downed trees and limbs to clear, and occasionally equipment needs to be replaced.
The winter season is very hectic, with the constant pressure to get as much sap as possible in a short period of time. If things break in the system, we often rig up whatever works as a temporary fix so we can get back to the most important job which is maintaining vacuum.
In the summer and fall, the crew can take the time to address those more complicated repairs. This means keeping track of all of the problem spots in an area that spans over 1,000 acres. Mountainsides are not generally easily mapped as grids. We have divided it up into sections (A, B, C, etc) and have a system for locating something within that area. But sometimes the instructions read to “go to that tree where we saw the fox last year, near the huge spruce with the twisted limb.” The folks that spend some time on this crew have a history and a connection to these woods that is very impressive.
This summer the woods crew have been over in the new sugarbush in Bolton. They did not finish installing the entire network of tubing before the sap started flowing last spring so they are up there to finish the job. Though it might seem preferable to work in warmer weather, summer woods work has its own challenges. Checking in with the manager, Scott St. Onge last week, he reported, “We started the spring with the extreme heat and now have almost daily rain. The weather has added another layer to the install along with the ticks. The team has pushed through and are continuing to improve their skills, pace, and teamwork each week.”