Once the crazed rush of the sugaring season is over, we pull out all 125,000+ taps that took roughly seven weeks to put in. The difference with untapping over tapping is that it is less time sensitive, less cold and generally less stressful. When we start putting them in in January, there is always uncertainty as to when we might get the first sap run or if a big snow storm might set us back. The feeling of urgency hovers until the last tap is in and ready.
When the sugaring season ends around mid-April to early May we pull the taps out so the trees can start healing but there isn’t quite the same pressure to race the calendar.
Overall, this is one of the nicest times of year to be up in the woods. It is not too hot or too cold and, if your timing is really good, you don’t encounter the dreaded black flies until possibly the last week of the task. The understory has not yet come up which means it is easy to walk just about anywhere. But the best part is watching spring unfurl, sometimes hourly. One day you might spot the first wild leeks and the next day there are trout lilies everywhere. Mushrooms can fruit overnight and ferns will go from fiddleheads to leaves in a day. Migratory birds return by the flock and if you are really paying attention you can hear new songs every week. Every day there is more sun, more color and more critters which, after a long, white, quiet Vermont winter, feels like nirvana.
An interesting note about walking the entire network of tubing to untap is the yearly phenomenon of finding all of the equipment that was lost during the winter. It can be very easy to lose tools when working in a snowy woods. Sometimes you are unaware that they have fallen out of your work vest and sometimes they are put on the ground and forgotten. However they are lost, it is difficult to find them again in three feet of snow.
Remarkably, most of the tools are retrieved in the spring. Though it is a vast network, the crew is still walking the same routes, along the lines and approaching the trees from the same direction to untap. We have found saws, radios, large tubing connectors and countless stray taps. One year a crew member spotted a wedding ring that had been lost two years previous.
Spring is also a good time to sweep the mountain for litter. We make every effort to keep our woods pristine but the flow of detritus shows up anyway. One of the most common things we find are old mylar balloons that ran out of helium just as they reached our mountain. Other things are more mysterious like half buried jam jars. Whatever we find, it comes out of the woods with us and recycled or put in the dumpster.