Just four short weeks ago, the students of South Hill Forest Products held their very first maple sap boil of the season. Today, we might be starting our last sap boil until next year.
It's no secret that we've had an unusually warm winter in New York this year. The warming effects of El Niño has kept snow from falling but it also has contributed to an unexpectedly early sap flow. In order for sugary sap to be drawn up from a maple tree's roots to its branches, the temperature has to be below freezing at night and above freezing during the day. These conditions happened so early in the year that the students of SHFP tapped trees on the very first day of class, January 27th.
Tapping trees so early is a bit of a gamble for maple sugarers. Drilled holes only stay viable for so long until they close up and no longer leak sap. Plenty of maple syrup producers chose not to tap their trees as early as we did. They believed the weather would turn cold again and another bout of good sap-flowing weather would occur closer to the usual start of the sap season.
For us at South Hill Forest Products, our tap holes may not stay open long enough to take advantage of a second sap flow. However, we have been able to produce a sizable amount of maple syrup, making over ten gallons of syrup already, with more on the way!
The weather has been especially strange this year but SHFP students know how to roll with the punches. As syrup production comes to a close, we are ramping up our oyster mushroom growing, our wood carving, our hickory syrup cooking, herbalism projects and much much more!