Like surfers waiting for the perfect wave or gamblers looking for the perfect hand of cards, maple syrup farmers wait and dream about the perfect sap day. A day when all the forces of nature combine to produce that elusive flood of maple sap.The ideal day begins the night before with clear skies and calm winds. The stars twinkle as the temperature slowly drops to -5C. The snow is frozen hard by morning but the rising sun soon starts it to melt. By 11AM, the maple trees have thawed and sap starts to drip from the spiles. By 1PM, sap is running hard, as much as one litre per tree per hour. The sky is brilliant blue dotted with a few puffy clouds. A gentle west breeze shakes the tree branches. Temperature hovers around +5C. Sap runs hard until evening when the sun drops below the horizon, the breeze stops and the temperature again drops below freezing.
That’s the textbook recipe for maple syrup making nirvana. But seldom do things unfold according to the book. Last year (2012) didn’t have a single day even close. This season has been better but we’re still waiting for that "perfect day". Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t and it’s that uncertainty that makes syrup making so much fun and so addictive.
- Ken McCutcheon