Today is Maine’s Maple Syrup Sunday, the day when sugar shacks around the state open their doors to the public and share the miracle of nature that is maple syrup. In more typical colder years, it’s a day filled with horse-drawn sleigh rides and pouring maple syrup over fresh snow. This record-breaking warm spring has been to the maple sugar business what the lackluster snowfall this year was to ski and snowmobile business — and that is bad, as in bad for business. Our own trees stopped dripping sap well over a week ago, and we finished boiling down our last couple quarts of syrup last weekend. In the end we got about our usual gallon of syrup, which is enough to give away a couple of pints, and still have enough for our own year of syrup consumption. But the fact that it’s still March and there is no sap running makes me wonder how the industry will fare this year. There is a pretty interesting article in this week’s Lake Region Weekly paper about the maple syrup industry and how most of the commercial operations are using vacuum lines to imitate the change in atmospheric pressure that is normally created for the maple trees by the having sub-freezing nights and warmer than freezing days — the surest sign it’s time to tap. I always knew these were the necessary conditions for getting the sap, but to be honest I never knew precisely why. Thanks Lake Region Weekly!
Last weekend it seemed like the winter was never ending, my back would never heal, and we’d be stuck inside forever. But this weekend it seems like spring is right around the corner! Maybe it was the 40 degree temps that had the snow melting and the sap running, or maybe it was just finally crossing some things off our “get ready for spring” list that we’d been needing to get done for some time. We ordered our poultry from Murray McMurray hatchery, ordered our seeds from Fedco, got our oyster mushroom growing project started, and got our maples tapped.
We’re pretty excited about these mushrooms. We got the spawn a couple weeks ago at the February swap meet, and have been waiting for them to completely colonize their jar, and then holding it in the fridge until this weekend. Margaret and the girls spent Sunday morning cutting up straw for the mushrooms to grow in, and then we spent a good part of the rest of the day trying to pasteurize the straw in the downstairs bathtub. By evening, we got the straw and the spawn packed in a milk crate, wrapped in plastic and in the basement. We’ll know next weekend, I think, if things took.
We celebrated getting the taps in with waffles topped with last year’s strawberry sauce. We ran out of maple syrup some months ago, but it’s exciting to think, next weekend, when we dig into our pancakes, they’ll be topped with a fresh new batch of maple syrup.