My cousin, Ron Bowman, and his wife, Marsha, and their siblings have been tapping about 190 trees for the past eight years in an 80-acre forest not far from La Farm in rural Ashby, Minn.
But this year was not a good year, according to Ron. They started tapping in February.
“It started early, got too cold, our trees never ran like they did the the year before. That was an exceptional year,” he said on their last day of tapping April 8, a Saturday.
Ideally, he explained, the temperatures need to freeze at night and have temperatures above freezing in the during the day. There are many varying factors to produce a bumper year like precipitation including snow, rain and temperatures.
While they only make maple syrup for family and friends and have no interest in selling their “gold,” they enjoy the family closeness that results from the tapping tradition. The land has been in the Bowman family for over 140 years.
According to their handwritten log, last year’s exceptional year yielded 1,500 gallons of sap compared to only 1,000 gallons this year. The ratio of sap to syrup can vary from as high as 53 to 1 down to 29 to one.
The colors of the syrup varies as well from a light honey tone to a dark maple look with the number on top of the bottles referring to the batch which they then can track back to the day of boiling down the sap to syrup.
It was a blast riding in Ron’s four-wheeler on the rough back trails where I’d never been before.