Adding “New” Maple Trees

by Tig Tillinghast

They aren’t really new trees. Average age is perhaps 75, and ranging between 40 years old and 150 years old. Probably half of them have been tapped before, a few generations ago in the days of horses and buckets. But to me they’re new, and they seem to be multiplying as I’m running line to each one.

In the first half of the 20th Century, a fellow named Jessie Messier made maple syrup here in a sugar house between the two peaks of Cooks Hill. This is that sugar shack pictured below, standing mutely as I climb the ridges to either side of it, up and down and then up and down again running the lateral line. old-high-sugarshack-revisited

Just within five or ten years ago another fellow owned the land and sugared the side closest to the road, but not these trees. He definitely had ambitions of running line way the heck out here; you can tell from the way he set up the dendrology of his line system. To get this sap down to the sugarhouse, we’ll have to run a mainline across a little corner of a neighboring property, but the nice woman who owns that wood lot to the north thankfully thought the idea a good one.

I estimated 250 trees at first in this back section of the lot. After scouting it a few extra times with my brittanys, I figured maybe as many as 350. I’m about half-way done now, and I’ve run line past 341 trees. If it goes past 600 maple trees, I’ll have to go buy more line. It’ll be quite an addition to the main sugarbush, especially as I’ll be able to run it on down to the sugar shack and the vacuum system we have hooked up there.

And we also managed to score some of the new, experimental purge valve tap doohickies out of Proctor Maple Research Center. It’ll be interesting to see if they live up (or down) to the expectations people have of them.

There are two other yet-to-be-tapped sections on the property. Those two might together provide another 1,500 trees, but the topography is such that gravity will never bring it back up to the main sugarhouse by the road. We’d have to run a half mile of mainline down through a couple neighboring properties and stick a tank down by Sawnee Bean, pumping it into some sort of transfer vehicle once or twice a day. With that many trees it’ll be worth it, but that will be quite a bit of effort to get that up and going. Probably next year. Already got it mapped out and the neighbors on board. Once that happens, it’s hard to let the idea sit.