It’s Fall, Time to Run Lines to Expand the Maple Syrup Operation

by Tig Tillinghast

Common sense may say otherwise, but fall is the time maple syrup makers’ minds turn to thoughts of making even more maple syrup. They see beautiful yellow lines of sugar maple trees yet untapped for lack of that one last roll of 5/16th inch line last year. Over the summer, the memory metastasizes into schemes. Those schemes get exaggerated into actual maple syrup plans, and finally, you find yourself driving down I-91 with a trailer load of one inch mainline wondering just how gullible your friends might be when you try to get them to help you put it all up for just a couple bottles of maple syrup.


Running lines this time of year exposes you to the most beautiful views that don’t make Vermont Life magazine. Images of towering cloud systems moving too fast between close hills, trees losing large portions of their leaves all in a moment with the first strong gust of the fall. If gray days sold tourism, you’d see all of this on the postcards streaming from Vermont, but they don’t. These days are for farmers and maple syrup makers.


Coming down I-91 and turning into the Thetford exit, I turned away from home, heading up Five Corners Road where some friends of mine once lived, where I knew they had a view of my maple syrup operation. I needed the distance view to contemplate where the maples are, and where the topography is, and where that happy combination can marry them together, letting me use that line I’m hauling to carry maple syrup sap down to where we can collect it in March.

I set in my rig for a minute or two looking at this view. This time of year is one of a couple where you can tell the maples from the rest of the forest because they turn more quickly, and to a distinctive yellow. It’s a great scouting technique, and makes for a great excuse to do some productive driving around town in the turn of the fall, figuring out who might own some unused maples the rights to which might be prized free with some well placed maple syrup.

distance-view-to-locate-sugarmaple-linesI have not yet met the man who bought the house of my friends, and I realize it must look odd, were someone to see me, looking past his home on the side of the road off into space.

The man who farms across the street from this house is a friend of mine. He, it turns out, helped make maple syrup some 50 or 60 years ago on the same bush I sugar, driving horses uphill to the old sugar shack on top. He makes maple syrup nowadays from the trees along this road. My friends who once lived here across from him told me the story of when they made the mistake of mentioning to this sugarmaker that his new sugarlines didn’t quite have the same character that the buckets once did with their “plinks” and “planks” as the afternoon droplets fell into the galvanized steel pails. They were mortified to see that the next day he’d replaced his new lines with the old buckets by their house, just for them. It’s that sort of place still.

fall-day-running-sugarlinesA group of bowhunters looks to be eying me from where the trees meet the field. I start the rig and move on, as they probably think that I’m scouting that eight-pointer they didn’t get last year (and won’t get this year). I can’t fool with deer because I’m a fool for the maple syrup, but that’s not comfort for them.