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Wood-Fired Vermont Maple Syrup

Come Taste the Trees

April 23, 2018

Last boil. The sap just sputtered out. Nothing fun or dramatic like filter presses jamming or stinky, unboil-able sap. We just stopped getting sap. The period of time between tapping - early February - and these late sap runs was just too long. The tap holes started healing over and reducing the amount of sap we were getting. And despite the long season, it was only just average in terms of yield. We didn't break any production records although we did break a number of other records

Earliest boil: February 20

Latest boil: April 23

Longest stretch of time between boils: 24 days

Number of days boiling in April: 7 (we generally boil every day in April until the season ends). We had two week-long freeze ups in April. 

Number of feet of snow that came in March: 6

But, as our in-house first-graders say, 'You get what you get and you don't get upset.' We have no control when the season starts and finishes. All we can do is be ready and try to keep it going as long as possible. 

April 2, 2018

After 5' of snow, a 24-day freeze up, and a lot of powder days on the hill, the sap finally ran March 25 and we have been going straight out since then. We're hoping to push out through into next week although the weather isn't too favorable. We're constantly scanning the long-term weather forecast for when night temperatures will be consistently above freezing, as that signals the end of the sugaring season. Until then, I am hoping to make the last 1/3 of our crop. 

March 11, 2018

The sap stopped running March 2 when the first of the two nor'easters blew through. The second one, which hit March 8, dumped 30" of snow on Bobo's Mountain and through the mountains of southern Vermont. Between powder runs, we finished off the syrup in the pans, cleaned them, and are now waiting for the next sap run which really may not come for a while. Another storm and up to 12 more inches of snow is coming tomorrow. The sugarbush is buried, and I am hoping optimistically that the snow will "settle" before uncovering lines and fixing anything that's popped or broken in the last two weeks. 

February 28, 2018

The 2018 sugaring season has exploded onto the scene like Chloe Kim and Jessie Diggins in Pyeong Chang. We boiled seven of the last nine days in February. And the sap keeps running. And we keep filling barrels. What this means for how the rest of the season plays out is anyone's guess. 

Improvements to the sugar house this year include a separate, insulated kitchen area with a coffee maker and stove; actual chairs; and a brand new barrel mover. It's the little things. 

Magical Mystery #1: Our filter press and reverse osmosis filters have been working hard to keep up with what appeared to be dirty/mineral sap. We thought it was just the first sap run and it would clear. But it didn't. Then we thought there was something amiss with our equipment, so we checked around. It turns out many sugar makers in our area (and maybe beyond) are experiencing this, and that the word on the street/text threads is that there is a high manganese content in the sap that is choking all our filters. If anyone can explain this and why it's cyclical -we haven't experienced this before- give us a shout. I haven't had time to research it: I've been too busy making coffee. 

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We boil down the springtime sap from 2500 maple trees living on our hillside in Weston, Vermont. All of our sap comes from one sugarbush, so the syrup tastes like Bobo’s Mountain: the soil, minerals, organic material, water and the trees. Bobo's Mountain Sugar is a wood-fired operation, and we use wood sourced either from our land or from our neighbors to ensure our fuel is local. It takes a lively mix of science and magic to make maple syrup, and we wait for those perfect early spring days where night-time temperatures are below freezing and day-time temperatures are above freezing. Then, as the sap is running, we collect it, light up a fire, and boil it down to syrup. When the syrup comes off the pans and you have your first taste of Bobo's Mountain...perfection. 

 

On of the best things about sugaring is how closely held we are to the transition from winter to spring: the most powerful seasonal change in northern New England. We begin making syrup by fixing lines and tapping trees in deep-winter February. The first March boils are cold and quiet ones – wearing jackets and hats until the sugar house warms up. Outside is still frozen solid. By mid April, we’re boiling with the doors open wearing T-shirts and listening to the first sounds of spring: the Red Sox, the water running down the hill, and the wood frogs singing in the pond. After that, we are back in the woods in sneakers, swatting black flies, and watching the spring ephemeral flowers pop off the mountains. There is nothing subtle about this transition, and it's a gift to be pulled through it covered in sticky syrup.

 
 
 
 

VERMONT

Vermont is defined by the Green Mountains, an extension of the northern Appalachian Mountains which run north-south through the state. The name Vermont is said to come from Verts Monts, French for Green Mountains. Although Vermont has some significant granite deposits, the majority of the bedrock is calcium rich limestone and shale, a throwback to when much of the western part of the state was part of a giant inland ocean and all the little shelled critters died, sunk to the bottom and became the bedrock. Fortunately for us, sugar maples prefer a calcium-rich soil and its what gives Vermont is lush, mixed temperate forests.

 

WEST RIVER VALLEY

The West River valley runs through Weston with Markham and Terrible Mountains to the east and Holt and Peabody Mountains to the west. Even at its lowest points in the valley, the elevation is at about 1500 feet. One can find Bobo roaming the southern slope of Markham Mountain, which runs northwest/southeast and eventually goes into the adjacent town of Andover.

 

BOBO'S MOUNTAIN

Bobo’s Mountain is heavily forested in a mixed temperate deciduous forest with primary species including maples (sugar, red, striped), red oak, yellow and paper birch, balsam fir, spruce, and white pine. 10,000 years ago the receding glaciers deposited an unthinkable number of rocks and erratics on the land. The stonewalls which ride up and across the mountainside provide evidence for the early settlers plowing and farming the slopes. While most of the mountain is sloped and even truly steep, there are some naturally terraced areas providing sites for buildings, a pond, a natural vernal pool, and potential pasture.