2010 Maple Season May Turn Out Better Than Originally Thought
Bluegrass, VA – Everett Rexrode has been making maple syrup at his farm in the Blue Grass Valley all his life. Five generations of Rexrodes have collected the sugar water and boiled it down to make syrup. Today he has over 600 trees that can be tapped. When he was a boy they used a horse-drawn sleigh to collect the sugar water, typically starting in February, when the temperatures would warm up above freezing so the water would start to run in the trees. With increasing temperatures last week, more sugar water was flowing and he was starting to make more syrup.
“Yeah, it’s helped get rid of the snow, and the ground was thawed out – what we need now is another freeze up, down in the 20’s and up in the 40’s” says Rexrode.
Ideal weather conditions for sugar water collection are to have temperatures in the 40s during the day and in the 20s at night.
With lower amounts of sugar water than normal so far this year, they have made about 50 gallons of syrup, but the warmer temperatures last week were starting to increase the flow of water from the trees, so he expected to make more syrup through the middle of March. In a typical year he will make about 300 gallons. Since you have to cook down 50 gallons of sugar water for each gallon of maple syrup, that means Mr. Rexrode collects over 15,000 gallons of sugar water each season.
Mr. Rexrode uses the old-fashioned wood-fired open pan technique for boiling down the sugar water. Then for the critical final stage of concentrating the syrup he uses a propane fired method that makes it easier to control the temperature. Maple syrup can be ruined if the fire gets too hot.
In addition to maple syrup, Rexrode’s sugar camp sells maple candy and country hams, prepared by Everett’s wife AnnaLee.
In any endeavor that depends on the weather, you have to have a good sense of humor. Mr. Rexrode shares some words of wisdom he has learned over his 60 plus years of making maple syrup.
CUT 3: “There’s one thing about it, we got to take what we get” says Rexrode with a chuckle.