Two busy months
Once the sap stopped flowing we began my LEAST favorite part of the job: cleanup. First, we go to each tap in the woods- this year over 3,000 of them- and remove the spout from the tree. Then, we use the vacuum system to draw water mixed with a cleaning solution (a solution of calcium hypochlorite, which is approved as a sanitizing agent on our organic system plan and which is similar to the sanitizing solutions used in restaurant kitchens) through the tubing. This involves carrying a lot of water around, which is one of the reasons this task takes so long. While we're doing that we carefully mark any areas of the tubing that needs repair prior to next season.
Once the tubing is clean and ready for the off season (we do this first so that we can get it done before the bugs get too bad) we use a pressure washer to clean out all of our tanks and pressure wash the evaporator. We then pressure wash the floor of the shanty and make sure we leave everything as clean as possible to be ready for next year.
After all that is done, we like to fill the woodshed with firewood to dry for next year. We can fit about 2/3rds of what we usually need in our woodshed, and we stack the rest outside and cover it up to dry. Finally, we've made a point each year of taking a different section of our woods and doing what we refer to as "woodlot management."
We go through this section looking for any trees that are dead or dying and cut them down. We remove any dangerously leaning trees or broken tops, and also any trees that have fallen since the last time we were there. We cut these out to make room for new growth and then drag the logs out of the woods so we can use the logs for firewood.
So, even though the maple production season is over, there's been lots of work going on here at Sterling Valley Maple getting ready for next year's maple syrup season. And, once that work is done, we can get on with one of the jobs we enjoy much more than cleanup: sharing our delicious maple syrup with our customers. If you want a taste, head over to our store and check out our selection!