A bit of time has gone by … while our 2013 harvest was late (starting May 3rd) with a long, cold spring, our 2014 harvest started right smack on the average start date of April 21st. It ended abruptly on May 7th, a short 16 days later. This year’s harvest ended about the time our 2013 season was just getting rolling; with record-breaking temperatures in the low 70’s and the birch leaves bursting out – a full three weeks earlier than the year before. In 2013 we woke up to snow on May 17th; this year the bucket were almost cleaned and summer in Talkeetna was in full swing. Wow, nature is incredible and so very unpredictable…while it meant we got only 2/3 of what we had hoped for, we made enough syrup to get by this year – and hope for a banner harvest for 2015!
We had an awesome crew this year with four veterans returning: Dylan, India, Josh, and Keith. A couple of new sap-suckin’ wwoofers, Katie and Mike joined us; Lucy from Vermont and Jamie from Talkeetna rounded out the crew. They were all onsite helpers with syrup making, cleaning tanks, walking vacuum lines, etc etc. Mark returned for his third year as my syrup-making sidekick and general fix it guy; Peggy joined us from Maine as our cook, and wow what a cook she proved to be! Our daughter Hannah added her colorful personality to the mix and helped with expediting supplies and whatever else was needed. So including myself and Michael we had a crew of 13!
We added over 2,000 new gravity tubing spouts that flow into a beautiful little swale we call the “sweet spot”. Dylan designed the system and the crew worked hard running the lines and getting it done. It’s an amazing jungle of blue lines out there. Alaska Dispatch, our Anchorage paper, and KTUU news, Anchorage’s NBC affiliate, did stories on us and got some good footage and tales from the forest.
Final numbers for 2014
1300 gallons of syrup produced (compared to 1500 in 2013 – our biggest year), 140,000 gallons of sap collected. Approximately 15,000 trees tapped in the area for our harvest this year. We tapped about 10,000 ourselves – 3300 tubing on vacuum; 2600 gravity tubing, and 4300 by old-fashioned tap and pail. And we purchased sap from three area sap collectors who tapped somewhere around 5,000 trees.
Sure, we were disappointed with the short harvest and resulting short supply. After a day of panic and a day or two of depression we settled on acceptance and moving forward. Really, we had a good 24 year run of, if not perfect, good to excellent harvests. This year we’ll have to settle for adequate. Of course we had to do the necessary…raise prices to get us through this year, and we’ll get creative with a few new products that have been simmering away on the back burner for way too long. Look for our line of Wild Chaga Products and WILD Sauce!!, the first new saucy addition to our birch line. And there’s Wild Rosehip and Cranberry Grilling Sauce and Catsup.
Stay tuned. We’ll be back again in 2015 to give it another try and hopefully Ma Nature will be a little more cooperative for that brief window of sap flow in the birches.