Happy Spring! Where does the time go? The weather is warming rapidly here in Alaska, and the freeze/thaw is well underway. I am secretly hoping for a bit more wintry weather, but I can’t tell my Alaskan friends that! We know that a cooler spring will give us a sweeter harvest. Come mid-May … bring on the sunshine!!
Michael and Dylan, who has returned to us for the second year, and are in Talkeetna busy getting everything ready for the upcoming sap harvest – going over the snowmachines and other collection equipment, organizing and cleaning.
I am busy ordering the items we will need, doing the taxes, running the business, and trying to think of everything that we might have forgotten! Most of the crew arrives late next week, and we will be on our way to harvest #2 in Talkeetna, and #22 for us! We’re hoping for the best one yet!
The sap is running and so are we! Our crew of 7, plus two previous sap suckers down from Fairbanks for the occasion, are out tapping our approximately 4500 trees, as we speak! This year we have Ness, roller derby queen from Anchorage, Adam fresh off the slopes at Breckenridge, JonO (year 3) and Nate just up from working “summer” in Antarctica, Joel – John’s bro from Minnesota, and Brandon from down the road in Willow. Dylan has been here since March 1 and has been watching his family grow! Michael has been running the crew, and Charlie is doing some of those last minute chores that for some reason always get left to the last minute … So, that means we will finish tapping tomorrow and be collecting and cooking on Tuesday.
It’s shaping up to be a great harvest. My wish came true and we had a couple of good snowstorms – probably 15″ of snow fell early this month. It’s sunny and warm during the day right now – but not TOO warm – and quite cold at night in Talkeetna. We have three very enthusiastic sap collecting families this year. They are madly running around in their beautiful birch forests stringing tubing from tree to tree – great labor saving technique! Next year we will likely do the same. We could have up to 3000 more taps between the three of them – and that means up to 3000 extra gallons of sap each day…
So if the sap gods smile on us we should make a lot of birch syrup this year!! I am hoping for a sweet, smooth, and stress-free harvest. That’s a big order, but I might as well put it in! We should have first run up on the website in a week or so, and look for my harvest report in a month.
It’s over … whew … a record 24 day harvest, and a good thing we got those extra few days. The weather cooperated beautifully and the sap was sweet enough to make awesome syrup, but sap yield and sugar content were a bit low. But with the extra days we reached our sap and syrup goals, so are satisfied with the harvest. This year our first batch of syrup, made on 4/19, is an unusual sweet light amber – I call it “ice sap” syrup, as it is produced from sap that is so cold it has ice crystals in it.
The sugar composition at the beginning of harvest is quite different than at the end – still mostly fructose, but also a component of sucrose (like maple). It makes for a sweeter syrup.
So our first run “Reserve” this year will be bottled as a separate grade than our “first run” which includes the first week of harvest. Not to be confusing, the first run is always the lightest, early harvested. It’s just that this year we got something rather unusual to start off and I want to share it with you! Not sure when I’ll get that bottled; we’re working very hard to get caught up and get the orders out.
So statistics being important to us … we collected 115,000 gallons of sap in 24 days (including the sap from our collectors); produced 986 gallons of syrup for a ratio of 117:1.
A far cry from what we were used to in the old days (95-100:1), but I think we’re going to have to get used to it. Costs were high of course … I know we’re all struggling with the high cost of fuel – up 35% for us this year! Freight costs are through the roof (for the same reason of course) so I’m raising syrup prices not as much as I need to, but hopefully enough to survive! Enjoy the fruits of our labor, and thanks for being such supportive and loyal customers.