Bob Trelford's Sugar Maple Bush

 

Bob Trelford Checks the Consistency

Just as his grandfather and father before him did, Bob Trelford of Southampton, treks into the maple sugar bush on his farm.

"As a boy, I came out to the sugar bush a lot in the 1930s and 40s," says Trelford. "I would help people like Leonard Eby, Ed Sneider, Mr. Teeple and others collect the sap, especially over Easter holidays.   Back then, we used horses and they knew automatically where to stop. It was amazing.  In fact, I still have the skull of one of Ed Sneider's horses that died in the bush in 1947."  History is a big part of the sugar bush.

For more than 30 years, from 1950 to the mid-80s, sapping stopped. Then, in 1986, Trelford began tapping the trees once again. Trelford's father, a tinsmith, had built 18 ft.-long evaporators with sections where the sap would simmer and be drawn off from one section to another, while the wood fire was kept burning.  Today, the process remains the same as it has for a hundred years, except on a smaller scale.

In what was once a chicken coop on the farm,  the 'Sugar Shack' now houses today's evaporator tank that is built over a steel firebox encased in brick.  The liquid that has been gathered from the trees over several days and poured in to the tank, bubbles away constantly.  The air is filled with billows of steam and the warm smell of burning wood, as Trelford stokes the fire.  "If you get too much air into the firebox," he explains, throwing another log in through the open doors, "the fire burns away too fast but, on the other hand, you have to keep it hot enough to keep the raw sap bubbling away.  It's definitely a balancing act."

Keeping the fire hot enough is a chore in itself, one that begins in the summer months. "The best wood to use are long pieces that fill the length of the firebox," Trelford points out. "I go out in the summer and collect dead wood and begin to stack it. While I get some surplus firewood to use, generally speaking the pieces are too short to give an even heat."


A Perfect Split

With that being said, he picks up piece after short piece and splits them with an axe. "These smaller pieces will be used like kindling if the fire begins to die down."

Stoking the Fire

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Once the fire gets roaring, it's time to head out along the trails to check the sap pails, all 90 of them.

Trecking out to Check the Sap

The Sap is Running -- Good

 "It only takes a couple of degrees and the sun shining to increase the flow in the trees," Trelford explains, as he empties a partially filled sap bucket into his pail.

Emptying the Sap into a Pail

"The amount varies every year. It all depends on the weather.  It's slow today (Thursday) because the temperature has been dropping at night. This weekend will probably be the end of it."

Pails full Bob Heads Back to the Shack

Trelford heads back along the trail to the Sugar Shack, his pails filled, yet again, with the spring sap given up by the maples.

This isn't meant to be a big money-making operation. This is something that Bob Trelford does for family and friends ... giving them a sweet taste of time spent in a sugar bush.  It's his springtime hobby and the day will be busy ... it's only 9:00 a.m.