There are only two Seasons to the Year

Mike Rechlin reflects on transitioning between ‘Maple Season’ and ‘Getting Ready for Maple Season’

According to West Virginia old-time sugar maker Garnet Whetzel, there are only two seasons in a year: maple season, and getting ready for maple season. We just finished maple season.

Finished are long hours at the evaporator, finished hauling sap, chasing leaks, finished filtering syrup. Time for a break? Well not really, because now it’s getting ready for maple season and there are a few things that need taking care of as you put your sugar bush to bed for the long warm days of summer.

First and foremost is pulling taps. The sap flow season is over and the taps have dried up, meaning they have sealed off the flow of dormant season sap (maple water). The trees wall off any dead wood associated with the taphole to minimize entry of decay-causing microorganisms. However, that process, called compartmentalization, cannot be completed until the taps are removed.
To facilitate compartmentalization the tree needs to grow new wood over the taphole. Only then is the tree safe from decay-causing organisms. New wood can’t grow over the taphole if the tap is still in the tree. Furthermore, this season’s spout can’t be used again. Every year you have to find new sap laden wood on the tree and drill a new hole. So, with no reason not to get your taps out, that should be done before the start of the growing season when new growth can seal the taphole.

While pulling taps you also want to clean your sap collection lines. Note I have said clean, not sanitize. Although often done in the spring, the best time to sanitize sap lines is in the fall. To dig deeply into sap line sanitation tune in to “Out of the Woods” webinar, April 18, 2024, 7:00 pm EST, at
For now, the most important step is to rinse the lines with water or leave them open to dry out.  At the end of the season sap lines, and especially droplines, contain residual sap.  With the warm days of summer that sap ferments and micro-organisms flourish, resulting in the unsightly buildup of microbial mass in the lines.  If bad enough this can contribute to clogging at the restricted areas of T’s and other sap line fittings.

But what if you are a bucket guy?  It is equally as important to pull taps and allow the tree to heal over the old taphole.  To be ready for the next season you want your buckets nice and clean. While cleaning, don’t forget your collection tanks, evaporator, RO and other pieces of sugaring equipment.  Each requires their own manufacturer recommended treatment.

With that accomplished you are finally ready to lock the door on your sugarhouse for the summer. Now it’s time to light the barbeque grill and enjoy the warm days ahead.  And it’s also a great time to page through maple equipment catalogs, place your orders early to get good deals, plan your expansion, and noodle through any problems you had last season.  While at it, invite some other local syrup makers over for a burger.

The best part of “getting ready for maple season” is talking maple with friends.

Watch sugarmaker legend, the late Arthur Kreuger, discuss line cleaning at the end of Maple Season:

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