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Something Wild: N.H.'s Liquid Gold

Phil Brown
A liquid gold harvest by Phil Brown & his family
Phil Brown
Future maple sugar farmer, Laurel Brown

We hope you'll enjoy reminiscing as we celebrate 25 years of Something Wild. We're digging into the archives to share some of our favorite episodes and reminiscing with producers. This episode was produced by Emily Quirk in March 2021.

For some, maple sugaring is a perennial ritual, painstakingly completed as we usher out the bitter wisps of winter, and embrace balmier, brighter days of early spring.

And whether you’re producing maple syrup with just a few buckets, or if you’ve expanded operations with a full-blown sugar shack … you know this much to be true.

1) Sugaring is an art

2) Sugaring is a science

3) And a great excuse to be outdoors, with family and friends.

This week on Something Wild, we check in with novice maple-sugar farmer Phil Brown, to discuss the unexpected joys of maple season.

Most maple seasons last about 4 to 6 weeks, and because sugaring is so dependent on the weather—we never know just how long optimal conditions will last.

Folks around an outdoor fire in winter.
Phil Brown
Maple sugaring is hard work, but having help from friends and family makes all the difference

By optimal conditions, we’re talking daytime temperatures that reach into the 40’s and overnight lows that land in the 20’s. This “goldilocks zone” is juuust right for maple sap runs, because temperature fluctuation is what creates the pressure gradient “shock” that drives sap flow.

All you need to do at this point is literally drill a hole, hook up a small tap to a maple tree, hang a bucket, and let gravity do it’s thing. And once that sap starts flowin’, you gotta get while the gettin’s good.

 
In order to make maple syrup, though, sap needs to be boiled down for several hours to achieve the “syrup point” density.  At 219 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s 7 degrees above the boiling point of water ) the sap turns to syrup. It will weigh 11 pounds per gallon at proper density. And It can take 40 to 50 gallons of raw sap to make 1 gallon of finished syrup.

A man pulls a sled with a bucket of sap and 2 kids on a wintry road
Phil Brown
Sap Sledding = Ingenious

Boiling sap takes vigilance and time, so having friends and kids around to help maintain the fire for hours on end, makes the whole process easier, and frankly way more fun.

 

But let’s face it, the best part of this whole song and dance is the maple syrup! 

 

 
 

 

Naturalist Dave Anderson is Senior Director of Education for The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, where he has worked for over 30 years. He is responsible for the design and delivery of conservation-related outreach education programs including field trips, tours and presentations to Forest Society members, conservation partners, and the general public.
Chris Martin has worked for New Hampshire Audubon for close to 35 years as a Conservation Biologist, specializing in birds of prey like Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, and Northern Harriers.
Before becoming Program Director, Quirk served as NHPR's production manager. During that time she's voiced and crafted the 'sound of the station,' coordinated countless on-air fundraisers, produced segments for Give Back NH, Something Wild, New Hampshire Calling, and developed NHPR's own NHPR Music vertical with features such as Live from Studio D, and long-loved favorites like Holidays By Request.
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