Meet the Northerly Community - Maple Syrup Season

 

One of the best parts about living in the quaint communities across the Northwoods is getting to know your neighbor. In an effort to learn more about our community members, we’re sharing a series called “Meet the Northerly Community” where we interview a friend, professional, or just all around awesome person that has a uniquely northern story. We hope you'll be inspired to get involved, learn more about those that share your zip code, or simply, find a similar passion.   

Meet Jeremy Solin

maple tree lover, woods wanderer, trout seeker

share your “Northwoods Story”.

My Northwoods story is tied to a piece of land north of Antigo, Wisconsin where my great-grandparents settled in 1917. Our family farm is located in the town of Neva in Langlade County, about 8 miles north of Antigo. My dad grew up here, working the land in logging and farming. My dad then raised me working the same land which has shaped my mentality of feeling most at home on this land at the base of the moraine, not in a specific house or acre lot. My dad still lives on our family farm growing Christmas trees and making maple syrup for Tapped Maple Syrup.  

I currently live in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, which is mostly for my professional life in environmental education, focusing on how people connect to a place whether it is their home, a piece of land, or somewhere in nature. The proximity has allowed me to get back to our land regularly and stay active in our 4th generation maple syrup operation.

 

Tell us more about your sugar bush...

The main sugar bush is 4-5 acres where we place 250 taps on individual trees. The land is adjacent to 1500 acres of forestland, and we tap another 5-10 acres on a neighboring property. In 2017 we tapped 400 trees, but we plan to tap 800 in 2018. The basis of our farm is promoting a healthy forest, so we use traditional syruping methods to stay on the low energy and low impact side as much as possible.

New to maple syruping? Learn more about a sugar bush here

While our methods are very traditional, we distinguish ourselves with Tapped Maple Syrup by focusing on specialty markets like infused maple syrup. We add unique flavors and encourage people to use our syrups on more than just pancakes. We use our syrups in cocktail recipes and as a sugar substitute.  

(Northerly note: Here are a few of Jeremy's favorite recipes using maple syrup. We can’t wait to throw a cocktail party with these ideas!)

 

When does the sap run?

The perfect situation is cold nights (20°Fs), warm days (40°Fs), and a low-pressure system coming through (rain is ideal compared to snow). When the atmospheric pressure is lower, more sap runs out of the tree. The fluctuation between cold and warm creates pressure differentials inside and outside of the trees, forcing the sugary sap to flow throughout the tree. The sap will usually run for a couple of days and then you get a (much needed) break. During the course of the year, we can get 5-8 days of good running.

 

Describe an average day in maple syruping…

Every day is different. We typically start the day by collecting sap, which might take 4-5 hours depending on how fast the sap is running. Our method for collecting sap is still pretty traditional, we use a bucket connected to each tap in the tree. We drive the tractor around with a trailer and large tank in tow to collect from each tree. On a good day, we could get up to 5 gallons of sap from one tree. Our average is 2 gallons per day making up to 1500 gallons total.

We bring all of the sap to our sugar shack where we spend between 20-24 hours cooking it down to make syrup. The sap goes through a filtration process before going into the evaporator that is powered by firewood. We have to tend to the fire all hours of the day and night to make sure it stays at the right temperature. Over the course of the season, each tree produces up to 10 gallons of sap, which makes about one quart of syrup.

 

What is your favorite part about maple syruping?

I love it all. It is such an amazing time of year to be outside. You are there from the dormancy of the sleeping forest to the full bloom of spring.

 

What is the most challenging part about maple syruping?

The weather and the timing of everything. Since syruping is not my full-time gig at this point, I can’t just set aside blocks of time for maple syruping because the weather may not cooperate. In addition, the transition from winter to spring is so fast now, we are always scrambling to get ready for the season. Historically we would start tapping trees around April 1st, but that doesn’t apply anymore. It is challenging to marry the unpredictability with the business side of things, and we have to find new markets without knowing if we will have any syrup.

 

Why is maple syruping important to you?

  • Connection to the land that I feel I am part of. In the Art of Loading Brush, Wendell Barry talked about being owned by a place instead of owning a place. That is my relationship with our land and maple syruping in general – it is a reciprocal relationship.

  • Generational connection with family and tradition. Maple syruping is one of the things that I get to do with my dad and my kids. We have a good work time together and get to spend good quality time together. Some of my earliest memories with my dad and my uncle are making maple syrup, and now I get to share it with my kids.

  • Maple syrup provides us a way to get people to care for these lands in the future. We need to have enough income and productivity to keep the land in the family. Maple syrup is hopefully the way we are going to be able to do that.

 

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Fishing, hunting, and hiking with my family.

 

Most essential item for Northwoods living

A fishing pole.

 

Best advice for exploring the Northwoods

Get off the trail.

 

Most underappreciated place to explore in the Northwoods

North Country Trail. Learn more about it here.

 

What is your favorite season?

I have to say spring because of maple syruping, but I think that I would anyway.

 

Where can people find your maple syrup?

Grand View Orchard in Antigo
Sweet Thyme coffee shop in Antigo.
Bavette La Boucherie in Milwaukee
Navieve Fromagerie in Wausau will carry it soon
Through our Facebook page + on our website (launching soon!)

 

Can people visit, stop by?

Only if they are willing to work! Just kidding (sort of). To learn more from Jeremy + his family's sugar bush, send them a direct message on Facebook to set up a visit. 

 

How can you experience maple syrup season?

Check out some of these Wisconsin events:
March 17th: North Lakeland Discovery Center's Maple Syrup 101
March 17th: Kickapoo Gold Open House + Pancake Breakfast: Viroqua
March 18th: Maple Sugarin’ Festival: Saukville
March 18th: Covenant Harbor Maple Fest: Lake Geneva
March 24th: Maple Syrup Saturday at Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve: Appleton
March 25th: Maple Syrup Fest at Aldo Leopold Nature Center: Monona
April 7th: Phelps Maple Syrup Fest
April 7th: Mackenzie Center Maplefest: Poynette
April 28th: Taylor County Lions Maple Fest
March 24th: Northwest Wisconsin Maple Farm Tour