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Photo of someone tapping a maple tree at the end of the season

Behind The Boil: Tapping Out When The Season Ends

In 1968, the band Blood Sweat & Tears had a hit rock song called “Spinning Wheel.”

That song started with the memorable lyrics “What goes up, must come down.”

When you work in the Vermont maple woods each year, it’s easy to adapt the lyrics of that song into something that describes your work. As in “what goes in, must come out.” And here we’re talking specifically about the taps that go into each maple tree.

As we wrote about previously, Branon Family Maple Orchards begins tapping their maple trees in mid-December. With about 93,000 taps to put in place, the tapping – which is about a 10-week process – has to start at that time to ensure the sugarbush is ready to go when spring-like temperatures arrive. Once the season ends, the year’s batch of fresh Vermont maple syrup is made, and the leaves on Vermont’s maple trees begin to bud – usually late April to early May – all of those 93,000 taps have to come out.

“Once spring arrives, we have to walk to every tree we have and pull the taps,” said Evan Branon, who oversees most of the in-woods activities of the family operation in Fairfield, VT. “It’s the same crew of guys we have put those taps in. Each of us walks somewhere between 10-12 miles a day for about a month in the spring getting them out.”

According to Evan, the process involves using a specially designed stout puller to remove the plastic spout from the tree and cutting the spout off the tubing. The tubing is then hung in a manner that allows any sap remaining in the lines to drain out

Photo of someone tapping a maple tree at the end of the season

“We recycle all of our spouts,” Evan said. “I figure we can pull about 1,000 spouts per day, per person and we bring every one of them out of the woods with us.”

Taking taps out is considerably quicker than putting them in. Evan figures crews can install about 300-400 taps on a good day.

In the spring, the crew of tap pullers has other tasks on their plate as they work in the woods.

“Since we’re walking the lines, we inspect them all closely and if there are repairs that need to be made, we flag the problem areas, make note of it and come back in later to fix them,” Evan said.

And the fun doesn’t stop there. After the taps are pulled the cleaning begins. Every piece of equipment used throughout the season needs to be cleaned and disinfected.

“We know,” Evan said, “December is coming.”

The life of a Vermont maple sugar maker really is like being on a spinning wheel.

About Branon Family Maple Orchards

With headquarters in Fairfield, VT, Branon Family Maple Orchards is a multi-generational agricultural family-owned business specializing in Pure Vermont Maple Syrup and maple products. Powered by renewable solar and made in an Audubon approved bird-friendly habitat, Branon Family Maple Orchards produces single-sourced organic maple syrup. They also carry a variety of maple sauces, rubs, jellies, and other maple specialty products in a sustainable, eco-friendly manner. For more information visit

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