This is the second of a two-part series about local maple syrup—which is rare in these parts. But thanks to Chris & Elizabeth Wampole and friends, we’ve got Bucks County maple syrup.
by guest blogger Carolynn Fedor,
Tin…tin…tin..tin…the chant of the maples emerges from the woods when the days are warm and the nights are cold and the maple taps guide the drips of sap into tin covered buckets.
In a good year, 600 hundreds buckets celebrate with the sound of sap on the run at Winfield Farm in Bucks County. The record-setting 70° temperatures last week were delightful—unless you were collecting maple sap.
The maple sugar season started early and ended quickly this year with the maple buds starting to swell weeks earlier than usual as if it were spring!
Chris and Elizabeth Wampole, Bucks County natives, collect maple sap the old-fashioned way, hanging buckets from hooks over metal taps hammered into maple trees on Winfield Farm in Erwinna. It is labor intensive.
Theirs is the only maple syrup coming out of Bucks County, and it certainly isn’t one of the bigger maple syrup productions in Pennsylvania, so the weather is particularly critical. Last year was a bust when a hard frost hit after the sap had already started to run. They rendered only 21 gallons of syrup in 2016.
This year, the season started off with high quality sweet sap flowing from 500 taps. But that all came to a halt when the temperatures during the day soared past 50°.
The sugaring season is short, really short. Sometimes only 6 weeks or less. But typically, sap is collected from late January/early February through mid-March. The maple trees begin pulling the sap up when the temperatures fall below freezing at night but warm up some in the daytime. Since our warm weather last week, the trees have started budding. When that occurs, the sap turns bitter. Okay for the tree; not so much for lovers of sweet maple syrup.
“Even if we had another couple of weeks of freezing temperatures,” explains Chris, “it wouldn’t make a difference. The season—after just three weeks—is over.”
The Wampoles have been sugaring for five years and hope to keep increasing the amount of syrup produced to build a solid retail business. Their product, Sundale Creek Maple Syrup, will be for sale at the sugar shack at 476 Headquarters Rd. You may even find it as an ingredient in dishes served at one of Bucks County’s local restaurants.
Chris and Elizabeth will host “Maple Syrup: From Tap to Bottle”, a day of maple sugaring festivities on Saturday, March 4 starting at 11 am with the Tinicum Conservancy, a land trust that helped create a conservation easement for the 100-acre Winfield Farm property. The farm lies within the Tinicum Conservancy Protected Lands, where the Tinicum Creek originates and feeds the Delaware watershed.
For years, Craig Schneiderwind of Schneiderwind Farm in Tinicum has overseen the operation at this preserved farm. He’ll explain the process from start to finish, offer some hands-on opportunities, and, of course, tastings. This is fun for kids and adults alike.
For details of this year’s event check the Tinicum Conservancy Facebook page or call the Conservancy office at 610.294.9732 for registration and directions.
Follow GPS directions to 476 Headquarters Road, Erwinna, PA 18920. However, there is no sign for the farm, so look for the sugar shack.
If you are interested in purchasing Sundale Creek Maple Syrup, contact Chris Wampole at SUNDALECREEK1@gmail.com.
Learn more about Pennsylvania maple sugaring and maple syrup in our first part here.