We find it difficult, sometimes, to figure out when to start projects. Often, we find it even more difficult to figure out when to stop!
Birch tapping got off to a slow start this year. Now, we’re producing almost more than we can handle. At the moment, I have 7 gallons of birch wine in process, along with another two gallons of other wine to which I’m adding birch sap, and we’re still harvesting about a gallon a day.
Even staying within the limitations of the trees we’re tapping, this bounty seduces us into taking full advantage of it. We don’t want to get too greedy; on the other hand, we don’t want to waste a limited seasonal window. Then again, we’re a small operation at best. We can’t devote all the time we’d like to harvesting sap while still seeing to all the other needs of the homestead.
And yet, we strike while the iron’s hot, as it were. Starting so many batches of wine within such a short period of time taxes some resources, like sugar, equipment, and space, but creates economies in others. All of the wine I’ve made since harvesting the first gallon of sap has been made from one yeast packet, extended carefully (see Expanding Wine Yeast). The 1/2 pound or so of raisin must needed for each batch has served all of the birch batches after starting a batch of raisin wine with a couple of pounds shortly before the tapping started. We discovered last year that raisins make the initial batch rather dry and coarse, while subsequent batches turn out smooth, light, and sweet. Some must bags have started three gallons of birch wine so far, not counting the initial raisin wine. These sorts of savings make the hustle and crowding of more batches worthwhile.
Birch wine may be our best cottage wine. It’s one of the easier ones to make, it finishes quickly—we expect to start drinking it in August or September—and it’s one of our top two or three best tasting wines. Out put in years past has barely moved beyond the experimental stage. At the rate we’re going, we’ll have plenty to enjoy for months to come, perhaps even until next tapping season.
We should stop when the trees we’re tapping begin to leaf out. I wonder, though, just how much longer that might be? We could conceivably double our current output before then.
So, we’ll continue on right on until we figure out how to stop. Hopefully, we’ll work something out soon. After birch season comes spruce tip season, rhubarb season, and a lot more. We’ll need to know when to start each season, but more so, when to stop!