Summer on a Shoestring

Sweet Times in Shoestring Plots
July 23, 2013, 2:37 pm
Filed under: Winter

By Adam Wild


*View from Bear Notch Road in the winter

As winter temperatures begin to warm  and the first signs of winter drawing  to a close appear, if you listen very carefully you can hear something mysterious happening in the Shoestring plots.  Drip…….drip…..drip.    Blanketed in over a meter of snow and no rustling leaves, the woods are eerily silent except for an occasional snowmobile tourist or dog sled team on Bear Notch Road and drip…..drip.  The sound penetrates throughout the forest stand,  drip……..drip.  The sound is sweet to the ears, drip…..drip.  What is the sound?  It comes from the sugar maples trees releasing their sweet maple sap.


*Maple sap dripping into one of my test tubes for analysis


* Shoestring Stand C8, plot 1 in the winter

After spending a summer in the Shoestring plots where ther e is a lot of hustle and bustle it is strange to be in the shoestring plots in the winter all alone.  The woods open up into new views  not visible during the summer months.   The forest is peaceful in the winter as the trees are enjoying a nice long rest from all the Shoestring Interns. However, near the end of winter they starts to wake up in anticipation of a new group of awesome young scientist who will come and feed them either N, P, N&P or Ca (the control trees are not quite as happy as they get nothing) and who will come asses how well they’re performing.  The trees like to think of us as doctors or even officials in a fierce competition where each one is trying to prove they are better. Image

*Bear Notch Road is only accessible by snowmobile in the winter


* I was only able to access a couple of the stands by skiing in with all my gear

Freezing temperatures at night and day time temperatures above freezing allow the magnificent sugar maples to draw up their sweet sap into their branches at night and release back down into the roots when it thaws.  The sap can be collected as it drops back down the tree and boiled down to make maple syrup, yum! No pancake is complete without tasty maple syrup.  My project is to go around to the Shoestring sugar maples and test the sweetness of their sap and see whether the nutrient additions increase the sweetness of the sap.  Sweeter sap allows you to make more maple syrup from the same amount of sap.  More maple syrup, more pancakes!


* Fresh Maple Syrup I Made


* The White House in The WinterImage

*Testing the Sweetness of Maple Sap with a Digital Refractometer


*Enjoying Fresh Maple Sap



A Frozen Shoestring
February 17, 2013, 9:21 pm
Filed under: Recreation, Winter

With much joy I can report there are no black-flies or mosquitoes out in the stands today.  Of course it was a bit windy, gusting over 2o and a bit cold, somewhere around -10C.  Such conditions will deter even the mightiest of pesky biting bugs or so I have heard.  After spending so much time through summer and fall my curiosity got the best of me.  I had to see at least some of the MELNHE stands under cover of snow.

Skier climbing a steep snow hill

Where are we headed? Name that stand.

A solo trip would not be a good idea so I recruited Sean, volunteer on the leaf litter decomposition experiment and assistant emptier of baskets for the fall basket collection.  Somehow, he hasn’t learned yet that I have a few crazy ideas and agreed to join the expedition.

Skiing up Bear Notch Rd. in winter was rather pleasant.  Most often the gusts were above us as the road cuts across the terrain.  Local snowmobile enthusiasts groom the road so the snow was in near perfect condition.  With all the blowing and some falling snow, there was little to look at along the way save for the trees at hand.  I did notice a number of areas still exposed bare from the previous melting events, now frozen solid.

Given all the melting from rain and warm weather recently I was surprised at the overall depth of the snow in the woods.  Nearly one meter in places. The snowpack left by the Nor’easter last weekend had added some good depth.  The result was that no corner posts were visible.  Ok, we didn’t look that hard, but the obvious ones were buried and the plot signs were at about DBH or lower.  Skiing in the woods is always fun and I love the open spaces between big trees. Skiing through tight trees is also fun (read “hair-raising”) but I had never experienced young stand skiing before, glad I had eye protection on!

In the woods

Name that stand?

Skiing down the road was pleasant although less so then the trip up.  The exertion of the climb had kept me warm earlier, not so for the downhill.  Each stop along the way I had to shake my hands out to get the blood back but that is typical for the Whites this time of year.  Getting out into the woods in winter means cold fingers and toes.  But since I can type this out I guess I recovered just fine!