Jim Freyenhagen lives in Union and has been producing maple syrup for 26 years. After 20 years in the Coast Guard and just as many years as a big rig driver, Freyenhagen is at home this month making maple syrup.

Born in Vermont, Freyenhagen knows a thing or two about tapping trees and transforming sap into maple syrup.

The Freyenhagen Family Farm is at 51 Wottons Mill Road in Union, on the corner near Route 17, and there Freyenhagen uses a 4-by-12-foot wood-fired evaporator to produce 300 to 500 gallons of maple syrup each year. The evaporator is stoked with wood to keep a consistent temperature of 219 degrees Fahrenheit, 7 degrees above the boiling point of water. Approximately 20,000 gallons of sap will be boiled down this season to make the syrup, which consists only of what flows from the maple tree every Maine spring.

Froggy’s Sap Shack at the Freyenhagen Family Farm is steamy and warm with a sweet smell in the air this time of year. A neighbor said that when the wind is blowing in her direction there is a hint of maple in the breeze.

The sap season runs about four weeks in March when temperatures are above freezing during the day and below freezing at night. According to the Farmers Almanac, “fluctuating temperatures are essential to a good maple sap run. Above freezing temperatures increase pressure inside a dormant maple tree, forcing the sap out of tap holes. Below freezing temperatures lower pressure, creating suction that draws water into the tree’s roots, which helps to recharge the sap supply.”

Freyenhagen taps maple trees from Camden to Dixfield and in between. Some landowners sign lease agreements while others trade syrup for the permission to tap. Freyenhagen runs tubing between and around the trees, and sets out buckets to collect the sap. On one recent day the clear liquid ran out of the holes as fast as they were drilled.

The number of times a tree is tapped is determined by the circumference of the tree — one tap for a 12-inch diameter trunk and an additional tap for every 3 inches after that. The taps are placed approximately 2 inches into the trunk of the maple tree.

“Push the tap too far into the tree and the hole is ruined,” said Freyenhagen.

The holes almost always heal after the sap season. If they don’t heal it means the maple tree is dying.

The Freyenhagen Family Farm will be open during Maine Maple Weekend, to be held Saturday and Sunday, March 27 and 28. Freyenhagen also gives tours for schools and organizations.

Freyenhagen sells the syrup and a maple cream for biscuits out of his home and travels during the summer months to farmers markets across the state. Once the sap season is over, he begins picking fiddleheads. He said people may pick up syrup and fiddleheads at the same time.

For more information, call 785-4559.