Adventure Inspirational Happy

The signs were here; above freezing during the day, dropping down at night. Another good sign was the amount of snow cover this winter, when it stayed through the season and into spring. The trees were now ready for the sugaring season to begin. We looked to one another and with a wink, I said it first. “Let’s do this!” And just like that our version of sugaring had begun.

Preparation was the first thing you just had to do in order on the list. It’s nice when things are put away in the manner of which they would be taken out again. I guess it’s a Yankee thing. Growing up with this mind set was the right way for both of us. Yankee ingenuity has always been part of my family. I think it was due to the fact that my Dad and his brothers and sister always found a use or could reuse anything because there was order among the chaos. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s what you did growing up during the lean years of the depression and then through the years of World War 2. The four of them were amazingly different, the same, and had their own quirks. Family.

Both of us unloaded all the buckets from the corner cabinet in the shed. I topped them over onto the mini kiddie plastic sled that I use for all things related to gardening. It was way much better sometimes pulling this than lugging the wheel barrow around. Carefully, I dragged the buckets and their lids and made the way around to the outside water spigot. Even though I cleaned each one after the last season, they still needed a refresh, minus bugs, or dirt to begin their seasonal job. They all stood now at the ready to be given a designated tree. The taps were cleaned as well and set in the sun to dry.

The drill was charged all set to go. The correct size drill bit was attached and that was that. What we needed to do now, was to scout the property for the proper maple trees. After the years put into this enjoyable homestead-type sugaring thing, I’ve come up with my own identification system. You can tap any type of maple tree but it’s the sugar maple that gives you the most ‘bang for the buck’ or highest sugar content and that is 40 to 1. In simple words it takes 40 gallons of sap from a sugar maple to make 1 gallon of syrup. The other maples such as red and black have a much higher ratio. No thank you. It was the indigenous people hundreds of years ago, who more than likely, discovered this product by accident as the stories are told.

And here we are, an average family, who decided to do this one day. “Why not.” We had made friends with the local sugar house owner in town and that was a plus with sharing his knowledge and more. Reading up on stuff, too, brought us into the know. I studied each leafless tree during the winter months and gained a sense of knowledge over time of the exact shape of the branch and its finer twig ends to pick the right ones. Also, the diameter had to be big enough to make our efforts worth it. It couldn’t be skimpy trees but enough to know the sap flow would be worth it. We are fortunate to have many maple trees surrounding our property. How far into the woods to tap these trees was another question. Schlepping the sap would need to happen daily so having trees tapped closer to the house would be ideal.

I took my chalk sticks and scouted the area. Of course we knew the ones from last year; which were exceptional in the flow, and ones to rethink. Each maple tree is so different. How many to tap this year? It was decided. Twenty. That might sound like such a small amount given the acres and acres some of these farms tap and the tube lines that connect it all. But we boil it down outside and then on our stove top. It’s a lot, for a little, but there is something about getting this sweet bounty for nothing. The sugar in the product comes from the result the evaporation of the water. The clear maple sap boiled down gives you the best reward for your pancakes!

One by one we bring a bucket to each marked tree. The placement is judged as to how it would hang best and the spot for the tap is decided. The taps are in my pocket and with the drill at the ready, the hole is made, just so far in about three quarters of an inch. If sap is dripping immediately after, then that is a happy sign. The tap is put in place with a rubber mallet, the bucket is figured in place, and a heavy nail is put above to hold the bucket handle. The cover is slipped on. The setup is a success. One done, nineteen more to go. All is good.

We begin boiling outside with a ginormous pot of sap strained of any stray bits of whatever upon a one burner gas tank. It takes a while to boil down to a half pot when we decide it’s time to finish on the inside stove. We begin again and the color starts to slightly darken. The water needs to completely boil off. What’s left is the maple syrup. It’s that simple. There’s a slight sauna atmosphere but we have no wall paper to worry about if it would peel off. 

Day by day the weather cooperates. The season, for this significant product highlighted across the country, is just six weeks. As soon as the weather starts to warm up and not drop significantly, time’s up. Also when tree buds appear, the sugaring season is soon over.

Maple Weekend arrives and every sugarhouse across New Hampshire is packed with visitors. We volunteer at our local sugarhouse for this fun event and offer so many samples of local vanilla ice cream with a drizzle of fresh maple syrup. It’s the best treat! With the fire lit and the evaporator boiling another volunteer had to keep an eye on the wood pile.

The homework to be knowledgeable in the whole process when asked a hundred questions happened for us weeks before this day. You got to know your stuff. NH might have more trees than other states but if they’re not tapped your ranking goes down so there are only three New England states in the top 10; Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine.

Soon, it’s over and we’re back home. It’s time to finish another boil. An accurate thermometer reading tells us the process is ready to be done. Bottles are prepped waiting for the last step; filtering the syrup through lambswool cloth to eliminate any impurities. I do this twice and then the color and the fragrant liquid is packed into the small containers. It’s not a lot by any means but we have a thing with nature. We honor Mother Earth and feel rewarded with such a simple gift.

Now, let’s start this party started and get the griddle going. Time to flip out!

March 26, 2021 23:08

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