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Maple sugaring time

It may be mud season, but at least it’s also time for maple sugaring. I’ve never actually had the chance before to help out with collecting sap and turning it into maple syrup, but I am this year! My uncle makes about 10 gallons of maple syrup each year (enough for him to put lots on his pancakes throughout the year and also give away some as gifts), and I am helping him a little bit this year.

Basically, you have to put some taps in the tree, and hang some buckets to collect the sap. Then, you walk around and monitor the buckets, pouring the sap into another container so you can carry it up to the driveway where the boiling is going on in the rig. There is a fire and then a big rectangular, metal thing that you pour the sap into and boil off until it finally becomes syrup (many hours later). You have to make sure you have enough sap so that the fire doesn’t scorch it, and you also have to make sure you keep the fire going.

It’s not actually that complicated, but it’s a lot of work. It takes something like 40 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of syrup, which helps to explain why the stuff is so darn expensive. There are certainly much more sophisticated methods of collecting and processing the sap — if you walk around the woods in Vermont at this time of year, you’re likely to come across a network of tubes that are transporting sap into a larger collecting basin. But, I like the way my uncle does it — very traditional and low-tech.

I guess the other neat part about it is that it really clues you into the fact that the season is changing. The sap won’t run until the days are warm enough, but the nights are still cold. In the past few days, we’ve really had some significantly warmer weather, and it definitely feels like spring is here. Of course, it’s likely that we’ll get some more snow, but at least the days are longer and it’s warming up. I was actually hot sitting outside today for lunch, which was a glorious feeling.  Although we spend an awful lot of time studying here, it’s nice to have a connection to the outside and know what’s happening there. Knowing that it’s maple sugaring time is one of those things that connects you to the land, and I love it. It probably also helps that I love the syrup, too!

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