Thursday, March 10, 2011

Guest Post! Thoughts of Spring and Maple Sugaring

Occassionally I will have guest posts.  The first guest post is from my sister-in-law, Heidi.  Heidi and her husband, Nathan, have four children ages 9 months to 6 years.  They live on the other side of the state.  Heidi enjoys a little bit of everything, including homeschooling and spending time with her family while trying new things, like tapping trees.  :)  Check out her blog: Dearly Loved Mist

I love the changing of the seasons: The sunny warmth of Summer, the crisp days of Fall, the still, white, biting cold of Winter and the wet, muddy, newness of Spring. By the end of February, I am aching to let the kids outside without the fifteen minute frustrating session of pushing and pulling and zipping (and sometimes whining and crying). Oh, to send them outside with just a light jacket and rubber boots! Oh, to send them outside for more than the twenty minutes they can stand of the bitter winter weather! Needless to say, by the end of February, I am ready for Spring. This is not to say that I pray for Spring. No. I pray that I will be content in whatever “season” of life I am in. But I do long for Spring. 

This year my husband, Nate, decided to tap our maple trees. Sugaring season is at the end of February. This is the perfect time for enjoying the out of doors and noticing that Spring is just around the corner. While the nights are still frigid, the days are more mild and the sun is (usually) out! We live on two acres, half of which are wooded. In the Fall, Nate marked our maple trees with spray paint so we'd be able to tell which trees are supposed to be tapped come February because, unlike people that study nature and know all about trees and plants, we don't. It would be a sad thing to tap a walnut tree.
It was expensive to buy the traditional metal buckets and spiles (the metal piece you stick into the tree that the sap flows through), so we decided to go the “Dutch” route (my hubby is Dutch which means, "frugal" :)) We went to Menards and bought galvanized metal nipples, plastic tubing, and three - 5 gallon plastic buckets.

We found the marked trees and drilled one hole per tree (you can do more as long as the tree is big enough – google "maple sugaring" or "tapping trees" and you'll find oodles of information). Then we hooked up the tubing and ran it into the hole that we cut in the lid of the bucket.
After one week, we had 9 gallons of sap from just three taps! The sap is clear and has just a hint of sweetness.  That day we boiled it down. Nate had our camping burner going outside and we also boiled inside (probably not the best setup, but hey! Our house smelled like a sugar shack!). It took all day from 7:30am until 5:30pm – nonstop boiling – to get the final product. We got about 3 ½ cups of pure maple syrup from 9 gallons of sap! Now I understand why it's so expensive! And, oh my, is it tasty. Like nothing I've ever tasted. I'm sure it's the best syrup. Probably because it was made from “our” trees through a process that involved our whole family living and learning together. 

This Saturday you'll find us doing the same. We'll have 9 more gallons to boil down. We'll be outside and in, enjoying the wet, probably cold, hopefully sunny outdoors. We'll be laughing and enjoying each other. We'll be learning and working together as a family. We'll be licking our fingers of the sticky, sweetness of our toil. And we'll be joyfully anticipating the coming of Spring!