Thursday, March 23, 2006


Can Spring be Far off?

One of the surest way to know spring isn’t far off in New England is when all the local farmers start collecting sap from maple trees to make maple syrup. It is a reassuring sight to know that spring really isn’t too far off. For the sap to “run good”, there has got to be nights that are below freezing and days that warm up. As the sap in the trees thaws out and becomes liquid, it starts running down the inside of the tree. Holes are drilled into the tree and a spigot inserted. And then - if nature cooperates (and you really never know, do you?) - there is about 3 weeks of sap harvest.


Some farmers “boil” their own sap. Others – who either don’t have the facilities or lack the time to commit to boiling - take the clear sap to a “sugar house” and sell it to them. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup!

The picture here shows two ways to collect sap - the old-fashioned way my friend Mike does it - and the new-fangled modern way our neighbors the Herron’s do it. In the old way, metal buckets with lids (so the snow and rain doesn’t dilute the sap) are attached to the tree and the sap drips into the bucket – making a lovely ping, ping, ping sound. The buckets need to be emptied once a day when it is running good.

The new-fangled – but more efficient way - is called pipeline - shown on the right of the photo. A hole is still made in the tree. Plastic tubing is run from tree to tree down a hill (that’s the green and blue lines in the picture) and the sap is collected in GIANT plastic square containers. Then a pump is used to remove the sap to a giant tank on the back of a truck. The pipeline can stay up from year to year.

There’s nothing that compares to the sweet rich taste of maple syrup. I mix it with mustard and other spices for a marinade for ham and barbequed pork. This is the time of year, so if you can get out to a sugarhouse – go now and enjoy the rich history of boiling sap and harvesting from the land.

We made syrup for a few years. It’s a great way to get rid of lots of branches and trees that fall down in the woods and the yard and it gets you outside thinking of spring and enjoying the warmth of the sun that is higher in the sky and the wood fire burning. But now that our daughter Julia is diabetic – it’s not quite the same so we are taking a break.

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