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How Sweet It Is

Good morning everyone. Well we hope you enjoyed as fabulous a weekend as we had. The weather was just incredible with the thermometer reading near 50 degrees for the first time in many, many months. Surely spring is not far off now.

As the seasons turn another annual ritual is at hand and that is the quest for “liquid gold.” Each year we hem and haw about when to tap the maples but this weekend there was absolutely no question about it. Warm days and cold nights are required to get the sap flowing and the forecast for the next week looks perfectly sappy! The energy of sap rising in the maples is the same energy we feel as we get ready for another season of sailing.

Tapping maples is a vernal ritual for our family. Sawyer likes drilling the holes and Courtney enjoys hanging the buckets. Both kids enjoy tasting the first drip of maple sap straight from the tree.

On a good day it only takes a few moments before we hear the tink, tink tink, sound of sap dripping into the buckets.

Since we do not have many sugar maples we tap red maples, quite abundant in our dooryard. We drill a 7/16 inch hole several inches into the tree and carefully spaced away from previous year’s taps. We have found the most productive taps on the south side of the tree placed just below a large limb or just above a large root. Each bucket holds about 2 gallons of crystal clear sap. We have food service plastic trash cans buried deep in the still very large snow banks to hold the sap until we have time to boil it down. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to get one gallon of syrup. While the bulk of the evaporation takes place outdoors we finish the last of the boiling, filtering and canning in our kitchen.

There is nothing fancy about our operation. We made our stove out of an old boiler that we found in the woods. The pan is stainless steel welded together from scraps we bought at the local metal fabrication shop. The entire operation did not cost us more than a hundred dollars, fancy buckets and spiles included.

The years of family time and the enjoyment kids get from being a part of such a New England seasonal ritual is more than worth it. The real payback comes when we get to share the fruits of our labor and watch as guests drizzle warm Maine maple syrup over stacks of steaming blueberry pancakes straight from the griddle. How could life get any sweeter?

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

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