sugarin’ time…

…Here in Kentucky, that is.IMGP0355We’ve had a very busy week thus far tapping trees and gathering sap. The weather has been so lovely this week that all of the work we’ve been doing felt more like opportunity than toil. I would have to recommend not tapping sugar maples if you don’t like a few sore muscles and smelling intensely of wood smoke.IMGP0385Today was our first boil-off of the sugaring season and to say that I am tired might be an understatement. We must have boiled off about 100 gallons of sap today. The 2-3 gallons that did not evaporate into thin air are now finishing on the cookstove in the house. I’m not sure I can see the task to completion this evening as the darkness has long since settled and I was dressed and out the door at 3:30 am this morning. (I have to add here that Eric was up at 2:45 am and had the fire raging before I even arrived on the scene!) Plus, we will be firing the rig again in the morning, and, looking at the clock and calculating the number of hours between now and then… well, I don’t see a whole lot of sleep in my near future.IMGP0344That’s ok, though. Maple syrup seems worth the effort. In particular, maple syrup that comes from trees that are like family to me. Trees that have become interwoven into the fabric of my life here on the farm. Trees that loom in the backdrop of my every day existence, no matter what the season. Trees that my children are beginning to identify as individuals and as good friends (that have pocketfuls of sweet candy). I live in a forest full of sugar maples and feel incredibly lucky for that fact.IMGP0347We’re getting better at the process of sugarin’ as the years pass. Each year we seem to make one or two refinements that seem to revolutionize our lives. Last year it was the evaporator pan. This year, a length of irrigation pipe from the pasture that wasn’t being used. That very basic 200 feet of plastic pipe with a funnel duct taped to the end has spared me countless treks down the very steep and slippery forest slope with a full load of maple sap. This year, the funnel-attached-to-the-pipe is kind of centrally located in the sugar bush and we merely have to traverse the slope a bit and dump buckets of sap in the glory hole of the funnel. Gravity takes care of the rest… directly into our storage tank. This makes me very happy. I’m a pretty cheap date. Amazing what joy I can garner from some black plastic irrigation pipe, a cheap-o plastic funnel, and some duct tape. In my opinion, that’s way better than a movie and some popcorn.

And now, my friends, I’m calling it a day. The sap is still running… but I’m fading.IMGP0349

5 thoughts on “sugarin’ time…

  1. This post brings back many nice memories. When we lived in the Hoosier State of Indiana we had some lovely old Sugar Maples in the front yard. Nearly 20 years later I believe we’ve still got a few quarts of the golden product in our larder. The work may be hard … but you and your family are very lucky for the one-a-kind-experience of Sugarin.’ I still marvel at how far ahead of us you are. When I look out the picture window to my left, as I compose this comment, the snow is falling and covering the seed I spread for the birds faster than they can eat it. Both stoves are going and still I feel chill. Sleep well … you are fortunate. D

    • Wow, I can’t believe you still have some syrup from all of those years ago! That’s impressive! My kids don’t let anything sweet hang around that long, and I have to really ration the syrup and we have still never made it an entire year from one season’s haul. The hard work of sugarin’ feels good to me, and it is an excellent physical conditioner as we gear up for spring on the farm! Also, I’ve been wondering how y’all did at the sheep to shawl competition? Cher

      • You should check out the blog post of just about this time last week … We took fourth place out of eight teams … about our usual spot, and we’re OK with that. Joanna and her team simply appreciate the opportunity to spend an afternoon making something useful and beautiful. If you look at the team picture in that post you’ll see Joanna … she’s the shortest one on the team, third from left! We were totally delighted to see Hannah, Chandler, and Debra (and her sister and Mom too, I think) there as well; it was really nice to see them all. D

    • Hi Stan… each year is different, depending on the weather. Here in Ky, our season is much shorter than up north in the more traditional sugaring states. I think this is why not too many folks make syrup around us. Last year we made about 8 gallons. Once I finish up our second batch today, I should have about four gallons of syrup so far. We still have a fair bit of sap to cook, and the taps are still flowing. My goal, which is fairly ambitious, is at least ten gallons!

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