Every Year at This Time

There comes a day toward the winter’s end when the sun is warmer and the air itself seems charged with new life and it feels good to be outside. In our part of the world, that day comes about the middle of February. We could still have a good deal of snow, even blizzards, before spring truly arrives, but when the time comes to tap the maple trees winter is a spent force. I doubt that Doc Henry at South Kent School ever tapped a maple tree, but when the weather changed, he would say, “The back of winter is broken.” And so it is.

When I was growing up, my brother and I would take a brace and bit (who even knows what that is in this day of power drills?) and a hammer and go ask the neighbors’ permission up and down our street and then we would tap the trees and hang mason jars by their bails (who still uses mason jars or knows what a bail is? The mason jars had been used to can tomatoes – who does that any more? – but by February many of them had been emptied and could be put to a different use.) School being over, we would take our buckets and collect the sap and begin a boil.

The great advantage of retirement is that you no longer have to go to school or make parish calls or do any of those things that interfere with the main work of the season: collecting and boiling down sap and making maple syrup.

Today was the day. I had hung two buckets (mason jars fill up too quickly and I can afford now to buy buckets) a couple of days ago by way of encouraging the weather but then it rained all day and the buckets, though full, had to be emptied out on the ground. (Even a little rain water discolors the sap.) But today was sunny and the temperature (23 over night) was predicted to get near 40. That’s ideal for the sap to run. So I took my brace and bit and hammer and hung twenty buckets. That’s not a lot when you figure that you may collect a gallon per tap on a good day and it takes forty gallons to make one gallon of syrup. But I’m not greedy; a few gallons of syrup will suffice for friends and family.

And anyhow, it’s not so much the syrup as the satisfaction of being out again in the woods and feeling the freshness of the air and knowing that spring is on the way.


LibbyFebruary 19th, 2008 at 1:05 pm

Yay, syrup time!

MikeFebruary 19th, 2008 at 8:01 pm

sorry we missed tapping, but we will still enjoy the results!

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