Some people watch the chimney of the Vatican Chapel to see whether there’s a new pope. Hereabouts we watch the chimney of the nearest sap house to see whether boiling has begun.

It has. Maybe you can see the smoke in the picture.

But it was a long time coming. You need to have days above freezing and nights below freezing for the best results and you need to zero in on the six week span with the most days of that sort because in six weeks the maple tree will heal up and stop producing. Do you think the weather people on television can tell you when those six weeks will be? Don’t be silly! In this part of the woods, those six weeks will probably be between the first of February and the end of March, but start too soon and you may miss a really good run at the end. Start too late and you may miss the best quality sap at the beginning.

Usually I start too late. It’s hard to be enthusiastic about slogging through the snow with heavy buckets of sap and tending the boil morning, noon, and night. “Enthusiasm,” said Samuel Johnson, “is a very dangerous thing.” Indeed. I could, of course, skip the whole thing, but then what would we put on our pancakes or distribute as hostess gifts?

Last year I was later than I should have been so this year I resolved to be sure to catch that first run. We had a few good days early in the month and I got carried away and tapped the trees and hung the buckets. But the weather changed, as it always does around here, and for two weeks I collected an occasional drip, knocked the ice out of the buckets, watched the collected sap grow cloudy – as it does if not used within a day or two – and finally, finally, have had a good day with a harvest of about twenty gallons of sap. That will boil down to maybe two quarts of syrup so we have a long way to go.

But the sap is running, the evaporator is steaming, the chimney is smoking, and I’m out there collecting the sap, stoking the fire, and watching the boil. Don’t try to reach me now until the season is over.

1 Comment

CarolineMarch 1st, 2009 at 8:23 pm


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