First Maple Sugaring Season

First Maple Sugaring Season

I’ll be candid with you, it was a toss up for the title of this post between ‘Caught Unprepared’ and ‘What Do You Mean You Don’t Sell Handtools?’ I vacillated back and forth and could not decide, so you are left with the thoroughly uncreative ‘First Maple Sugaring Season.’ The two parts of the story are so well intertwined that it would be a disservice to give one the title as though the other part were some how less relevant.

Cut the chit chat and explain, Steve! Okay, okay, here we go:

I was home from work early this afternoon and was sitting in the most comfortable chair in the house. And I’m pretty beat at this point – my limbs were feeling like overcooked spaghetti. Long week, crazy kids, early mornings, a very late night with good friends, that sort of thing. I pulled out my iPhone and started scrolling through Facebook. One of my friends, who’s studying at the local college of environmental science and forestry, posts a picture of himself attending a class in which they’re tapping sugar maples.

And I’m thinking:

Wow, that’s great. We’re planning to do that this year too and… WAIT A MINUTE! What do you mean it’s maple sugaring season?! Oh no! We’re going to miss the sap run!

Timing the sap run can be somewhat difficult, and I’d been concerned about knowing when it would be. How much more obvious could it get? The local college was tapping trees today, the temperature’s been in the 20s all week and starting tomorrow it will be in the 40s with freezing nights. Time to get on top of it!

So, I run out with Luke to get a hand drill (or auger, as Almanzo Wilder used in Farmer Boy. It seems appropriate to merge our homeschooling lessons of literature and backyard science together.) We went to three different hardware stores. We got three different sales clerks blinking at us, saying that they did not know what a manually powered hand drill was. And all three checked their computers for inventory, confirming that there was nothing of the sort to be sold. Really? Is it that far-fetched to think that a hardware store might sell hand tools?

We had to settle for an extra long extension cord so that my drill could reach the trees from the outlets in our barn and house. We did this between 8 and 9 pm with Gabe after the younger two boys were in bed. No, it does not have to be done in the dark of the night, but that’s just what happens when you’re not on top of things.

Everything is a homeschooling lesson. If each tree can accommodate approximately 1 tap for every 10 inches of diameter, how many taps can this tree take?

That said, I’m still not convinced that hand drills are that archaic… after all, the college instructor was using one in the picture on Facebook. And these brick and mortar places are wondering why people are shopping online. Sheesh.

Anyway, I originally had grandiose plans to garner enough maple syrup, maple cream and sugar to replace all of our sweetener for the year and eliminate our need for processed, white sugar*. Those lofty goals have faded to just being satisfied if we’re able to figure out how to get a few quarts of maple syrup. Then again, I’m a dreamer, so in thinking of just a few quarts, a couple of gallons doesn’t seem that unreasonable to strive for. And while we’re at it, if we just reduce the sap only a little bit further we’ll get to try some maple cream and sugar…

This has the high potential of becoming one of those projects where Rachel and I are up until 2 am stirring huge vats of some concoction, both sobbing while one says to the other “I told you! I told you we were taking on too much at once!”

We shall see. Check back in a week or so to see how we made out. I’m sure our tears will make for some great laughter.

*Yes, sugar is sugar, and it’s difficult to say that any one sweetener is ‘better’ than the other. However, if we are going to use sweetener, we’d definitely prefer to use a whole food rather than a heavily processed one.

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