I LOVE Maple Sugaring. I love every little thing about it. The Native Americans figured out this ultimately simple process and we are now overflowing with suppliers, festivals and folklore. It is brilliant and makes my heart happy. You can imagine my excitement to have 24 acres of trees to tap!
Our first year at the property (4 years ago) we tapped about 15 trees and got a little bit of syrup. Reality has started to settle in. This is A LOT of work for a small reward. Whining time – it is cold, the buckets are heavy and all of our trees are up hill. Nevertheless, we did it that year and honestly did enjoy the process.
During the next summer and fall I walked the property and marked some of the maple trees that were closer to the house, only to find out that most of our trees are Red Maples. The Red’s will give you sap, but they tend to have a good bit of ‘schmutz’ that comes with the sap. Their sugar content is not as high as a sugar maple (therefore you need more sap to make the same amount of syrup). I was not going to let this discourage me. I ordered new supplies and I washed my buckets, taps and tubing. I was anxiously and patiently waiting.
Once the temperatures are above freezing during the day and below freezing at night you are ready to tap! Three years ago on Valentines Day I headed out to drill holes and tap the trees (how romantic). The week went on and the temperature began to get consistently warmer and the sap began to flow, slowly. As the temperatures started to gradually rise I needed to check my buckets more regularly. I wasn’t getting much so I spent another hour or so revisiting all of the taps to make sure they were all in far enough, etc. Over the next few weeks we get an incredibly low amount of sap. The temperatures are getting too warm for outside storage and since I have the day off, we bring the sap in to boil. We start out with about 10 gallons of sap, and have 4 pots going on the stove at once. As a reminder – 10 gallons of sap from Red Maples will give us between 1-2 PINTS of syrup.
We are down to the point where I have the reduced mixture into one pot. It is getting darker and thicker and even maybe starting to resemble the goodness of Maple syrup. It is boiling away and all is good – so I step away for maybe 10 minutes. I come back first noticing the smell, and then finding a STINK BUG doing the dead mans back stroke in one of my pots of sweet delicious sap/syrup. This was an emotional moment, so I grab the pot and spill the sticky water pretty much all over the electric stove. In the panic I grab a dish cloth to wipe it off. It instantly melts on the stove top causing all 3 of the new smoke alarms to go off for about 5 minutes until we figure out how to turn them off…
Cats go running, I am so angry I can barely contain it. This is why, to this day, I will gladly pay someone else the premium price for the good stuff. Maple Madness? Tell me about it …
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