It was 50 degrees yesterday and definitely time to taple the maple tree. Last year, Keith surprised me by all of a sudden being knowledgeable in how to do this. He accelerated from zero to farmer almost overnight. I came home from the day job to 2 taps on the maple tree just outside the front door.

 

Hold my hand as I take you into the way back files and relive my early memories of making maple syrup. Don’t be scared, I’m right here with you.

My parents moved to a very small town (no stop lights and no neon signs allowed per town ordinance) in Vermont when I was one month into my Freshman year of high school. Vermont is Maple Syrup country. These people take it seriously. Any February, as you drive to  and from, you can look into the woods and see, not buckets, but miles and miles of tubing. These tubes are hooked onto the tree taps and gravity moves the sap to a large collection container which is then picked up and brought to the sugar house for boiling.

One year, my Dad decided to tap the sugar maple at the back of our property. The tree was huge and had never been tapped. He gathered a lot of sap. Having just an electric stove in the kitchen, he put the sap in the largest pot we had and put in on the bbq grill and commenced the boiling process. He forgot about it and came to check on it hours later, only discovering a big lump of burned, black sugar, like coal, stuck to the bottom of the pot. I don’t recall if the pot could be saved. It smelled awful, but he got an “A” for effort. Making Maple Syrup experience #1.

Several years later, I was living in Townsend, VT. I rented a beautiful post and beam home from a couple who decided to pack their truck, load up their Husky and travel the country for a few years. They needed someone to watch the house and the Alaskan Malamutes. (To keep you coming back to the DaisyPatch, I will tease you that someday, I will share the story about me defending these dogs from a pack of wild coyotes wearing nothing but a bathrobe and brandishing a Ruger rifle.)

The home-owner’s parents lived next door (which, in this area of Vermont, was a mile or so down the road) and ran a sugaring operation. I got to see the whole process. I put on the shit-kicker boots, hitched the dogs to their leashes and let them drag me to the sugar house. (You don’t walk Alaskan Malamutes, they walk you. Their owner used to have them drag her on a dogsled. I didn’t have the courage to try that while they were in my care, I should have.)

The folks were very nice. The sugar shack was basically a shed with a big-ass wood stove and a large steaming vat in the middle of the room where the sap boiled. My glasses fogged up and my hair instantly frizzed. They had me try sugar-on-snow for the very first time. I would like to get romantic here (dare I say, ‘sappy’?) and tell you that it was at that moment I knew I’d want to make maple syrup one day. Not true. Sugar-on-snow was wet snow. There was nothing special about it. Try as I might, I couldn’t taste the sugar in the sap that was drizzled over a snowball. I was polite, however, and appropriately, “Mmm”ed and “Yumm”ed as they watched my face during my first taste. I remember looking cautiously at the black flecks that had been in the sap and were now sitting on top of the wet snowy mushball they had prepared for me and were now making me eat.  All I could think was, “Bug parts.” Making Maple Syrup experience #2.

So, when Keith tapped the tree last year, I was like, “Eh, whatever.” Now, however, I love it. Keith watched a video on YouTube and did some research to reinforce what he already knew about how syrup was made from sap. When all was said and done, he got about a gallon of syrup. I have to say, it tastes better than any syrup I’ve tasted. It has a maplysyrupy taste, but after you swallow, the finish is very green – fresh – outdoorsy. Like a fresh cut lawn. We gave some away and kept some in the freezer. I had some this AM on my pancakes. I will debate with anyone that there isn’t much better in this world than homemade pancakes with homemade syrup. Making Maple Syrup experience #3 was way better than the other two. Maybe it’s because it’s our trees and it’s Keith making the syrup. A little bit of love always makes pancakes taste better.

So, Roy and Jen came over yesterday afternoon and we made a little ceremony about tapping the tree.

About 3-4 feet up from the base of the tree, drill a hole. Slant the hole upwards a bit.

Roy doing the honors

 Then, insert the spout.

 You can see the hook hanging off the spout. That’s where the bucket hangs.

 Next, pop on the bucket.

The maple tree split at the bottom, so it is basically 2 trees. Jen and I did the next one and we’re going to have a little competition about the guy’s tree against the girl’s tree. Fun with maple syrup.

This was all yesterday. Today, Keith tapped three of the good neighbor’s trees and we’re off and running. When Daisy and I went out today, I could hear the plink plink of sap dripping into the metal buckets. It was a good sound. It meant self-sufficiency, it meant friendship, it meant there were pancakes in our future.

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