A Spot of Sweetness (ms)

March is a roller coaster month, as bad as November in trying to figure out which way it’s going. High winds one day, clear and sunny the next, accumulating snow the day after that; if you don’t like the weather wait five minutes and it will change. Come to think of it, that’s probably the only weather guarantee this month can make: not hot, not cold, not rainy just, well, weather.

Given the twists and turns of the weather in March it is no surprise we can’t be convinced that spring is on the way, that it will arrive and that it is not just a date on the calendar. Most folks can’t be blamed really if they forget when spring is supposed to arrive so confusing is this month. I have just gotten word, however, that spring is in fact on the way, that it’s only a matter of time. The maple sap is running dear reader, not steadily just yet but close enough to nail down for certain the fact that we have not been forgotten, that spring is indeed coming.

Cold nights, warm days and the sap flows like water and that’s a good thing. I do not recall the amount for certain but the ratio of gallons of sap to gallons of syrup can lead you to believe that it’s a thankless task. It is surely a chancy thing. A producer can’t be certain from year to year what will happen and there are years when nothing much does. March strikes again.

When it all comes together, though, it’s a wonderful thing to watch. Originally sap flowed down spouts into buckets hanging from the trees. These in turn were emptied into a large tub by the producer, most often a farmer with a nice stand of trees, and then taken to the sugar shack. That system has largely been replaced by plastic tubing which is obviously labor saving.

In any event the sap eventually make its way to the pans where the moisture in it is boiled away. Huge clouds of steam roll up and hang against the underside of the roof while the cooking goes on. It isn’t easy work. If wood is your fuel you must cut it first then be prepared to feed it to the cooking fire 24/7 for once you start you can’t stop until the sap runs out. Now you can guess why homemade syrup is fairly expensive compared to the commercial brands.

I’ve spent some time at sugar shacks over the years and it’s a great way to pass and afternoon or evening. You get to talk a lot, to enjoy the company of people who often are bent on keeping the old ways at least for another generation.

You can’t hurry some things in this world, it will get done when it gets done and there’s no use trying to speed it up. Come to think of I doubt you would want to anyway. It’s done fine over the years just like it is and you don’t mess with something that isn’t broken.

–Mike Stevens

~ by admin on March 15, 2012.

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