(I apologize for such a picture heavy post, but I couldn’t decide what to leave out.)
Like so many others, you were probably taught that there are four seasons – Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn. But you were not taught correctly, because, you see, while those are the seasons everyone knows about, there are others that are not as well known. In some places there’s a rainy season and a dry season. In others there’s Indian Summer. Here in New England, we have sugaring season. And it has arrived!
You’ll never see Sugaring Season on a calendar, as there’s really no way to set a date. It arrives on it’s own, and sometimes rather unexpectedly. The days begin to lengthen and the daytime temperatures rise to 40 degrees or so, while night time temperatures are still quite cold. The season is short – only 3 to 4 weeks long, and it ends when the maple leaf buds appear on the trees.
For miles around at this time of year you’ll see trees with all sorts of buckets hanging on them and on the land of big producers you’ll see blue tubing snaking it’s way from tree to tree to a large collection barrel. We’ve tried a few different ways of collecting, but the easiest for us is to hang clean milk jugs (we bought them this year from the man we buy our milk from) just below the taps. We hang the jugs on a string so that they can easily be retrieved. In past years we used 5 gallon buckets, which lessened the frequency of gathering sap, but increased the difficulty that comes from carrying very heavy and often full 5 gallon buckets through 2-3 feet of snow.
This year we tapped more trees than we have since our first winter here, but many of them have never been tapped before and some are just barely big enough to qualify as old enough for tapping, so we aren’t sure how much sap we’ll gather. But some of the taps began dripping as soon as they were placed, which is not only a great sign, but also fun for the children to drink right from the tap (though they do declare that the syrup isn’t quite ready yet).
Rufus (one of our cats who acts like a dog), followed us around as we walked from tree to tree. He quickly tired of walking through the snow and asked to be held for a bit, so Zach gave him a lift. Tapping trees was paused for nibbling on snow, having a few snowball fights, a bit of snow wrestling, and wandering off to try to identify tracks seen off in the distance, and a well deserved break – it’s hard work walking through snow that is still so deep.
I need to dig out our firepit in order to start boiling the sap off, but that will have to wait for another day when I’m home long enough during daylight hours. But for now, the sap is running and plans of all sorts of maple syrup topped meals are being planned.