Friday, March 13, 2009

Maple Sugaring

I guess we have field trips on the brain, and a good thing, too - recently, we got to go maple sugaring!


One great thing about living in the northeast are the maple trees, and the lovely, delicious syrup they produce after many, many hours of boiling down the sap, which is 97% water when collected from the trees. Come with us as we learn all about maple syrup!



From winter 08 09


From winter 08 09


The key to maple syrup is, not surprisingly, a maple tree. What did surprise us was learning that any maple tree will do, contrary to the conventional wisdom that only sugar maples produce sugary sap (other maples have less sugar in their sap, but not by much). And, the tree has to be at least 10 inches in diameter, making it about 40 years old. Clearly, maple farmers aren't in it for their own generation!



In these next pics, the kids are first drilling into the tree, and then gently hammering the tap into place. Even before the tap went in, sap started coming out!



From winter 08 09


From winter 08 09


From winter 08 09


From winter 08 09


Now, here we all are, listening intently to the lovely 'plink, plink, plink' sound that the sap makes as it hits the bottom of the bucket. Our ranger, a maple sugarer himself, gave us these few moments of just listening because it's his favorite part of the whole sugaring process... I think it's my favorite, too.



From winter 08 09


Then, we checked the buckets put up yesterday to see how much sap they've collected - quite a lot, as it turned out, enough to share among all the kids' buckets, which they then carried off to the area where the sap gets boiled down into syrup.



From winter 08 09


Nowadays, this is done in a huge, outdoor, wood-fired boiler:



From winter 08 09


Watching this brought back memories for me of living in a great old farmhouse as a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Happily, when it was time to find housing I lucked out and got into this awesome house, shared by myself and 4 housemates. One of them, Tom, tapped the maple trees in our yard, and then boiled the sap down on the woodstove in the kitchen, turning a huge pot of sap into a pint or two of syrup each spring. Maple sugaring always reminds me of those years, for which I am so thankful - I loved my time out there!



Maple sugaring was honed into a fine art by the Native Americans, long before Europeans came on the scene. They tapped the trees like this:



From winter 08 09


And then boiled the sap into syrup using hot rocks:



From winter 08 09


That smoke smelled so good, Luke and Owen had the kids all chanting, "I love rabbits," a takeoff of our family's habit of saying "I hate rabbits" to make campfire smoke move away from us (don't know where it came from, does anyone else do this?)



Before we went out into the woods, we watched a movie about maple sugaring in Massachusetts, and it was such a treat because it featured kids, out sugaring alongside their parents, and talking about this tradition that had often been in their families for generations.



One dad spoke of his desire that his children have a 'sense of place,' and how maple sugaring accomplishes this. While out sugaring, in the beautiful, quiet woods, I think I understood what he meant - and now we are looking for maple trees to tap for syrup, too!

6 comments:

Jena said...

I love this! What a wonderful experience for all of you. The pictures tell a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing with us.

topsytechie said...

Wow...now that is a day chock full of wonderful memories. I've always LONGED to go maple sugaring. Got to head up to New England one of these fine days!!

Melissa R said...

We were there last Sunday, the weather was great. We also tried to go to the thrift store near you, after the sugaring, but it was closed. We had a great time at the sugaring event but it was a LOT longer than we expected. We thought it would be about 30-45 minutes so we weren't prepared for it to be close to 2 hours total. We were in the back for the movie part and so it was really hard to hear. But it was all really interesting and the kids enjoyed it overall. The Maple Tea was yummy, but a mite sweet for me, just a bit.

Anyway, too bad we didn't run into each other, the boys could have talked Pokemon :)

Dana @ Our Sunny Side said...

That's a neat experience! I know my son would love to go sugaring. Thanks to you we can feel like we did!

Jena said...

You are the recipient of an award! Go check my blog. :)

The Stone Age Techie said...

Thanks for reading everyone!

Next year, we are going to tap some trees ourselves, which should make for some pretty amusing blogging.

Jena, thank you very much for the award - I think most of life is about using the lemons you've got to make lemonade :-)
K