The snow is finally subsiding here, and I'm reappearing after a long respite. Such a busy and wonderful Winter has melted into a sweet Spring. Why? Well, because the balance of life seems to be finally tipping in the direction of ease. So much of the past couple of years has seemed, well, uphill. Between little ones, big projects and small budgets, it sometimes felt like I could never get ANYTHING done. I won't count my chickens yet (although we've ordered eight new chicks, due in early May). But I will count my blessings.
I have been dreaming of tapping our own maple trees to boil clear, drippy sap into golden, earthy maple syrup—for years. Visits to sugar houses, where hobbyists and seasoned families fire up their evaporators and serve sugar on snow, got me hooked. But the short sugaring season snuck up on me every March—until this year, when I finally got geared up in time. I felt giddy as we left Slattery's Maple Supply with a stack of used sap buckets and taps, and I listened to them rattle around in the way back on the bumpy backroads home.
The boys and I spent the next afternoon drilling and tapping 10 maples, to start. We soon figured out how to do it, drilling a slightly uphill hole into each with a 7/16 inch drill bit. And we picked trees that were close to the house and big enough to share some of their sap with us.
The boys hung the buckets and threaded the covers over the taps to keep out rain and debris. Fruit flies seem to find their way in, anyway, but we filtered them out later.
As soon as we hung the last bucket, we heard it: on cue, the bright "plink"..."plink" ... "plink" told us the sap was running. (The cold nights and warming days of late March get trees pumping.) I was so grateful. The fact is, so many homesteading projects require well-planned effort and exacting efficiency. But everything about this was so uncomplicated that I could just concentrate on the fun.
A day or so later, we hauled a huge lobster pot out of the basement, built a fire in the belly of an old grill beneath it, and we started boiling. Between the spring sunshine warming our backs, a fire warming our hands, and the smell of woodsmoke mixed with moist, sweet maple in the air, Owen said what we were all thinking... "This is just plain pleasant, isn't it?"
We cleaned up gardens while it boiled. We fed the fire as it boiled. We ate supper outside as it boiled. We fetched more cool sap from waiting maples as it boiled. And, at the end of our first sugaring season, we'd made just about three quarts of gorgeous, golden, maple syrup to pour over everything. Without even tasting it, I feel all warm and happy inside. Spring is sweet. Muddy, but sweet.