Time to hang a few buckets

March 8, 2013

All winter I have numbed my mind with one downloaded TV series after another, waiting for the day that winter ends, that day when the first spile thunks into the first maple, and the gentle tap-tap-tap grows in the bucket.

Yesterday everything got stuck in the snow. It just wasn’t time yet. Today started even worse with the Ranger stuck on the lawn in front of the shop, but then as the sun reached its peak, it was time. I loaded up and drove back to the woodlot over streetcar ruts cast in the snow by repeated passages of the Massey Ferguson.

The sun angled down onto the bark of the maples. All I had to do was find the warm part of the tree, drill a hole, and out would drip the sap.

And so it did, thirty separate times that afternoon and twenty more the following morning. I tasted the first drops from each tap. Only two were sweet. The others tasted like bottled water.

Sap gradually becomes richer in sugar as the season wears on. The early stuff’s often only about 1% sugar. Later sap in our bush runs about 4%.

But like my grandfathers and their grandfathers before them, regardless of the paltry reward in sucrose, I felt in my bones it was time to hang some buckets and start to live again. That’s what sugar making is for.

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