The text from Nate Simons came late last week. His words were simple but powerful. “It is time to tap our trees, what day is good for everyone?” Does this mean spring is coming or that winter is ending soon? (Forget about that groundhog!) We send our messages back and decide on Sunday afternoon at 2:00.
My neighborhood is just the best, the very best. We do neighborhood parties almost every month, spend a full day in the Autumn making cider and apple dumplings, bring the sprinklers and picnic baskets out for the summer events, and now back to collecting sap for our maple syrup.
To be honest (very honest), making maple syrup, at least for me, is not a way to save any money. Oh, not at all. By the time I burn my favorite pots (yes, I have done that), and boil and boil sap for days and days, there is no money to be saved. I do not collect sap to help out my bank account, but I do it for the fun of it (what’s that boiling on your stove, guests ask!), and because I am part of this wonderful neighborhood.
We gather on Sunday at 2:00. I have my two buckets washed and ready to go, and my wagon is cleared of the Autumn debris! I use my wagon to carry my buckets up and down the street. We gather in Nate’s backyard where he also has twenty or more buckets washed and ready to go. The spiles are in containers and the tubing has already been cut to the right size. We gather and laugh and joke around and then Nate welcomes us. We have questions as this winter has been quite strange, weather wise. He tells us that they were tapping in LaGrange county in January. He thought we should wait, though, and we did. He asks if any of us have any syrup from last year. Only a few hands go up. I put my hand up halfway as I am really stingy with my syrup. It still sits in the back of my refrigerator. It is beautiful to look at…golden yellow. Yes, I will share, but for now I just want to look at my jars from last year. The very first jar I ever made is sealed and sits in the cupboard with a note, “Do not use.” I read a poem once about that very same thing. The poem, by Donald Hall, talks about his grandfather’s maple syrup and finding jars in the cellar after his death. My kids will have to fight over that one jar of syrup!!
Nate gives the preliminary chat about the sap. Forty gallons of sap to one gallon of syrup. After the talk, we follow behind Nate. Ginger pulls her wagon with all the buckets loaded into it. Ginger has a bigger wagon than mine. My wagon is that old-fashioned metal one, but Ginger’s is big and holds all twenty buckets and lids. We walk down the middle of West Street, like a parade or a little like the Pied Piper. Our first stop is the Wyatt’s house. They have two beautiful trees for tapping. We all gather around for the first tree. Lee has his drill with him on his tool belt so he brings it out for the drilling of the holes. Nate carefully looks over the tree to make sure the holes are in different locations. He cautiously drills two holes and we get to take turns hammering in the spiles. The sap is already running with first a small drip and then a small stream of beautiful clear sap. It is the miracle of spring. We head over to Lee’s to tap his two trees. Again, we take turns putting the spiles into the trees and watch the sap drip into the bucket.
My two trees are next. Since I do not have a sugar maple tree at my house, I borrow a couple of trees from neighbors down the street. They are always fine with me borrowing their two trees for a month or so. My trees are beautiful. I even name them, Millie and Molly. The holes are drilled, and I put in the spiles for my trees and hang the buckets.
The work is finally completed. Our neighborhood is full of buckets. The texting begins right away as we gather our sap. I had two and a half gallons this morning!
Cheers to our amazing neighborhood!