The sun finally arrived on our last day of converting sap to syrup. I was thinking this week as I gathered the last buckets to wash and put away that I’d much prefer the heavy lifting and slippery walks through the woods than Planet Fitness. I want to be able to complain, dress funny and judge others. The trees don’t seem to mind.
One night while picking up more buckets for sap at LOWES a woman was wearing her workout pants. I couldn’t help notice the way the shadows fell on her backside. It was obvious she put in good hours at the gym, but the shadows made it look like she was sweating in all the wrong places. In the woods the shadows fall and no one sees them–besides stretch pants would catch on stray branches. When will the stretch clothes go out of fashion? I feel I’m getting to know people too personally. At LOWES it just seems inappropriate.
Making syrup gives me hours to complain, get restless, complain again about the weather and cold feet, feel bad about unfashionable farm clothes and complain because I’m hungry. I’ve learned to keep most of this as an internal commentary but my husband reads my mind, laughing to himself and putting on more wood.
Our neighbor came over to see if we knew anything about a dog mauling her cat. It’s paw was gone and leg broken. They had to put it down. Politely she asked about our Nala. Thank God, Nala has a new shock collar as evidence that she was with us during the brutal attack–looking as restless as I felt. We were finished with her chasing fitness people jogging by our house with their babies and dogs. The neighbor decided her cat was killed by a fisher–the ablest evil predator on land according to someone we heard somewhere.
Did I mention that we got TEN GALLONS of syrup this year? That’s nothing for some people, but for us it’s pretty great. Once the peepers chirp and the worst of the heavy lifting is over I begin to forget how much I don’t love sapping. I think back and say I really enjoyed the first frigid days of standing in ankle deep mud for hours drinking coffee until I felt like vomiting.
My husband does seem to really enjoy the whole thing. He likes tending the fire, estimating evaporation rate, making little improvements and providing syrup for his family. It’s kind of inspiring to see him take it so seriously. He never even complains. It’s weird.
“It’s what you have to do to evaporate 150 gallons of sap before (during) Easter to get 5 gallons of dark sweet syrup,” my husband said when he came home after a week of traveling and 12 hour work days. “We have to sap tonight.”
I’m the cry-baby when it comes to cold weather and working late nights, but I behaved and spent time admiring the blood moon and husband’s work ethic. More syrup in my coffee! Hurray!
Spring has sprung, my friends. I know this because we tapped our trees today. The sun was out but it felt this grey and cold as we nailed metal spouts into the maples.
We switched to stainless steel taps which we soak in alcohol year to year (to keep away bacterial build up). The plastic taps are fine but you have to throw them away after using and the stainless are prettier in my opinion (you need pretty when you’re out and it’s still 20 degrees).
Speaking of pretty, Nala came to supervise.
We store tons of buckets in the garage. We have another little supervisor in there.
After shoveling paths through our woods and a neighbor’s, washing all the buckets, stumbling up hills in knee-high snow and chain-sawing fallen trees we tapped 25 trees. The weather this week looks promising–a few days over freezing with cold nights. That means next weekend after gathering sap we get to sit by the fire till the sap turns to syrup.
If that wasn’t enough, we decided to try out our newly motorized Wonder Junior Grain Mill. (A Bodine Gear Motor– from Chicago–my husband’s very proud of his Illinois roots). There’s one hundred inch pounds of torque delivered by a 2:1 gear ratio that turns the mill (I have no idea what this means but it spins at 17 RPM). My husband plans on tinkering with it to make it work faster since it takes about an hour to mill 4 cups of flour but at least you don’t have to get any exercise hand-grinding if you’re not in the mood.
My husband made the bread while my daughter and I went out to work (play) in the woods with the goats.
We walked the goats, but then got distracted by sticks and decided to begin a fort for no apparent reason. We’re about halfway done (it will have three sides). When you’re building forts (you may remember from childhood) you no longer remember the cold or the time of day.