Friday, December 17, 2010

Labor of Love

Maple sap buckets - Beaver Meadow Audubon CenterImage via Wikipedia
By Shanna Raeker, Naturalist
Each January, I start to think about all the work that
needs to be done to prepare for the upcoming maple
sugaring season. It’s a never-ending to-do list which
includes cleaning buckets, tapping trees, collecting and
boiling sap, filtering and canning syrup, and preparing
for 3,000 visitors to come to Rockwoods Reservation
to learn about this process. Although this might be
overwhelming to most people, for me it’s a reminder
that maple sugaring truly is a labor of love.

From the moment we hang the first bucket, I eagerly
await the sound of sap dripping. The familiar rhythmic
pinging signals the start of the sugaring season. There’s
a lot of work to be done. The buckets have to be emptied
every day and sometimes twice a day if the sap flows
fast. I don’t mind carrying heavy buckets up and down
the steep hillsides of Rockwoods, because I know it
won’t be long before we can start a batch of syrup.

When enough sap is collected, the boiling process can
begin, which requires gathering firewood and setting up
the evaporator. Many hours are spent tending the fire that
cooks the sap. This is a tiresome task, but the intoxicating
smell of sap boiling over a wood fire makes it all
worthwhile. Soon, real maple syrup will be ready to eat.

As the syrup nears completion, I find myself becoming
more and more excited. My mouth waters in anticipation
of tasting the first syrup of the season. As I pour the
sweet liquid gold over my pancakes and take my first
bite, I am reminded that although making maple syrup
requires lots of work, it truly is a labor of love.

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