by Julie Miedtke
Maple season signals the end of winter and is truly the first sign of spring. For some landowners, maple season provides a special opportunity to be outdoors, make a special, natural product and strengthens ties to our land.
We have a small sugarbush on our land, and our operation can be described as ‘low tech and high touch’. We have only a few taps (25-30), hang jugs from the spiles and use a simple evaporator to produce a few gallons of syrup. For a short time, maple season occupies our lives and alters our lifestyle with everything evolving around the trees. We check the buckets before running errands, naturally the laundry piles up and ‘the mud room’ lives up to its name. We seriously think about the weather and smile when freezing-thawing temperatures will have us on the run collecting and processing sap. Generally finishing the syrup comes a little later, when we aren’t so rushed.
I really love maple season because I am out there, close to the trees. Honestly, my brain fills with questions about what is going on in the sugarbush and I find myself waking up at night with thoughts of trees, sap flow and wondering what the day will bring. With each day in the sugarbush, I find myself relaxing, breathing easier, and I enjoy having uninterrupted conversations with family and friends. It’s cool standing over the evaporator with the steam rising into the air and getting a daily ‘maple facial’. And I enjoy drinking a cup of hot “maple tea” scooped directly out of the evaporator pan while tending the fire warms the spirit. Time flies as you simplify and focus on your life and the natural world around you.
Maple season brings us full circle as we collect sap from trees on our land, create a healthy, natural product that sustains us. It always reminds me of this intimate, primal understanding that I am NOT just out in the woods, but I am actually part of nature. I am part of the web of life and it is not digital and has zero gigabytes. This annual rite of spring, the making maple syrup, elicits the spirit of conservation. As a landowner, I find myself asking questions on what can I can do to improve our maple stand, how can I improve habitat for wildlife? How can I help our land become more resilient during climate change? It calls to me one gallon at a time.