Als ich wisse das Morgen der Erde enden wuerde, immernoch wurd ich mein Apfelbaum pflanzen.

Even if I knew the world would perish tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree. - Martin Luther

"Factory work's easier on the back, and I don't mind it, understand, but a man becomes what he does. Got to watch that. That's why I keep at farmin' although the crops haven't ever throve. It's the doin' that's important." Madison Wheeler in Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Tappin' Time- Part I

Coming home to help with sugaring leaves me with a vast mix of emotions:  Nostalgia, Joy, Thankfulness, and Guilt. 
I love returning with my kids to share an experience I had every year as a child.  I get to revisit a little of my childhood, and I get to enjoy watching their enthusiasm.  Sugaring season is one of the most magical on the farm.
I'm so thankful that my Dad is still able to tap trees, haul buckets and spend long hours up at the sugar camp turning all that sugar water into wonderful, golden, sweet syrup.  I'm thankful for the conversations we have while sitting near the fire, and for the information he's passing on to me when he shows me how to do different parts of the process.
But, I'm also filled with a lot of guilt.  It's hard, really, really hard to live so far away from the farm. Although we make it up about once a month, especially at times like these, I miss being able to be there on a daily basis. 
My grandfather was able to run the sugar house until he was 87.  But, he wasn't doing any of the physical labor.  He spent long hours dozing in front of the fire, checking the level of the water, and tasting to decide when to move on to the next step.  During sugaring season, one of my first stops after school was to go out to the Sugar Camp to see Pap.  I have wonderful, warm childhood memories of sitting next to the fire with him.  I'm glad my kids get to experience sugaring once a year, but once a year just doens't seem like enough.
My Dad will turn 70 in just a few years.  He loves sugaring, but he knows that he can't tap as many trees, or haul as many buckets as he used to.  Hauling full buckets through deep snow, and then through even more treacherous mud is really a job for a younger person.  I can't help wishing at this time of year that I was close enough to come by every day to collect sugar water for my dad - just like he used to do for his dad. 
Most of the time I'm really content with my life, and with where we live.  But, there are definitely times like these when living so far away from the farm really creates a conflict in my soul. 
I'm trying to be content in the moment - it sure was a wonderful day. 

Step One - Tap the Trees

Load up the tractor with buckets, spiles, lids and kids - head out to the sugar bush

Tap - now we use an electric drill.  As a kid we used an old hand cranked one.  More romantic, but also a lot more work.

Blow out the hole, then catch the first drips on your tongue.

Tap in the spile
Hang the bucket

Add the lid

Hang out on the tank while you're waiting to drive to the next spot.

Rest up - Part 2 is harder...

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