Here in the Forest, the snow is finally beginning to melt. Mind you we still have snow drifts 6 feet high, but that is an improvement from the 8 foot ones last week! As the snow melts and the sun grows stronger, there is another bit of magic that happens here. One that is hidden within the mighty giants that surround our house. A few weeks ago we felt the warmer temperatures during the day and noted the colder temperatures at night. We dug out the buckets and hats, the taps and the pots. We ventured through the thigh deep snow with drill in hand, selected a south facing spot low enough for the little ones to reach and drilled a hole in our mighty Maple. My oldest son hammered in the tap, my youngest hung the bucket. Sugaring season had officially begun.
Maple sugaring season happens only a few weeks of the year in Early Spring. We are lucky enough to live in a place that provides majority of the maple syrup produced in the world. We are also lucky enough to have a few Maple trees to tap on our property. Sugaring is a commitment though. The sap collected has to be kept cold and out of the sun until it can be boiled, and it has to be boiled within 5 days of collecting. The average boil takes anywhere from 6-12 hours and has to be done either in a sugar house that is well ventilated or outdoors. We are small scale so we do ours on a small cinder block stove that we built outside. The result of all of these hours of collecting wood, tending the fire, skimming the sap, and monitoring its progress is delicious maple syrup. It takes roughly 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup!
So while the adults are working, what are the little ones doing? Lots. They collect the sap, collect the wood for the fire, they are always there to help you taste it, and they are outside all day. The thing is, what they are learning is huge. This year, my oldest who is 6, recognized that the sun was stronger and the days were growing longer about 2 weeks before we tapped. He felt the season beginning to change, not by reading it on a calendar, but by feeling it with his senses. He understands the reason that the sap is rising, he understands it means the trees are starting wake up, how they use the sugars in the sap to make food to grow the leaves. He knows that this means Spring is close, that the Earth will soon be dressed in green again, and that the birds and animals will be returning from their Winter’s retreat any day. All of this just from hammering a simple tap into a tree. Nature is amazing that way. She has the ability to teach us so much if only we stop and listen.
Not everyone has this opportunity, but there is something, no matter where you live, that signals the change of seasons. By connecting our children to nature, they can read these signs, they feel their place in this great big world, and they learn how to quiet down and listen to what Mother Nature has to teach them. Our reward for stopping to listen? Jars of sweet liquid gold, yum!