Two years ago when we lived in Mount Uniacke, Troy got it in his head that it would be pretty awesome to make our own maple syrup. We had a smattering of maples strewn through the woods surrounding our property, and when the spring temps started to creep above zero Troy gleefully set about drilling the trunks of those trees and hanging yellow plastic Home Hardware buckets to catch the drips. I’d like to say his enthusiasm was contagious, but when the sap started flowing I’d get home from work to find the windows dripping with condensation from a pot that had boiled uncovered all day. I quickly lost any patience for the process. We collected about 40 litres of sap that year. Our reward was less than a litre of syrup.
The next year Troy took the boiling outside. The house was spared, but our budget was not. Propane is not a cheap source of fuel. This time we ended up with a couple of litres of what I figured to be the most expensive maple syrup on the planet. Sure, it was tasty, but between Troy’s time and the propane costs, it was easily worth a couple of hundred bucks a bottle. Actually, double that… I think he gave half of it away.
You’ll understand my hesitation, then, when this year, Troy started his “retirement plan”- planting maple trees in a spot behind the hay fields. He figures that by the time he’s ready to retire, he’ll have a readymade sugar bush, complete with sugar shack and all. For now, though, we have 50 taps in place, half on our own trees, and half on the trees lining our good neighbour’s driveway. The Home Hardware buckets have been supplemented with real metal and plastic maple buckets complete with lids, the copper pipe we used previously has given way to real tapping spiles. We are now invested in the process. Before we even moved in, Troy decided that the expired oil tank in our basement would become a wood-fired syrup reducer. Sure enough, the monstrosity is sitting in our driveway and it’s been earning its keep by gobbling up the scrap wood lying around this old farm.
50 taps. That’s a lot of sap. That’s a lot of boiling time. That’s more than one litre of syrup.
It’s not really hard work, so I shouldn’t complain. But I’m the kind of person who gets pleasure from mucking out a poopy stall and seeing the immediate improvement as fresh shavings are thrown down. Making syrup is not like that. It…is……..verrrrrrrrry…………slooooooooooooooooow.
Despite my romantic childhood notions of maple sugaring- the snow toffee, the crisp Canadian winter, snowshoes, and sleigh rides, and pancakes- I will be glad when maple season ends. When the sap stops flowing and the ground turns to muck, things will start happening fast. I am slightly (ok, very) impatient, and as delicious as our maple syrup tastes, the boiling process is painfully tedious and makes me want to drink. A lot.
I always wondered why maple syrup was so frickin’ expensive. Believe me, now I completely understand. Despite the cost, though, and despite the time, we continue to make it, and we probably always will. Some things don’t have to make sense (or cents) to be worth doing.
Troy made pancakes this morning. The bacon and the syrup that accompanied those pancakes were both made right here by us. Slowly. Washing it all down with a good cup of coffee I realized that some things in life are sweetest because they’re so much work. My husband might be one of those things, but I’m sweet on him, so as long as he’s sweet on making syrup, the least I can do is help him make it happen. Maybe his “retirement plan” will pay off, and maybe it won’t. Regardless, growing old with someone over pancakes and syrup sounds like a pretty good fate. I’ll take it, and maybe I’ll even learn some patience in the process. If not, there’s always homebrew.
All is well.