Gardening (and living) between the stumps. Anything is possible.

Last Sugaring Day

Last Sugaring Day

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Today was the last day of boiling for the year at my father’s sugar camp. Maple syrup is a precious commodity, and it’s easy to see why when you take part in the process.

My boys and I joined my father for the day. It’s an annual event we all look forward to. 

After we’d arrived, we started by gathering sap. Each with a pail or two in hand, we headed out of the camp and uphill to the maple trees. Weeks earlier, holes had been hand-drilled, spouts inserted and buckets hung. During a short window of time, when the weather was just right, sweet sap from those maple trees dripped steadily into the buckets. 

Cool nights and warm days are essential for sap to run. By the time of our visit, sugaring weather had been waning, so this was to be the last sap collection for the season. This time, after we’d poured the sap into the larger collecting pails, we were instructed to leave the buckets and covers at the base of each tree, to be picked up later. “Why don’t we just bring the buckets down to the trail now?” one of the boys asked. The answer: “Because the buckets tell me where the spouts are!” And the spouts have to be pulled out of the trees, too.

Back at the camp, my father started the fires–three of them–and prepared for another day’s boiling. His camp is unique and built by hand. The main room has two brick arches to enclose the wood fires, each supporting two massive pans for boiling sap. The compact living area in back has own wood stove, plus table, chair and bunk for late nights boiling. 

The pans heated, sap trickled in, and we waited.

Three hours later, at just the right moment and after several hydrometer tests, the first batch of pure maple syrup was poured off.  From the finishing pan, it was passed through thick filters, then directly into the canning jugs while still piping hot. The kids’ favorite part is always the scraping and tasting the last of the cooling, thickening maple syrup from the bottom of the pan!

This also happened to be the annual overnight at the sugar camp, a day my boys eagerly await every spring. They each brought home a personal tiny jug of pure maple syrup–and I’m proud to say they know exactly how it came to our table. 

16 thoughts on “Last Sugaring Day”

  • I made the switch from Golden Syrup to Maple Syrup and only use Golden Syrup when baking with the children! It’s fascinating seeing how this is produced! Thank you for sharing.

    • Hi Nicky! I love golden syrup too, and use it occasionally when maple flavor isn’t right for what I’m baking. Thanks for reading!

  • We visited April’s Maples, it was so cool to see what seemed like miles of tubing through the trees, and the maple pulled pork was off the chart good. I still dream about those sandwiches..

  • We make our own syrup some years. I didn’t have time last year. I probably will this year to cover on my blog. The boiling takes so long, but I love having syrup that we processed entirely on our own.

    • It’s definitely a time commitment; I guess it works out that farmers around here sugar between seasons, before anything is growing! Let me know when you write up about yours, I’d love to read it.

    • Hi Vicki, thank you for reading and sharing! I think my kids are quite lucky to be able to take part in the maple syrup process.

  • Being a vegan, maple syrup is a staple for me. I use to visit a sugar shack in Vermont and know how much work goes into making just a quart of the liquid gold. I will never buy anything but the real stuff. It is worth it. Thanks for sharing.

    • I love that we have a natural sweetener option, and maple syrup is just about the best! I like to use it in baking, and my kids will not eat breakfast without it. Thanks for reading.

  • Love this! It’s been a few years since we made maple syrup and my darling husband built me an evaporator this spring! This post makes me anxious for Feb/March to roll around!

    • Andrea, that’s awesome! I agree, early spring when the sap starts running is a special time of year. 🙂 Thanks for reading.

  • This is so cool! It’s just like Little House in the Prairie. It’s nice knowing that not much has changed in the way of technology and automation. Your post makes me feel like I am reliving the books and it’s awesome that those experiences can still be relived today.

    • Thanks, Madison! There are definitely those who produce maple syrup on a large scale too… My family has been making syrup the same way, on the same land, for generations. Years ago they used horses to haul the sap to the camp where they boiled, but little else has changed.

  • Maple syrup has to be the world’s most perfect food. I love it that much. We visited a maple syrup “factory” in Vermont last year, and it was amazing to see it produced on such a large scale. It was the best syrup I ever tasted, and the maple inspired foods they served were fabulous! Do you have more pictures from your experience?

    • Chris, I agree! I substitute maple syrup for sugar in baking whenever I can. I do have lots more photos and intend to add some more of them in! What producer did you visit?

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