We are in a race of time this week end when it comes to collecting our maple sap. Even though it has been a good year in that our season is much longer than last year it has been a huge challenge to collect the sap due to the frigid weather. We do need nights below freezing and days above freezing for the sap to run. However the nights have cooperated but the days are mostly below freezing. In the rare instances that a day is above freezing enough to stimulate the sap to run unfortunately it turns cold and freezes everything into a block of ice for 4-5 days.
Yesterday we were at a farmers market and it warmed up enough to start the sap to running and the ice to start melting. All we could think of was getting home in time to collect at least for a couple hours. We were able to collect some but the ice did not melt much so we are lifting solid chunks of ice only to collect a couple cups of thawed sap.
Now today we are going to try to get three of our big woods collected before this storm comes in and the bags that melted yesterday will hopefully gain us some sap to collect today as they are calling for another week of very cold temperatures which means another week with probably no collection due to no sap running and ice. It has been a vicious cycle. When we have the time it doesn’t run but when we have markets to do it seems the sap is ready is Mother Nature playing with us?
The week of the 11th we collected sap Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and again on Sunday the 17th. Each day we collected a whooping 9,720 pounds of sap. We carried it out of the woods by 5 gallon buckets talk about gorilla arms hanging to the ground we felt it. For those who are counting that is 38,880 pounds in 4 days.
We almost welcomed this week’s freeze so we could have a couple days rest but by Wednesday we were more than ready to collect again but mom nature had other ideas.
The season is beginning to take its toll on us. Since the end of February I am crippled (an old work injury from a few years ago from being beat up by some unruly students at the school where I work) and limping my left foot & ankle is swollen and I can barely put any weight on my heel this flares up frequently. Then some how my hip and pelvis I twisted or strained and it is throwing me off when I walk. I have always had a very high pain tolerance, after all I was always the accident prone kid growing up, but this is getting to be pretty intolerable especially at night. Hubby is trying to compensate also to try to help me out and it is wearing on him. I still carry my load but I am so much slower walking in the woods, climbing in the trailer and pulling the cart. It takes us three times longer now than it should to collect our sap. As my dad always said growing up “tough it up-big boys don’t cry” this was always followed with “More Mud.” You have to be a mason/ brick layer apprentice to know what that means but I’ll explain it one day when I write some fond memories of my dad. At any rate my tolerance for “toughen up” is waning and quite quickly lately.
This week it is our turn to man the boiler/evaporator so I suspect to have some all nighters on top of all day sap collecting. What I am not looking forward to is this snow that is coming in. I really do not wish to shovel snow especially knowing it will be one of those very heavy and wet spring snows. It takes us almost a day and a half to dig our farm out with the drives and the barnyards then all the animal pens. Then we try to beat my elderly uncle to get him shoveled out before he tries. He is a very independent man and he is not ever going to bow down to age. His mind says he can do it no matter what his body tries to tell him and heaven forbid you try to change his mind. I guess his spirit & drive are so much like my dads. That is what makes him one of my favorite uncles.
Each time we have fresh maple syrup on our pancakes or cook some delicious dish with our tasty maple syrup we reflect and know even with everything that is involved it is all worth it.
At any rate this is going to be a challenging day trying to beat the weather and get our work done too. As my dad always said – “More Mud!”