Mariton: Sap’s Running!

March 6, 2013

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Frozen Sap Sculpture

This is a photo of a sap-sickle.  Sap is rising in the trees.  (Another sign that winter has loosened its grip.)  A woodpecker hole in this Paulownia tree (Paulownia tomentosa) allowed the sap to the drip down the tree’s trunk.  When it was colder this week the sap froze.  Because the tree leans, as the flowing sap continued to freeze it made an interesting ice sculpture. 

Sap Season was a time of great excitement for me as a little child.  My Grandfather had a sap house in the maple woods on their farm.  On weekends, the family all convened to help with the process of making maple syrup.  The adults helped stack firewood, collect sap, fill syrup cans (jugs were metal back then), and other chores.  (My cousins and I were probably more of a nuisance as we played in the snow and chased each other around the woods.)  The extra help allowed Grandpa a little sleep, and also a chance to focus on the alchemy of the evaporator.  This was a time when boiling maple sap was more art than science, and my grandfather was a wizard.  I remember watching him from the corner the shack.  It as HOT and steamy.  The air was thick and sweet, and also smelled of wood smoke .  I would sit there sucking a sap-sickle and watch Gramps reararange the burning logs under the evaporator, study the hygrometer, or add a stick of butter to a trough that was boiling too hard. 

My cousin, Art, is now the third generation to continue our family’s heritage.  While the process is more modern than when Grandpa Mark made syrup, it is still a family affair.  People assemble from around the country the help clear sap lines, fire the evaporator, cook meals, etc.  I regret that it is a little far for me to make a weekend trip.  I would love to help out, visit with family and retell old stories.  I make do with a weekly report from “up north” when I call my parents; and I recall those wonderful days of my childhood.