Maple Sugaring













Collecting the sap of sugar maple trees and greatly reducing it to make syrup is a very ancient activity of our region (extending to eastern Canada, Minnesota, Tennessee) that happens nowhere else in the world.  Before they obtained metal cookware from the colonizers, the Indians concentrated maple sap by repeatedly freezing it and removing successive layers of water ice and by dropping hot stones into buckets of sap to boil off more water.  The settlers and farmers who cleared the land continued this practice of tapping trees and reducing sap, probably expanding the proportion of sugar maples in our particular area as they transformed the landscape.  The cultivation of a “sugar bush”, an easily tapped grove or row of hard maples, and the building of a “sugar house”, a shed for evaporating 95% of the water in maple sap to make syrup, were standard features of 19th century farmstead design.  Sugaring was an important activity on the farmer’s calendar, a celebration of the end of winter’s grip that also made good use of weeks still too cold for fieldwork.  (Maple sap only “runs” when nighttime temperatures below freezing are followed by daytime temperatures above the freezing point).  Collecting sap in buckets and evaporating it in pans or cauldrons is a slow process that yields small amounts of precious syrup, but it the only method we are equipped to follow, although additional maple sap can usually be obtained from a modern sugaring operation in the vicinity.  No chthonic calendar for our area can easily ignore maple sugaring in March and we do not intend to do so in 2015.