I have included some pictures of our set-up for sap boiling. The summer kitchen is perfect. 40 gallons of maple sap boils down to 1 gallon of syrup so obviously, a lot of steam is generated. You do not want all that steam in your kitchen unless you were thinking of replacing the wallpaper anyway. I’m delighted to keep the whole sticky mess outside. We have done syrup before. Like a lot of streets, ours are lined with maples. We asked permission and were able to place enough buckets within walking distance to do this. We boiled on an old box stove. It wasn’t a pretty set-up but we did get syrup for our trouble. We now have enough maples along the back fence line to tap without using street trees but if you wanted to boil, think about what’s available. We got buckets, spiles and lids for a dollar a set on Craig’s List. A lot of people have switched to tubing and are happy to get rid of the buckets so you just might find a deal. Once the sap boils down I’ll bottle it in Mason jars. If we were counting the labor, it might seem that this a silly way to spend our time but here’s the thing. I’m not going to be curing cancer or writing the Great American Novel in the next few weeks. This is as good a way to spend my time as any other and I like knowing how to do it and I like having the equipment to keep us in syrup each year.
There was a tag sale here in town this week. The estate of an long-deceased resident has finally been settled up and the house sold to a couple who want to put in a raw milk dairy and cheese shop. The house is one of those 200-year-old treasures, chock full of cool things and the prices were beyond right. I picked up this amazing crock for just $20.00. The books were just a couple of dollars each and Bruce got a painting of the barn from the Bryant Homestead. We used to live there and that barn holds a special place in my heart. I remember getting up early to walk down there and gather eggs or bottle feed a new calf. The air was so still, no traffic noise disturbed the peace. The calf would nuzzle my arm, drooling all over my barn coat while polishing off his morning feed. There is no sound quite as sweet as the soft, happy cackle of a hen who has just laid breakfast for you. One of the barn cats was always rubbing against my leg looking for a hand-out and the dog would be tugging at my jeans hoping I could be persuaded to play for a minute. I knew that the huge old cookstove would have heated up the kitchen some by the time I got in. Coffee would be waiting and I would fry up the morning’s egg haul. They were good days. We were poor as church mice but I don’t think I ever thought of it that way. Anyway, I would have paid a lot more than $10.00 for that painting.
I’m heading out to help Bruce boil. Actually, the stove is doing the work. We’re just enjoying the warmth of the stove and the smell of the maple. I sure wish I could paint. Maybe my girls will remember these days, remember how good it feels to be cold when you get to set by a stove to warm up and how good it feels to be hungry when you get to fill up with food from the labor of your hands.