During the month of March I will be writing every day in the company of my fellow slicers in our writing community annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. This is Day #3.
Family Project #sol21
March 3, 2021
As many families, it has been a long while since we have been together. We have missed birthdays, holidays, engagements, graduations and the like as we quarantine across the miles. As my husband’s birthday approached this year, we struggled to think about how we could celebrate together in our nuclear family.
Truthfully, I haven’t been or shopped in a store for the past year. While Amazon has definitely been a staple around here, it falls short when trying to find a really special gift. What to get to make this birthday special when so much of what we love about celebrating has fallen away? Then it occurred to me, we would get him a maple syrup kit.
This might not be the first thing that would come to mind for an amazing birthday present to you, but for us, it was the perfect combination. My husband loves maple syrup, a love cultivated over the last dozen years in New England. In other times, we bought monthly supplies of maple syrup at our local farmers’ market or at our nearby organic farm. Maple syrup graces our beloved waffles and pancakes, pork tenderloin, chicken, and even cakes and doughnuts.
A few years ago, my husband and I vacationed in Quebec. Tucked away on sustainable island of small farms, wineries, and sugar shacks, we fell in love with maple syrup even more. We were fascinated by the process of maple sugaring, taps driven into the trunks of beautiful maples and those miles of blue tubing connecting the maple trees together, sap collecting in those sugar shacks destined to be delicious maple syrup. The smell of sap boiling down to that magical amber liquid, then the surprise treat of maple taffy made by pouring syrup onto snow and rolling up the cooled syrup.
As with many New Englanders we have an abundance of trees in our yard, a few of which are maples likely more than fifty years old. With sugaring in mind, I did a little research and purchased a special drill bit, taps, protective covers and sap collecting bags. When I told our sons about this idea, they were all in. So weeks ago, I ordered the materials and then hid them away for my husband’s big day.
As the day approached, news stories started highlighting sugaring at our nearby organic farm and my husband began talking about getting himself the tools to tap his trees. In dinner conversations and on phone calls, he mused about where he might be able to locate the equipment he needed. Our sons, playing along, suggested that he might be able to locate what he needed at a store that carried brewing equipment. Knowing that once he gets a project in his head, he follows through, we made plans to give him his maple tapping tools this past Saturday.
Our son living in the midwest didn’t want to be left out of the process so he was present via video call as my husband opened all of the materials. One by one, he revealed each object and the three of them discussed the procedure as my husband read the directions aloud. There was much discussion about procedures, which trees, and invariably, what other equipment would be needed. It was determined between them that the syruping could not happen in the house. Thank goodness… For that process, he needed a stainless steel pot not one from my kitchen and a tool called a hydrometer to measure the sugar content of the boiled down syrup.
But those tools were for later. Our distant son admonished that he wanted video of the process as my husband rushed out to drill the holes and place the taps, covers, and bags on each tree. We laughingly phone videod my husband’s joy and success and sent it off.
Early the next day, my husband called me out to see how much sap one of his tree bags had already collected. He was off to buy a pot and plan for the next step in his sugaring endeavor. I have the waffle iron on stand by.