Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sweetwater and th' Gang pt.1

"You've got to read Little House in th' Big Woods" she said.
"I already have" I told her. "When we lived in Chicago, remember."
"Actually," she reminded me "I read it to you. And you fell asleep through most of it."
"I know," I say, "it was a good book."
"It talks all about how they make maple syrup, and maple sugar. Oh how I wished that we could do that. My whole life I've wished it."
"Well," I say "let's give it a shot."

It was one of those days in February. You know, th' kind where th' sun is shining on th' snow lying all around. Temperature's rising, snow balls a flyin. You remember days like this in th' past when you had actually dug holes through th' snow to plant some of your cold weather crops. Because you knew spring was coming. But you'll not do that again. Such was th' day when Beth came out and said "Oh it's a beautiful day. We should go set some taps and romp around in th' woods."
"Yeah!" says Fynn, "let's go on an adventure."
"That's a great idea," I say "I'll whip us up some taps right now."
"Papa look out!" Fynn giggles, as one last snow ball explodes in my face.

whittlin a bamboo tap

I make us three simple taps from some bamboo we harvested last year, pack up a tool box with all the essentials, drill bits, drill, mallet, hatchet, and a copy of Backyard Sugarin, we grab a few orange juice jugs and soon we're in th' woods, knee deep in snow.

essentials kit

"This is so nice." says Beth, "I was feeling a bit crazy this morning. I already feel much better. Oh how I love th' woods."

th' peace of th' winter woods
Beth ploughs th' trail, with Fynn frolicking behind, or rather, all around her. I'm off in every direction looking for maples.

knee deep for a four year old
"Are you sure you can tell which ones are maple?" she asks.
"Yep." I say.
 All summer long I rode around town learning to identify trees by their bark. I'd just ride with my head down, looking at th' base of th' tree, make my best guess, then check th' foliage for the answer.
"I've got maples down pat. And box elder too. Look, there's one right here."

poudre river silver maple
"See th' silver bark, and how it sits on th' tree in layers. And up near th' top, th' new growth, th' bark is smooth, and very silvery. This is th' wood I made Fynn's spoon out of. We'll have to collect some more for carving while we're out here. That last wind storm did some good trimming. There's green wood laying all over th' place."

Fynn runs all around th' forest, exploring, squealing, sliding in th' snow.

I get out th' drill and get to work. We've only brought three taps with us. We've never done this before. Better to start small, see what happens. During th' tapping Fynn gets interested and comes on over to pay closer attention. He's a smart boy.

drilling into th' tree

rounding off th' corners of th' bamboo

settin th' tap with a wooden mallet

he'll know how to do this from a young age
Th' hole is drilled about two inches. It smells like freshly cut grass. Th' tap is set with a wooden mallet, and it looks really nice on th' tree.

note the end of th' tap

"Our water jugs are almost invisible in th' snow." says Beth. "If they didn't have a blue top and a yellow label, no one would even see them."
"Well," I say, "we can peel th' label off. Besides, people hardly notice what's around them anyway."
I cut a small hole near th' top of th' jug, so it'll hang on th' tap. We place it on th' tree. Beth smiles. It's th' beginning of a dream come true. Sure we live in Colorado. Sure there's no sugar maples around here. But we've got to be resourceful. We've got to be creative. We'll never know what could've been done if we don't try. Besides, I'd tap driftwood if it would get me out into th' woods for a few hours.

cut a small hole near th' top

and hang it on th' tap

now that's a happy camper
All th' while th' river rushes on. We can hear it nearby, and with our first tree tapped, we set off to find it. Fynn gives some driftwood another chance to make it a little further downstream, while me and Beth sit and watch him play, watch th' river flow.

poudre river in February

"This is just th' beginning." I say to Beth. "There's more taps coming. More trees to find. More adventures to go on. More snow in our boots."
"More rocks to throw!" adds Fynn.
"Yes. And snowballs too!" I say as I quickly form one and splatter him with it.
He squeals "Heeeeeeeeeeeee!" And then I'm facing a torrent of snow and laughter.  We play for a while, tap a couple more trees and then move on.

Th' cold air fills our lungs. The calm, our spirits. And I've a mind to read that book.

 As we leave, th' woods are quiet.

They are silent in our absence.


  1. Awesomeness!
    Blog the results!
    Whereabouts is this?
    I wanna be out there.
    I've only seen a half inch of snow this year.
    Love and miss you guys.

    1. right here in ft. collins, along th' good ole poudre.

  2. ha ha! tap that driftwood!
    "Little House in the Big Woods" is a grand story. Everything i've ever needed to know is in that book. Friends, don't write it off cause you think it's a kid's book, or cause you read it when you were a kid. Pick it up and read it again. Read it a hundred times!

  3. Interesting post. Like your mallet!

  4. thanks guys, really Gorges, if you keep on commenting th' way you're doing you're going to lose your curmudeon status.

  5. Wonderful post! I love maple syrup...and the idea of tapping in to get some of your own is like a dream. It's so nice to see others that enjoy nature as I do...the sound of the river flowing over the rocks...the silence of the trees...and woodland adventures for kids of all ages. :)

  6. I love this. The idea and the entry. Can't wait to hear how it turned out:)

    1. thanks erica, parts 2 and 3 are already posted... it was good, and we're hooked on tapping now, and i think around here box elders are th' way to go- they produced much more sap than th' maples, two years in a row