Once more th' night is cold, th' day warm. I've got ten taps and ten jugs. I take a drink of sap already collected and head out to th' woods for th' next phase of our sweetwater experiment. This time i'm alone. Th' forest, as always, imparts it's peace to me- a sort of gift, like going to a good friends house where there's a pot of tea waiting for you. I say thank-you.
Quietly, th' bit enters th' bark, presses on into th' sapwood.
Sap is flowing as i'm drilling, and before i even get a tap into th' hole, there's a little trail of sweet tears running down th' side of th' tree.
Granted it has no choice, but this tree is literally giving it's life blood to me. It'll be fine, it'll live, th' hole will close up and no one will ever notice, but still- i keep that in mind as i tap tap tap into these trees...
After last years floods, and th' three massive windstorms we had in th' last six months, th' piles of driftwood and greenwood out here are pretty impressive, and i enjoy them as i wander about from tree to tree.
With th' sap rising, and most of th' maple and box elders cracked and broken from th' top due to th' snows and wind, sap is actually dripping from th' trees as i walk around. I can hear it going drip drip drip onto th' dry leaves below.
|sap running down tree trunk|
|silver maple, box elder, s. maple|
|box elder bark|
I go home satisfied, and a couple of days later return with th' Lotz's to collect th' collectins. As usual, th' kids love it here, and go crazy, in a calm sort of way, exploring and romping about.
They head straight for th' river to throw stones, i head off to check th' taps.
|Fynn and Nohea at th' waters edge|
|Judah's first taste of maple sap|
But alas! What's this? A card on one of th' jugs. "If these are your jugs please call me", a natural areas ranger. "Well" i say, "we'd better take these down. I'll call th' ranger later and talk to him."
"It shouldn't be illegal," says Rachel, "it doesn't hurt th' trees."
"Yeah," i say, "but this is a natural area, and it does look a bit trashy. I wish we had those old fashioned buckets, or wooden ones, they'd blend right in."
"What if he wants to give you a ticket?" asks Beth.
"I'll take my chances" i tell her.
I set about removing th' jugs and taps, with th' help of a good stick and a friend of course.
After we empty th' jugs into our collection bucket, we've got about a gallon and a half, and one gallon of that's box elder, which to my mind is the inferior sap. But later i'll be proved wrong on that account. Th' box elder was still flowing after we pulled it, and as th' kids were playing around in th' woods, we caught Fynn actually licking th' tree. Oh it made us laugh. Here he is with his tyrannosaurus standing by th' tree, we just missed him licking it with th' camera.
Th' kids played some more, and off we went to boil it down.
Th' Lotz's decided to take th' spoils home and put it on their woodstove to boil down. "We'll put it on in th' morning, and call you when it gets close to syrup." Rachel tells us.
"Sounds good." Beth replies.
Later that evening we get a phone call from Rachel, "You guys ready to come over, it's gettin close?"
"Ok," says Beth, "we'll be right there."
As soon as we get there Rachel greets us with a sheepish grin, "Sorry," she says, "it was getting pretty low so i took it off th' woodstove and put it in this cast iron skillet to watch it in th' kitchen. It was lookin fine one second, then when i looked at it again it was sugar!"
"Hey," i say "that's just as well to us. Have you guys tasted it yet?"
"Nope," Rachel says, "we were waiting for you."
"Well, lets dig in"
|box elder sugar|
|go ahead, try some|
"That's good." says Beth.
"Would you like some maple candy." Fynn chimes in.
We all have some good lickins then package up th' rest to take home. After th' sap that we drank, we boiled down a gallon of it, and from that we got about a quarter of a pound of sugar. That's pretty good i'd say. If we actually got a gallon from each of our jugs, that's more than two pounds of sugar, all from a tree that's considered a weed.
I did call th' ranger and talk to him. He's a really kind person, and i enjoyed th' conversation we had, even though he did have to tell us that tapping trees is not allowed in natural areas. So we'll be on th' lookout for another location to try this again, maybe some private property where we have permission. Got any box elders where you live? There should be a little time to get some more, especially if we get snowed on again. But till then, we've all enjoyed this experiment immensely, and th' rewards have been mutli-fold. I'm exhausted from all this writing, here's a cup of sap for us to share. Bye.
|box elder sap|