I stumble down the stairs (usually before my alarm, due to the elephant dog) and start barking orders. No good army or family can get through a day without a strong leader, just saying….. Let the dog out, tend the critters, brush your teeth, the typical morning list.
Once the list of chores (which we do every morning, so you would think my family would KNOW what to do when they get up) is done, then and only then should anyone be plopped on their bum watching cartoons. Because as I tell my kids, the critters can’t feed themselves, unlike you, who wander into my kitchen and consume everything that isn’t nailed down! Lord help me when they become teenagers! I’ll have to start a GoFundMe just to be able to feed them.
I live by alarms on my phone, even if I hardly ever get to hear the first one go off because kids and critters wake me before it can go off. The one that says “everyone get in the truck for school,” and the one that lets me know it is time to go retrieve my lovely offspring are life saver some days. To be honest, I can totally loose track of time doing things. Thank goodness for alarms, especially during sugaring season, because tending a fire all day, you tend to loose track of the time.
Once my “darlings” are dropped off to school, the real fun begins. *note sarcasm* I should say, I have a total love hate relationship with making maple syrup. It always starts out with excitement, but as the days pass, I tend to get a little cranky about the whole thing. It’s not hard to tap the trees and put buckets out. But once those trees start flowing, you are no longer in charge. Depending on how hard they run, depends on what you’re going to be doing that day.
Like today….. It is incredibly windy. You could fly a brick. But the buckets are full and boil we must, whether I want to or not. When you run out of containers to put sap in, it is kinda time to turn it into syrup. Today was that day. Did I plan to boil on a Tuesday? Nope. Did I want to boil on a Tuesday? Nope. But here I am, because Mother Nature said so, boiling on a Tuesday. I prefer weekends, but I get no say.
What’s wrong with boiling on a Tuesday? Nothing really, I guess. But I had other things I wanted to do. And when I go pick up the kids from school, I am going to stink to high heaven like a camp fire. And heaven forbid, I need to pop in the grocery store last minute on the way back for rice for dinner. *sigh* Oh wait…. that is IF I can get a fire started…..
A typical Tuesday during sugaring season included me trying to get a fire going in the evaporator. It should be easy enough, but wood doesn’t always cooperate. It’s not always the woods fault. Sometimes the kids pull the tarp off the pile when they are out back playing. Sometimes, my hubby just forgets to cover the pile. I have been known to stuff wood shavings (pine animal bedding) in an empty saltine cracker box with dryer lint mixed in for a make shift fire starter. Hey, a girl has to do what a girl has to do when her wood has not been properly loved and cared for!
Once the fire is going and the evaporator pans are in place, it is time to haul the five gallon buckets of sap to the evaporator. A five gallon bucket tends to weigh a little more than 40 pounds. Caring those bucket without tripping and falling (I may be accident prone during sugaring season) and spilling it all becomes a challenge as the day wears on.
And of course there is always wood that needs to be cut or split. You spend a lot of time with wood during sugaring season. Too much time. You start noticing weird things about wood, like a zen thing. You know when you pick up a piece if it is "good." By good I mean seasoned, nice and dry, can produce the proper flame you're looking for. I spend too much time with wood. No one should pick up a piece of wood and think "Aww yeah, this piece is sweet."
Now that the fire is going and the buckets have been hauled to the evaporator, after what feels like hours, I can finally plop in a lawn chair for a few seconds as I start transferring the sap from the buckets to the pan. It is also about this time that I realized a couple things..... I smelled like a campfire already and it was past noon and I hadn't had lunch. *sigh* But since the sap was already in the pans, I was stuck. Oh sure, you can walk away, take a tinkle, make a PB&J, but I was looking for something a little more filling then a PB&J.
I worked so hard to get that dang fire going, I was not going to risk walking away and either having the fire die or the pans boil over. And trust me, it was so windy today and the wood was in less then stellar condition, loosing my flame was a concern, so there I sat..... watching sap boil. It's kind of like watching paint dry, except for you get to add more and more and more.
If you remember I mentioned I tend to become accident prone during sugaring season. Last year I had a spark from the fire catch my pants on fire. Just a little smoldering of fabric, but still. Oh and then there was the year I twisted my ankle in a hole carrying a bucket of sap. I went down like a sack of taters, right into a muddy, dog poo filled lawn. Oh and the bucket spilled and seeped all under me. It was heaven. I totally jinxed myself when I thought how well this year had been going, I mean I hadn't fell or caught fire!
And then it happened..... I went to add more wood to the fire, because I was loosing my temperature. In my hurry to get it on before my flames died out, I didn't remember to put the welding glove on. I grabbed the cinder block to move it and it might of been a little on the hot side. My brain said drop it, so my fingers opened. My brain forgot to have my eyes check where the cinder block would land before I let go, but thanks to the feeling in my foot, I knew exactly where it had landed! Yup folks, I dropped a cinder block on my own foot.
Of course I hurt myself pretty good. The bruises started forming quickly. Luckily by this point, my hubby was home, so I limped to the house to grab something for the pain. I left hubby to tend my fire. Hubby isn't always the best with fires but he did manage to keep it going. Of course he might have struggled a little too, but since I was in pain, I really didn't care if the dang fire did end up going out.
And then the alarm went off to pick up the country kids. Stupid alarm. I couldn't get my shoe back on, it just hurt too bad. So off to school I went in my slippers. Thank goodness for cruise control because it was my driving foot I had smashed. Accelerating and breaking made me wince. But I retrieved the kids, made it back home, and the fire was still going!
There was no way I was standing on my foot to cook dinner. And since hubby was tending the evaporator, it looked like a "we're ordering pizza" kind of night. I find it ironic in our quest to make our own food, we ended up having to buy food. Just a observation. Of course I did take a pain pill so by this point, everything seemed just a little funny.
So what do you get for a typical Tuesday during sugaring season? Well, so far I was up to smelling, hungry, and injured. Can you see the love/hate feeling I have for making maple syrup? Can you understand why? But I also got this.......
Over a quart of beautiful homemade pure maple syrup. Liquid gold!!!! And as I sit here writing this, with my foot propped up and still throbbing, it was all worth it, maybe..... Every year I say I never want to do it again. But every Spring, I put in the taps. Every sugaring season I get tired of doing it all. The building of fires, the hauling of sap, the sustaining of injuries. And every year I smile at the liquid gold. It's just another typical Tuesday during sugaring season.
So far this season we have made almost two gallons of syrup from 5 taps in three trees. The weather has been all over the place, so the flow of sap had been been start, stop, start. We have boiled close to 90 + gallons of sap as the sugar content this year is lower then other years. But the flavor of the syrup this year is unbelievable! So will I do it again next year? Only time will tell. *wink* You know I will. I just wonder how I am going to hurt myself next year!