A Sugar Snow!

It’s April 3 and the thick snow is falling on us like a heavy, wet blanket. Is this a sugar snow? Mr. Masters isn’t here yet, and the first bucket feels empty. Will there be any sap today?

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My oldest, she runs on to another tapped tree and excitedly reports that the bucket there is really, really heavy. Heavy with sap!

Mr. Masters and a few more friends arrive, ready to help.

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He says the sap is running and it’s time to collect it!

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The crew of kids, they all hear him say “sugar” and quickly grab buckets. They follow him closely into the woods.

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Well, most follow him closely.

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At each tapped tree, Mr. Masters removes the bucket lid, and we peer inside to marvel at all the sap. The 5-gallon bucket at this big tree filled up in just 24 hours!

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Next Mr. Masters carefully exchanges the filled bucket with an empty one and moves on to the next tapped tree.

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The crew takes turns pouring sap into the buckets.

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Everyone tastes a bit of the sweet sap. My youngest sips it right out of the tree. And this cute little guy, he gets a taste from his daddy’s finger.

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With full buckets in tow, we hike back through the snowy woods to the parking lot, where Mr. Masters pours all of the sap into a huge tank in the back of his suburban.

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Then we go back into the woods and do it all over again. And again. And again. Altogether, we collect 50 gallons of sap in a little more than an hour.

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Then Mr. Masters goes on to other wooded spots where he has tapped trees. In all he collects 100 gallons today. Miraculous!

 

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3 Marvelous Books about Maple Sugaring

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With all the maple sugaring excitement around here the last few weeks, I just have to share our favorite books on that sweet subject.

miraclesonmaplehill2014The first is Virginia Sorensen’s 1957 Newbery Award winner: Miracles on Maple Hill. This a charming story about a young girl named Marley and her family’s adventures as they stay at a country home on Maple Hill in Pennsylvania. As it begins, Marley’s father has recently returned from war and is not at all himself. The heartwarming story abounds with characters who seem so genuine. The themes of healing and spring and miracles all intertwine beautifully and are reminiscent of The Secret Garden. This is a fantastic read for middle to upper elementary students, especially as a family read-aloud.

sugarbushspring2014Sugarbush Spring by Marsha Wilson Chall is a gorgeous picture book with a captivating story of the entire sugaring process — from tapping the trees to sealing up the full jars of syrup. Did I mention the illustrations by Jim Daly are absolutely gorgeous? I just wanted to climb right into the pictures and help with all the work, too. This is a perfect read-aloud for all ages.

sugarsnowSugar Snow (one of the “My First Little House Books” series) is a wonderfully illustrated picture book using the text adapted from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods. As a rule, I’m completely opposed to adaptations of classics, but this series is a rare exception. Illustrator Doris Ettlinger beautifully captures the excitement of maple sugaring in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. I’ve been to the replica of the Ingalls’ cabin at the actual home site near Pepin, Wisconsin, and I must note that Ettlinger portrays that very accurately. All ages will enjoy the simple yet delightful book — and the whole series for that matter.

Happy reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Maples and Springy-ish-ness

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Last week we spent the first afternoon of spring at the Arboretum, exploring the tapped maple trees there and also looking for signs of spring.

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The Arb uses different equipment for tapping trees — most notable are the bright blue bags, which make it easy to see the sap inside.

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They also run these hoses between taps — and use the law of gravity — to collect sap from multiple trees. The Arb collects a lot of sap. Last year, they made 111 gallons of syrup. And if you figure that it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup, that means they collected nearly 4,500 gallons of sap last spring. That’s quite impressive!

Another impressive tidbit to share concerns our watch for signs of springy-ish-ness. It’s impressive how much snow has melted since our Arboretum trip two weeks before this. Remember how we couldn’t find a single bench to sit on?

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And remember the magnolia tree with the nearly invisible bench?

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Well, the snow is melting and the girls found multiple places to sit!

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Also, the tips of the magnolia’s branches are {maybe} looking a tad bit fuzzier.

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In closing, I must credit the cranberries for their bold color contributions while we await the arrival of spring flowers and all.

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Thank you, cranberries. And happy spring, y’all!

 

 

 

 

Maple Miracles, Part 2

Mr. Masters said the sap was running today! So we just had to go check out the sugar maple trees and see it firsthand, even if it was late in the evening.

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It’s only been a week and a half, but so much snow has melted since our first maple sugaring adventure. The woods feel like a different place already.

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Tonight we moved much faster from tree to tree, and Michael didn’t even wear his snow boots.

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Some of the buckets had no sap, but some had a bit of sap. Maybe Mr. Masters had already emptied and collected some of the sap earlier today.

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As we left, the setting sun glowed across the frozen lake. And we were glowing a bit, too. Tomorrow’s forecast includes 3 to 6 inches of fresh snow. A sugar snow!

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“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” -Romans 1:20

Maple Miracles

It’s March, and even without their colorful leaves, the maples still look majestic.

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Mr. Masters is tapping the sugar maples this morning, and he invites us to grab a bucket and come along to help with this first step in the maple sugaring process.

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It’s my first time on snowshoes, and the snow in the woods is still so deep I sink down knee-deep. I feel like Big Foot. Hiking through the woods is going to be harder than we imagined.

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We reach the first tree, and Mr. Masters drills the hole and then taps it, connecting the hose to a 5-gallon bucket.

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The sap isn’t running yet.

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But with tomorrow’s high of 41 degrees, we are all hopeful it will be running soon.

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The time to tap more trees is now, and tapping more trees means Mr. Masters needs help drilling and tapping and fetching buckets.

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It’s a beautiful, warm day, and the maple miracles are coming soon.

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So on and on we march through the deep, deep snow — waiting with great hope for all the goodness that is to come.

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“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

-Psalm 27:13-14