Thursday, 24 April 2014
What a sap...
A few years ago, the boys and I were at my in-laws' kitchen table, inhaling breakfast after chores. As I poured some nasty Aunt Jemima goop on my pancakes, I said the words that would come to haunt me later: "How come you guys never make your own maple syrup?"
My husband and his brother Carman nearly choked on their eggs. My mother-in-law let out a soft chuckle. Plenty of eye-rolling and head shaking ensued. "What?" I said, miffed. "You make your own cider, why not syrup?"
"Oh Kimmy," said D, wearing his "aren't city girls cute" smirk. I wanted to throw a pancake at his head. "We used to make it with my Grandpa. You have no idea how much work it takes to make a little syrup."
"You know much sap you need to make one gallon of syrup, Kimmy?" Carm chimed in. "A helluva lot."
"Oh, come on. How hard can it be?" The minute the words were out of my mouth, images of corn smut and sunflower rashes flashed before my eyes and I decided to shut up. The boys, however, had been stoked into a rare fire of conversation. They went on and on about chopping wood and endless bonfires and lugging milk cans and where Grandpa's old sap pan had gotten to. My mother-in-law thought she might still have some syrup from their last harvest (circa 1985) in her freezer somewhere. I kept quiet and glared at Aunt Jemima. She seemed to be laughing at me.
Flash forward to March 2014, where I entered our garage to find twenty-five sap buckets the colour of a winter sky lined up like cheerful soldiers along the wall. D shook a cardboard box at me. I peeked in to see lids and spiles. "Holy crap," I said.
"Happy birthday," said D with a big smile, thrusting the box into my arms. "You're not working, right? Well, this'll keep you busy for a while."
"My birthday's not till April," I said, twirling a spile in my fingers. 25 buckets was a lot. I had been thinking more along the lines of 5. This meant finding a lot of trees. I suddenly had an urge to run in the house, find my copy of Little House in the Big Woods and re-read the syrup-making chapter. If Laura Ingalls, my childhood hero, could do it, why couldn't I? It might actually be fun. I loved maple syrup and I loved being outside.
What could possibly go wrong?