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  • Writer's picturePateHomestead


JANUARY 20, 2018

We set out early that morning to place some sap pails at our sugarbush (aka. The Farm, Fremont, MI). With Hannah's dad's help, we found some suitable sugar maples along the south side of the property. I was eager to get some sap collected to test out the new sap pan and redesigned evaporator stove. The kids were excited too. Anytime we can get outside and have some fun as a family is a win!

Tapping trees in January in Michigan is not normal by any stretch as we are still very much in the grip of 'Ol Man Winter, but we had to take advantage of a few warms days. There is always a bit of nervous excitement when I drill the first hole. Will the sap flow steady? Trickle out? Or nothing at all? Having never been a roughneck myself, I would compare it to striking oil on your test drill. Eureka!

Finding the sap flowing was exhilarating. Hannah and I quickly assigned the kids some jobs. Ella would fetch pails, Carter grabbed the lids, and I would tap in the spiles. That lasted for a minute until the kids realized how exciting using the drill was. Soon they were taking turns choosing their tree, picking the perfect spot for the hole, and with my help, were tapping their very own maple sap. There was still plenty of time to sample the maple sap straight from the spile. The kids get a kick out of the idea of drinking water from a tree.

Fast forward to the next afternoon and we were back at The Farm to collect our bounty and begin the process of boiling down the sap into sweet, amber, deliciousness. Hannah's brother, Caxton, was an eager volunteer as we headed to the sugarbush on the four-wheeler. The haul for our efforts was just about ten gallons of sap. A little less than I had hoped for, but enough to test the new setup.

The day before, Ella had helped me get the "sugar shanty" prepped back at the homestead. The structure is little more than a pop-up canopy with tarps for walls, but it makes a world of difference when the boiling goes long into a cold Michigan night. After a few hours of sitting in the shanty, I had boiled the sap down far enough to take it to the kitchen for filtering, finishing and bottling. Like 2017, this early run gave us some really light amber syrup. Boy, does it taste good on waffles! The buckets are still hanging from the trees today as it looks like another stretch of warmer days is a week away.



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