Maple Sugaring Season

photo credit: Ruth Rose

Joshua learns about maple sugaring in February 2011

At about 38 weeks pregnant, I drove over to my family’s farm on a chilly but sunny late February afternoon to help tap trees. I use the term “help” loosely, as I waddled my way around the 60-acre property with my large belly, stomping in the fresh snow, camera in hand. We followed a path on the farm’s perimeter that I knew well from my childhood: along the main road down the steep hill by the horse pasture, along the apple orchard, past my parents’ house and grandparents’ log cabin, into the woods along the hayride trail, by the river, and back up the hill to the farm market.  We drilled into trees that bear the scars of over three hundred years’ worth of maple syrup production, put in quills and hung buckets.

On our little farm in Connecticut, sugaring season is the ultimate sign of rebirth and renewal, marking the end of the long, cold, dark winter and the beginning of spring. It seemed perfectly fitting that my son, warm and safe inside my womb, would be a part of this experience just weeks before he was born.

My son Joshua is a member of a disappearing breed: the farming family. While farms all around us have been sold and developed, my family has been able to hold onto ours for 365 years. We all work our own jobs off of the farm but come back together to keep it going because it runs in our veins. We all recognize the importance of the land and the work in our lives. So instead of relaxing with my feet up, excitedly anticipating the arrival of my first child, I put on my snow boots. I was determined to include my son in this tradition.

The following February, when Joshua was just under a year old and not yet walking, I bundled him up and carried him around the same path that my family has walked for hundreds of years. He adored watching his grandfather, great-grandfather and uncles tap trees. He excitedly pretended to ride the tractor, hung onto me tightly as we rode in the back of the pickup truck, and listened intently to our stories. He laughed at flying snowballs and squealed with delight as he pet the warm, friendly farm dogs.

This spring, Joshua will be able to help. Even a two-year-old can help carry a bucket and hand over a quill. Maybe he’ll even get a chance to try out the drill. And so we will continue the early spring ritual of tapping trees, collecting sap and boiling it down to make sweet, amber maple syrup. Maple syrup is a part of my son Joshua’s heritage, and I hope that it will always be a part of his future.

Ideas for Using Maple Syrup

  • Stir a teaspoon into your morning coffee or tea
  • Use a tablespoon as a replacement for honey or sugar when proofing yeast for bread or pizza dough
  • Make a glaze for meat using a few tablespoons of maple syrup, a minced clove of garlic and a tablespoon of whole grain mustard
  • Pour some over slices of cornbread to have Johnny Cakes, which my family always eats to celebrate sugaring season
  • Top vanilla ice cream with a drizzle of syrup for a “Sugar on Snow” sundae
How does your family enjoy maple syrup?

About The Author: Abbie

Farmer's Daughter FarmDaughter My NPN Posts

Abbie is a breastfeeding, cosleeping, attached working mother to Joshua, wife to Ed, an environmentalist, educator and blogger.

6 Responses to Maple Sugaring Season

  1. Marci  

    I am so glad he is being included in the rituals of your farm life. I was so sad to see the Tuttle Family Farm was up for sale. It was the oldest family farm in America. Keep on keeping on!!!!

  2. Ruth

    We enjoyed fresh maple syrup on pancakes for breakfast this morning! With sugaring season in full swing in New England, and our supply refreshed, I’m thinking of other ways our family may use the sweet stuff this week: glaze for ham tomorrow night and my hubby’s favorite–over vanilla ice cream!

    It’s nice to know it’s totally natural and we appreciate how much hard work goes into producting it: 40 gallons of sap yield just one gallon of syrup, so we use it sparingly!!!

  3. Ruth

    Just wanted to add what a beautiful legacy your family has and what wonderful memories you are creating for Joshua!!!

    You are so lucky!!!

  4. Rachel  

    I love March mainly because of sugar shack visits! Recently I discovered the wonders of roasting root veggies with a touch of maple syrup, beetroots are especially yummy that way.

  5. Terri S.

    I just read this post as I was enjoying my breakfast of pancakes drizzled with maple syrup. I never thought of adding it to my tea instead of sugar. Thanks! It’s perfect. Joshua is a very lucky little boy to be a part of this wonderful tradition in your family. Our neighbor’s son taps the maple trees on his property – the syrup is soooo good. 🙂

  6. Rebecca Ellert

    Abbie. Great blog. You don’t know me, but we are related:) I, too, am a Ct. farmer’s daughter. Born and raised on an active dairy farm in Tolland. I am sad to say most of the land has been sold off. My dad passed early in life and mom could not continue on her own. The existing 18 acres are still farmland, with a prosperous horse stable in full swing. It’s nice for me to drive by and remember the wonderful times growing up there. Hard work, but that’s what it’s all about on the farm. Nothing like the ahhhh…at the end of the day. I wish your family the very best as you continue to hold fast this precious land and legacy. Blessings, Rebecca