Making maple syrup at Maple Tree Farm – the last spring

by Bart

Chuck stands at a steaming pan of maple sap

Chuck tending the sap. Photo by Nancy.

In the spring of 1978, our last at Maple Tree Farm, Chuck, Nancy and I, the only remaining Freex living there, tapped the trees surrounding the house in the typical way, using drills, pails and spiles that we cobbled, drilling holes in the trees, but not too many, and emptied the sap into our boiling pan.

The maples, although ancient, relieved themselves like youngsters, issuing many gallons of tasty sap.

Chuck collected a truck-load of maple flooring from the Gokey Brothers’ Chichester furniture factory down the road that was being demolished.  We used it to fire the rectangular stainless steel pan that received the sap.

The fire and pan were on the lawn in front of the house. We started in ankle deep snow and the heat quickly melted a circle under our feet where we could see the remnants of grass of the previous summer. It was March and the thaw had begun. I watched as the young spring spread from under our feet and up into the mountain across Route 214.

At night, with the heat of the fire, we watched the moon rise over the mountain across road.

Finishing our brew on our kitchen stove, using a thermometer to help us with the science, made the curtains tacky and the windows frosted with the sugar that was steaming off the pot.

We wound up with several pints of our own grade B dark syrup. We had a pancake feast and made gift jars of small amounts.

I felt every day of that week that if spring would finally come we’d all be saved. In the next days, enjoying the results, we were pleased that spring had also come with our labors.

And I’m happy today to have found this photo that helped to tell my story.

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