One of the fun winter activities we do on the farm to keep us sane around this time of year is to make maple syrup. Ours is a low-tech operation, making use of a propane-fired turkey cooker with a large stainless steel pot. At least 40 gallons of sap are needed for one gallon of maple syrup, and since we have just one sugar maple (acer saccharum) in our woods, we don’t need much capacity for evaporating!
Today as I finish my first batch of syrup, Chuck is helping our neighbor, Ron Moeller, over on Dollar Lake, with his much bigger sugaring operation. It’s a good day and a good year whenever you get this natural treat from the land! And yes, we’ve planted more sugar maples, but they’re for our grandchildren, as it takes about 40 years for a tree to grow large enough to tap. But a sugar maple can live hundreds of years, so it’s definitely an investment in the future!
Another unexpected sweet treat we’ve received this winter is honey. Several our our beehives died out in the early fall, and we saved honey from those hives for baking and distributing among the remaining hives for winter food. Unexpectedly another of our larger hives died out over the winter, so we have been harvesting and bottling honey over the last couple of weeks. It’s gorgeously golden and delicious, and is for sale locally through our on-farm store. Later this spring we will have to replace the bees and queens in those hives. So far, we still have four live hives, and are working to ensure they survive the remainder of the winter.
As ever, the small farm is an interesting and productive way to live. Get to know your local farmer. Better yet, become a small farmer in your own place!