The Old Farmer’s Almanac Farmer’s Calendar Essays
Backyard sugaring—if you are factoring in time and energy—is not a rational endeavor. And yet, on a certain day each winter, the backyard sugar-er grabs her cordless drill and stomps into her snowy woods, ambling from maple to maple, standing within kissing distance as she bores a ⅜-inch hole. Then she inserts a metal spout, or spile. Last, she hangs a bucket. Sun warms her shoulder as she trudges between the trees and hears the season’s beginning: plunk, plunk, plunk—like a quickening heartbeat—the first drops of sap plummeting into her newly hung buckets. By late afternoon, the woods sport 100 taps and 100 buckets and she is “tapped out,” an expression that describes the first phase of making maple syrup but is also slang for how she’ll feel in 6 weeks when she’s running on the dregs of her energy, having gathered perhaps a thousand gallons and boiled it late into the night. It takes 40 gallons of sap to distill 1 gallon of sweet stuff. Why bother? While animals shed their winter coats and migratory birds swerve north, perhaps she’s compelled—the urge flowing in her as surely as sap’s drawn up through the trees.