I got home last weekend to find that it’s maple syrup time in southern New England. These buckets are hanging on the maples in the front yard of a house near ours in Woodbury. The trees are tapped and the buckets regularly emptied by volunteers from the excellent Flanders Nature Center, which acts, among other things, as our local Land Trust. Most commercial operations now use long runs of gravity-feed plastic tubing running to a large central collection barrel, but Flanders still goes for the simplicity (and great PR) of sap buckets on trees visible on residents’ property. (I think they also use the tubing on more remote sugar bushes.) I remember helping my mother and a few others collect Flanders sap back in the ’70s. It can be backbreaking work, especially if the snow is deep and you’re not wearing snowshoes. Side-hill work is the toughest.

Some people tap their own trees and make a small supply of syrup, often poured into small bottles and given as gifts. The lady who owned our house from 1950 or so through about 1980 tapped our maples and used the old woodstove still in our kitchen to boil down the sap. We have her records of yields. It takes about 40 units of sap to yield a single unit of syrup, so her ultimate production was modest.

[We’re pretty sure that woodstove has been in the kitchen since the first decade of the last century. It was certainly there by the ’20s. The mother of a old friend lived in the house then, and she remembers it.]

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