I have 2 things to share this evening. Well actually, 3 things. First off, I found out that my family is tentatively planning a trip to the Boston Museum of Science on October 15. Why? To see the Lord of the Rings exhibit, of course! I'm psyched already.
"For the sake of argument
Say Jerry Springer were the president
"No inhibitions" the national theme
There'd still be one thing making Donahue scream
Taboo, we've come to the last
Taboo, there's an audible gasp
When you claim there's a God who's objectively true
Party on let freedom ring
For the shock jobs and the gangsta kings
But mention Jesus in the public square
The tables turn and the the tempers flare
Taboo, that's a no can do
Taboo, the ACLU
Says when we sneeze could we please drop the God Bless You
God isn't really dead
He's under house arrest
Will amnesty protest?
No I don't think so
I could kiss a kangaroo
Sick my spitz on your shih tzu
No one blinks at anything i do
Until I claim the resurrection is true
Taboo, I'm breaking the last
Taboo, how about you
Do you claim Jesus name as the ultimate truth?
Finally, someone wrote a song about that.
Thirdly and finally, the paper I'm turning in tomorrow. Constructive criticism would be welcome, if you so desire.
When we moved to Maine eight years ago, my parents decided to buy a large piece of property from my Great-Grandmother: 70 acres of wooded land. We later decided to build a house on the edge of it. It didn’t take me long to discover that I enjoyed walking along the quiet forest trails. The woods also made for peaceful seclusion that I had never felt anywhere else.
After a few years of living on this expansive property, my dad decided to experiment with a traditional form of harvesting that several of the families we knew had recommended to us: making maple syrup.
The process started well before wintertime. My family took a walk through the woods, looking for maple trees. We had to mark them early, using white paint, because if we waited until March, their leaves would be gone, and it would be nearly impossible to tell which trees were maple. We also spent the next few months saving gallon milk jugs with their caps, and washing them out thoroughly, to be used for collecting the sap.
Autumn arrived not too long after, and the leaves fell from the trees, creating a thick brown blanket on the forest floor. Then came Winter, depositing snow onto the ground, and freezing the giant puddles of murky water into ice.
Near the beginning of March, my dad went to the trees we had marked, drilled holes in them, and inserted taps - blue plastic devices that resembled water faucets. He then poked small holes in the handles of each milk jug, stuck the end of the ‘faucet’ parts of the taps into these holes, and then twisted wire around the jug and the tap, to secure it. This is how the sap was collected from the trees. But the jugs had to be checked and collected every day, and this was the job of me, and my younger brother and sister.
After we finished out schoolwork for the day (usually sometime before 4 p.m.), we would bundle up in our winter clothes, and trudge off to the woods carrying our big metal buckets. It didn’t take long before I had essentially memorized the route that we took. Even though there were no clear-cut paths or trails in this portion of the woods, the plastic milk jugs on the trees served as markings for us, and there was no fear of getting lost.
My dad had deposited large, plastic, 5-gallon jugs at different locations throughout the woods, and our job was to fill these up. I would begin by untwisting the wire from the milk jugs that looked full enough to empty. Then I pulled the handle of the jug off the tap, took off its cap, and poured it straight into my bucket. After re-attaching the jug, I would repeat this until my bucket was full enough to empty into one of the larger jugs, and then continued until the job was done. I would arrive home, rosy-cheeked and out of breath, but somehow there was a sense of accomplishment as well.
We always referred to this process as “sapping”. During the earliest few weeks, many of the jugs contained large chunks of ice, and the sap didn’t always “run” well from the trees. But as the days and weeks went by, and the temperature increased, we would often find many of the gallon jugs overflowing with sap. We learned that the ideal conditions for making the sap run are cold nights, and bright, sunny days.
Every Saturday during this time of the year, my dad would get up early in the morning and go around collecting the large 5-gallon jugs that we had filled during the week. He would then boil down the sap over a large outdoor fireplace he had built out of cement blocks. Once the sap had been boiled down until it all fit into my mom’s largest pot (which normally took all day), the boiling was brought indoors, and continued until the syrup reached the right color and consistency. It was very tempting to pass by the pot without taking a little taste of the delicious syrup, since its smell filled the entire kitchen.
At the beginning of the year, the syrup usually turned out golden brown, like the last of the autumn leaves which were hidden under the snow. By the end of the sapping season, it become darker in color, almost like the mud that was forming from the newly-melted snow. Although the taste was still as sweet and traditional as ever. We used the syrup on our pancakes and waffles, and gave some away to friends and relatives: a true Maine gift, that is often as unique as the people who make it.
As winter reached its end, we would begin to wear lighter jackets when we went out sapping, and traded in our snow boots for rain boots. The snow was melting, and in its place on the forest floor was a mixture of slush, ice, mud, and dead leaves.
I admit, I often despised the process of collecting sap. Because it was quite often freezing outside, and taking off my mittens to remove and re-attach the jugs of sap made my hands very cold and numb. And the woods didn’t make the going any easier. The underbrush was thick, and the mud puddles were deep. But I really believe it was worth it. I believe this process taught my family about tradition and hard work, and also made us feel proud and accomplished that we got to eat our homemade maple syrup on our pancakes, long after Winter had left us and Spring had driven the snow away.