Feb 20
johnstonj's picture

The Sugarhouse

My bright, pink ski pants stick out against the crowd of camouflage, hunter orange, and plaid clothing. I perch on a flipped bucket, a sugarhouse luxury.

The family sugarhouse is an old wooden structure, the type of place you only enjoy while surrounded by others. Each spring we enjoy tireless days of collecting sap and sleepless nights boiling it into maple syrup.

We arrive at the sugarhouse to gather just in time. The tractor doesn’t wait, not for anyone. It pulls a trailer, carrying the sap tank. Just beyond the tank, wood planks extend for the crew to stand on. We all pile on and grab what we can to hold on. I watch the yellow lines of the road skip by underneath.

The mud stuck to the huge wheels of the tractor begin flying into the air as we speed up. We call them “mud-hoppers” – a mud grasshopper.

Before long, full sap buckets hang in the distance. As a small little girl, I couldn’t carry much sap. Each person was handed a five-gallon pail to empty all the closest sap buckets hanging from the maple trees. Sheets of ice would float at the top of the sap, which splashed you as the sap bucket was emptied into the five-gallon pail. I would be splashed as I waddled back with my heavy bucket, sap sloshing around and splatting in the mud. A family member helped me with the challenge of lifting the heavy bucket up to be emptied into the sap tank.

To quench their thirst, some would sip sap from the buckets, the “Gatorade of the woods.” It didn’t take very many moths and spiders floating in the sap for me to give up the sap drinking habit. It took a lot of convincing about how long the sap is boiled and filtered to put my fears to rest.

Once many buckets are emptied, the sap tank is nearly full. We gather on the trailer, back to the sugarhouse where the next stage begins. The back wall of the sugarhouse made entirely of stacked firewood slowly withers away as a fire is made to boil the filtered sap.

I return to my bucket seat for fresh syrup samples. Hand-welded ladles scoop up boiling syrup to be held carefully to your mouth, like a dainty flute. The hot sweet taste is indescribable. Once again, the tractor-pulls around and everyone scurries on.

Nowadays, my family doesn’t sugar quite as much. Busy lives leave little time for such dedication and commitment. Even some laws prohibited our old buckets from being used, directing us toward the alternative of a blue pipeline running from tree to tree, slicing the forest apart.

To this day, I am questioned for the amount of maple syrup I drizzle all over my pancakes and waffles, or how I’ll pay extra for REAL maple syrup. But it’s because I know that sometime, somewhere, someone’s hard work needs to be truly appreciated.
johnstonj's picture
About the Author: johnstonj
Author has not loved anything.
Author has not made any comments.