Does your favorite sign of spring make a sound? Mine does, and the sound is, “drip tunk, drip tunk, drip splish, drip splash.”
That’s the sound of maple sap hitting the bottom of a sap bucket.
It’s maple season in the North Country of upstate New York. The trees are tapped and the sap is running—it’s a fleeting, special time of year.
We had a sugarbush (that’s North Country talk for a maple syrup production farm) on our farm when I was a kid, so many of my memories revolve around “sugaring down.”
As you may know, it takes something like 40-45 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. The sap is collected from taps in sugar maple trees and brought to a specially-designed sugarhouse, put in a specially-designed evaporator, and boiled down until it reaches a specially-designed syrupy goodness.
That boiling takes a long time, with a lot of tending of the fire that fuels the evaporator. While this tending needs to be constant, I especially remember my father and grandfather watching the fire in the evenings, after dinner and after all the other farm chores were done.
And I remember myself at 5 or 6 years old, sitting quietly in a dim corner of the warm, steamy, sweet-smelling sugarhouse. I sat and listened to the voices of the men. I could see the glow of lights from the farmhouse where my mother and grandmother worked to clean up from dinner. I can remember feeling so secure; everything was perfect in my world.
Is it any wonder the sound of sap dripping is etched in my memory?