Maple syrup in a glass cabin bottle

Finding Sweet Serenity: Backyard Sugaring and the Connection to Nature

Winter has given way to spring in Northeast Ohio. It arrived in fits and starts, teasing us with beautiful sunshine and warm, mild days followed by biting winds, icy sleet and wet snow.

You have to have patience to endure spring.

Daffodils Coming Up in March Snow

If you're a maple syrup producer, you have to have a big bucket of optimism to go along with that patience.

Turning sap into syrup involves a delicate dance between winter and spring. So, in addition to patience, you need flexibility. Not physical flexibility (although that helps), but mental flexibility.

Our general rule - and it is very general - is that we tap on Valentine's Day. But don't hold me to that. 

Old Fashioned Sap Bucket on a Maple Tree at Elderberry Marsh Farm

You can't say, "I will always tap my trees on February 14th." You have to watch the weather forecasts, waiting for that delicate balance of cold nights and warm days. Maple sugaring reminds us that nature has her own time frame and she doesn't check the calendar.

maple sap bag on maple tree 

Whether you're a small scale, backyard yard maple syrup producer like we are, or a commercial sugar house processing large amount of sap, the basic process of making delicious maple syrup is the same. Tap the trees, collect the sap, boil it down until it the sap becomes syrup and bottle it up. 

It's not a hard process, but it is labor intensive. 

One of the joys of backyard sugaring is the connection to nature and the connection to our food system.

I like that our grandchildren have a hands-on experience with the process, deepening their connection with the food they eat. We all know food tastes better when you've helped produce it yourself. No grocery store syrup will ever taste better than syrup they have collected, boiled down and bottled up. 

A child that taps a tree, inserts a spile and sees the first bit of sap dripping into the bag or bucket has a true link with the finished product. It's a reminder of the rhythms of seasons and the bounty that nature provides. 

It's also a lesson in how much work goes into real food. 


Elderberry Marsh maple syrup

For us, backyard maple sugaring is more than just a hobby or a lesson in food production. It's a way of life. It's a tradition that connects us to the land, to each other and to the rich history of our region.

When the sap flows and the sweet aroma of boiling sap fills the air, there's a sense of anticipation and excitement that permeates our community.

Nature is providing for us. 

pancakes and fresh maple syrup

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