March 13, 2013

The Sap is Running

I posted this three years ago, but the scene looks exactly this way each year. It's timeless. So I thought I would put this up again, since it always pleases me when the sap buckets appear in March.

On the route I take out to the main road to go grocery shopping, I passed by a wonderful sight yesterday. The sap is running. The maples know it's March. They've sprouted new buds and buckets.

 

  

For some reason I came back from the supermarket with too much pancake mix and extra waffle batter. 

Here's what all the sugar is for... sap is being slowly and inexorably drawn up the massive trunks into the canopy to provide energy for the glorious show that's about to begin. The tight red buds know it's March. They're ready for their sugar drink.  It's wonderful to look up from the cold icky winter scene out the window, and see the flush of red in the sky at this time of year.


Bright red maple buds against the sky outside our kitchen window, March 1.  
These are red maples getting ready to burst out, not the sugar maples that are tapped for sap.  

Maples need freezing nights and warm days for the sap to run. When the temps change from nighttime freezing to mid 30s or 40s in the daytime, which is what we have in Connecticut in March, the carbon dioxide and water that froze overnight in the growing part of the tree trunk thaws. When it does, pressure differences in the tree's cells develop as the water and CO2 expand. The pressure difference makes the sap start to move.

 

I love the fact that our neighbors use the old galvanized buckets with pitched roofs to keep the rain out, rather than the blue plastic tubing and bright plastic pails that commercial sugar houses use. I'm sure the plastic is more efficient and probably more hygienic, but this just looks right.

It's such a marvel, all that sweet golden activity going on silently inside each growing cell of these big old brown scrabbly trunks. For eons and eons the maples have known what to do when the nights are freezing but the days are not, and they get right to it.

 
 Sap buckets laughing their heads off on a warm March day. 


 

34 comments:

  1. I was just thinking about sugaring yesterday as I always helped my grandfather with this as a boy in Vermont. I have a sap bucket with galvanized top hanging from a sap spout by one of the entrances to our old cheesefactory, salvaged from my grandparent's property, a reminder of those days so long ago. We had huge flakes of snow falling yesterday and I explained to my wife that this was called sugar snow at the time of year when temps during the day are above freezing but well below freezing over night. How delicious that sap was, taken directly from one of these old sap buckets! Thanks for sharing and bringing back these wonderful memories from my youth! Larry

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    1. Larry, what wonderful memories of Vermont sugaring. I like that you hold onto an old bucket from your grandparents and that it brings back such remembrances.

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  2. There was a maple syrup festival just last weekend not far from here. They are already making the syrup. The year is marching on.

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    1. Lisa, it's just a small window of time in spring when the temperatures are just right, and it does march on too fast!

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  3. The Hebron Maple Festival is this coming weekend. A big deal for Hebron and a fun way to spend a few hours on a weekend day in March (provided the weather holds out-it's already been postponed from last weekend). A jug of CT maple syrup can always be found in my fridge.

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    1. Sue, I should get some CT syrup. We've had the Vermont stuff for years, but I should get some local home-tapped maple goodness. So maybe a ride out to Hebron is in store : )

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  4. Hi Laurrie....this is soooo cool! A real piece of Americana. Thank you so much for doing this post. Very informative!

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    1. Christy, it does look like a postcard of a typical American scene and I think that every time I drive by!

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  5. One of my best memories from living on the East Coast was heading up to a maple sugaring house in Western Mass. to watch them cook down the sap (and eat pancakes and buy lots of syrup). I can still recall the smell of all that syrup cooking down, fantastic.

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    1. El Gaucho, it's funny how maple sugaring brings back such vivid memories to anyone who has lived in New England. I'm glad this triggered a memory for you.

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  6. What a beautiful sight! No buckets on maple trees here, but I have spied some daffodils pushing up from the frozen ground--I'm definitely ready for spring!

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    1. Rose, the daffodils will be later for us. It's the maple buckets that are the very first sight of spring, and so welcome.

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  7. Your top photo caught me off guard, because I posted a photo of the same unusual (and beautiful) house on my blog within the last month. http://hartforddailyphoto.blogspot.com/2013/02/another-bloomfield-farmhouse.html

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    1. Jack. I saw that photo when you posted it (I check your blog every morning).

      The house is a well known landmark here in town -- I'm about a mile and a half away. It was for sale for several years, and we were so tempted, but the layout was unworkable, as so many antique houses are. But what a great house and property! I'm glad you recognized it here.

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  8. Amazing to see maple syrup at its source, not on a shelf in the supermarket. All you need are some kids and a dog and you have a Norman Rockwell. I love it!

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    1. Sarah, it does look like the all-American picture from a past century. But sugaring is actually a major modern industry. I'm just glad our neighbors do it the old fashioned way.

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  9. I am glad you decided to re-post this post as I have only recently found your site. I'm from Quebec originally and maple sugar time is very important there too. The photos brought back nice memories.

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    1. Patty, sugaring is big in Quebec, more so than here probably! I'm glad this brought you back.

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  10. Memories of my youth-one year gathering sap for several days, then boiling it down and ending of with one small jar of syrup. phil from Bloomfield

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    1. Phil, . . . and the wallpaper peeled off the walls from all that steamy boiling if you did it in your Mom's kitchen! It takes a LOT of sap to boil down to just a little bit of syrup. I bet your own homemade tasted good, though.

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  11. Very interesting and informative! Now I will think about those silver buckets when I put syrup on my pancakes!

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    1. Deborah, it's always good to know where our food comes from : )

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  12. I love the way you say "the maples know it's March." Thanks for the description of the sap running process, something to marvel at indeed (and so yummy!)

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    1. Rosemary, it really is a marvel. All that activity going on in what seems like dormant solid silent tree trunks!

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  13. Just stunning! I love seeing those old buckets in your photos! Can't wait for the weather to change so we can jump outside!!!

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    1. Nicole, I love the sight of the old buckets too, as much as I like the actual final product when the syrup is made. The buckets say spring to me.

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  14. Just looking at those pictures is making me hungry! I want some hot pancakes with butter and syrup right now.

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    1. Jason, Hot flapjacks and sweet syrup coming right up. You want blueberries in them?

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  15. One more reason to love sugar maples!

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    1. Sweetbay, you're right. In addition to the sap, these trees provide a lot of beauty all around us.

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  16. I love that you see buckets on the way to the store! and so many too. People gather sap here but the farms are hidden away on rural properties. There's nothing tastier than pure maple syrup and it's a wonderful sign of warmer weather.

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    1. Marguerite, I enjoy the sight of the buckets as much as the idea of tasting maple syrup. It's fun to drive by them. One day the tree trunks are bare, then the next day they sprout all these buckets all at once!

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  17. Laurrie, I have never eaten this syrop but I know people eat it with pancakes.
    I have an award for you here:
    http://northern-garden.blogspot.com/

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    1. Nadezda, thank you so much for the nomination!

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