The Jew And The Carrot

Sugar Season: Harvesting Maple Syrup on a New England Farm

By Craig Oshkello

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Early spring is a magical time for maple sugar makers in the Northeast. After three months of cold temperatures, quiet mornings and early evenings, the awakening of the natural world is ever so apparent now. The warm March sunlight melts the snowpack and maple sap begins to flow from the trees.

Preparations for the maple harvest on our farm in southwest New Hampshire, started a month ago, around Tu B’Shvat. Although we were celebrating the birth of our natural world with four feet of snow underfoot, one could still sense that below the snow things were awakening. We started tapping maple trees around the end of Shevat until the beginning of Adar, near the beginning of March. Tapping the trees involves snowshoeing into the woods, pulling a sled full of buckets, lids, spiles (an iron spigot that is driven into the tree), hammers and drills. When we approach our first sugar maple tree, we take a moment to give thanks for arriving at this moment in time. We take turns drilling the hole into the tree, hammering the spile into a hole and hanging a bucket off the spile. We pay close attention to where previous years’ taps were set, being careful not to tap too close and injure the tree. This year our family put out about fifty taps, contributing to the 600 total in our community. We are always amazed by the beauty of the trees and the miracle of maple sugar.

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