Posted by: raisingmustardseeds | March 22, 2010

Syruping disease & a redeemed knee

It’s been a strange syrup season.  Right after I put up my last post, the weather went wonky on us.  It was like we skipped Spring and went straight into Summer.  The temperatures went soaring into the high teens, and most nights stayed above 0 degrees.

You’re probably saying, “But isn’t that great? Such nice sunny weather.  It’s t-shirt & flip flops time!”  Usually I’d say, BRING IT ON!!  But not this year, (and I suspect every year for as long as we live in this home).   You see, making syrup requires just the right fluctuation of temperatures to coax the sap out of the trees.  Too cold, and the sap freezes.  Too warm, and the trees will use that energy to start budding, and that spells the end of maple syrup making.

We need the nights to go below freezing, and the days to go above freezing.  That delicate dance is what makes the most sap run out of the trees. And more sap means more syrup.  When it was starting to slow down as the weather got warmer, we were down to spending the whole day boiling meagre amounts of sap – enough perhaps to eke out 250ml of syrup, and some days even less.  It got to a point where we stopped completely.  It was just too warm.  The forest turned brown, as the snow melted at such a rapid rate.

I was bemoaning such a short season.  We were so far from our target of 25L of finished product….we’d only managed to bottle 6.75L in 10 days.

As I anxiously checked the weather all of last week, I saw that the coming weekend and this week would see the return of that beautiful dance around the freezing point.  THERE WAS HOPE!! I could barely contain my excitement when the temperatures went below zero on Saturday night! Crazy, I know. 🙂  Sunday’s temperatures were forecasted to go above zero, and I made myself wait until late morning before going out to check the buckets.

And it was a sight to behold!  Buckets filled more stubstantially (ok, not fully, but definitely more than the past week!) with crystal clear sap.  I joyfully (!) cranked up Old Fisher (the outdoor woodstove) and we started to boil.  And collected, and boiled, and collected.  I estimated we collected about 100L or more.  What fun!  Can you tell that I’ve caught the syruping disease. 😉

Today is Monday.  And the sap is flowing.  YAY YAY YAY YAY!!!! As I go around collecting sap, I find myself praising God, and thanking Him for His marvelous creation.  This experience has made me even more appreciative of what farmers have to go through each growing season, and how truly dependent we are on the Creator of the heavens and the earth, who can control the weather, and who provides.  

So, Lord willing, this week will be a busy one, as the temperatures go up & down each day.  Lots of collection and boiling to be done.  The logs have been cut (courtesy of MS dad), but there is the continual hunt for smaller branches and twigs that help with the fast hot fires…that collection of twigs constitutes the children’s recess activities. 🙂  Mine is to continually feed the fire and keep the sap replenished on the stove.  Which brings me to the other part of my story….of a redeemed knee.

If you’ve ever read RaisingMustardSeeds101, you might remember how I completely embarrassed myself at my then future in-law’s home (see fact #47). Well, that same knee has come to be most useful.  

You see, I’ve always been a little embarrassed about my knee.  It’s not one of those lady-like dainty smooth-skinned knees.  Mine look like elephant-skinned ones, calloused by years of being a tom-boy.  In fact, there was probably not a good length of time that passed that didn’t see me having purple knees as a child.  Why purple, you ask??  Does GENTIAN VIOLET ring a bell to anyone?  For those who aren’t familiar with that most hideous product, it’s similar to iodine being used to clean wounds.  My parents used GV on our cuts and scrapes to prevent infection and cause a scab to form quickly.  ANYHOO, scabs = picking = more bleeding if it hasn’t had time to fully heal = more gentian violet = more scabbing = more picking…and the cycle continues…which probably explains the elephant skin.  This, coupled with the fact that my knee bones are huge, results in a knee capable of destruction. bwahaha.  

What does this have to do with making syrup?? Well, since the children have been doing an awesome job collecting firewood, they sometimes come up with some pretty big-sized twigs & branches…which either requires handsawing, or if they’re nice and dry, some snapping.  Now, if they are REALLY dry, only 2 hands are required to do the snapping.  Or 1 foot on one end, and 1 hand prying the other end apart does the same thing.  But then there are others which take a bit more work…and that’s where my elephant knee comes into play…as a fulcrum.  I put a branch against my knee, push against the branch, while holding both ends, and CRACK.  Works like a charm.  

Most times.

 After all, I am still a lady.


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