Maple Syrup From Your Backyard

First, a little behind the scenes….

Weeks ago I heard a radio spot on National Public Radio. 

It wasn't a spot about how to make maple syrup from your backyard. 

It was about a scientific study that measured the difference in life outcomes between people who held a hopeful outlook in life over those who took a more pessimistic view of reality. 

Now, I live in a place with long cold winters and plenty of time to think. So I thought about it.

Did having a positive attitude affect your life in a positive way? Were you more likely to live in a nice house or have a big bank account or beautiful children if you were optimistic about life? 

Would good things happen just because good thoughts were practiced? 

The study quantified lives, drew a graph and made its conclusion. 

There was no significant difference between the two groups. Positive people were no richer, had no less sadness or felt no less financial worry than their more negative counterparts. 

Their lives were statistically the same.

The only difference was...

Positive people had a positive attitude about it!

Winter will be wrapping up soon and I'm still thinking about that study.  Sure, positive thoughts matter. But what does that have to do with maple syrup?

I like to hold a cartoon vision of life in my head. I’m riding in a yellow school bus down a winding road. Magical eyes allow me to see beyond the next corner. My super power lets me relay messages  back to the driver so he can adjust his course.

And of course, avoid disaster.

With spring on the horizon, my directives to the bus driver are simple and sweet. It’s time to sum up all the winter thoughts and put them to work in life. Positive or not. 

“Driver, its time to make backyard maple syrup!”

Where to find the sugar

Sugar maples are the traditional source of this late winter crop.  But many other varieties of maples and species of sycamore & birch offer a similar syrup for the table.

In my backyard, the sap is running in two mature Norway maples. With snow still at their base, they’re beginning to wake from a deep winter sleep. A sure sign is the bright yellow color tinting the tips of branches. Like a golden halo.

The conditions necessary for the running of sap happen in late winter. Look for night temperatures below freezing while the day temperatures rise above. 

How to tap trees

Tapping your trees is a simple task.  A small 5/8" hole is drilled into the trunk of each tree. A special tap for collecting the flowing liquid is then slipped into each hole.  The process can be completed by placing a bucket below the tap to capture the daily take.

For great visuals, check out the countless youtube videos on this topic. You’ll get the idea. 

The trees give freely for weeks, and simply ask that when done, the tap be removed so the wound can heal.

 Turn it into syrup 

The sap is a liquid that looks and tastes like water with about a 2% sugar content. At this point it needs to be cooked down to evaporate the majority of its moisture. This will reveal the golden syrup it contains!

Remember it takes a LOT of sap to make syrup. A good rule of thumb is 40 gallons of sap makes 1 gallon of the precious fluid. 

That might seem like a big effort for such a small return, but I will tell you this. The sheer amazement factor is worth the effort.  

Yes, you could slip down to the groovy market on the corner for a bottle of Premium Grade 100% pure organic maple syrup. But it wouldn’t be the same.

The simplicity of sweet

So I’m thinking about all the possible ways this new pantry ingredient could be used. The sweet in morning juice. The drip down Sunday pancakes. Or, if there’s any left by then, that special something in summer patio drinks.