Along the Natchez Trace

Monday, April 27, 2015

Scars From Years Past...

As far back as 1982 (and Bill no doubt did this before I came on the scene), Bill & I tapped the maple trees on our 13 acres and boiled it down to make maple syrup.  It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup.  

When those 13 acres are as hilly as ours are, that's one heck of a lot of walking up and down hills, carrying a 5 gallon bucket full of that precious sap.

All our maples aren't sugar maples...  but truth is, you can make syrup out of about any kind of tree that produces sap.  It's just that the sugar content is a lot higher in sugar maples (as opposed to a red maple or a silver maple), and so it takes less sap to achieve a good tasting syrup.

I can't remember how many trees we tapped back then...  less than 50 taps altogether....  but we were both working full time, as well as keeping up with all the other farm chores, so when the sap was running it was a constant job just collecting sap and cooking it down.

It's been nearly 20 years now since we made our own maple syrup....  and even though we get back to the farm for a short time each year, most years I don't take the time to walk that old sap route.

I did just that this afternoon.  Not all the route, but I was just curious if I could find those maple trees, and even more curious if I could find the scars where we had drilled holes to insert the taps.

It took a while.  So many fallen trees...  from wind damage, from old age....  who knows?  In the past there would never have been the debris that's now laying out in our woods.  Bill would have cut up every fallen tree and we'd have used it for firewood.  We had a wood-burning furnace that heated our house as well as a wood-burning cookstove.  Yeah...  one of those old fashion kind with a water reservoir on the side and a warming oven at the top.  We used a lot of wood.

While out in the woods I saw some multiflora rose growing...
When we raised goats they had almost cleared out every bit of multiflora on our property.  It has been slowly growing back.  There's been a blight or fungus that has attacked it in recent years, but what I saw looked healthy and was flourishing.  Maybe it needs some goats to keep it under control?

And I saw some mayapples growing...
Some folks think that morel mushrooms will be growing close to mayapples.  So far, I haven't found the first morel this spring.  These mayapples don't have a blossom yet, so maybe there's still a chance for some of those tasty fungus to sprout ....  we'll see.

And, not an Ohio Buckeye...
But a tiny sapling of a yellow Buckeye.  Ohio Buckeyes, despite their name, are not native to this part of the state.  

While I aced "Ohio Trees" back in college, that's been a while ago and I have a hard time IDing some of these trees in their winter state.  It is early spring and some of the leaves are popping out, but those stems, bark and buds can pose a real problem for me these days.

While wandering around, I came across the mineral block we put out for the deer when we were here last summer.  It's almost gone now....  I've been thinking I should buy some Sweet Mix (horse feed) and put out...  the does should be having their fawns soon and might appreciate a little protein supplement to their diet.

The dogwood and redbud are still flowering.  I think the colder temperatures and the rainy weather has probably prolonged the season a bit....
To me, they are just so beautiful.  I never tire of gazing up at the colors...  and the bees and other insects that are anxious to replenish their food supply.

Oh yes...  Did I find the scars?
I think I did....
That round hole is about the size of a dime...  maybe a nickel.  It's the only one I found on the half dozen or so maple trees I found.  It's about the right height and diameter...   so it probably is where we drilled for one of our old taps.

Of course when after I'd walked down to the creek and checked everything out, I had to walk back up the hill to get home...

But despite no morels, no birds and mostly just a forest coming awake again after a long, cold winter, it was a good walk.

I don't think I'll wait so many years before I do it again.  There's just too much out there if you look real close.

That's All For Today!


  1. I remember as a kid growing up in PA where we went out hunting morels. Before I did, I made sure I knew the difference between the real morels and the false morels. It has bee a long, long, long time, so I don't remember the taste, just that I liked them. Never saw any down here where I live now.

  2. Way back before I was a teenager, my grandfather would pick the morels for us at our cottage, such a delicacy from what I remember.
    Used to love wandering the bushes and trails then so many great memories.

  3. What a lovely walk. An old farm house near us has half a dozen sugar maples along the front edge of the yard that are tapped. The side yard is planted with what I assume to be a large stand of saplings. I have imagined it as a young couple discovering their sugar maples and planting more.

  4. I will be very envious when you fry up a pan of fresh morels. I only tried making maple syrup once...on a Coleman camp stove. After that, I bought my syrup from a local dairy farmer who had a sugar shack.

  5. In England we tap the supermarket, sadly, for maple syrup. I added some to carrot and yam soup last Saturday. It was an interesting way of having syrup. We always have it in the cupboard but it's used on pancakes or icecrean generally. Sometimes on a ham joint.

  6. Talk about a walk down maple I mean memory lane! Pretty cool!

  7. I read about making maple syrup once, interested to see how much sap my own maple out back might produce, enough for a gallon, I wondered, of syrup. I don't even remember now, what I concluded. It's a hybrid of some kind. It sounds like a very long process, to cook 40 gallons of sap down to a gallon of syrup!