Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sap and friends

I got a text message yesterday – “GOOD MORNING! I think this is a PERFECT syrup day!” So we went to visit our friends Annie and Jerry in Alto, MI.

They took us back to their sugar shack. A whole bunch of friends and neighbors and relatives all got together and went in the woods, following a tractor pulling a tank. We took the buckets off the tapped trees, poured them into bigger buckets, and poured them through a filter into the tank. Then they put the sap into a giant boiler, fueled by a wood-burning furnace. When it gets to 219 degrees, a valve opens, and the syrup comes out. You get one gallon of syrup from 35-50 gallons of sap, depending on the day.

Then we feasted on really great pancakes with syrup. I’d never seen a tree tapped, or gathered sap, and I can’t remember the last time I ate maple syrup. It was all great fun.

Before we gathered sap, we toured their big dairy farm. They milk about 1500 cows. I don’t tour a lot of farms so it was especially interesting to me to see their huge barns, parlor, and setup.

When I told a friend about this today, she asked, “So … do you consider a big farm like that your competition? Or is your competition something like soymilk?” Since her family owns a manufacturing business, she added, “Because we would never invite any of our competitors to our factory, and they would certainly never invite us to theirs.”

I said that I don’t really consider organic or soymilk or anything like that to be competition, since there's room for everyone. Our competition would just be people not drinking milk … but thankfully then there’s still ice cream and cheese and butter!

Our friends aren’t in the same co-op either, but it’s not like that. It’s not co-op vs. co-op, or farm vs. farm – mostly I think of it as all of us in it together. There aren’t a ton of dairy farms, and there aren’t a ton of young farmers. There’s the demand, and we’re all supplying it. As a result, there’s a camaraderie.

And really great pancakes with syrup. Did I mention those?

Buckets as far as the eye can see

The sap boiling equipment in the sugar shack

Dive in! Hose off!

1 comment:

the crew said...

I love your post - it brings back so many great memories of my family doing maple syrup. I remember hauling bucket after bucket and wondering if we would have enough to make some for pancakes! I am sure my 6 year old self was really contributing to the supply...!