Lillian's Story

Droplet of maple sap flowing from tap on a trunk of a maple tree into a pail to produce maple syrup.

BY LILLIAN THEOPHANIS And the Sap Began to Run

April 2009

friends in the back of a pickup truck

Can you guess which one is Sandy?

It is February 21st, and the event I have been anticipating is about to begin. On my way to Salt Springs Park, I think about the early days, when I was still in my early 30s. My husband, children, and I were going through our "back-to-the-land" phase, and one of our favorite activities was making our own maple syrup. What fun that had been. Now, I am headed to Salt Springs to participate in the Friends' new maple syrup making program. It's going to be fun.

When I arrive, Walt Kostyk, Dennis Wilson, and Debra Adleman are already in the swing of things. On this day, we gather around the gently burning fire in the fireplace, sip hot apple cider, and listen to Walt explain the fine points of the art of "sugaring." Outside, the crowd inspects the shiny metal sap collection box and woodstove, with its tubing and smoke pipe attachments. Again, Walt explains the finer points, including the importance of "our old friend, surface tension." "Do you think we'll collect enough sap to fill this boiler?" someone asks. Then we tap some trees and come back two weeks later.

On March 7, the novice sap collectors pile into two trucks and head out. As we approach the buckets, we see that the first one is barely half-full. "Uh, oh, I knew this might happen," says one skeptical would-be sap collector. Then we spy the next two buckets . . . full to overflowing. "No problem," exclaims Sandy Babuka, the optimist of the group. By the end of two trips we have enough crystal clear sap to fill two 50-gallon tubs. There is much laughing and picture taking, and parents are feeling proud of the way their children are pitching in.

Two more weeks pass. It is March 21st, time to reap the fruits of our labor. We savored our maple syrup over homemade ice cream (made possible by Paul, Mary, and Eli Gere). We made 12 gallons of syrup from 600 gallons of sap! We have sold some, given some away, and enjoyed a camaraderie rare these days. Perhaps, in the not too distant future, some of the participants . . . young, older, and in-between, will have the pleasure of trying this on their own.